Field Notes Blog

Getting to Know  Who

Getting to Know Who

Turtle nest, disturbed by a predator Oh, June, nothing like summer time to embrace wonder about Whos – who nibbled on a newly planted flower? Who was growling-huffing loudly in the night? Who dug a hole in the garden? (And given the different sizes there may be many Whos). This is the month when turtles dig nests in the ground to bury (and incubate) their eggs. And even though we have a house to raise our young we still claim uninhabited outside spaces as well, i.e., garden beds, sides of...

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The Class of 2022 is Starting to Take Off

The Class of 2022 is Starting to Take Off

Across the country, the next generation is graduating and moving on, the culmination of a decade-plus of growing pains and nurturing by parents and a village of others. The future is full of high hopes as well as unpredictability. May to June is also a time of wild transitions and its own set of promises and perils for the next generation. In Nippersink Creek the American toads that were spied mating on May 11th left their egg strands in the shallow water. Within 2 weeks despite some...

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On the Quest

On the Quest

My morning walk is a quest to enjoy the wild side of my neighborhood. Unlike some creatures I don’t really have a goal; I just like the serendipity, like a coyote crossing the road ahead. But lately in my yard I’ve become the quest - for food by a very different kind of “canine,” the American dog tick. Alas, it’s tick season, and May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The black-legged/deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the vector-culprit. Luckily, my run-ins have been with American dog ticks...

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May Day

May Day

Spring is here! Although March 20th was the vernal equinox, May 1st is the half way point to the summer solstice; the Sun has had time to warm up the soil enough for plants to spring back to life in their annual performance. Culturally, this day recognizes laborers and workers, and a call for 8-hour work days. Naturally, the unsung wild laborers include pollinators along with birds that take on the role of insect pest control during the summer, working from dawn to dark, without pay. (Sadly...

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It’s Dark Sky Week: Give a FLAP*

It’s Dark Sky Week: Give a FLAP*

There’s a magic in the night. With limited visual clues, smells and sounds kick in. Until the trees leaf-out, I can still continue my nightly step outside and make stars twinkle when viewed through bare branches. To see the big sky is a real challenge. The west is a line of street lights. The east horizon is out over an empty corn field but a glow from an intersection on Hwy 12 hangs over the treetops, any cloud makes a bigger smear. My only open dark sky is limited to the edge of the...

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Every day is Earth Day.  Connecting the dots.

Every day is Earth Day. Connecting the dots.

On December 24, 1968 one of the most profound reality checks was delivered to humankind: a photo of Earth, a small dot rising out of the blackness of space taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders from the Moon. It definitely made an impression on me, a 17-year-old in Lake County, Illinois. It’s still a beautiful and awesome sight. Everything we know about life is taking place right here on that dot. It impresses me even more today. April 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day – a heady...

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April is National Native Plant Month!

April is National Native Plant Month!

Time to celebrate wild Flora! Winds are stripping maples of magenta flower dots from their branches; in the not-yet-shade areas, bloodroot is my first blooming wildflower. Alas, it’s been the non-native bulbs that are getting my hopes up about spring. On closer inspection, however, my mini-prairie gardens are sprouting leaves of spiderwort, violets, and some of the other 70+ native plant species I added last year. Time will tell how well my planning and planting will turn out. Basically, I...

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Go Green!  Grow Your Own Wild Park

Go Green! Grow Your Own Wild Park

Warm weather means spring cleaning. BUT before you start on your yard and garden here are some things to ponder to make life easier for you, and better for the wild things. In essence, we all have the ability (which I equate with responsibility) to do our fair share to make sure Nature can operate as it should. Even a few native plants can make the world of difference to pollinators and birds. In the March of 1987, I took pictures of a 9-acre parcel of land covered in wildflowers; it was in...

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Migration is in Full Swing

Migration is in Full Swing

Late afternoon Wednesday, I watched several hundred sandhill cranes were gathering into kettles, flying in circles to gain higher altitudes near Turner Tract in Genoa City before heading farther north. It was awesome! A couple of whooping cranes were also flying over. Robins and red-winged blackbirds are returning. Every migrating bird you see is a survivor that has made a trip south in fall, and a return trip now – that could easily be 2,000 to 3,000+ miles in the past 8-9 months! You can...

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Change is in the Wind

Change is in the Wind

Can you feel it? Nature is going through a change. It’s in the air, the ground, across the sky. The subtle creep north of dawn as it adds minutes of daylight. A south breeze that feels and smells different than a north wind. Bird songs floating through the air. Time for “Zugunruhe,” that migratory restlessness period that prompts migration. Our lives in comparison are rather static.  Many of us set an alarm to wake up and begin a day of routines – from coffee to breakfast to shuffling out the...

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When the Wild Things Happen

When the Wild Things Happen

My focus for 2022 is on phenology(seasonal natural phenomena). I grew up in this area but spent 37 years in central Texas. This is my second winter back here so even though I’ve been a naturalist for 45 years, I need to get my sense of timing back. Fortunately, the 2022 Wisconsin Phenology Calendar by The Aldo Leopold Foundation and When Things Happen: A Guide to Natural Events in Wisconsinby Randy Hoffman, (based on his 50 years of observations) are guiding my way. With a starting point, I...

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