goose pond

Our Pond Runneth Over

Goose Pond is a prairie pothole, a pond that is fed only by precipitation and run-off. Because of this, Goose Pond water levels change significantly only two or three days a year after a major run-off event. But right now, we’re seeing something we’ve never seen before! Goose Pond is normally four feet deep, but today, it’s at least seven.

Above: Kampen Road (looking east toward Goose Pond Road).  Water is eight inches deep and covers 1,000 feet of road. So far one car stalled in the high water and had to be towed out. Some of the asphalt was deeply undercut, and there are ongoing road repairs due to safety issues.

Above: Kampen Road (looking east toward Goose Pond Road). Water is eight inches deep and covers 1,000 feet of road. So far one car stalled in the high water and had to be towed out. Some of the asphalt was deeply undercut, and there are ongoing road repairs due to safety issues.

Deep snow cover and ice, frozen ground, rain, and high temperatures resulted in record flooding and runoff levels. There is so much water in our above-ground system that you could now kayak from Ankenbrandt Prairie (east of Goose Pond) into Lake Mendota and only have to get out to maneuver around culverts.

The good news is that scaup, goldeneyes, canvasbacks, mallards, Canada geese, and cranes have arrived and are using the sheet water.

The bad news is there is damage to road infrastructure, and many low lying roadways in the area are closed or have high water advisory.

Above: Goose Pond Road (looking north towards Arlington).  The road is covered by up to three inches of water for almost 1,000 feet. The dark mound to the right (east) of Goose Pond Road is the rock pile. The pull off next to the rock pile is where many people bird watch from the Goose Pond Road causeway, and it is completely flooded.

Above: Goose Pond Road (looking north towards Arlington). The road is covered by up to three inches of water for almost 1,000 feet. The dark mound to the right (east) of Goose Pond Road is the rock pile. The pull off next to the rock pile is where many people bird watch from the Goose Pond Road causeway, and it is completely flooded.

If you are visiting Goose Pond, use safety precautions and common sense. In the 40 years that the Martins have resided at Goose Pond, water has only flowed west out of the pond to Lake Mendota on one other occasion.

tracks fix.jpg

Above: Train Tracks (looking north). The train tracks are flooded up to four inches for 250 feet. A soft rail bed and nearby erosion stranded the train from yesterday evening until this morning.

Above: Video (Kampen Road). Taken at 4:18 p.m. yesterday, this video shows the sheer volume of water flowing under the road and into Goose Pond. The stranded train is shown in the back.

Photos and text by Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin, Goose Pond Sanctuary resident managers, and Graham Steinhauer, Goose Pond Sanctuary land steward

A snowy owl who almost made it back home

The intense gaze of Arlington will be remembered by those who worked with and tracked Arlington as he wintered near Goose Pond Sanctuary in 2018. Photo by David Rihn

The intense gaze of Arlington will be remembered by those who worked with and tracked Arlington as he wintered near Goose Pond Sanctuary in 2018. Photo by David Rihn

In January 2018, a snowy owl near Arlington, WI was outfitted with a GPS transmitter and tracked by hundreds of scientists and community members. In April, he was found dead in Benton County, Minnesota. The story of “Arlington”, the snowy owl, is one of science, conservation, and community.

Snowy owls hatch and spend their summers and fall in the tundra of northern Canada, and migrate south in early winter, especially in years of high lemming populations when many young are raised. One particular snowy owl was six months old in December when he stopped to spend the winter near Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary and the UW Arlington Agricultural Research Station, 17 miles north of Madison. He was one of thousands of snowy owls that flooded into the northern United States and southern Canada during this snowy owl “irruption year”.

Staff and volunteers with Madison Audubon Society, a local non-profit organization that works on bird conservation, seized the opportunity to study one of the five snowy owls in the local area. On January 4, 2018 master bird bander Gene Jacobs and MAS staff and volunteers caught two young male snowy owls at the UW Research Station. Both owls were banded and after taking detailed measurements, the larger owl was outfitted with an ultra-light transmitter that allowed Project SNOWstorm, a national non-profit that studies snowy owl winter ecology, and the public to track the whereabouts of the owl. He was lovingly named “Arlington”.

Arlington was outfitted with a GPS transmitter on January 4. The ultra-light backpack was recovered after Arlington was likely struck by a vehicle in central Minnesota. These transmitters are shown to have no impact on the birds' ability to lead normal lives. MAS Photo

Arlington was outfitted with a GPS transmitter on January 4. The ultra-light backpack was recovered after Arlington was likely struck by a vehicle in central Minnesota. These transmitters are shown to have no impact on the birds' ability to lead normal lives. MAS Photo

“It was an incredible experience,” say Mark Martin, resident co-manager of Goose Pond Sanctuary. “The rollercoaster that led up to his banding, the intense thrill of working with a snowy owl, and the prospect that we would be able to track how he used the Wisconsin landscape in winter and into the future will live in my memory for a long time.”

Arlington showed interesting behaviors over the winter, such as significant side trips to Lake Koshkonong in Jefferson County and Puckway and Rush Lakes in Green Lake County. Each time, he returned to the area where he was caught and banded. Project scientists, MAS members, UW Agricultural Research Station staff, and the public followed his movements on an online map that provided over 2,700 hourly locations.

Arlington was in the local area until March 2, when he began what should have been his 1,500 mile migration back to the tundra. He visited Puckaway Lake again, then Pentenwell Flowage, Alma Center, and stopped in northwest of the Twin Cities in Cambridge, Minnesota, where he spent most of April in an industrial park and nearby residential area. He then headed northwest to Benton County, where his journey ended after he was likely struck by a passing vehicle on a county road on April 29, 2018.

April 2018 was one of the coldest and snowiest Aprils on record for the upper Midwest. Deep snow and north winds kept Arlington grounded in Minnesota when in a normal year he would have been far north by the end of April.

“We were fortunate to have Arlington in our lives,” said Susan Foote-Martin, resident co-manager at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Arlington will be missed by his Madison Audubon family, followers at the UW Arlington Agricultural Research Station, local residents, and Project SNOWstorm volunteers, and followers. “Photographers and youngsters in particular have really enjoyed learning about snowy owls and seeing him this winter,” Sue shares. “We are saddened by his loss, but hopefully we will have the opportunity to work with another wintering snowy owl this coming winter.

Project SNOWstorm will continue to collect data on 20-25 owls outfitted with transmitters. Scott Weidensaul, with Project SNOWstorm, wrote, “We’d like to again extend our thanks to Madison Audubon for sponsoring Arlington’s transmitter — this is a hard loss for them as well as us, but Arlington’s movement data is and will remain a valuable legacy.”

For more information about Madison Audubon’s adventures with Arlington, visit madisonaudubon.org/arlington.

Goose Pond is a Prairie Pothole

Goose Pond is bumper-to-bumper waterfowl. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Goose Pond is bumper-to-bumper waterfowl. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Goose Pond is a prairie pothole, one of the most threatened types of wetlands in the world and a mecca for wildlife. These potholes were formed by chunks of glaciers breaking off and compressing the ground underneath while very slowly melting. Now, thousands of years later, these ponds are filled and refilled each year by rain, snowmelt, and run-off from surrounding land. These shallow wetlands provide abundant nourishment for many levels of the food chain, from plants to insects, small mammals and amphibians to waterfowl (migratory and resident). They’re biodiversity hotspots.

They’re also in danger of destruction in Wisconsin. These shallow ponds with fluctuating water levels fall under the "non-federal" or “isolated" wetlands category. Current proposed legislation seeks to eliminate any permitting or oversight by agencies like the WDNR and would allow developers to destroy and build over these wildlife havens.

Sandhill cranes use prairie potholes like Goose Pond for nourishment and rest. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Sandhill cranes use prairie potholes like Goose Pond for nourishment and rest. Photo by Arlene Koziol

They say Wisconsin is only one of a handful of states that protects isolated wetlands. But 20% (!!) of Wisconsin’s wetlands, including Goose Pond, fall into this category. That is A LOT of wetlands! They say this legislation will be good for business. But at what expense, and on what timeframe? Destroying the resources that support the natural environment for short-term gain is beyond short-sighted; it’s selfish. They say this will actually be good for the environment by allowing taxpayer dollars to be redirected to protecting higher quality wetlands. But you only need five minutes at a place like Goose Pond to know that this place has extraordinary value to biodiversity, as well as the people who appreciate it.

Fortunately, because of over 6 decades of Madison Audubon’s members’ and donors’ efforts and generosity, Goose Pond is safe. It is under MAS ownership, under a conservation easement, and under the protective wing of every nature nut who has laid eyes on it.

But not every isolated wetland is so lucky. You can make a difference. Contact your legislators. Post about your favorite isolated wetland in Wisconsin, and ask your friends to get involved. Reject the spin that makes it all sound fine. Take a stand for the long-view.

What wetland is special to you? Photo by Arlene Koziol

What wetland is special to you? Photo by Arlene Koziol

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Madison Audubon communications director

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.

Tell DOT: No Interstate Through Goose Pond Sanctuary

>> Read Madison Audubon's letter to Robert Knorr, DOT project manager <<

Scroll down to learn how you can help!

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is currently studying ways to relieve congestion in the I-39/90/94 corridor east and north of Madison. Three of the five options under
consideration would severely affect Goose Pond Sanctuary.

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

A shooting star at Goose Pond Sanctuary

The most destructive options involve construction of a new section of interstate highway running east of DeForest and Arlington, through Goose Pond Sanctuary at Ankenbrandt Prairie, and rejoining the existing interstate corridor near the Wisconsin River. In addition to destroying and fragmenting prairie habitat, including habitat for the endangered silphium borer moth and other threatened grassland species, the new highway would bring noise, light,  air, and water pollution to the sanctuary, and would severely detract from public enjoyment of one of our area’s premier birding hotspots.

While construction won’t begin until 2025 or later, a decision on a preferred option is expected by this summer. We are hopeful, for a variety of economic, social, and environmental reasons,  that DOT will elect to confine any capacity expansion to the existing interstate corridor rather than create a new roadway.  Nonetheless, to assure this outcome, it is crucial that everyone who loves Goose Pond let DOT know that any new route through or near Goose Pond Sanctuary will pass through a minefield of public opposition.

 

UPDATE (Feb. 28, 2017): Good news! The Department of Transportation has eliminated the "East Reliever" interstate options, thereby removing the threat to Goose Pond Sanctuary! Thank you for your great help in making these concerns heard!