Fall 2017 Project Program Updates

Project: Partnerships and Wild Rice Seeding

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

WWA has partnered with numerous organizations over the years to successfully complete many habitat restoration projects across Wisconsin. In a prime example of our cooperative works, I just provided assistance with some technical work for a small restoration project in Port Washington. The City of Port Washington is just another partner we can add to our long list of those organizations we have helped put habitat on the ground. This might not be the most duck producing site I’ve worked on recently but it’s part of an open space being restored for the community to utilize for recreation and environmental education. The drain tile removal I have been helping with will not only help restore wetland habitat but it will eliminate a point source discharge of water into the small creek which runs through the site. This will aid in water quality to that creek and to a smaller degree the “Big Pond” (Lake Michigan) as this is located a short distance up stream.   WWA tries to help out with projects whenever we can; any one in which we can also get children involved is always a great way to get, and keep, kids interested in our valuable wetlands.

Along those same lines I’m currently figuring out some wild rice restoration opportunities in northern Wisconsin which will, as always, involve a couple local school groups. I’m a bit behind on this planning but by mid-to-late October I hope to have two sites seeded as part of this long-running wild rice restoration effort WWA has been doing.

Students from northern Wisconsin participate in WWA’s 2016 wild rice seeding

Thanks to one of our members, I have another site potential that we would not have looked at if it was not for their interest and contacting me. If you have site potentials in northern Wisconsin let me know and we can take a look to see what opportunities they might provide as many of these site are where you, our members, like to hunt.

Lake Mills Wildlife Area Fall Work Day

Project: Lake Mills Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson
Project Start Date: 09/24/2017
Project End Date: 09/24/2017

On Sunday September 24th, in the full furnace blast of a fall heat wave, WWA volunteers Ron Churchill, Anne Churchill, Chris Scheder and

Boardwalk repair completed by WWA volunteers at the Lake Mills/Zeloski Marsh Wildlife Area

Duck ID signage placed on the Lake Mills/Zeloski Marsh Wildlife Area by WWA volunteers

Mike Alaimo completed two projects at the Lake Mills/Zeloski Marsh Wildlife Area.  New Duck ID signage was installed at the London Road access to Zeloski Marsh and boardwalk repairs were started at the Mud Lake Unit.  The final hours and donations helped close WWA’s annual report with the DNR at 91 hours of the 100 hour contracted, which was offset with approximately $900 in materials donated to the Lake Mills Wildlife Area.

A big thanks goes out to all the volunteers that helped to make this AWA a success in its first contract year.  Most notably, TJ Schnulle put in over one third of the hours himself with the previously reported osprey and wood duck/mallard tube projects.


Summer 2017 Habitat Program Update

Project: Multiple
County: Multiple

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

If you have not heard it yet, let me tell you, things are pretty mixed across the country and Canada for wetland conditions, which relates directly to the number of ducks we’ll see this fall. Unlike the prairie pothole region of North Dakota, where things are very dry, here in WI we have excellent wetland conditions. Statewide, the rain just seems to keep coming, which has offered great breeding and brood rearing conditions for waterfowl. Soils have remained saturated and ponding has persisted through July in many areas, which normally would have dried out by now. The availability of water could really spread birds around come hunting season if these rains continue; this is great for the ducks, offering them high value food in numerous areas. These same conditions have slowed some restoration work and have me a bit concerned for the winter projects we have scheduled. With a wet fall in 2016 and no real frost to speak of last winter, we have a backlog right now of projects needing frozen conditions for work to continue and if it stays this wet, we will need a good frost this winter to gain access in order to be able to complete some of these projects. I already have two projects slated for this year being delayed due to conditions on the ground, one in Outagamie County and one is Green Lake County. It might be a slower than normal August for me in terms of project construction. I’m thinking we might get one in Dodge and Columbia County finished this coming month.

Dodge County project site completed by WWA five years ago flourishes in this photo from August 2017

I recently visited a project site I completed in Dodge County 5 years ago, pictured above. This site originally had no open water and little wildlife benefit; it was a typical degraded wetland in the middle of farmland, and it was great to see it now flourishing with life. I was not surprised to see families of geese and mallards and the blue wing teal did not disappoint as they darted around upon my arrival. Pelicans also were present utilizing the site; not something I see often. The most notable birds I saw, which may not catch many’s

Black tern

interest, but whose value is recognized to those who know birds and the necessity of wetlands, were a couple of Black Terns feeding as they swooped down and grabbed insects right at the water’s surface. Black Terns are an endangered species within the state of WI and considered a species of greatest conservation need. It is rewarding when you see the work you have done on the landscape positively impacting wildlife; not just the common species that are abundant in so many wetlands across the state, but the uncommon species which are the ones we really are targeting with needed habitat. Without these types of restorations increasing the quality and quantity of wetlands across WI, we will continue to see the decline of many wetland loving wildlife. Many of you perhaps don’t know what a Black Tern looks like, nor their endangered species status, but irregardless, the fact that the habitat work we are completing through your support of WWA is making such a great contribution to wildlife across the board is something we all should be proud of.

Rome Pond Invasive Species Project

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson
Project Start Date: 04/23/2017
Project End Date: 07/05/2017

Earlier this spring, Mike Alaimo, Waukesha Chapter Chair and WWA’s Adopt-A-Wildlife Area program‘s key volunteer, worked with WDNR employee Jeanne Scherer on implementing an attack plan on the invasive purple loosestrife plants present at the adopted Rome Pond Wildlife Area.

Purple Loosestrife plants infected with the Cella beetle, being transported back in to Rome Pond

For a bit of background, from the WDNR’s website, “Purple loosestrife, an exotic plant from Europe, has overrun many state wetlands. (Check out the

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) fact sheet.) Wisconsin DNR has been using four of its insect enemies, also from Europe, to control it here since 1994. Careful research has shown that all four control species depend only on loosestrife and do not threaten native plants. This is classic biocontrol, and it is likely the best long-term control for loosestrife, reducing the need for other more costly and disruptive controls, such as herbicides.

Volunteers transporting the beetle infected purple loosestrife plants at Rome Pond

Two “Cella” beetle species (Galerucella calmariensis & G. pusilla) feed on its leaves and shoots, and are the most effective of the four types of imported insects. Cellas monitored in the state and elsewhere have decreased the vigor, size and seed output of purple loosestrife, allowing native plants to survive and increase naturally by competing better against smaller loosestrife plants.

The length of time required for effective biocontrol in any particular wetland typically ranges from one to several years, depending on such factors as site size and loosestrife density. Though loosestrife elimination is rare, this process offers effective and environmentally sound control of the plant without herbicides.”

In May of this year, approximately one month after the survey of Rome Pond, Alaimo and Scherer were joined by volunteers Ron and Anne Churchill, to remove 51 purple loosestrife plants from the wildlife area. Later that same day Scherer and other WDNR employees potted and netted the plants and released the beetles onto the plants.

WWA Volunteers and WDNR employees work to release the infected plants into Rome Pond

On July 5th, Alaimo, Scherer and the Churchills were joined by TJ Schnulle (WWA), Taylor Steager (DNR), Sam Jonas (DNR) ,and Craig Kopacek (DNR), to transport and seedRome Pond Wildlife Area with 44 beetle infected plants.

Beetle infected purple loosestrife seeded into Rome Pond

Check out Mike Alaimo’s full report to the WDNR, with lots of great images of the process from start to finish, on the invasive control work done on Rome Pond Wildlife Area.

Rome Pond Cleanup and Chainsaw Training Day

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson

A “WWA F5 tornado” was spotted near the end of March during a volunteer and staff chainsaw safety training day at the Rome Pond Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA).  During the training day, trainees removed growth from the corner of the parking lot to the launch area at Rome Pond.  Volunteers are now commenting on how much nicer the east side of the parking lot would look….perhaps this will be the next chainsaw project on the site?

The work performed was accomplished by WWA volunteers and a big thanks goes out to the WDNR for funding the training, as WWA volunteers, and Regional Director Tom Seibert, now have certified chain saw operators for our AWA areas.

The WWA volunteers were led by TJ Schnulle, Twin Rivers/Jefferson chapter volunteer who spearheaded the Lake Mills AWA, and trained in chainsaw safety by WDNR hired instructor Jim Olive of Chainsaw Safety Specialists LLC.

As part of the training, the volunteers received instruction in proper chainsaw use and techniques.  Physical training was conducted on site at the Rome Pond Wildlife Area which has been adopted by the WWA in January of 2016.  After the training, the volunteers continued supervised removal of brush and willow that were lining the lane to the north launch of Rome Pond.  The 6 hours of instruction and continued field training helped to complete the project that day.

Every WWA volunteer walked away with invaluable instruction and a feeling of great accomplishment helping our state owned wildlife area.

Participants taking part in the chainsaw training and cleanup day included 9 WWA volunteers: TJ Schnulle, Todd Berger, Brent Berger, Greg Tubbs, WWA Regional Director Tom Seibert, Don Guenther, Ron Churchill, Anne Churchill and Kevin Banaszak

Lake Mills Adopt A Wildlife Area Work Day

Project: Lake Mills Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson

By TJ Schnulle, Lake Mills AWA Lead Volunteer

Mike Alaimo and Shaun Gibbons building tubes.

Lake Mills bunch was at it again. Finally, Mother Nature let us get our nesting structures installed. Our group of volunteers busted their tails for six hours on Saturday, April 1st, bringing our volunteer hours to a total of 56 so far for the year at our Lake Mills/Zeloski Marsh Adopt A Wildlife Area.

AWA Volunteer Chris Scheder showing off his install skills.

Three nesting structures were installed on Rock Lake Marsh and an additional four nesting structures were installed on Mud Lake. We also cleared several cattail bogs to allow easier entrance into Mud Lake between the boat launch and the adjacent canal. Two kayakers and several fishermen caught a glimpse of our work in motion.

We have already had several questions in regards to our mallard tube/wood duck box combos. I did some research on the internet and came across this design that we used. It interested me enough that I contacted Delta Waterfowl and picked their brain on the design. They have documented double boxes and double tubes, but never a combo. Neither doubles ever produced more than a single box/tube, so why not try! This is not an official “experiment” by any means at this point. If it produces, we already have doors opened that would allow us to expand the test area.

Our next projects will not begin until just before hunting season, so until then, enjoy your summer, and if you’re interested in being involved in this or another Adopt A Wildlife Area, please fill out WWA’s Volunteer Form.

The day’s volunteers (left to right): Shaun Gibbons, Ryan Tabaka, T.J. Wangenin, Greg Gibbs, TJ Schnulle, Connie Markham, Chris Scheder and, not pictured, Mike Alamio, behind the camera.

April Project Updates

County: Ozaukee

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

I hope many of you have been able to get out and see the spring migration. I happened to hit a few prime days where I was able to view just about every species of duck that normally migrates through Wisconsin, and on two occasions even had large groups of Specklebelly geese to entertain me. Probably my greatest sighting were the 75+ tundra swans resting on a restored wetland that I was able to watch pretty closely while listening to them chatter calmly amongst themselves. It’s pretty rewarding this time of year when you see hundreds of waterfowl using wetlands you restored. When I say “you”, I’m referring to WWA and its membership. To look at some of these places and know that years prior there was no or little habitat to attract these birds, and now hundreds are using a site your support helped restore, we should all feel rewarded from those efforts we have each provided to WI conservation.

In an update to an Ozaukee County project site we began work on back in February, 20 days after we broke drain tile the water returned as you can see from these pictures taken in February (top) and March(bottom) . It did not take long as you can see in the pictures.

This field had been farmed for 75+ years. The interesting thing is this site is located on top of a hill, and the top of the divide between two watersheds. It goes to show that not only the typical low areas will be good wetland restoration sites. If conditions are right and historic wetlands are present, as in this case, we can usually bring them back to life. Some significant erosion from past land uses has also taken place here, so some additional grading is planned soon to restore some of the broadness and curves of the original topography at this location. It will be surrounded by native grassland adding to the wildlife benefit.

Osprey Platforms Installed

Project: Lake Mills Adopt A Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson

With the stretch of unseasonable weather that came through last month, we are excited to announce that work started on the Lake Mills Adopt-A-Wildlife Area!

On Friday, February 17th, WWA volunteers, led by Twin Rivers/Jefferson Chapter member TJ Schnulle, installed two osprey platforms in Zeloski Marsh and Jefferson Marsh.

More projects are upcoming, mark your calendars for March 25th for a volunteer work day installing wood duck boxes and mallard nesting tubes. We are in need of boats and volunteers, please contact TJ Schnulle at 920.988.3888 if you’re interested in helping out or consider joining our Facebook friends group to get regular updates on this and other volunteer and organization projects.


Winter 2017 Update

Project: Multiple
County: Multiple

Construction at an Ozaukee County project in January 2017

February squeezed out just enough short cold snaps that we were able to complete three winter projects. It was an adventure and everything was happening at once as we used those short 2-3 day deep freezes to our advantage for quite the adventure of winter project construction. Water was still running wild on one of the projects but it did get completed.

Unfortunately, due to the warm streaks we had in January and February we did not get to two additional projects I had hoped to this winter. Those will have to wait until next winter. Considering how January went when I expect to do most of the winter work I’m pretty happy we got done what we did. If you pay attention to our Facebook page you will have seen progress pictures during construction. With the quick warmup, all three of these projects had standing water on them which made for a quick visual success and return of geese on one project within a day shows the value these projects have to wildlife and how quickly they return.

It’s that time of year when I seem to get lots of calls about potential projects, and I have been out looking and surveying a few already for construction later this year or next year. It appears we will have a relatively long stretch this spring of bare ground or minimal snow cover, which makes for great conditions for survey and planning, so now is the time to get these projects moving forward if you are thinking about it. Check out our online project application for more information.

Water and geese quickly returned to this Manitowoc County project completed in February.


Duck Creek Project

Project: Duck Creek
County: Columbia
Acres to Restore: 10
Project Start Date: 01/01/2017
Project End Date: 02/28/2017

As I shared with all the attendees on Saturday, January 28th, during my presentation at the Annual Meeting in Madison, this past fall’s wet weather, and the warm conditions the past few weeks have not been very good, in terms of project works.  The weather has finally allowed us to get started on at least one Columbia county project, near Wyocena.  Earlier this week, we did “prep work”, scraping all the snow and grass cover off the site.

Now, with the cold blast we’ve gotten, we’ll be able to positively impact about ten acres along Duck Creek, as we can get equipment in, more effectively.

Wildlife should respond quickly, as a Sandhill crane was using this site during flooded periods last year, and Canada geese have been flying in and out of the river as we work.   I hope the cold weather holds, so we can get more of these projects completed, before the spring flood conditions return again.