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.
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.
The Fourth Sunday field trip for July was a tour of the Bluebird Trail with monitor Jeff Koziol. Bluebirds require cavities in trees formed by woodpeckers to nest, but removal of standing dead trees and competition from other cavity-nesting birds had reduced their population by 90%. As a result, Bluebird trails consisting of multiple houses have been erected as a conservation measure, which is greatly helping with their recovery. The Friends Bluebird trail consists of eight houses this year and has successfully fledged six Bluebirds.
Jeff explained that several other species of birds are also cavity nesters and compete for the use of the houses, including Tree Swallows, House Wrens and House Sparrows. Each of these species builds a distinct type of nest. Bluebird nests are woven from grass; Tree Swallow nests are similar but include feathers. House Wrens build nests of sticks that nearly fill the whole box. And the nests of House Sparrows contain bits of just about anything they can find including paper, plastic and string. Although Bluebird conservation is the primary reason for the trail, all these species except the House Sparrow are protected species and their nests are left undisturbed. House Sparrow are non-native invaders and thus they are not protected like the other songbirds. Monitoring is done at least weekly to remove the Sparrow nests, or else they would monopolize all the houses.
Bluebirds, as well as the other species, can have two or sometimes even three successful nests in a season. Our walk came after the second fledging and we checked to see if there were any signs of a third nesting. Most of the houses were empty, but one had a current House Wren nest in it with eggs.
Our trip also provided us the opportunity to see the Biocore Prairie in its full glory, with many prairie species in full bloom, as well as a short diversion into the Community Gardens to see the diversity of gardens that have been planted there. Friends host Steve Sentoff. Photos Doris Dubielzig and Steve Sentoff.
On this beautiful cool Sunday morning, UW Arboretum naturalist Susan Carpenter met the group of 7 Friends who gathered for her Pollinator Tour at the entrance to Picnic Point. She prepared us for our observations of these important pollinators by reviewing the life cycle of a bumble bee colony. I was fascinated by her description of the hardworking queen bumblebee, who emerges in the spring from her solitary underground hibernation, collects nectar from flowers and sets up a nest nearby. Working alone, she lays her first batch of eggs, fertilized in the previous summer, and sits on them to warm them. The queen has to leave the nest to gather more nectar and pollen to feed the hatched larvae which mature into adult female worker bees. As the season progresses, the queen lays unfertilized eggs which develop into haploid males that leave the nest in search of other queens to fertilize. Susan gave each of us a laminated copy of the Bumble Bee Brigade Field Guide to Females and Males of 21 bumblebee species. She also gave us a Rusty Patched Bumble Bee Midwest Plant Guide to native plants that will attract most of the other bumblebee species, too.
We looked for, and found, bees in the rain garden inside the Picnic Point entrance, on the jewelweed opposite Bill’s Woods, and in milkweed in the East Savannah, and then in galore, in the Biocore Prairie. A Tawny emperor butterfly landed on Doris' bike helmet as we entered the prairie, and it stayed there for much of the rest of the tour. Contrary to what one might guess,
Seth, noted, milkweed plants are mostly pollinated by bees, not butterflies. Butterflies prefer to frequent flowers with a kind of a flat surface for landing, like asters or purple coneflowers. Monarchs use milkweeds to lay their eggs, and the Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves.
Steve was intrigued by the effects that changing climate was having on the bumble bees. The warmer temperatures are forcing the southern boundary of the range north, but there is little opportunity for the bees to disperse farther north, since the queens must begin to form their colonies immediately after they emerge. This means that cooler microclimates within their current range will be vital to conservation and that greater diversity of habitats will be key. As an example, Susan explained about how edges between the woods and prairie are important to the bumble bees.
Susan encouraged us to take our own photos of bees and submit them to the Wisconsin DNR’s Bumble Bee Brigade, wiatri.net/inventory/bbb. As the insects' territory is squeezed by climate change, and they face threats from pesticide use, loss of habitat and disease, the DNR and the Xerces Society can use our observations to guide their bumblebee conservation efforts.
Bumblebees sighted today:
Bombus auricomus black and gold
Bombus bimaculatus twospotted
Bombus griseocollis brownbelted
Bombus impatiens common eastern
Bombus vagans half-black
The federally-listed-as-endangered bee that we were hoping to see, but did not:
Bombus affinis rusty patched
Many thanks to Susan for her very engaging and informative tour. Report by Doris Dubielzig and Friends host Steve Sentoff, Photos by Glenda Denniston, Doris Dubielzig, Seth McGee, Steve Sentoff
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Professor Glen Stanosz shared his knowledge of trees with five enthusiastic guests. As attendees strolled through the shaded paths near Picnic Point, Glen identified ash, oak, red pine, and white pine trees among other woody species.
Each tree species was paired with a remarkable tale of conquest by fungal or insectivore invaders… occasionally intertwined with hopeful twists of perseverance as researchers discover some tree species are beginning to develop resistance against their pesky assailants:
While trees face incredible feats against fungal and insect invaders alike, Glen described how this harassment is a result of trees’ tempting design. Trees are made of two main components: cellulose and lignin… in other words, trees are made of sugar and glue! So, if trees have the audacity to grow tall and advertise their sweet composition to the decomposers in their ecosystems, that must mean trees have some secret defenses of their own. Indeed, Glen skillfully pointed out trees using their defensive ability to compartmentalize their trunks; these trees created a seal that trapped an invading fungus on the interior of the trunk, allowing the living outer region of the trunk to service the tree unharmed.
Finally, Glen referenced a non-fungal threat to forests: climate change. With observed warming trends in Wisconsin, Glen said it is possible that the composition of forests may change over time. Glen hypothesizes that Wisconsin may lose its maple and conifer trees, but retain hickory trees as hickory trees can be found in southern/warmer regions of the US. Report and Photos by the Friends' host Olympia Mathiaparanam.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, Seth McGee, Biocore Laboratory Manager, led a band of 9 Friends to experience the Prairies. As we walked up the hill past Bill’s Woods, Seth paused for a public service announcement: how to identify poison ivy, growing along the roadside, by its alternate leaf attachment. Box elder, which can also exhibit three leaflets, has leaves that are attached opposite from one another. Eve Emshwiller related that the jewelweed, growing abundantly nearby, is reputed to relieve the skin irritation caused by poison ivy.
When we reached the Biocore Prairie, Seth told how Ann Burgess and Curt Caslavka got permission for UW biology honors program students to learn ecology by restoration of this badly degraded land, beginning with 3/4 acre in 1998. By 2016, the land under restoration had increased to 12 acres, making it the largest laboratory on campus. Seth compares this highly manipulated living laboratory to an Erlenmeyer flask. As one example, he showed us a map of the prairie with the dates of burning identified for individual 20m2 areas. While it is recognized that fire is essential to prairie restoration, this burn study can help to determine the optimum frequency of burning.
Seth showed us some of the other student research projects and identified the plants in bloom, including Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense), bee balm (Monarda spp.) and milkweed. He concluded with a thorough comparison of Prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) to Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum). The Prairie dock’s large basal leaves are covered in rough hairs that trap moisture and the drying wind. Its leaves stand upright and act as big “solar panels”. The Compass plant leaves, which rise higher, are deeply lobed to withstand the drying effects of sun and wind. As we thanked Seth for showing us the Prairie, Roma Lenehan pointed to a pair of cedar waxwings searching for their own nest site in the Prairie. Report and photos by the Friends host Doris Dubielzig.