Strange Butterflies Reported at Goose Pond Sanctuary

Monarch tagging is underway at Goose Pond Sanctuary, with sessions happening on September 9 and 16. Nearly 100 monarchs were tagged on the 9th, but in the morning session, the strangest species of butterflies appeared...

She might look innocent, but she has her eye on something.... (Maddie Dumas, Goose Pond Sanctuary land manager, and Jim Otto, MAS volunteer). Photo by Arlene Koziol

She might look innocent, but she has her eye on something.... (Maddie Dumas, Goose Pond Sanctuary land manager, and Jim Otto, MAS volunteer). Photo by Arlene Koziol

A rare Danaus plexippus gigantus maddius was captured at Madison Audubon Goose Pond Sanctuary. Fortunately master butterfly scooper Jim Otto spotted the maddius. He approached it slowly, gave a war cry, then swept the net forward quickly and captured the maddius before it landed on the terrified Everett Reetz.

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The maddius is a species of special concern in Wisconsin and has never been sited in Columbia County. [Story by Arlene Koziol]

Then, imagine our surprise when in the afternoon session, these incredible specimens fluttered out to the prairie!

Giant monarch twins feasting on showy goldenrod. Photo by Mark Martin

Giant monarch twins feasting on showy goldenrod. Photo by Mark Martin

Monarchs seem to be getting larger to cope with climate change. Twin female monarchs (Danaus plexippus gigantus) visited Goose Pond Sanctuary Saturday afternoon September 9th on their migration to Mexico.

Mark was lucky to photograph a monarch releasing a monarch (probably should be submitted to the Guinness book of World Records). 

Photo by Mark Martin

Photo by Mark Martin

He also found the monarchs nectaring on showy goldenrod just before Sharon Brancel tried to net them. When we attempted to tag them, we learned they had already been tagged at birth, and were named Lisa Vetter Boyd and Heidi Vetter. [Story by Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin]

Photo by Mark Martin

Photo by Mark Martin

Kestrel nesting results are in!

A young kestrel awaiting its turn on the scale. MAS Photo

A young kestrel awaiting its turn on the scale. MAS Photo

Every bird lover has a favorite birding memory. What's yours? Too hard to choose? I agree: mine is tied between an awesome loon concert in the Chequamegon National Forest, and one involving baby birds. I'll tell you about the loons a different day. But first:

This past June, many of our members took the opportunity to join Madison Audubon and leaders of the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program for what might have been the greatest birding activity ever: banding baby kestrels.

As a rookie birder myself, I shared in this new experience with eyes as big as saucers and heart fluttering in excitement. This wasn't looking at pretty birds in the distance through binoculars. This was holding fluffy little handfuls of unrealized might who inspired feelings of awe, respect, and even maternal adoration. This was watching professional biologists carefully handle fragile wings and legs as they took measurements and placed metal bands around the chicks' ankles, and getting to ask 100 questions about who, what, when, where, and why. This was getting a first-hand look at how kestrel boxes are made and where they are placed, and learning about the decline and rebound of these tiny falcons.

If you can't tell, it was a great day.

Janet Eschenbauch of the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program (on ladder), Brand Smith (white), and Jim Shurts (blue) retrieve kestrel chicks from one of the nest boxes monitored through Madison Audubon. MAS Photo

Janet Eschenbauch of the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program (on ladder), Brand Smith (white), and Jim Shurts (blue) retrieve kestrel chicks from one of the nest boxes monitored through Madison Audubon. MAS Photo

That great day is owed largely to Brand Smith, volunteer kestrel box coordinator and former Madison Audubon president. Since 2009 and with support from Madison Audubon, Brand has spearheaded the effort to construct and put up kestrel nest boxes in south-central Wisconsin, and coordinate dozens of volunteers who check what's happening in the nests. Kestrels would naturally nest in cavities in old snags, but cultural practices result in very few standing dead trees in the landscape. So they rely on help from people to find nesting sites.

The program started with an ambitious 33 nest boxes in 2009 and is now at a dazzling 143 boxes in seven Wisconsin counties in 2017. Volunteers adopt a nest box in the beginning of the year and visit it regularly to track progress of eggs, chicks, and adults. Brand alone monitors nearly half of the boxes and puts in thousands of miles and hours each season to do so. Data collected throughout the nesting season are sent to Wisconsin DNR and others who work with conserving kestrels in Wisconsin.

Now, results of the 2017 year are in! Of the 143 boxes Brand and Madison Audubon placed in the landscape, 56 were occupied, and a whopping 46 produced successful nests (80%!) with an average of 4.6 eggs per nest. Approximately 190 kestrels fledged from these boxes, 102 of which we had banded along with 32 adults in June. Three kestrels that Madison Audubon banded in previous years were recaptured, as well as one kestrel another group banded (meaning that adult established a new territory in our area).

A kestrel chick is weighed, measured, and banded through this program. MAS Photo

A kestrel chick is weighed, measured, and banded through this program. MAS Photo

We'll continue monitoring and banding kestrels, with your help. You can volunteer to monitor a box, join Madison Audubon to get a chance to band kestrel chicks next summer, or donate to Madison Audubon to keep programs like this going.

Thanks for all of your support, and keep your eyes peeled for those little falcons swooping through the prairie or perched on a fence post.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Madison Audubon Society communications director

Wingspan: Fully funded and foundationally set!

While orange fencing, gray tarps, and bare ground are not the usual view in Bicentennial Prairie, this is a sight made beautiful by what it signifies. Tucked into the hillside overlooking Goose Pond is physical proof that many people know and love this sanctuary and those who tend it, and are creating something special to honor them.

We are delighted to share that nearly 100 donors have helped us reach our fundraising goal of $50,000! Because of all of you, the Wingspan observation pavilion will become a reality and a welcoming place for generations to come. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

On site, concrete footings have been poured, and the first of three sets of columns are scheduled for installation this week. The shades are being fabricated as we speak, and the solid oak slabs for the benches are in hand. We are preparing signage, and beginning to plan the dedication ceremony. Even the prairie seems ready, with its incredible show of flowers and abundance of birds and insects.

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Through all of this hustle and bustle, Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin continue their dedicated work on the land at Goose Pond Sanctuary. They're graduating interns, controlling invasives, counting butterflies, and conducting outreach. Your support and respect for these humble and wonderful land managers are well founded.

Everyone is welcome to visit the Wingspan site at Goose Pond (follow the path up and to the left of the kiosk), and see the fruits of your generosity.

Sincerely,
The Wingspan Committee

John Kaiser, Galen Hasler, Brenna Marsicek, Roger Packard, Matt Reetz, Don Schmidt, and Topf Wells, in collaboration with Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin

From the Rise of Goose Pond

Bicentennial Prairie surrounds the future Wingspan site, and is absolutely stunning right now! Photo by Brenna Marsicek

Bicentennial Prairie surrounds the future Wingspan site, and is absolutely stunning right now! Photo by Brenna Marsicek

The view from Bicentennial Prairie right now is simply glorious. The space for the new Wingspan observation platform has been cleared and leveled, and the prairie is in full bloom in anticipation of its arrival.

This project is a community-spurred effort, initiated by Madison Audubon member John Kaiser, dedicated to Goose Pond Sanctuary land managers Mark and Sue Martin, and funded entirely by those who love and support Goose Pond -- that's YOU and your fellow members! Learn more here.

A preview of what you'll see from the Wingspan platform. Photo by Arlene Koziol

A preview of what you'll see from the Wingspan platform. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Here are a few exciting updates on the Wingspan project. By all means, please come out to Goose Pond and see them for yourself!

  • The footprint for pavilion has been cleared and leveled (see photo below), and the concrete footings will be poured in the next few weeks.
  • Materials for the shades are in hand, and their production is underway.
  • The Prairie Lane road and turn-around will soon be expanded to accommodate Wingspan visitors.
  • Benches have been ordered and will be delivered once the shades are installed.
  • Plans for the dedication ceremony this fall will begin shortly. Stay tuned!
This half-circle scrape is the footprint of the future Wingspan site. More to come soon! MAS Photo

This half-circle scrape is the footprint of the future Wingspan site. More to come soon! MAS Photo

Mark the date: August 15

Donations to Wingspan of any amount are welcome and truly appreciated. All donors are listed on our website and in the newsletter.

Folks giving over $250 will be recognized on a permanent plaque on site. If you'd like your name or the name of someone you'd like to honor to appear on the plaque in time for the dedication ceremony this fall, please donate by August 15. Donations received after that date will be listed on the website and, for donations of $250 or more, on a second plaque installed at a later date.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, support, and vision! We look forward to sharing a splendid view and a long-lasting memory with you at Wingspan soon.

A Wingspan Update

Creating and leveling the space for the future Wingspan platform. Photo by Mark Martin

Creating and leveling the space for the future Wingspan platform. Photo by Mark Martin

Wow, we are just floored by your generosity! Wingspan continues to make progress, thanks to the donations of dozens of supporters. This month, construction has begun. The footprint for the observation platform has been leveled and concrete footings will soon be poured. The fill to expand the parking and turnaround areas has arrived. It's an exciting process, and you're entirely to thank!

We are almost at our fundraising goal, but still have a few thousand to go. If you know of anyone who would like to put their fingerprints on the project, please share this information with them!

Thank you for your involvement! Stay tuned for more updates!

Sincerely,
The Wingspan Committee

Galen Hasler, John Kaiser, Brenna Marsicek, Mark and Sue Martin, Roger Packard, Matt Reetz, Don Schmidt, Topf Wells

From the Educators: We're beginning to think thoughts of Spring

The weather is beginning to warm, little feet are getting muddy, and we’re gearing up for
spring migration and end-of-school-year field trips.

Face to face with Wilson, the MAS stuffed Great Gray Owl (Vera Court)

Face to face with Wilson, the MAS stuffed Great Gray Owl (Vera Court)

This Spring Madison Audubon is providing after school programming at three different community centers: Vera Court, Bayview and Salvation Army. Through these programs we helped underserved city kids learn about themselves through nature exploration. Highlights of these lessons include dissecting owl pellets with Vera Court, scavenger hunts and science-art projects with Salvation Army, and neighborhood birding walks with Bayview. We have about four more weeks of lessons with these kiddos before summer programming begins.

Education intern, Abe, shares a snapping turtle shell with students (Bayview)

Education intern, Abe, shares a snapping turtle shell with students (Bayview)

Our Education Interns, Abe Lenoch (teaching at Bayview) and Olivia Sanderfoot
(teaching at Vera Court), are winning kids over with fun, engaging STEM lessons and cool animal facts. They are greeted for each lesson with huge smiles and stories about the birds, bugs, and wildlife that kids have seen since their last visit. We love watching Abe and Olivia grow as educators! They both have an undeniable talent for connecting with kids and making learning fun.

Lincoln Elementary students have been growing by leaps and bounds! They walked to Wingra Creek again, beating their old travel time by a whopping 20 minutes. They then compared their phenology findings from this trip to the last one taken in early December. These students have also been learning about the effects climate change will have on birds
and other Wisconsin Wildlife. Last week they completed our Carbon Cycle and
Greenhouse Effect lessons: big ideas for 4th graders!

Education intern, Olivia, helps a student ID mammal bones found in an owl pellet (Vera Court)

Education intern, Olivia, helps a student ID mammal bones found in an owl pellet (Vera Court)

In April and May we are looking forward to taking several different school groups out
on field trips to local natural areas. Transportation costs are one of the biggest hurdles for
teachers taking kids on field trips. Because of you, we are able to provide free bussing to
kids who really deserve it. We will focus primarily on middle and high school groups from
underserved schools. These are the groups with the least opportunity to get out and
explore nature.

This work was made possible by you! Thank you for helping Madison Audubon
Society connect kids with nature!

Great Lakes at Great Risk

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

A view of Lake Superior from Madeline Island, Wisconsin

As Wisconsinites, the Great Lakes hold a special place in our lives. We're fortunate to live in a state which borders two of them, with a third within a few hours' drive. As a result, we are attuned to the importance, power, and fragility of the system. And the value of the Lakes for birds - resident and migratory both - is indescribable!

Like many times in the past, the Great Lakes system is again at risk, this time from severe budget cuts to one of the leading initiatives that fosters protection and restoration of the lakes. The federal administration has proposed to cut the Environmental Protection Agency 's funding by 40% and within those cuts, a 97% cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Learn more about the situation and what you can do by clicking here.

DNR public hearings: Crane hunting season, milkweeds, and more

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

Sandhill crane colt, photo by Arlene Kozio

What do you think about opening a hunting season for sandhill cranes in Wisconsin? How about statewide encouragement of planting milkweeds to support monarch butterflies? Or maintaining funding for the Stewardship Fund, which provides grants for land acquisition and conservation?

You have a chance to tell the DNR just how you feel!

On April 10, the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress are hosting public hearings in every county in Wisconsin to get your feedback on these and 85 other topics relating to natural resources conservation in the state.

This is an important opportunity for us as Wisconsin citizens and the DNR’s primary stakeholders, to weigh in on the agency’s actions and priorities – particularly now, when the DNR faces many organizational changes and the future of our state’s environment is uncertain.

This document contains all 88 topics on the DNR’s questionnaire, but three topics directly related to Madison Audubon’s work are listed below. If you care about these and/or other issues listed in the questionnaire, plan to attend your local meeting on April 10, 7:00 pm.

> DNR’s webpage describing the meetings, includes links to questionnaire and locations

 

From the questionnaire:

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

Monarch caterpillar munching on a commonmilkweed leaf, MAS photo

QUESTION 64: Support increased planting/maintenance of milkweed (540116)

Monarch butterflies are important pollinators in Wisconsin. Population levels have declined in the U.S. by 90% over the last 20 years. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior is considering placing the monarch butterfly on the Endangered Species List, and the Wisconsin DNR is actively encouraging efforts to preserve this species. Milkweed plays a critical role in the habitat needs of the monarch (female monarchs only lay their eggs in/on milkweed plants), and it is believed that much of the population decline is due to the disappearance of milkweed. Several city, towns, and villages in Wisconsin identify milkweed as a noxious weed by ordinance and take aggressive actions to remove or prevent the planting of it within their communities.

64. Do you support having the DNR encourage local governments to remove milkweed from local noxious weed ordinances and encourage the planting and maintenance of quality milkweed plots? 64. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Wisconsin is home to at least 10 native milkweed species (Common – Asclepias syriaca, Butterflyweed – A. tuberosa, Swamp – A. incarnata, Purple – A. purpurascens, Showy – A. speciosa, and Whorled – A. verticillata, Tall Green – A. hirtella, Prairie – A. sullivantii, Sidecluster or Wooly – A. lanuginosa, Oval-leaf – A. ovalifolia)(1,2), all of which support caterpillars of monarch butterflies by providing the one and only plant material the monarch caterpillars will eat: milkweed leaves! In addition, the flowers provide nectar for a myriad of pollinators, including but not limited to monarch adults. These plants have evolved to live in Wisconsin and are a historical piece of the biotic community here.

As part of our outreach efforts, Madison Audubon provides common milkweed seeds to community members to increase the planting and awareness of the importance of this species, particularly as a way to support monarch butterfly populations.

 

Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

Prairie landscape at Faville Grove Sanctuary, photo by Roger Packard

QUESTION 78: Maintain Stewardship Fund (450316)

In 1989, funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was funded at $25 million per year and in 2010 reached a high of $86 million. Currently the Stewardship Fund is budgeted at $33.2 million dollars per year. Stewardship funds are used to purchase and develop lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreating, lake and stream access and easements, partnerships with local governments, and protection of unique parcels of land. Other benefits include timber harvest, tourism, many different kinds of outdoor recreation and increased water quality.

78. Do you support the Legislature continuing to fund the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund at adequate levels with wise use of the funds by the NRB and the DNR? 78. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is an extremely important tool for organizations like Madison Audubon to achieve their mission-work around land acquisition, restoration, and protection. As described in an earlier post, we encourage individuals to write to the program manager to request reconsideration of changes to the program that would reduce its efficacy. Funding for this program is fundamental for its continuation and success.

 

Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill crane landing on April ice, photo by Arlene Koziol

QUESTION 80: Sandhill crane hunting season (540616) (requires legislation)

There are 700,000 sandhill cranes in North America and 17 states have hunting season including two states in our flyway: Kentucky and Tennessee. A management plan approved by 31 states and Canadian provinces in eastern North America established that the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes was large enough to be hunted and established a process for a state to apply for a limited quota based hunting season. In Wisconsin, the state legislature must approve a quota-based hunting season on sandhill cranes before the DNR can develop a season.

80. Do you support legislation which would give the DNR authority to begin the process to develop a hunting season for sandhill cranes? 80. YES____ NO_____

From MAS: Along with the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology (read their position post here) and other organizations, Madison Audubon is firmly against opening a crane hunting season. This is largely because of the decimation the species experienced in the early 1900’s, and their slow but steady recovery as a result of strong conservation efforts. An open hunt has potential to impact local populations by reducing overall numbers and dividing breeding pairs, as well as regional populations by reducing the potential for the species to expand from Wisconsin into other locations in its native regional range (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, etc.). In addition, there is very strong evidence that sandhill crane hunting results in accidental take of the much more endangered whooping crane due to their similarities in appearance. The impact on these species can be significant.

 

Please make your opinions known at the April 10 meetings!

 

Good News: DOT Shuts Down Interstate Options Through Goose Pond!

Monarch on goldenrod; Photo by Arlene Koziol

Monarch on goldenrod; Photo by Arlene Koziol

Good news from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation today: The study looking into how the DOT might expand Interstate-39/90/94 outside of Madison has ended, with the elimination of the "East Reliever" interstate options. That means Goose Pond will remain unaffected and safe from this threat!

Thank you for all of our members who voiced your concerns to the DOT and made our priorities known!

 

Read more about what the threat was here.

MAS on Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program changes

Jill's Prairie at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary

Jill's Prairie at Madison Audubon's Goose Pond Sanctuary

>> Read the MAS letter to Stewardship Program coordinator <<

In 1989, the Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, to be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The program facilitates the preservation of valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protection of water quality and fisheries, and expansion of opportunities for outdoor recreation. To do this, they provide grants for land acquisition and property development.

If you have been to either of our sanctuaries, you'll see the Stewardship Program at work. Madison Audubon Society received the first ever Stewardship grant for a nonprofit conservation organization for a land purchase at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Since then, the Stewardship program has been vital to completing many other acquisition projects that have contributed to the size, diversity, and beauty of our sanctuaries and now provide habitat for wildlife, recreation opportunities for citizens, and educational resources for local kids.

The Program is at risk now, due to proposed changes that severely limit the types of land proposed for Stewardship Program funding - and severely limiting Madison Audubon's ability to acquire land that will ultimately benefit Wisconsin's birds. Madison Audubon has submitted a formal letter to the Stewardship Program coordinator urging reconsideration of the proposed changes.

 

>> Read the MAS letter to Stewardship Program coordinator <<

 

Get Involved!

You can help prevent damaging changes to the Stewardship Program from happening too. The DNR is now soliciting public input on revisions to ranking/scoring criteria for nonprofit Stewardship grant proposals. Draft revisions, explanations of the goals of the revisions, and how to submit your comments are on the DNR's program guidance web page. You can also send thoughts on the proposed changes to members of the DNR Natural Resource's Board. Addresses for the members are available in our letter or online here.

Comments are being accepted through March 3. Make your voice heard!