Friday, July 29, 2011

Shoreland Restoration Tour

Come join us on Wednesday, Aug. 17, for a tour of a variety of conservation projects designed to help improve wildlife habitats and the water quality of Lake Butte des Morts. 
All three properties are in the Omro area along the southwestern shore of the lake. The first presentation will be at 4 p.m. at 4780 Rivermoor Road. The other scheduled times are: 5 p.m., 5823 Springbrook Road, and 6 p.m., 5430 E. Reighmoor Road.
The public is invited to join the tour free of charge and talk with the property owners and members of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association who have been involved in creating and maintaining the conservation efforts. It will be conducted rain or shine.
The projects have been undertaken with the advice and assistance of Winnebago County Land and Water Conservation staff, who arranged the tour. The event is co-sponsored by the Winnebago Lakes Council, the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County and the Fox Valley Area Chapter-Wild Ones.

Click for Map

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Trudge Through the Marsh

Marsh or Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

I have been staying away.  I've been there for quick visits many times this summer, but I’ve been away too long.  Before I step from the car the welcome committee arrives:  first deer flies swarm around the car, and then the mosquitoes land on the glass and prepare to pounce.  I take a deep breath, tuck my nose under my shirt and spray my arms and neck with OFF.  I step out of the car and gasp for air and rub a little of the insect repellent on my face.  The deer flies have formed a cyclone over my head.  I spray my hair.  I am now good and tacky and ready for adventure.  The deer flies land periodically, but take flight as soon as they touch down.  For the rest of this trudge my defenses will be constantly tested and the chinks in my armor found and exploited.  For now I can largely ignore the swarm of female insects that want to call me dinner. 

I strap on my back pack weighed down with camera gear.  It is a movement of hope, much like buying a lottery ticket.  I don’t know if I’ll have a dry place to set it down when I’m out there, and so I don’t know if the 40 lbs is worth the effort.  I grab my walking stick for balance.  I head out and walk through a thick stand of reed canary-grass.  It is an invasive species and a plague on our wetlands.  I push back the tall grass to look and see if there are any species growing down there.  There are none.  Mosquito in my armpit, I push through another 100 feet and I’m in those grass-like sedges, a few grasses, flowers and shrubs.  This isn’t the diversity of the Amazon, but it is amazing in its own way and much better than the one species of grass just a few paces behind me.  If I should fall asleep for a year I would wake up surrounded by reed canary-grass as it advances and smothers this marsh.  I try to focus on the positive, sedges are at my feet and the sweet-smelling marsh milkweed is under my nose and a deer fly is up my sleeve.  Oh…positive thoughts.  There are short, fat, pale-green grasshoppers with comical expressions looking up from the sedges. 

Wool-grass (Scirpus cyprinus)
The sun is low on the horizon, there is no place to set down the camera bag, so I head west back to the car to maybe catch the sunset over there.  The return walk is like walking up rapids of a trout stream.  The prevailing winds have bent the sedges and grass toward me and now they provide stiff resistance.  Soon I the sweat beads on my face, the beads run together, and steady drip into and out of my eyes flow.  I huff and puff my way along, my back is soaked and the mosquitoes are watching the DEET drip off my body.  They rejoice when I take the back pack off and expose my unsprayed t-shirt, which they drill through immediately.  I set up the big camera and take some photos of the sun going down.  The sunset is pretty, but it doesn’t knock my socks off.  I turn around 180 degrees and see the cloud formations behind me are quite striking.  I set up and take their picture, pack up and drive home trough a rain of insects pelting the windshield.  As I approach Oshkosh, the fields and marshes have been decorated by thousands of flashing lightning bugs.  I pull off the road to listen to the tree frogs and watch the show.  There are no mosquitoes.  I think they are watching the show too.   

Plant of the Week: Meadowsweet (Spirea alb)

Meadowsweet looks similar to its close relative steeple bush, which is often found in Wisconsin wetlands.  Other spirea species can be found in garden centers.

More on White Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Plant of the Week: Spatterdock (Nuphar advena)

Spatterdock (Nuphar avenda)
West Bay Cane Beds -Lake Poygan
In bloom right now is one of the two species of water-lily that are present in the Winnebago Pool.  Spatterdock, sometimes referred to yellow water-lily (which is actually a different species), can be differentiated between our other species-- white water-lily-- by its heart-shaped leaves.  White water-lily leaves are more circular.  All water-lily leaves have a cleft.   Water lilies are some of those pretty “weeds” that most people don’t mind.  The other reason people tolerate and even love water lilies is because they often hold largemouth bass and northern pike.  Lily pads are home to many species of insects, and later in the summer you can see holes were they have been feeding. Water-lilies are sometimes confused with American lotus which often emerges out of the water on its stalk, and its leaves have no cleft.  Water-lilies are not related to true lilies.

More information on Spatterdock

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Plant of the Week: Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)

Blue flag is one of the most attractive wetland plants in our area.  The beauty of this plant seems understated in comparison to cultivars of the European Iris germanica.  I much prefer our native blue flag to the gaudy cultivars.  Blue flag is toxic to humans, but made its way into Native American and pioneer medicine. 

For those looking to grow these flowers and lucky enough to live on the lake, blue flag will grow well along the shore.  For those of us who are not, blue flag will do well in garden ponds.  Currently, I’m working on establishing a rain garden and will plant the blue flag that has been growing in my yard for six years but was in too dry of a location to bloom. 

More on Northern Blue Flag

Blue Flag clones, Poygan State Wildlife Area

New Blog: Lake Puckaway

I work for the Lake Puckaway Protection and Rehabilitation District.  Lake Puckaway is a natural widening of the Fox River upstream of the Winnebago System.  Lake Puckaway shares a similar history and faces similar problems as the Upper Pool Lakes.  I promote education, conservation of the lake, and I report on progress made towards completion of their lake protection grant.  To complete some of those tasks I have created the Lake Puckaway blog.  Those interested in Lake Puckaway and conservation of the Upper Pool Lakes should check it out.