It rained most of the day. Participants in Sunday’s field trip could imagine a bit how cranes walk in wetlands, as the group was stepping carefully in and out of puddles and through wet spongy grass. Alex Kerr, International Crane Foundation Conservation Outreach representative and AJ Binney, new ICF Alabama Whooping Crane representative, explored with 16 eager participants the PicnicPoint marsh area, a heaven for water fowl, frogs, and birds. They also visited the Eagle Heights Community gardens where the Preserve’s resident Sandhill cranes often forage with much success.
Cranes, Alex explained, are one of the oldest birds, going back 300 million years. Today they are one of the most endangered species. Of the 15 kinds of cranes in the world, 2 species live in Wisconsin, the now quite common grayish-brown Sandhill crane and the white feathered Whooping cranes,, both with a red spot on the crown. Thanks to the enormous efforts of the International Crane Foundation (ICF), which moved to Baraboo in 1983, and partner organizations, there are now about 100 Whooping cranes in Wisconsin, up from zero.
The intrepid "walkers in the rain" marveled about the clever nesting strategies of cranes to protect their eggs from predators. They build their nest high enough above the water level not to get wet - they can't swim - but away from solid ground and predators like foxes. They return every year to the same nesting area. In the Preserve are now two such areas of Sandhill cranes, one at the rather inaccessible south side of the Marsh of 1918 and one here in the Pond area at Picnic Point. The colts of both the Sandhill cranes and Whopping cranes have protective colors, gray and brown. It is quite a sight to see them take off for their first flight led by their ever watchful parents.
While we didn’t see any cranes on this walk, AJ Binney spotted plenty of other birds for us to enjoy. The Pond marsh is frequented by many warblers in spring and fall, and we were treated to the sight of a Redstart and Golden winged warbler, as well as Chickadees.. We watched a Downy wood pecker peck away at a low tree truck and a Red bellied woodpecker high up. It was special to watch a pair of Wood ducks on the other side of the marsh, photographed by our youngest visitor, 11-year old Sarah. The final treat was a Red-tailed hawk at the Community gardens. Friends host was Gisela Kutzbach, Photos by Doris Dubielzig and Sara Mcclish.
Tom Bryan, coordinator of the GreenHouse Learning Community program, introduced the field trip participants to student research into sustainable agriculture in the FH King and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences fields, adjacent to the Eagle Heights Community gardens in the Preserve. Tom discussed how his program works to instill a connection to the land in students at Madison and how the goals of GreenHouse align with Aldo Leopold’s land ethic. Tom also walked the Friends through the student managed gardens and discussed interesting things about the enormous variety of crops grown there.
FH King farm director Paul Lima walked the Friends through their plots and discussed new techniques that the farm is trying this season and the ways that FH King works to build on the student culture of land-food connection. Hugelkultur is something that all Wisconsin produce garden enthusiasts should know about. Sweet potato researcher Savannah Holt explained in detail how various growing techniques impacted crop yields. The group will host a Sweet Potato Harvest Fest on October 5, 1-5 pm to help record data and share the harvest of Savannah’s research. Friends Host and photos: Matt Chotlos.
Steve Sentoff and Olympic Mathiaparanam presented to BioCommons students about opportunities in the Preserve for them and provided maps, information on volunteering, field trips and student grant opportunities. Steve also acquainted them with using iNaturalist to record observations in the Preserve. A small exhibit about the Preserve, and possibly a digital slideshow are planned for the display case in BioCommons, which was installed to honor Lillian Tong when she retired from WISCIENCe.
The BioCommons, located at UW-Madison's Steenbock Library, is a community space for undergraduates interested in the biological sciences. Here students find services tailored to their unique needs and get help navigating the wide array of biology options. Undergraduates from across campus come here to start projects, share ideas, or just hang out with the plants and fish and play a game with friends. The Friends efforts to acquaint students with the Preserve will bring them out into natural biological environments so close to them.
Community members met with UW–Madison program representatives — and even Bucky Badger — at the South Madison Community Partnership event held in Villager Mall on Sept. 12. The free, family-friendly event featured a complimentary cookout, live DJ, free scoops from UW–Madison’s retro ice cream truck, games, prize giveaways and a special visit from Bucky Badger. Representatives from more than 15 campus and community organizations were on hand. The event marks the fourth year of the UW South Madison Partnership, which currently attracts more than 1,100 visitors monthly and 35 groups annually.
Olympia Mathiaparanam, Steve Sentoff and Lillian Tong of the Friends represented the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and distributed information materials. Their table exhibit, featuring natural objects for visitors to explore with magnifying glasses, received much attention. Even Bucky showed interest. Thank you to our exhibitors. Photos Steve Sentoff and Lillian Tong. Also see the news feature on Inside Wisconsin News
Despite cool fall weather, 26 people showed up to learn about insects in the Preserve from entomologist Tom Morgan. Tom, who worked as a technician with the USDA, has over 40 years of experience with insects. He shared his knowledge with an engaged group, and began the field trip with a varied display of insects and tools used to observe them. Participants enjoyed hearing anecdotes and descriptions that made in-depth subject knowledge accessible.
Some highlights included several grasshoppers, a katydid, Milkweed Tussock Moth and Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia Isabella )caterpillars, milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus), webworms, beetles, and more. A brightly colored Argiopespider also attracted attention, but we moved on past this arachnid in search of more insects. Friends host was Paul Quinlan. Photograph by Steve Sentoff.