On this gorgeous Saturday evening, a stream of excitement flowed into the Preserve. Apart from the smiles, laughter, and crackling weekend fires, however, were the sounds of a different party taking place in the marsh. Seven of us joined DNR herpetologist and UW Madison PhD student Rori Paloski to learn about these boisterous spring gatherings and the amazing audible amphibians behind them.
Both gray and Cope's gray tree frogs were calling in the marsh by Lot 60 when we arrived, giving us the opportunity to hear them side-by-side and practice our call discernment skills. One tree frog even hopped right over to us on the path, allowing us to marvel at the bright yellow patches on its underside. While this individual is currently green, these tree frogs can change the color of their skin to best camouflage with their surroundings. Whether this particular frog was a Cope's gray or a gray tree frog we will never know!
At the Picnic Point marsh we heard more tree frogs, and discovered the results of the recently-finished American toad mating period. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of little American toad tadpoles wriggled in the minnow trap Will had placed the day before. Unlike green frog tadpoles, American toad tadpoles metamorphose into tiny adult toads the same season they hatch. Soon the Preserve will be hopping in multitudes of these extremely small "penny toads". Once the tree frogs finish with their mating period, their tadpoles too will join the other toad and frog tadpoles in the Preserve's wetlands.
Frogs and toads are abundant and integral members of our native Wisconsin ecosystems. They are also very susceptible to human impacts on the landscape including water quality degradation, chemical pollution, invasive pathogens and urban infrastructure. The more we can learn about our amphibian neighbors the better we can learn to live alongside them. If listening for adult frogs and toads, and searching for tadpoles like we did in this field trip sounds fun to you, take a look at our Citizen Science page to see how you can help with our ongoing "Friends of Amphibians" project!
Report by Will Vuyk. Photos by Glenda Denniston and Signe Holtz.
Led by Jill Feldkamp and Roma Lenehan, this group of 18 sharp-eyed birders documented 46 species on their walk through the trails of Frautschi Point out to Raymer's Cove. Despite sub-optimal conditions for birding that morning, Leader Jill Feldkamp reported that "I think everyone has a good time and saw enough birds to keep them happy." See the E-Bird report below:
Report and photos by Steve Sellwood.
Nineteen people arrived for a spring birding tour that began at 7:30am in chilly (40F), overcast conditions next to the Class of 1918 Marsh. Roma Lenehan, a founder of the Friends and author of the Preserve’s breeding bird survey and Becky Abel, Madison Audubon’s Director of Philanthropy, led the two-hour tour that observed birds in the Class of 1918 Marsh, in University Bay from the Picnic Point trail, in the Picnic Point Marsh on the leeward side of the peninsula, in deciduous and pine woods, in the former orchard, and on Biocore Prairie
Next to the spotting scopes trained on the buffleheads, Northern shoveler and blue-winged teal in the open water of the Class of 1918 Marsh, Becky Abel explained to the group the importance of the Preserve as a stopover sites for migratory birds. On their journey north, birds stop to rest and refuel at three kinds of sites. Typically small, “fire escape” stopover sites, with limited resources, are infrequently used but vital in emergency situations. “Full-service hotel” stopover sites, like the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin, provide abundant food, water and shelter for migrants. Lying between those two extremes, the Lakeshore Nature Preserve serves as a ”convenience store” stopover site. Surrounded by urban development, our Important Birding Area is a place where birds can rest for a few days and easily replenish some fat or muscle, or both, before continuing. The Preserve offers a variety of habitats, fresh water and a variety of food sources, including fruit and insects. This cool morning meant that the tree swallows flew low over the water to capture insects in the Marsh, and white-throated sparrows hopped on the ground and flitted in shrubs along the Picnic Point path to capture insects at our eye level. Many of us marveled at the extensive clones of trout lilies about to burst into bloom on the Picnic Point peninsula.
Both leaders are expert birders-by-ear. Roma Lenehan and Becky Abel recorded observing 38 bird species. Some of the highlights were sighting
The attendees were respectful and engaged, sharing their own observations while learning from Abel and Lenehan’s expertise.
Report and photos by Doris Dubielzig
2. April 25, 2023 Picnic Point Field Trip Bird List by Roma Lenehan
for Picnic Point and the Class of 1918 Marsh, April 25, 2023, 7:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Madison Audubon Society and Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Field Trip
Led by Becky Abel and Roma Lenehan
Weather: 40s, cloudy, wind NW 5-12
(h) = detected by ear
On Sunday, April 23, 2023, eleven hardy souls met in the cold spring afternoon to learn about and see wildflowers with Glenda Denniston, a charter member of the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Glenda also has been instrumental in restoring many beautiful spring wildflowers to the preserve. We walked through Bill’s Woods and stopped to see many wildflowers, some in bloom, some past bloom, and some just thinking about it. Glenda talked about her work and the work of the Friends and the UW staff and volunteers to purchase, transplant, start from seed, and grow the many species that we were able to see on this cold afternoon. Species (not all flowering) included Virginia bluebell, Virginia waterleaf, toothwort, twinleaf, rue anemone, false rue anemone, meadow rue, trout lily, downy yellow violet, common violet, wild geranium, Dutchman’s breeches, columbine, bloodroot, mayapple, bellwort, trillium, wild ginger, spring beauty, and hepatica.
Glenda also described the many ways that species “get around,” how they disperse their seeds or corms. In fact, the seeds of almost all spring ephemerals that we saw - trout lily, violets, Dutchman’s breeches, columbine, bloodroot, trilliums, wild ginger, hepatica, spring beauty, and bellwort - are distributed by ants. An oddball is Jack in the Pulpit. Glenda said, “It is fertilized by a small insect called a fungus gnat. These plants are either male or female, unlike most plants that have both male and female organs. Apparently, the scent of this plant tricks these gnats in entering “the pulpit” and they are unable to climb back up. If a fungus gnat enters a male Jack in the Pulpit, it thrashes around for a while and gets coated with pollen. In the male plant there is a little hole at the base and the insect can escape. If it then enters a female flower, that flower gets fertilized with the pollen, but there is no hole for it to escape. Too bad, little gnat! The fertilized flower produces the bright red berries we see in late summer. These are dispersed by squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and other small mammals (and a few humans). Evolution is amazing!” Although the day was cold and overcast, the beauty of wildflowers gave participants a hint that spring is really here.
Report by Signe Holtz; photos by Signe Holtz and Glenda Denniston
After rescheduling from the prior week due to cold rain, a hardy group of 16 people showed up in slightly-less-cold light snow and wind on Earth Day to go Beyond Backyard Birding. The trip, led by Ashley Olah, was co-hosted by the Friends and Madison Audubon. As we assembled at the entrance to Picnic Point, we heard sandhill cranes from far away, likely at the mouth of Willow Creek. We learned that sandhill crane calls can be heard from up to 2.5 miles away! Wow! A little way down the trail, there were feathered friends singing, “Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada!”. The white-throated sparrows singing that song are passing through on their way to breeding territory further north. Perhaps some of them may even make it to Canada! While white-throated sparrows are usually found foraging for seeds on the ground, this flock was mostly high in the trees, eating buds.
One member of our group said they hoped to see a loon, since they are not originally from Wisconsin and have never seen one. When we first scanned University Bay, there were no loons to be found. But we did have an osprey fly across the bay toward us and then perch in a tree nearby. One tip we learned for identifying osprey in flight is that their silhouette looks just like the shallow “M” shape used for birds in many kids’ drawings. We would continue to see the osprey through most of the rest of our walk, including a fly-by at the tip of Picnic Point.
Continuing down Picnic Point, we were greeted by many species that use the Preserve year-round, including black-capped chickadees, northern cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers. We also saw a few more migrating songbirds, including a palm warbler, which bobs its tail while it is perched.
Looking out to the water from both the north and south sides of Picnic Point, we did our best to identify waterfowl without a spotting scope. American coots, ring-necked ducks, and lesser scaup were plentiful. We also saw at least a couple of ruddy ducks and canvasbacks. And, luckily, we did see at least two common loons before the end of the trip!
Report by Anne Pearce; photos by Will Vuyk
On a beautiful sunny Sunday, leader Suzan Will-Wolf introduced us to the corals of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Well ... they're not really corals. Corals are a composite organism made from symbiotic algae and Cnidarians (think jellyfish). These little specks are actually a symbiotic friendship between fungi and algae, so, similar in form but not evolutionary history. Does it matter? All 17 of us in attendance were really lichen the field trip regardless.
Lichens come in three main forms - crustose, foliose, and fruticose. Crustose lichens are flat and leafless, foliose lichens are flat but have leaf-like structures, and fruticose lichens have protruding stalks, tufts, or strings. Lichens of all forms tend to be scrappy survivors that eke out a living where other organisms - like plants - can't. There are thousands of different lichen species around the world and over 100 in Wisconsin. Only 10 different lichen species are reported in the Preserve on iNaturalist today (4/9/23) but I bet one motivated friend could double that count in a single outing - try it! We saw a whole spattering of lichens just on one boulder.
If you want to learn more about lichens, you must read Suzy's guide linked here. Please also see pictures of the lichens we saw walking up the access road from the Picnic Point entrance taken by attendee Sean Sanders. Thank you for the photos, Sean, and thanks Suzy for all your lichen enthusiasm and expertise!
Crustose lichen photos by Sean Sanders:
Foliose lichen photos by Sean Sanders:
Report by Will Vuyk; photos by Will Vuyk, Glenda Denniston, and Sean Sanders.
We had a great turnout of 24 attendees to this trip led by birders Dane Gallagher and Chuck Henrickson. This included families, couples, and age range from 9 to 70+. Several had learned about the trip from the web, others joined in when they saw us gathering up at the Picnic Point entrance. It was several folks’ first visit to Picnic Point!
We saw a great variety of species of early spring migrants, as advertised, including: redhead, ring-necked duck, common goldeneye, mallard, wood duck, bufflehead, coot, bald eagle, RWB, and a few resident winter birds, like American tree sparrow, black-capped chickadee, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and brown creeper. The weather was favorable, mild and calm, certainly better than the blizzard yesterday. Chuck and Dane, thank you for leading! And thanks to Doris for schlepping all the supplies down to Fire Ring 2, setting up and lighting the fire!
Report by Josh Sulman
UW Historic & Cultural Resources Manager Emeritus Daniel Einstein led a fascinating and informative field trip on the effigy mounds of Observatory Hill and Willow Creek. Full report incoming!
About 30 people including several UW students and families with kids enjoyed taking part in some or all of the February 26, 2023 1:30pm 4th Sunday "Winter Birds" Bird and Nature Adventure at UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve led by Chuck Henrikson. Participants included several people from outside Madison and Monressori teacher who enjoys connecting kids with nature. A UW eye researcher shared the interesting fact that hawks have two fovea (concentrated eye receptors) for both far and close focus which contributes to their 20-2 visual acuity (8 times sharper than human) as a Red-tailed Hawk perched nearby to greet the group at the Picnic Point entrance. On the walk a winter-only visitor to Wisconsin the Dark-eyed Junco, also affectionately nicknamed the Snowbird, was spotted along with a number of year round resident species and early migrants including Sandhill Cranes and Red-winged Blackbirds.
The highlight was an almost invisible until pointed out well cameoflaged Eastern Towhee busily kicking aside snow dusted leaf litter to rustle up some grub for lunch right next to the Picnic Point Path only 20 feet or so from the enthralled flock of birders. The outing ended with a welcome campfire to cap a beautiful winter walk and count up the bird sightings. Everyone is already looking forward to next month's 4th Sunday Bird and Nature Adventure, "Early Migrants".
Report and photos by Paul Noeldner.
Featuring poets of all experience levels, our "It's in Our Nature" events bring writers together to share their small curiosities, sweeping odes, or any piece of environmental writing in between. By writing we can capture the imagery of our mind’s eye, looking inward to draw emotion, beauty, and truth from the outside world.
The theme of our event this year was “Insight.” Every day our minds sift through a sea of thoughts and sensory impressions, casting the world around us in vivid shades of feeling only we can experience. What marvels exist only within our own heads! We asked poets to share the beautiful singularity of their mind’s eye with us on February 25th.
The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism joined us this year to co-host the event, and will be publishing a two page spread on the Friends, the Preserve, and featuring poems from the event. I look forward to working with them further as we continue to expand the "It's in Our Nature" poetry audio trail initiative.
Our 2021 trail can be found here and our unfinished 2022 trail can be found here.
Stay tuned for more soon on our updated 2023 audio trail!
Report by Will Vuyk, with photos from Paul Noeldner.