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

Rebuilding a Wetland

Overview of Goose Pond Sanctuary’s newest restoration project: wetland scrapes. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Overview of Goose Pond Sanctuary’s newest restoration project: wetland scrapes. Photo by Arlene Koziol

On September 10, 2018, after many months of planning and countless meetings and discussions, something big began happening at Goose Pond. Two bulldozers, a large backhoe, and an excavator rolled in Monday evening ready to start moving thousands of cubic yards of soil out of the canary grass dominated wetland. For the next four days, LMS construction worked long hours creating seven wetland scrapes for Goose Pond Sanctuary.


What’s a wetland scrape?

Wetland scrapes are essentially isolated, shallow depressions that fill with water during part of the year, especially in spring. They’re often constructed to enhance wetlands that have filled with eroded silt from farm fields. Creating wetland scrapes effectively establishes diverse habitat for waterfowl, marsh birds, shorebirds, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates.

Goose Pond is a beautifully restored wetland just next door, but waterfowl breeding pairs like to be secluded and have their own territory to avoid competition with other pairs. As a result of creating these scrapes, we expect gadwalls, mallards, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, and green-winged teal to find peace and contentment in their new nesting habitat. Shorebirds such as killdeer and spotted sandpipers are able to wade around in the shallow waters, searching for food. Other birds, like the barn swallow, will use exposed mud flats to build their nests.

Lesser yellowlegs in Goose Pond. Photo by Arlene Koziol

Lesser yellowlegs in Goose Pond. Photo by Arlene Koziol

A happy salamander near Goose Pond. MAS photo

A happy salamander near Goose Pond. MAS photo

Chorus frogs, spring peepers, leopard frogs, eastern and Cope’s tree frogs, American toads, and eastern tiger salamanders will breed in the water filled depressions. We plan to conduct surveys to determine what amphibians are taking up residence in our scrapes. Many animals, like the white-tailed deer, will use the wetland scrapes as a water source.

Because we have scattered scrapes of varying kinds at Goose Pond Sanctuary, little microhabitats will form and allow for greater plant and wildlife diversity. Scrapes that are not circular create more shoreline edge, which is going to provide better cover, food, and resting area for wildlife. As Goose Pond goes through wet and dry cycles, having multiple wetlands will provide refuge for wildlife. For example, in periods of drought, a scrape at a lower elevation might still hold some water when ones at higher elevation do not. Animals will have access to this scrape at lower elevation and will be able to take refuge there until more rain comes.

Goose Pond is a beautiful prairie pothole that supports loads of wildlife year round. Wetland scrapes near the pond will enhance the biodiversity on the sanctuary by providing additional wetland resources. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Goose Pond is a beautiful prairie pothole that supports loads of wildlife year round. Wetland scrapes near the pond will enhance the biodiversity on the sanctuary by providing additional wetland resources. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

 

The Process: The Planning

A gradual 8:1 slope creates different vegetative heights as the water level drops and rises. This means that food sources can stay around longer in a self-sustaining, dynamic community. Furthermore, a gradual slope allows invertebrates to follow water levels and concentrate in a remaining pool as the water level drops. This can then be an excellent, easy-access food source for wetland birds.

But a gradual 8:1 slope is not a cake-walk to achieve! Kurt Waterstrad from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louie Meister from LMS Construction, Mark Martin and Graham Steinhauer from MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary, planned the whole project out, from securing the necessary permit approvals (Kurt) to mowing and mapping out the site (Graham) and everything in between.

Map of Goose Pond Sanctuary scrape construction. See chart below for more details.

Map of Goose Pond Sanctuary scrape construction. See chart below for more details.

Goose Pond Sanctuary now holds 11 wetland scrapes to provide habitat and resources for a variety of species.

Goose Pond Sanctuary now holds 11 wetland scrapes to provide habitat and resources for a variety of species.

 

The Process: The Heavy Lifting

Then, beginning on September 10, Junior, Gus, and Joe from LMS Construction completed the enormous task of scraping out approximately 5,950 cubic yards and depositing it evenly across our upland areas. They carefully and professionally ensured that each scrape was at the correct depth, acreage, and slope ratio. The sight and sounds of heavy equipment working in the sanctuary was an odd, yet invigorating experience, knowing the promise of what those bulldozers and excavators held!

Kurt Waterstad posing with the laser elevation reader. Photo by Mark Martin.

Kurt Waterstad posing with the laser elevation reader. Photo by Mark Martin.

Start of the project with LMS Construction removing vegetation. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Start of the project with LMS Construction removing vegetation. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Graham Steinhauer taking GPS points while walking the perimeter of a scrape. Photo by Mark Martin.

Graham Steinhauer taking GPS points while walking the perimeter of a scrape. Photo by Mark Martin.

LMS Construction removing all the soil with a large back hoe. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

LMS Construction removing all the soil with a large back hoe. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Mark and Sue checking to see how the project is going. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Mark and Sue checking to see how the project is going. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Wetland scrapes filled with water on Friday, September 21st after 2.8 inches of rain. Photo by Mark Martin.

Wetland scrapes filled with water on Friday, September 21st after 2.8 inches of rain. Photo by Mark Martin.

 

The Process: Restoring the Scrapes

Photo of Jacqueline Komada seeding uplands with fall rye. Photo by Mark Martin.

Photo of Jacqueline Komada seeding uplands with fall rye. Photo by Mark Martin.

Graham Steinhauer, Jacqueline Komada, Mark Martin, and Bob Bennicoff hand-broadcasted 168 pounds of fall rye in the uplands where the soil was deposited to prevent erosion. The wetlands will be seeded this fall, using seeds that our staff and volunteers collect over the next few weeks (want to help? Click here!). Over the winter, we will create a plan for planting prairie shrubs for wildlife in part of the uplands.

There are unique annual wetland plants that we can establish in our scrapes, including smartweed, water plantain, and bidens. These will provide high energy food for waterfowl. Soft-stem bulrush and and river bulrush may be planted, but could also naturally colonize along the scrape edges.

(From left to right) Graham Steinhauer, Sue Foote-Martin, Jacqueline Komada, and Mark Martin with their buckets of collected seed. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

(From left to right) Graham Steinhauer, Sue Foote-Martin, Jacqueline Komada, and Mark Martin with their buckets of collected seed. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

We are thrilled to have this project in the works here at Goose Pond. As one of the highlights of the year, these wetland scrapes are just another way Madison Audubon Society is working to establish diverse and protected habitat for generations to come. Thank you everyone for your incredible support!

We want to give a special thank you to all of those who played a critical role in the success of this project: The Wisconsin Waterfowl Association provided funding through the North American Wetland Conservation Act grant. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Wisconsin Private Lands Office and Madison Audubon Society also provided generous funding.

Stay tuned for updates!

Written by Graham Steinhauer (land steward), Jacqueline Komada (restoration ecology intern), Mark Martin (resident co-manager) and Sue Foote-Martin (resident co-manager)

One of these is not like the others

One of these is not like the others

Orphaned kestrel chicks find a home in foster nests

North America’s smallest falcon, the American kestrel, is getting a leg-up in south-central Wisconsin. Four orphaned kestrel chicks were discovered and brought in for rehabilitation, and placed into foster kestrel nests that allowed the chicks to be raised by wild mothers with nestlings their own age.

A female kestrel surveys the land at MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary for unassuming prey. Photo by Jim Stewart

A female kestrel surveys the land at MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary for unassuming prey. Photo by Jim Stewart

American kestrels are a beloved falcon for their tiny stature, big personality, and beautiful coloring. However, the kestrel population in southern Wisconsin declined 41% between 1966 and 2014, according to Wisconsin Breeding Bird Survey data, and the stark downward trend continues today. This is partly due to loss of their natural nesting sites in trees with cavities.

Kestrels now largely rely on man-made nest boxes for nesting habitat, and readily take to them. However, sometimes kestrels will nest in other structures, such as barns. In the case of the orphaned chicks, a barn containing a kestrel nest was torn down and the nest abandoned by the parents. The chicks were recovered, and sent to the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center for rehabilitation and care.

Volunteer Stacy Taritas served as a caregiver for the orphaned chicks and as the liaison between the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center, Madison Audubon Society, and Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program. Photo provided by Stacy Taritas. June 15, 2018

Volunteer Stacy Taritas served as a caregiver for the orphaned chicks and as the liaison between the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center, Madison Audubon Society, and Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program. Photo provided by Stacy Taritas. June 15, 2018

“The barn was demolished on [June 9, 2018], and the chicks came to us shortly after,” explained Stacy Taritas, volunteer for both the Wildlife Center and Madison Audubon Society. The four chicks were placed into an incubator and “fed with tweezers while volunteers wore masks” to avoid the birds from “imprinting on”, or becoming too attached to, their human caregivers. The chicks were approximately 10 days old when they arrived at the Wildlife Center.

Serendipitously, Madison Audubon Society, a local organization which focuses on bird conservation and environmental education, and the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program based in Stevens Point, had a joint kestrel banding outing scheduled for Friday, June 15 around MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County.

This event was part of an ongoing research project involving Janet and Amber Eschenbauch with CWKR, along with Madison Audubon volunteers and members, to retrieve adult kestrels and chicks from nest boxes to band, weigh, and provide feather and toe nail samples from the birds before placing them back into the nest. The bands allow researchers to understand kestrel movement, migration, and nesting territory. The feather and toe nail samples help researchers determine more in-depth information about where the kestrels have been living and who they are related to.

Taritas transported the four orphaned chicks from the Wildlife Center to the event, and they were easily integrated into four nests in the wild. Event attendees asked questions about whether the mother notices or objects to the new addition.

Four orphaned chicks were rehabilitated and await placement into wild kestrel nest boxes with foster families.  Photo by Madison Audubon Society. June 15, 2018

Four orphaned chicks were rehabilitated and await placement into wild kestrel nest boxes with foster families. Photo by Madison Audubon Society. June 15, 2018

“The short answer is: kestrels can’t count,” said Janet, who runs the Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program. “Kestrel mothers don’t know that they have four chicks in the morning and five in the afternoon.” Kestrels typically raise between four and six young, so nests with five or fewer and of the same age as the orphaned chicks were good candidates for receiving an extra nestling.

“We also make sure to add only one orphaned chick to any nest so we don’t overburden the foster parents,” added Amber, fellow bander and researcher for CWKR. In a normal year, food is plentiful and the mother can easily feed all of the young, including the added chick. Kestrels eat mice, voles, insects, small snakes, and other small prey items.

“We get about 4, 5, 6 orphaned chicks each year,” explained Janet, who said most come to them after an old building is demolished or a tree snag falls down and later a nest with chicks is discovered. Those chicks are either placed into foster nests if they’re young enough, or are raised in a facility and released into a kestrel family group after they’ve learned to fly.

Janet Eschenbauch of Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program carefully guides a kestrel chick into its nest box. Four orphaned kestrel chicks were placed into foster nests to be raised by wild kestrel parents and young. Photo by Stacy Taritas. June 15, 2018

Janet Eschenbauch of Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program carefully guides a kestrel chick into its nest box. Four orphaned kestrel chicks were placed into foster nests to be raised by wild kestrel parents and young. Photo by Stacy Taritas. June 15, 2018

The nest boxes which received the orphaned chicks are enrolled in Madison Audubon’s kestrel nest box monitoring program that involves regular, non-invasive visits by volunteers to monitor nest development. The active nests in the program have a high success rate for raising young kestrels, and a growing number of previously banded kestrels are found as nesting adults each year.

“These four kestrel chicks are extremely fortunate that there has been an ongoing kestrel program with Madison Audubon Society and Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program,” said Brand Smith, who coordinates the kestrel nest box monitoring program with Madison Audubon. “These organizations are made up of passionate people that want to do good by nature. This concept is also ingrained in the people that work and volunteer with the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center. I am very happy that our organizations could come together to find homes for these displaced chicks.”

Local kestrel program coordinators (L to R): Janet Eschenbauch, CWKR coordinator and biologist; Brand Smith, MAS volunteer; Amber Eschenbauch, CWKR biologist; Mark Martin, MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary resident co-manager; Matt Reetz, MAS executive director. Photo by Madison Audubon Society. June 15, 2018

Local kestrel program coordinators (L to R): Janet Eschenbauch, CWKR coordinator and biologist; Brand Smith, MAS volunteer; Amber Eschenbauch, CWKR biologist; Mark Martin, MAS Goose Pond Sanctuary resident co-manager; Matt Reetz, MAS executive director. Photo by Madison Audubon Society. June 15, 2018

To learn more, visit the following links:

Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research program:  facebook.com/central-wisconsin-kestrel-research

Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center: giveshelter.org/four-lakes-wildlife-center.html

Madison Audubon Society and the kestrel nest box monitoring program: madisonaudubon.org/kestrels

 

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About Madison Audubon Society
Madison Audubon Society, is a non-profit organization based in Madison and serving eight counties in south-central Wisconsin.  MAS provides land protection and restoration, environmental education for all ages, and science-based advocacy on behalf of its land and constituents.  Visit madisonaudubon.org to learn more.

About Dane County Humane Society
Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) provides refuge, healing and new beginnings to over 9,000 companion animals, exotic species, farm animals and injured or orphaned wild animals every year. DCHS, including the Wildlife Center, is a private, non-profit, open admission shelter accepting all animals that need assistance regardless of age, health status or temperament. DCHS has an adoption guarantee, meaning all healthy or treatable animals can stay at DCHS as long as it takes to find a loving home.

About Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research
Central Wisconsin Kestrel Research is dedicated to the quest for knowledge about American Kestrels, while providing educational programs to the public. The program is run by Janet and Amber Eschenbauch. Both are UWSP graduates with degrees in Biology.

Madison Audubon Contact:
Brenna Marsicek
Director of Communications
Madison Audubon Society
bmarsicek@madisonaudubon.org
608-255-2473
1400 E. Washington Ave., Ste. 170, Madison WI 53703

DCHS Media Contact: 
Marissa DeGroot
PR Coordinator
Office (608) 838-0413 ext. 214
Cell (608) 224-9488
mdegroot@giveshelter.org

Cover photo: An orphaned kestrel chick is seamlessly integrated into a wild kestrel nest box with five other chicks of its same age. MAS Photo. June 15, 2018

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.

How do you Goose Pond?

Share your Goose Pond memories

Goose Pond Sanctuary is a cornerstone of Madison Audubon, an exceptional bird-watching site in south-central Wisconsin, and a symbol of Wisconsin's strong conservation legacy. It has grown from 60 acres that included much of the west pond-with-potential into a flourishing 660-acre sanctuary for native habitats, birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians, and the people who love them.

For some of us, Goose Pond has been a frequent destination for decades; for others, Goose Pond is a new-found gem. Regardless, if you have a favorite memory of Goose Pond Sanctuary, help us celebrate it's 50th year of conservation, research, and education by sharing it below. We will showcase these stories at the various celebrations throughout the year.

Robert Lerch (left) lived at Goose Pond for 20 years before selling to Madison Audubon in 1968. He reminisces with Mark Martin, Sanctuary resident co-manager. Image from MAS December 1994 newsletter

Robert Lerch (left) lived at Goose Pond for 20 years before selling to Madison Audubon in 1968. He reminisces with Mark Martin, Sanctuary resident co-manager. Image from MAS December 1994 newsletter

Thank you for your love for Goose Pond Sanctuary and the many hands that have helped shape it.

We'd love to see your photos too!

Please your Goose Pond Sanctuary photographs to Brenna Marsicek (bmarsicek@madisonaudubon.org) with a short explanation. By submitting photos, you give Madison Audubon permission to use them in education and outreach materials. Thank you!

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