A small group of hardy participants joined Prof. Dan Vimont as he told the “stories” of how Climate Change is affecting natural areas in Wisconsin and the Preserve and our everyday lives, as well. From warming trout streams to decreasing snow pack, changing lake levels and extreme weather, the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI, https://www.wicci.wisc.edu) helps people understand how climate change is affecting Wisconsin. One of the ways WICCI does this is through telling stories.
The open water that harbored a flock of tundra swans on University Bay was a contradiction to the bitter cold temperatures on this Saturday, illustrating one of Dan Vimont’s points that variable and extreme weather events can be expected in the face of climate change. Three intrepid hikers showed up to tour the Preserve and hear about Dan’s research and expertise on subject. He noted that most climate change models are proving to be true and accurate, as we continue to experience weather events and trends that the models have predicted. With this understanding, much of his work and the work of other climate scientists has come to focus on resiliency and adaptation of human systems and infrastructure, such as agriculture and buildings. Friends host and photos by Paul Quinlan
On a beautiful, uncharacteristically warm day shortly before Christmas, 26 people joined our leaders, Doris Dubielzig and Paul Noeldner, on a “Sentimental Journey” onto Picnic Point.
Doris led the first part, telling stories of the history of Picnic Point. At the stone wall by the entrance, we looked at the variety of rocks carried by the most recent glacier to Southern Wisconsin, and which Picnic Point landowner Edward Young had made into a wall as a wedding gift for his bride in 1925. We walked past Bill’s Woods to the site of the Youngs’ house, on a hill that had a beautiful view of Lake Mendota. We looked for, and found, pavers that remained after that house was destroyed in a fire in 1935. Following the path toward University Bay, the group fanned out, as the birders identified and pointed out birds they sighted to the attendees who stayed near them. One of the best things about the Friends’ field trips is how willing people are to share their expertise, and the 4th Sunday outings attract expert birders to this Important Birding Area. Pam and R. Dion Carmona, from Chicago, who were visiting a relative at UW Hospital, found our trip listed on the internet. They generously identified numerous bird species, and compiled the bird list below. We caught up with Doris near the two conical effigy mounds built by the Late Woodland people. She related some of the history of the Native Americans who originally lived on the shores of Lake Mendota, and she read an excerpt of Madison Mayor Augustus Bird’s 1847 speech about the removal of the Indians from their lands around Lake Mendota.
In the meantime, Paul Noeldner pulled a wagon directly to Fire Circle #2. He carted spotting scopes and binoculars, hot chocolate, materials for s’mores, his brass tenor horn, and topped the load with a Christmas tree held on with bungee cords. When we joined Paul, he had set up and trained the spotting scopes onto University Bay and was starting a fire. Paul invited children to decorate the Christmas tree with Audubon “singing birds”. He also brought poster boards with the lyrics to “Here We Come A Wassailing” in many languages, and engaged passersby to join our group in singing as he played the horn. Since it was a beautiful day, there were many people walking to Picnic Point who stopped to sing, sip hot chocolate, and look through the spotting scopes and binoculars at the hundreds of birds on the ice and open water. Paul estimates that 10-15 people, in addition to those on the sign-up sheet, either came with him to the campfire directly or joined him shortly thereafter.
On University Bay, we saw tundra swans, mallard ducks, common goldeneye ducks, bufflehead ducks, common merganser, ring-billed gulls, an immature eagle who sat for a long time on the ice eating prey, American coot, Red-breasted merganser, Redhead duck, Gadwall duck, American wigeon, and Lesser scaup. Earlier on our walk through the wooded part of the trail, we saw Red-tailed hawks, Rough-legged hawk, Downy woodpecker, Black-capped chickadee, Canada geese flying in formation, Blue jay, American crow, White-breasted nuthatch, Sandhill cranes, and American goldfinch.
Participants were invited to share on post-it notes their favorite parts or memories of the Preserve:
A group of 19 birders gathered in the UW Lot 60 parking lot on this chilly morning, when the temperature hovered just above freezing. After introductions and orientation to this field trip, sponsored by the Audubon Society, we spent a good hour admiring the diverse waterfowl in University Bay, at the nearby boat launch. Five of the participants brought spotting scopes, which they shared freely with the rest of the group. Rafts of Buffleheads, Canvasbacks, Coots, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Canada Geese cruised the Bay, while Ring-billed and Herring Gulls flashed white wings overhead. Throughout this stop and the ones that followed, Quentin Yoerger quietly announced the presence of less obvious birds, including an American Black Duck and a Pied-billed Grebe, and trained his scope on them for us to see. University Bay had the largest numbers and the most diverse species of our 9 stops around Lake Mendota (7) and Lake Monona (2). Yoerger explained that the Bay is both sheltered and shallow. Waterfowl can reach the Bay’s bottom more easily, and consequently dine with less effort. The second largest population was at Middleton’s Lake Street boat launch. There we saw a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a nearby oak and a juvenile Bald Eagle fly by. Most of the enthusiastic group traveled with Yoerger to the 9th and final stop, at Olin Park, where we were treated to our 39th species for the day, a Pied-billed Grebe floating next to John Nolen Drive. We had hoped to see migrating Tundra Swans, which normally converge on Lake Mendota when the smaller surrounding lakes freeze. We were not in luck. A few days ago swans congregated by the Tenney Park Locks and numbered in the thousands at Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary. Since then, the last of the November snowfall and ice had melted, giving the birds open fields for foraging, and made the smaller, outlying ponds available again. Friends host, summary and photos: Doris Dubielzig
Quentin Yoerger’s bird count, where “X” means “present, but no specific count”:
At the October Board meeting, Doris Dubielzig, past Board president, was celebrating a significant birthday with the group. Laura Wyatt, Preserve program manager, shared a letter, which included a donation honoring Doris to the Preserve Endowment Fund by her son Richard. Doris' daughter Sonia honored her mother with a donation to the Friends of the Preserve. On the photo from left, sitting: Sarah Condon, newsletter design and production, Doris, field trip coordinator, Paul Noeldner, 4th Sunday field trips. Standing, from left: Seth McGee, vice president and Prairie Partner internship coordinator, Gisela Kutzbach, webmaster and membership, Olympia Mathiaparanam, outreach, MJ Morgan, newsletter editor, Lillian Tong, outreach and nominations, Matt Chotlos, lake monitoring, Steve Sentoff, president and Preserve steward, Eve Emshwiller, communication and publicity, Laura Wyatt, Steve Sellwood, treasurer, Katherine, guest, and Paul Quinlan, secretary. Absent Tom Bryan.
Back by popular demand, Geologist Dave Mickelson pictured for a group of more than twenty participants the glaciers that were in the Four Lakes area 25,000 years ago and their effects on the landscape. As the photos attest, It was a chilly and overcast fall day, but the walk with him from the Lake Mendota shore at Raymer’s Cove up to the vistas in Eagle Heights Woods warmed everyone internally, and Dave's fascinating stories of geological processes, backed up with maps, charts and handouts kept everyone's attention.
Throughout the walk, Dave made an effort to identify and describe the three classes of rocks which are all present in the Preserve: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. Through his provided descriptions, Dave was able to help attendees piece together a small part of the Preserve’s history.
Sedimentary rock: Dave pointed out Cambrian sandstone which lays along the edge of Lake Mendota. It is approximated to be between 500 and 600 million years old and also probably has some calcium carbonate from organisms that became trapped between the layers of this rock. Another sedimentary rock found at the tops of the hills in Raymer’s Cove is a light-colored calcium-magnesium-carbonate rock known as dolomite. Interestingly, the dolomite can sometimes have gaps filled with a substance called “chert”. Chert is another sedentary, silicone-dioxide rock which is produced from microorganisms like algae. Dave mentioned a mechanism to explain why we sometimes find chert sandwiched between dolomite layers: imagine a decaying trilobite that will become integrated into the dolomite… trilobite decaying is an acidic process which causes the silicon based dolomite to crystalize and aggregate in a particular way that allows spaces in the dolomite to form—where chert can eventually fill in!
Igneous rock: In the Preserve, igneous rocks are what geologists would call “erratic rocks” or a rock that is assumed to have been brought over via glaciers. A common igneous rock found in the Preserve is the basalt rock—a very dark-colored rock with high levels of iron and magnesium.
Metamorphic rock: Like igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks are also considered erratic rocks in the Preserve. These rocks have a “gneissic texture” which refers to how the lighter and darker colored rocks appear to separate in a pattern— an arrangement which occurs when the rocks’ arrangement changes due to exposure to intense heating.
Dave also told attendees how the Wisconsin landscape has been shaped by glaciers. With posters in hand which depicted the Wisconsin Glacier, Dave showed the terrain differences between the region that escaped glaciated (the “Driftless area”) and the regions covered by glaciers. Additional provided handouts illustrated the lasting geologic impressions left by the Wisconsin glacier in the Southern Wisconsin area: kettles, eskers, moraines, and drumlins galore are scattered across the land.
Finally, Dave also distributed the free booklet, Landscapes of Dane County, Wisconsin, authored by him, and produced by the WI Geological and Natural History Survey, 2007. Report and Photos by Olympia Mathiaparanam.
On this walk through the Preserve to look for Barred Owls, birding enthusiast Chuck Henrikson, guided over forty fans through the Picnic Point Woods, with maples bedecked in yellows and fading reds. The group walked to the Pond marsh to watch Wood ducks, Canada geese and Mallards, and Muskrats, and then all the way up to the Point. David Liebl, also a birder who is familiar with the Preserve and knew the Barred Owl family well, assisted on this walk. It was one of the best fall days of the year. Chuck had brought samples of feathers and owl pellets for his show and tell at the beginning of the tour. Long stretches of the brisk hike, Chuck walked backward so he could tell his bird stories on the way. Even though no owls were seen, David Liebl recorded over 17 bird species on ebird.
Even though no owls were seen, David Liebl recorded over 17 bird species on ebird. Friends host was Paul Quinlan. Bird photos by David Liebl, all other photos by Gisela Kutzbach.
On a gorgeous autumn afternoon, Tracy Hames, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, led a field trip to the Class of 1918 Marsh on the Preserve. The walk was very well attended by students from a Forest and Wildlife Ecology course and quite a few Friends. John Magnuson also attended the talk and Tracy invited him to discuss his work on monitoring the salt in the marsh and its effects.
Tracy covered a great deal of information, both introducing the students to wetlands and wetland management in general, as well as covering the history and issues facing the Class of 1918 Marsh. He explained that every wetland is different and suggested a framework for determining the best management for a particular wetland: 1) How did the wetland function historically? In particular, where did the water come from and go? 2) What has changed since then? 3) In light of the changes, how can we restore conditions to get it to function more like it did historically?
Much of the talk pointed out the many changes that have occurred to the marsh since it was a sedge meadow in a lobe of Lake Mendota As expected many changes had to do with the flow of the water—University Bay Drive forms a levee cutting the marsh off from the lake, buildings and roads mean more runoff, more contaminants and flashier flows, and since Lake Mendota has been raised, water must now be pumped out of the marsh. Also the marsh was deepened as part of the restoration in the late 1960's, making it far wetter than the historical sedge meadow. Another significant change is the vegetation. The mowed recreation fields contribute to faster runoff and less infiltration. But the invasion of the hybrid cattails is a greater concern. These thrive with the high amount of nutrients and the stable water levels now present in the marsh, and can grow to be twenty times more dense than the native broad-leaf cattail. The current growth is far too dense for good habitat for many species. Reed-canary Grass is another invasive that can form dense mats choking out other plants.
In the discussion of opportunities for future management, Tracy suggested that perhaps one of the best things that could be realistically done in the marsh is vegetation control for the cattails. He described a cut-and-flood technique that has worked elsewhere. It turns out that cattails can actually be killed by cutting them low and then flooding them, which drowns the roots. It would be good, Tracy said, to experiment with some cattail control methods to see what might be the most practical approach in this situation.
In the end Tracy reminded us that, in spite of the many issues faced by the marsh, it still is providing services to the Preserve and the lake by managing runoff, filtering contaminants and providing habitat for wildlife and opportunities for recreation, and that it needs our protection and care to learn more about Wisconsin Wetlands Association and how you can help, please visit Wisconsinwetlands.org.
Summary by the Friends host Steve Sentoff. Photos Steve Sentoff and Gisela Kutzbach.
“This is a lot more fun than I expected it would be.”, laughed one UW student who was spending this brisk Sunday morning trekking through the Preserve with forty other hikers in search of fall fungi. To be fair, it wasn’t a passion for mushrooms that drove this student to get out of bed on this frigid October day and ride his bike to Picnic Point for a Friends Field Trip. He was there (perhaps begrudgingly, judging from the look on his face as he blew into his hands for warmth) for a class.
Along with the rest of the flock of attendees, the student was welcomed to the Preserve today by UW mycologist Marie Trest. Trest, an instructor and laboratory coordinator in the Department of Botany, has an infectious passion for fungi. As the group ventured into the woods, it didn’t take long for some otherwise-inconspicuous specimens to begin showing themselves and posing questions about the nature of their existence.
Marie picked up a dead branch containing a Stereum mushroom, also called a false turkey tail. “Can you eat it?”, muttered one participant in the back who looked suspiciously like he was in the “fulfilling-a-class-assignment” demographic. Marie smiled and answered the question the way that great teachers do, by not answering the question directly. "Knowing how to identify what you’re looking at is the first step to knowing if something is edible." Marie passed the branch around and explained that the false turkey tail is a crust fungus, so it will have a smooth underside while a true turkey tail mushroom is a polypore, which will have an underside covered in pores.
Within arm’s reach was another specimen that Marie pointed out as being on many forager’s menu, the honey mushrooms. The ones that Marie found were past their prime. Marie pointed out that a mushroom of this type (Armillaria) is considered to be the largest organism on earth. A single individual can grow to encompass hundreds of acres and live for thousands of years!
A few more steps into the woods uncovered some fascinating root-like formations called rhizomorphs. Attendees took turns inspecting the web of fungus as Marie explained how they allow fungi to transport nutrients throughout vast networks, transferring liquids to fruiting bodies and allowing fungi to travel through barren stretches of soil in search of new food sources.
Before long, participants were venturing out on their own in search of fungal treasures to bring back for identification. Under the permission of a Lakeshore Nature Preserve Teaching and Research Permit, a plethora of small specimens were gathered up and discussed. Some of the highlights: artist’s conk (used in the creation of intricate artistic etchings), puffballs (who’s spores are distributed via raindrops), jelly fungi (which consume other fungi), and the remarkably creepy and well-named wood ear mushroom. It was uncanny how the wood ear looked so much like an actual ear, a feature that caused me to consider its potential for an upcoming Halloween party. Marie noted that the wood ear is closely related to the mushrooms used in hot-and-sour soup. Trick or treat!
Xylobolus, Auricularia, Phellinus! No, this is not a wizarding spell. These are names of mushrooms that Marie identified while participants gathered up a mini-herbarium of specimens and displayed them on a fallen oak tree that served as a makeshift lab bench.
Marie also discussed the importance of fungi as a functional component in the Preserve’s patchwork of ecosystems. Fungi play a major role in decomposing and recycling organic matter and make it possible for members of other kingdoms, like plants and animals, to be supplied with critical nutrients. The food web and nutrient cycles would be incomplete without fungi.
Marie also noted that because fungi have not been as extensively documented as other realms of life, fungal species are mostly overlooked when considering conservation, preservation and restoration efforts. She is personally fond of a special group of fungi, the lichens. Lichens serve as biological air-quality indicators. Many of the lichens that were once documented in southern Wisconsin can no longer be found in this area, presumably due to diminishing air quality.
The importance of fungi and their amazing diversity, stories, traits, and appearances were all on display during this fruitful autumn walk in the Preserve. Today’s event was a great example of how Friends Field Trips support a diverse array of interested parties and how the Friends help introduce all types of people to the wonders of the Preserve. Some participants arrived eager to learn more about mushrooms. Some came to simply be in nature. A few showed up to fulfill a class requirement. No matter the motivation, it was evident that everyone had a lot of fun….even that one guy. Friends host for this field trip, summary and photos: Seth McGee
On a brisk October afternoon, Paul Quinlan led 21 nature enthusiasts into the Preserve for an engaging field trip about the trees that reside inside. Throughout the walk, Paul pointed out a variety of Wisconsin trees along with a few key leaf/bark features and environmental notes to consider when differentiating between species.
Here are a few notable insights for distinguishing between tree families:
Maples: It can be tricky to distinguish between Sugar, Silver, and Norwegian Maples in the Preserve. By looking at specific parts of the leaves and the fungi that grow on them, we can make this task a bit easier!
-Sugar maples have leaves with deep and rounded sinuses, five lobes with a sharp point at the apex. They also have the sweetest sap of the maples!
-Silver maples also have leaves with deep sinuses and five lobes. If you look at the underside of these leaves, you’ll notice a white coating which is a very helpful cue! Silver maple leaves may also feature black spots from the tar fungus that colonize on them.
-Norwegian maples have leaves with five lobes and shallower sinuses compared to the sugar and silver maples. The tar fungus also leaves black spots on the Norwegian maple leaves. Finally, if you tear a Norwegian maple leaf off a twig, you may notice that they ooze a milky white sap from the end of the leaf!
Oaks: The Preserve features White, Red, and Burr Oaks! How can you tell the difference between them all? Simple!
-White oaks have rounded lobes on their leaves. If you look at the bark on a white oak tree, you may notice that it looks lighter than most oak bark.
-Red oaks have very pointed lobes on their leaves. The bark has deep grooves (“skiing tracks” as Paul would say) as well!
-Bur oaks distinctively have deep sinuses ONLY on the bottom lobes on its leaves. In the upper lobes, the sinuses are much shallower. If you look at the cork-looking bark on a bur oak tree, you will see that it extends all the way to the branch tips of the tree— a good cue to look for!
Conifers: Check out these key cues Paul recommends to crack the conifer classification conundrum!
-White pines have long and floppy needles which give them a “delicate” looking appearance. Also, the needles are grouped into a fascicle—each fascicle has a bundle of 5 needles.
-Red pines have “stocky” looking needles that are clustered at the ends of the tree branches. On a red pine, fascicles have 2 needles each. The bark on red pines looks slightly reddish as well.
-Spruces do not have fascicles. Instead, the needles come out all along the twig. Also, if you were to cut a spruce needle in half, the cross-section would look triangular. Norway spruces specifically have needles that droop and produce very long cones.
Friends host was Olympia Mathiaparanam, who also provided this summary and photographs. Thank you all.
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.