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.

April 2019 Adopt A Wildlife Area Project Updates

Project: Adopt A Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple
Project Start Date: 04/01/2019
Project End Date: 04/14/2019

The ice cleared and then the snow came back.  Divers have cleared through southern WI and the teal have moved in.  For the first time, an early April wood duck box clean-out by our Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) volunteers had an occupant in the form of a very upset hen hooded.  The hen was busy, as she laid an almost full clutch of eggs on top of some unhatched wood duck eggs from last year.  Spring has sprung and the time is diminishing to get the last boxes ready for the season.

Lake Mills AWA:  2018 is well behind us and the wood duck report was submitted after maintenance was completed on boxes at lower Rock Lake.  Mature pelicans were everywhere and the geese were nesting in mass.  There were nests dotted nearly fifty feet apart along the circumference of the island.  Ron Churchill took a fantastic shot of a pair of geese lifting off of their nest site.

Mud Lake AWA:  Scott and his crew helped add more apple trees to the unit.  His team struck out on April 13th and got it done during the marginal break in the weather.  Great work and congrats to the Mud Lake team!

Jefferson County Chain Saw Training Potential:  if  you’re willing to drive to Jefferson County, the DNR has just enough funds for a class if we can fill the slot.  Please contact Mike Alaimo by April 19, 2019 if you’re interested.

Spring 2019 Adopt A Wildlife Area Updates

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple
Project Start Date: 03/01/2019
Project End Date: 03/31/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

This is the time of year when everything is in high gear.  It is hard to prioritize the “honey do list” from all of our other passions.  Spring banquet prep, clearing projects, wood duck box maintenance, dusting off the camera to take in the spring migration, preparing for Turkey season, getting the boat ready for open water, maybe hitting the spring walleye run….and the list goes on.

Picture of our buddies arriving in full plumage on Fowler Lake in Oconomowoc on March 30, 2019.

Big Muskego AWA:  The crew dedicated their Saturday on March 16th to chainsaw training.  This DNR-sponsored training was in support of future clearing projects at Big Muskego Wildlife Area with the necessary skills to take down trees with a focus on safety, planning, saw maintenance, and some new techniques.  The day was perfect for the field portion of the training.  Below are Scott Hopper, Nick Smart, Chameron Hatzinger, Ian Bartelmez, Bruce Ross, Jim Olive (instructor), AJ Kimball, and Stephen Regenfuss.  Congrats on your completion of the training!

Jackson Marsh AWA:  In a similar fashion, WWA members, along with DNR staff and PF volunteers, went through chain saw training on March 30th.  The day was a little more challenging with the cold front that streamed  in, but the training was completed!  Congrats to Jim Freck, Dennis Gutmann and Mike Depies, who completed their chainsaw training, along with Eric Kilburg, biologist from Pike Lake DNR Office, 2 PF members from Ozaukee County and 2 PF members from Sheboygan County.

Rome Pond AWA:  The Wood Ducks are here!  We raced out on Sunday March 24th to maintain boxes and were pleasantly surprised that we could get out to all of them!  No three-peat this year chasing retreating ice.  Better yet, out of the twenty-one boxes, we had success in eighteen boxes, egg dumps in 2 and only 1 that was void of duck nesting; but it must have hatched a ton of wasps!

Paradise Valley AWA:  Fresh off the press and with a full “post clearing lunch” belly, I am adding that the Waukesha team of Mike Alaimo, Don Guenther, Ron Churchill, Chris Scheder and newly chainsaw certified Nick Smart, cleared fence lines on the smaller School Section parcel of Paradise Valley AWA on March 31st.  If anything was learned, it was that removing old fencing is not the the best pre-cutting warm-up and big willows need twice the hinge!  Although windy, the conditions were perfect for the task.  Thanks to the crew for spending their Sunday morning helping out! In the picture are Don Guenther and Chris Scheder.

Learn more about our Adopt A Wildlife Area program and how you can get involved, here!

Adopt A Wildlife Area Spring Work Days

Project: Lake Mills Wildlife Area and Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area
County: Jefferson and Washington
Project Start Date: 03/08/2019
Project End Date: 03/09/2019

By Mike Alaimo, Lead Adopt A Wildlife Area Volunteer

Spring is upon us, with woodies arriving, robins following the retreating snow, and much work to be done, after a very frustrating winter. Volunteers have been busy out on our adopted Wildlife Areas, here’s what we’ve been up to:

Lake Mills Wildlife Area:

A clearing project was completed on Saturday March 9th.  Willows were cleared from the nesting islands at Zeloski in preparation of a future prescribed burn.  It was key to get to these areas before the ice softened.  The trick was getting the vehicles out there without getting stuck… success was zero.   But, 8 volunteers and one DNR staff member were able to complete the initial project on the islands 100%. A big thanks goes out to the team!

Lake Mills/Zeloski Marsh volunteer crew: DNR staff member Logan Hahn, WWA volunteers Anne and Ron Churchill, Don Guenther, Chris Scheder, Jordan Learned, Katie Brewster, Todd Berger, and Mike Alaimo behind the camera.

Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area:

All the nesting structures are ready for the 2019 nesting season.  Al Klug and Mike Depies were able to get 8 nesting boxes cleaned out on Friday afternoon, March 8th.  On Saturday morning, Steve Jeffery, his 2 boys, Kevin Pasquarette, his neighbor, and Mike Depies worked on cleaning out the remaining nesting boxes and tubes, then put in fresh nesting material.   Steve Jeffery and his sons are pictured below maintains a wood duck box.

Big Muskego Wildlife Area:

Chain saw training will be conducted on March 16th with the Big Muskego team.  The training will involve instruction and then practical hands on training in the field.  For details, please contact Ian Bartelmez.

Learn more about our volunteer-run Adopt A Wildlife Area program here.

March Project Program Update

Project: Waushara County
County: Waushara

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

As winter holds on, it has given us a chance to get started on another project.  As you read this, we are currently working a wetland project in southeast Waushara County, just north of Berlin.  For as cold as it has been, this site still has some soft spots, but with the work roads plowed off (as seen in the picture, below) and single digit temps, mother nature is giving us a hand every night and allowing work to move along pretty consistently.

Construction roads are plowed for project restoration work to begin on the WWA project site in Waushara County

Ironically, the scrapes are already filling with water; an indication of the high water table, which is creating the soft spots where there is very little frost.  These are all indications of good hydrology, which make for a successful wetland project.

This site is in a great area for attracting waterfowl, with lots of other wetlands surrounding it, and it has a grassland component already in place which will aid in nesting and brood rearing success.