March 2020 Adopt A Wildlife Area Program Updates

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

March 15, 2020

With the spring rain and strong southern winds, the southeast portion of the state has seen the arrival of robins, red wings, cranes, a surge in geese and now turkey vultures.  It cannot be too long and we will start seeing our divers and puddlers.

If not done already, wood duck boxes need tending.  This is a great time to take youth, friends and family out to check and clean boxes.

In February, the Paradise Valley AWA team checked the Kincaid area and discovered very poor results.  For some reason, the hens are not returning and/or other species are taking a foothold.  Rome Pond WA will soon be available, but two easily accessible boxes had 100% success so far.

On a sadder note, our Mud Lake (Lake Mills Wildife Area) tanked, literally.  Out of four boxes, one remained.  The rest are submerged.  The one left was a classic egg dump of Woodies and Hoodies.  It is very suspicious that we had so many hardware issues in one season, especially after bolstering them last year.  But, one never knows what can happen in a year.

Jim Freck showing off the interior of a nesting box at Jackson Marsh in March 2020

I cannot end on a sour note.  Mike Depies and team saw better use last season of their Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area boxes.  They had eleven out of nineteen boxes with success, and one somewhat egg dump.  This is up from previous years.  Nesting tube success still remains at zero, but hopefully the ducks find them one of these seasons.

Visit our Adopt A Wildlife Area page for more information on this program.

 

February 2020 Project Program Updates

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

WWA continues to put habitat on the ground through the winter.  We recently started a project in central Wisconsin that will plug four ditches and flood a couple scrapes, while creating wet prairie/sedge meadow habitat surrounding the area. With some established nesting habitat adjacent to the scrapes, this certainly should produce waterfowl.

One of the winter construction projects WWA completed last month.

WWA also finished up a project in Dodge County last month which created a variety of moist soil units.  These will be managed for annual seed production, providing good migratory stopover habitat.  The importance of these types of wetlands is that they provide high-density and high-value energy for waterfowl when they most need it.

I will be changing gears as the snow starts to melt and I can get into the wetlands and accurately survey and assess them for restoration potential.  I have a couple projects that need a survey, and others that need planning permitting work.  We will continue to move forward with projects so we can get them on the ground come summer and drier conditions.

As a representative for WWA on the review committee for the Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund last week, I participated in the review of grant requests.  This funding opportunity was provided by WDNR and is meant to allocate the funds they received from the Pittman Robertson Fund at the state level.  Of note relating to waterfowl, is work to control phragmites and cattail at Rush Lake.  This should help open up areas that will hopefully provide better, and more, opportunities for waterfowl hunters.

Also approved was work on Lake Butte des Morts, which will restore emergent wetland habitat.  This area (Winnebago Lakes System) historically was excellent waterfowling, but the loss of emergent vegetation for food and cover has greatly reduced its importance.  At one time, a significant portion of the eastern continental canvasbacks used these lakes during migration, but have now shifted to the Upper Mississippi River.  This goes to show how the loss of habitat can greatly impact how wildlife and waterfowl, specifically in this case, do or do not use particular bodies of water.

 

February 2020 Project Program Updates

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

Although the ground still has very little frost we were able to get one of our “winter” projects completed.

A bit different from some of our normal projects, the landowner of this site has the capabilities, and intent, to highly manage moist soil management.  Moist soil management is routine maintenance/management, targeting high quality wetland vegetation for high seed output geared toward migratory birds. In its most basic form it is the de-watering of wetlands to allow vegetation to germinate, and then flooding it in the same growing season when seeds have matured to provide access to water birds.  These can be highly productive areas because the food source draws in the birds.

When native vegetation does not exist, other commercial products can be seeded on sites like this. One example of suck a seed is millet.  Millet is a common plant many waterfowlers have heard of, but did you know that it has one the highest carbohydrate components? Hence millet’s designation as one of the best migratory stopover foods due to energy demands required during that period.

We have talked about the importance of draw-downs before, and moist soil management is along those lines, I just consider it more intense management of a site.  The restoration work WWA does is vitally important to our landscape and environment, but so is the management of our existing projects and natural wetlands.  If we can manage our wetlands for quality, they will ultimately provide even better results. I’m not just saying more ducks, it is everything a wetland provides.

Lake Mills Wildlife Area Winter 2020 Work Day

Project: Lake Mills Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson
Project Start Date: 01/26/2020
Project End Date: 01/26/2020

Don Guenther, Chris Scheder, Anne Churchill, Ron Churchill, Anthony Kimble and Mike Alaimo completed 35 hours of clearing work removing box elder between the access lane and ditch at Lake Mills Wildlife Area on Sunday, January 26th.  The work supported WWA’s Adopt A Wildlife Area program.

The project goal was to control the spread of this species of tree and to protect the integrity of the ditch edge from damage due to windfalls/root balls.

Congrats to the team for a job well done!

Valley Chapter Partners with Neenah High School on Students’ Wood Duck Nesting Project

Project: Wood Duck Nesting
County: Winn

WWA’s Valley Chapter was excited to partner with two seniors from Neenah High School, Lauren and Josie, who led and facilitated a wood duck nesting project as part of their School Leadership project.  Both Lauren and Josie facilitated the construction of over 30 nesting boxes at two CESA 6 (Cooperative Education Service Agency) K-12 schools.

Lauren and Josie presenting and demonstrating how to put a kit together.

This project involved over 40 students from the Winchester and Amity Schools within CESA 6.

The students at both schools received an introductory presentation which discussed the importance of nesting boxes, and also saw a video of “jump day.” Vie the presentation here: Personal project presentation.

This project was coordinated by both High School students with the donation of kits from the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association.  Onsite support and assistance for the students was provided by the WWA Valley Chapter and CESA 6 staff.

 

The collaborative partnership between Neenah School District, CESA 6, and WWA made this event possible.

Nesting boxes will be installed this spring in three different location in Winnebago and Outagamie Counties.

December 2019 Project Program Updates

By Peter Zielger, WWA Project Director

Winter restoration work on one of the projects WWA completed this past year.

WWA wrapped up the year by finishing off a project on the 23rd of December in Green Lake County.  We had just enough frost to hold a machine on the surface and to get the project completed prior to it getting even more unseasonably warm for December.  We wrapped up a good year with getting more habitat on the ground, but that means we need to start looking forward to next year.   A few projects are getting going, but WWA is always interested in getting more projects to look to so we can maximize our resources for the benefit of waterfowl and all wetland dependent wildlife. If you think you might have a viable restoration project you’d like us to look at, fill out our project application.

Although November was cold, December has been mild and there have been plenty of waterfowl still around in my area.  With the lack of snow and ample food, as many crops were just getting harvested prior to the holidays, they have no reason to leave.  On my holiday drive to visit family, I noticed many fields with new and open sheet water which were waterfowl magnets.  We have gone through two very wet years in Wisconsin and our shallow water tables are extremely high.  I read that Wisconsin had its wettest year on record this past year, and I’m sure anyone who spends time in and around our state’s wetlands noticed we barely got much of our seasonal drying which typically occurs in the late summer months.

These are trends which typically come and go on decades-long cycles, so although we have great wetland resources for waterfowl now, there is no guarantee they well be there down the road.   By restoring what we can we can, we ensure that many of these wetlands will be available in the future and are not just by-products of “wet years”.  This is why our work is so important.  Our best connection to getting projects is our members and readers like you.

December 2019 AWA Clean-up Days

Project: Paradise Valley and Rome Pond Wildlife Areas

On Saturday December 7, 2019 a crew of WWA’s Adopt-A-Wildlife Area Program volunteers spent eight hours cleaning up the parking lots at Rome Pond Wildlife Area, Paradise Valley Wildlife Area and Beaver Dam Lake. Thanks to all that participated to help keep our adopted Wildlife Areas clean!

Bags of trash removed from Rome Pond parking lot

Trash removed from Paradise Valley lots

 

November 2019 Projects

Project: Multiple
County: Multiple

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

The landscape can provide many clues when looking to restore a wetland. I recently looked at a potential project that had a dead giveaway of a tile line failure. In all my years I had never seen such a clear indication of a drain tile failure which created this degree of back-pressure.

No a UFO did not land here.  This circular “crater” was formed due to a tile line below the ground that was not functioning properly.  It is so clear it give me great indication of what is happening.

  1. I know that the tile line plug is down slope from this spot.
  2. The tile line extends probably a considerable distance or elevation gain up-slope to create enough head pressure to blow out the clay soils from three to four feet below the surface.
  3. We have hydrology very near the surface indicating within the field a wetland that could be restored.
  4. Without any effort I have located the exact spot where the tile line is, which can be tricky many times without excavating.

The colder temps of early to mid-November had the majority of late migrating birds on the move.  After a wet fall, to say the least, these temps have actually helped WWA move forward on some projects.  We were busy in the west central part of the state, completing this 90 acre project in Jackson County last month.

Looking over the southern half of the Jackson County project site where a 5-foot deep drainage ditch was filled.

It will have a mix of open, emergent and wet meadow habitats.  This wide variety will provide great habitat for waterfowl through all the seasons in one of the most productive parts of the state.  This project was completed in conjunction with USF&WS and the landowner.  USF&WS helped WWA secure funding, permits, provided technical help and seed for the site.  The landowner provided equipment, pipes for the water control structure and install of the seed over the 90 acre project site.  This is one of those true partnership projects.  The design created a few small berms to impound water, filling of a main drainage ditch and disablement of thousands of feet of drain tile.

Jackson County Project

Project: Jackson County Project
County: Jackson

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

Restoration work is still progressing even with the lack of “fall weather”.  The colder temps have actually helped WWA move forward on some projects since it has been so wet.  This Jackson County project was completed in early November.  This 90 acre project will have a mix of open, emergent and wet meadow habitats.  This wide variety will provide a great habitat for waterfowl through all the seasons in one of the most productive parts of the state.  This project was completed in conjunction with USFWS and the landowner.  USFWS helped WWA secure funding, provide technical help and seed for the site.  The landowner provided equipment, pipes for the water control structure and install of the seed over the 90 acre project site.

I took this picture standing on a newly constructed berm, you can see water already beginning to fill the basin.