July 2019 Project Program Updates

Project: Multiple
County: Statewide

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

It was a busy month helping to restore habitat in Wisconsin for WWA. We assisted with the restoration of a total of 60 acres of habitat on the ground in July. Thanks to some breaks in the weather in the southern part of the state, we were also able to complete two of our projects.

WWA was a partner on one project in Waukesha County which was entailed a 3-year long process with other conservation partners working to make it happen.  Approximately 2,500 feet of ditches were plugged and a few shallow scrapes were constructed.  This will result in great wetland habitat for a variety of wildlife species and should offer some good migratory stop-over habitat for waterfowl specifically.  The picture, below, demonstrates the size of the ditches being filled with a D-6 dozer.

In Fond du Lac County we are just finishing up a 10-acre site which will provide some added open water and emergent habitat on what was formally an agricultural field.  This one is already ponding water after some weekend storms dropped a couple inches of rain on the area.  WWA is looking forward to completing more projects this fall.

Adopt A Wildlife Area June-July Projects

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple
Project Start Date: 06/01/2019
Project End Date: 07/01/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

Summer?  Yup, it arrived with a roar and no transition.  Nature has made up for lost time based on the gains seen in our host purple loosestrife plants in the last few weeks.  Even with the seemingly endless Seattle-style weather we were having and now the heat and humidity, hours continue to be clocked by our volunteers!

Mud Lake Wildlife Area:  Lead Mud Lake volunteer, Scott Hamele, on a solo mission helped to restore damage from a washout at the wildlife area.  It just proves how less than a half day’s work can make a significant impact on the infrastructure of our wildlife areas.  Thanks, Scott, for taking the initiative!

A Helping Hand:  Regular wildlife area volunteers Ron and Anne Churchill engaged in a goose banding activity in Jefferson.  The core group of the team were DNR personnel in training.  An almost all day affair, the group was successful in tagging geese.  Some of the geese were already sporting some bling and it was not their first rodeo in a goose round-up!  Thanks again to Ron and Anne (pictured below) for volunteering outside of the AWA box to support the DNR!

Rome Pond Wildlife Area:  The beetles have found new homes in our host loosestrife plants.  They were infested by the DNR last week and will soon be ready to be deployed out in the marsh.  I will be reaching out to local boat owners to help support the deployment in the next few weeks, as I will be traveling out of state during “prime” time for the dispersal. Check out our past project updates on this invasive species initiative!

Beetle infected purple loosestrife seeded into Rome Pond in July 2017.

Chain Saw Training:  I have not been contacted by anyone outside a few previous responses for the August 17th planned training date at Lake Mills.  Please contact me at 262-443-4674 if interested.

June Habitat Program Updates

Project: Multiple
County: Statewide

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

Progress continues, although a bit slower than normal.  Ditches continue to remain high and the shallow ground water table is high as well, impacting the landscape.  This is delaying many things, including wetland restoration work.  We have a few projects ready to go and others which will be soon, but it might be a mad dash to get the work done when conditions finally cooperate.  The rise in the shallow groundwater table is great for wetlands and all the wildlife that utilize them.  It is allowing long periods of flooding which basically increases the available wetland acres to wildlife that rely on semi-permanent wetland types.  This should provide greater brood rearing habitat and increase the quality as well.  Hopefully this will lead to higher production of waterfowl in Wisconsin.

We are looking at a few good quality projects that are slowly making their way to the dirt-moving phase.  I can tell you, as projects progress and the field work continues, vegetation is robust.  This past week Reed Canary Grass was head high and, in some cases, taller than me as I surveyed one site.  It’s good to know that we will be able to flood a portion of that site and drown it out, creating great habitat for waterfowl in all seasons.   As I looked at that site I identified an old river channel running through, located just slightly lower in elevation, it retained good quality vegetation of bur reed and rushes.  Seeing this response, probably due to long and high periods of water since last fall, shows that with some restoration that we can bring this type of habitat back to a greater portion of the site and permanently to that old river channel, instead of just when the water is high.

A ditch that will soon be restored to help reestablish hydrology to about a 10 acre area.

Black Tern & Purple Loosestrife AWA Project Updates

County: Jefferson
Project Start Date: 06/01/2019
Project End Date: 06/15/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

As summer approaches, our Adopt A Wildlife Area volunteers are still putting in time supporting the Wildlife Areas.

Chain Saw Training Save the Date:  August 17th at 8:00am at Lake Mills for any AWA team members.  Contact Mike Alaimo at 262-443-4674 for details.

Jackson Marsh AWA:  Awesome job to the team for submitting a 100 plus hour annual report to the DNR, along with their wood duck box and nesting tube report.  A special thanks goes out to Mike Depies for taking the reigns on this achievement!

Netted plants for Rome Pond

Rome Pond AWA:  Loosestrife plants have been potted and netted, but with a late start it is a question if the plants will be viable enough.  Beetle supply is also up in the air, so we will keep everyone posted on the season.

A black tern nesting on one of our floats at Rome Pond

Two weeks ago pictures started hitting our Facebook page with black tern nesting success at 100% on our artificial floats at Rome Pond Wildlife Area.  As of this past Father’s Day weekend, two of the three egg clutches on the floats have changed to two eggs and a sizable gap between the two remaining eggs.  The remaining floats still have three egg clutches and active tending.  This is all exciting news as we gather more information this season on what can be a very viable future project worth growth and expansion.  Check out the full black tern nesting project report here with more pictures!

May Habitat Program Updates

Project: Multiple

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

This habitat program update originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s June Newsletter edition.

The Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, of which WWA is a member, made its recommendations on project applications for duck stamp funding.  WDNR needs to approve those recommendations before anyone, including WWA, can move forward with project work.  If you are interested in where they money from the duck stamp you buy every year goes, know that it is spread far and wide across the state.  Over the past few years lots of money has been spent on rehabilitating degraded dikes and water control structures on state wildlife areas.  Many of these were constructed over 30 years ago and are in need of repair to properly manage the habitat for wildlife and public use.

A “before restoration” shot of a project WWA completed using duck stamp funding in Portage County

A close-up post-restoration shot, showing the incredible difference duck stamp dollars can have on our landscape.

Our most robust conversation during the committee meeting was regarding the inclusion of utilizing waterfowl stamp funding for the purchase of equipment for WDNR for management of wetland resources on state land.  In the past, equipment was never a priority as the committee felt that restoring and creating more habitat, and retaining the current habitat we had, was more impactful for successful waterfowl populations.   This year, committee opinion fell across the spectrum on this priority of spending money toward equipment.  WWA was on the end of not supporting equipment purchases with waterfowl stamp funds, as we feel it was not the intent of the stamp program as it was originally designed and sold to conservation groups and hunters.  We don’t disagree that DNR needs certain equipment to effectively manage its properties, but we don’t feel it should be coming out of the waterfowl stamp funds.

Speaking of increasing habitat, I’m working on projects for this year in Jefferson, Washington, Outagamie, Manitowoc, Juneau, Vilas, Fond du Lac, Dodge, Green Lake, Marquette, St Croix and Waushara counties, and may expand into a few other areas depending on how things fall with other potential projects I’m currently looking at.  This is a good reminder that if anyone knows of someone interested in restoring wetland habitat on their property, please have them fill out a project application as we are in the process of permitting the projects for construction this year.

Our water tables are high after a wet fall and now a wet spring.  You will see ponding water in many low areas for long periods due to the increase in the shallow water table which will be great for waterfowl, but it has been a burden on many others such as farmers.  It’s a great time to look around and find unproductive land that might be more suited to wetlands than other activities.  To give you an idea, in the central part of the state, many lakes that were dry or at record lows over the last decade are now at or near record highs.  This should be good for waterfowl production in Wisconsin as it has provided lots of acres of additional water for breeding.

Valley Chapter Wood Duck Box Project

County: Winnebago
Project Start Date: 05/18/2019
Project End Date: 05/18/2019

Keven O’Brien and Pete Strenn Installing one of the houses

Thanks to all those who helped out with the WWA Valley Chapter’s Wood Duck Nesting Project in Winnebago County on May 18th.  Better late than never, while the group was delayed for some time due to the weather and water conditions, they are excited to report they were able to GET it DONE and installed 15 nesting houses.

Thanks goes out to Scott Stache, who helped coordinate the donation of pipe and supplies, and to Security Fencing for the donation of 400 feet of pipe for this project and future nesting projects.

Special thanks to Valley Chapter member Larry Hagens who helped coordinate our effort and to Tony and Karen Eckstein for providing us the opportunity for this nesting project on their wetlands property.

Finally, thanks to all the member volunteers from the Fox Valley Chapter that participated today, including: Peter Strenn, Payton Strenn, John Strenn, Steve Beach, Keven O’Brien, Doug Helm, Scott Stache, Adam Post, Larry Hagen, Natalie Miller and Becca Miller.

An aerial shot of the property in Winnebago County where the houses were placed

Steve Beech, hauling supplies out

Adam Post and Brad Miller installing the pipe support for the house

A Team Effort of Scott Stache, Steve Beech, Adam Post and Brad Miller installing pipe support

Pete Strenn, Doug Helm and Keven O’Brien finishing the last house out of 15 boxes installed

Thanks to all volunteers from the Fox Valley Chapter, including Peter Strenn, Payton Strenn, John Strenn, Steve Beach, Keven O’Brien, Doug Helm, Scott Stache, Adam Post, Larry Hagen, Natalie Miller and Becca Miller (not all pictured).

May Adopt A Wildlife Area & Volunteer Project Updates

Project: Multiple
Project Start Date: 05/01/2019
Project End Date: 05/31/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

With the pursuit of Mr. Long-beard over, the Wildlife Areas are now open to more aggressive projects before the onslaught of biting insects invades us with all of this wet weather.  In Southeast Wisconsin, we will be attempting willow work, spraying and continuing the purple loosestrife project.

We have a scheduled Chain Saw Training Opportunity and Work Day!  We have finally locked down August 17th, starting at 8:00am, and extending into the late afternoon.  In the event of inclement weather, the rain date is scheduled for the following Saturday, August 24th.  It will be conducted at the Lake Mills DNR station on Sandy Beach Rd and will move to the Lake Mills Wildlife Area, one of WWA’s adopted WA’s.  With easy access from the interstate, the intent is to round-up any volunteers that missed local training opportunities, yet be central enough to keep the drive time down for any of our AWA teams.  Please contact Mike Alaimo at 263-433-4674 for more details.  The training is limited to roughly 9 trainees, so please contact me to sign-up early.

WWA volunteer Anne Churchill with one of the captured fawns

Volunteers Working Outside the “Box”

The following report was provided by Ron Churchill, WWA Waukesha Member and AWA Volunteer, who expanded volunteerism by taking advantage of an excellent DNR opportunity and project.

2019 Fawn Search, part of the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study.

Conducted by DNR personnel from the Dodgeville, WI DNR office and several volunteers. We combed areas with terrain ranging from steep and wooded to low and boggy along with open meadows and pastures.

The searches were done on private land where the owners gave permission to the DNR for the work to be done. Anne and Ron Churchill volunteered their time over two 12-hour days and one 6-hour day. Tee photos are from the first work day where a total of 10 fawns were tagged and collared, and a few found that got away.

After capturing the fawns, a hood is put on to help keep them calm and prevent any imprinting on humans.  The fawns were then put into a mesh bag and weighed after which numbered, permanent tags were put into each ear to identify the fawn.

WWA volunteer Ron Churchill holding one of the fawns captured for monitoring and data collection.

A radio collar was then put on the fawns and is designed to fall off when the deer grow larger, sometime in late fall or early winter. DNR staff will monitor the area’s fawns that were captured with receivers. If no movement is detected from a transponder the carcass will be located to determine mode of death. Bobcat, coyote, disease, haybaler, hunter, vehicle, etc.

Other data that was gathered from each fawn included a tissue sample from an ear to record the DNA, umbilical cord condition and how hard the hooves were to help age the fawn and measurements of the rear legs and hooves to help age the fawn The fawns were then placed back where they were captured and the group moved away.

April 2019 Adopt A Wildlife Area Projects

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Statewide
Project Start Date: 04/01/2019
Project End Date: 04/30/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

Wet weather has meant no spraying for invasive species on our adopted Wildlife Areas. This season has definitely been a struggle.  There are stands of willow that are locked in our sights, but a dry spell has not presented itself to cut and then spray herbicide.  There is nothing more that can be done except for improvise and finish some paperwork.

Speaking of improvising, I was privileged with some great photo opportunities centered around wood ducks.  They seemed to be in every pothole this last weekend, along with teal.


Mud Lake Wildlife Area:  A huge thanks and congrats goes out to Mud Lake lead volunteer Scott and his team.  They finished out their first year of adoption with 106 hours of volunteer time completed, along with donated materials.  Their scope of work encompassed apple tree planting, wood duck and tube structures, parking lot clearing, chain saw training and sign posting. This was a great accomplishment helping out this Columbia County Wildlife Area!

Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area: Volunteer Mike Depies and team have been doing some light maintenance.  They are hoping to get out and remove some tree bark wrap that Eric Kilburg (biologist) said is not needed anymore on the property.  Future plans include removing some downed trees in Cedar Creek to make it more navigable for recreational kayaking, canoeing, and jump shooting in the fall.  Goals still in the planning stages are placement of a disabled accessible blind and access improvement.

Paradise Valley Wildlife Area: A boot cleaning station was added to the Beaver Dam Lake Wildlife Area launch.

Big Muskego Wildlife Area: Lead volunteer Ian Bartelmez’s crew has been busy with adding a boot cleaning station and working with Cub Scouts on wood duck boxes.  A donation was accepted from the Scout Pack towards our AWA work.  Nesting Tubes were also added as part of the work.

Rome Pond Wildlife Area: Another 7 wood duck boxes were added to the unit and the black tern floats were deployed with a change in tactics.  For a base, inverted sod was used in hopes of being a good drain, and retaining dirt, in the top of the float.  Next, it will be another go at Purple Loosestrife work, which may expand to Beaver Dam Lake as well!  We will see as volunteers have some turkey permits that also need to be filled.

May 2019 Habitat Program Updates

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

It has been a productive spring for WWA’s habitat program, with a lot of my time spent both looking at and surveying new sites.  The best is when you get pictures of past projects though.  Most recently a landowner sent me pictures from a wetland restoration site we completed last year.  The pictures show a near perfect outcome.  3-8 inches of water spread out over 25 acres.

This area had been ditch and through restoring the hydrology to the site we were able to capture and retain water, creating excellent conditions for waterfowl.

The ideal feeding conditions for puddle ducks is surprisingly shallow compared to what most people believe.  It’s based a bit on the size of the duck, with Teal on one end and Mallards on the other.  2-6 inches is the ideal puddle duck water depth for dabbling around in a mix of 50% open water/50% emergent vegetation.  The restoration pictured above has water level control and I would imagine will be lowered to allow vegetation to grow, and then likely have the water raised in late summer into fall flooding seasons at an ideal depth for waterfowl feeding.

As the year moves forward we will be looking at restoring more habitat like this, so get any project ideas to me if you want something done this year.