4th Sunday Bird and Nature Outing: Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring with Eva Lewandowski – August 25, 2019
Eva Lewandowski, who coordinates Wisconsin DNR Citizen-based Monitoring projects, shared with the group of 19 participants about her important work. The DNR coordinates 20-25 projects and partners with about 20 others throughout the state. These projects help the public to participate in scientific research—the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.
Eva explained several projects that the Preserve lends itself to, such as the Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade, the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, projects involving counting and photographing dragonflies and damselflies, Frogs and Toads, Turtles, or the acoustic echo counting of bats, and water quality monitoring. The Friends contribute to several of these projects.
An expert in Bumble bees and butterflies, Eva helped us identify the Common eastern Bumble bee, the Two-spotted bumble bee and Brown-belted bumble bee. She observed that bees are unusually small this year because of the lack of food early in the cold spring season. The number of queen bees, which alone of the entire colony survive into the next year, are declining in Wisconsin. People participating in the Bumble Bee Brigade project help collect important statistics on bee populations. 20 species of Bumble bees are found in Wisconsin.
Another important area of citizen research in Wisconsin is counting bats, as the white nose syndrome killing off entire bat colonies is now widespread. The aim is to eventually develop a cure or inoculation that prevents the disease. Knowing the location of bats will be essential for success.
Our youngest field trip participant was a particularly keen observer. She located both a small American toad and a lime-green Gray tree frog. A standout among other insects spotted was a large black and yellow garden spider. Eva also emphasized the importance of monitoring the quality of lake and river waters in Wisconsin and was glad to hear that the Friends are partnering with Clean Lake Alliance monitoring program.
Many thanks to Eva for an engaging and informative tour. Friends host Gisela Kutzbach. Photos by Kutzbach or as indicated.
While many outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the sights and smells of native Wisconsin, Eve Emshwiller experiences Wisconsin flora with her sense of taste too! On a fine Sunday afternoon, 16 eager novice foragers joined Eve to learn about the flavors that lie within the grasses and thickets of the Preserve.
With a bucket of plant samples in tow, Eve highlighted many species of plants including lambs quarter, American black nightshade, wild ginger, creeping charlie, anise root, and wild sumac which could be relished in the forms of fresh greens for a salad, juicy berries, candied rhizomes, teas, licorice-tasting seeds, and lemonades respectively.
A main takeaway was the importance of timing! While some plants were harmless to savor throughout their growth stages, other plants were only recommended to consume in the early growth stages (e.g. you should only eat the early solomon seal plants, when the stem and leaves are knee high and leaves are still curled) or only when fruit was completely ripe (e.g. this is true for elderberry and mayapple fruit).
Eve also guided the group through the Preserve to point out plant species to wholly avoid eating. Some of these poisonous members included white snakeroot-- the culprit famously responsible for Abe Lincoln’s mother’s death (the toxins were ingested by cows, transferred into their milk, and lethal to the consumers) --, poison ivy, and the European high bush cranberry.
Overall, the trip was truly a… treat! Eve provided some… food for thought: a unique perspective and route for members to reimagine Wisconsin landscapes! Friends host and photos Olympia Mathiaparanam.
Saturday, August 10, was a beautiful morning. While the field trip to the bird-banding station at the Biocore Prairie started at 7AM, Jackie Sandberg (Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Coordinator) and her crew of volunteer banders had started hours earlier, setting up the 8 mist nets to catch the birds, the table of information for the visitors, and the picnic table with all the tools and reference books where the real work was done. Our visitors were treated to watching continuous banding, usually two birds at a time, before the 10:00 finish with a total of 22 birds banded, identified, measured, and assessed for age and health. The visitors had an opportunity to help go on net checks and sometimes releasing the birds after banding. It was a joy to see the delight in the faces of our younger visitors as they saw the birds up close or got to release a bird. The bird-banders, in spite of their focus on collecting the data quickly so as not to overly stress the birds, did a great job explaining what they were doing and answering questions. We all learned so much!
In addition to putting a band on the leg of each bird, the birds were weighed, measurements made of flight feathers, tail feathers, beak dimensions, and general observations made of the fat deposits and condition of the feathers. Reference books were used for identification of each bird, and once identified, a reference page for each species gave more detailed information, for example, shape of the tail feathers, markings for juveniles. It was fun listening in on discussions among the bird-banders as they helped each other learn and make decisions. Who would have guessed that blowing on the feathers on the body of the bird would reveal so much information about age, health, whether there is a brood patch, etc! All the data are entered into a spread sheet, which eventually goes to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center which monitors the status and trends of migratory and resident birds in North America. The data are used, among other things, to answer questions about breeding, population increases or decreases, general health of bird populations, movement of individual birds (we saw two previously banded birds!).For more information, see https://www.friendslakeshorepreserve.com/bird-observatory.html
The hours passed quickly! In this bird-banding session, we saw a number of common yellow throat warblers (several of them very young!), several types of sparrows, a fly catcher, chickadees, three species of wren (marsh wren, sedge wren, house wren). I was glad our 13 visitors got to experience this process and I hope this description entices others to attend future bird-banding “field trips”. I highly recommend this to people of all ages, but particularly to parents with young children. I was told, however, that the mist nets don’t always catch as many birds. We were lucky today with 22 birds- last week they banded 48, but sometimes there are only a few. The 7 volunteer bird banders are an impressive group, and Jackie is a wonderful leader and educator! Report by Friends Host Lillian Tong. Photos by Lillian Tong and Arlene Koziol.