Adopt A Wildlife Area Winter Wood Duck Box Maintenance & Volunteer Opportunities

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple

A WWA volunteer checking wood duck boxes at Paradise Valley

It is Spring cleaning time!  There is nothing better than investigating and piecing together what has or hasn’t happened in the yearly cycle of a wood duck box.  Armed with tools and cedar chips, AWA volunteers are fanning out to check the breeding success of wood duck boxes and nesting tubes on our adopted state lands.

This last weekend, Paradise Valley volunteers maintained 14 boxes with better nesting results than previous years.  What was learned is that we have a competition going on between Woodies and Hooded Mergansers.  Swallows and other nesters definitely add to the mix by building grass and reed nests on top of the previously occupied duck nests.  In the next few months we should be able to share more photos from Jackson, Mud Lake, Rome and Lake Mills Wildlife Areas.

A wood duck box at Paradise Valley

Winter is also the time to get out into the normally more difficult locations to remove invasive and other problematic growth that is choking out our uplands used by some duck species for nesting.  Sometimes, the clean-up work is geared towards opening-up access lanes, fence lines and ditches.

On February 24th, we will begin nesting island clean-up at Lake Mills.  The crew will be removing willows, coupled with herbicide treatment, on critical nesting habit.  There will also be upland maintenance to help preserve grasslands.  If interested in helping,  please contact Mike Alaimo at

On March 16th the Big Muskego team will be completing their chain saw training with hands-on project work.  The class size is limited and almost full, but if you are interested in the training or the project work, please contact Ian Bartelmez at for more details.

Before the ice disappears, the Paradise Valley team hopes to also remove willows and apply herbicide treatment.  The willows are starting to get tall enough that prescribed burns may not be effective.  Although the days are TBD and might be impromptu due to weather, please contact Mike Alaimo if interested.

Adopt A Wildlife Area 2018 Year in Review

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Multiple
Project Start Date: 01/01/2018
Project End Date: 12/31/2018

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

At the Annual Meeting in Berlin on January 26th, a presentation was given summarizing the projects our AWA teams completed in 2018. It is amazing as to the variety of tasks these teams accomplished:

The Wausau Team over at George Mead Wildlife Area (WA) surpassed their 100 hour goal with an additional 25% completed! They tackled chain saw training, clearing projects and wood duck box maintenance with UWSP students. This was a great accomplishment for their first year!

Rome Pond WA received over 100 hours of work through a clearing project, blind removal, wood duck box maintenance, new Wood Duck boxes, nesting tubes, Invasive work, black tern nesting platforms and parking lot clean-ups.

Lake Mills WA marked a first with a multiple-year grant to improve nesting islands.

Paradise Valley WA saw clearing projects, wood duck box maintenance, gate painting and parking lot clean-ups.

Jackson Marsh WA had new wood duck boxes and nesting tubes added and a lake clean-up. Chain saw training is next on the list.

Big Muskego was added as a new AWA and projects are being worked through, as well as chain saw training.

Wrapping up the great successes noted above, the Mud Lake WA team in Columbia County has completed their 100 hrs early as a first year team! This amp’ed-up team added new wood duck boxes and nesting tubes, planted apple trees, posted closed area signs, went through chain saw training, completed some clearing work, and most recently helped clear snow at the adjacent public shooting range!

A big thanks goes out to all involved in AWA work for the WWA! 2019 will be an exciting year and is already starting strong! Check out our full 2018 Year in Review report here.

Wild Rice Seeding 2018

Project: Wild Rice
County: Oneida, Vilas
Project Start Date: 10/01/2018
Project End Date: 10/31/2018

Wild Rice. Photo credit: Jennifer West, Three Lakes School District

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

We have had some great fall weather with waterfowl migration in full force and, in some instances, even a bit ahead of schedule. I talked with a local hunter in the northern part of the state who had one of those “hunts”. One minute is all it took for two individuals to limit out on Ringnecks. For those who have experienced a large, hundred-plus ringneck flock, you know the excitement they can provide; not only the noise that they create bombing around, but also the quick flyers that make for an exciting hunt as they pile into the spread. These particular hunters were hunting a wild rice bed. Wild rice is known to be a great migratory forage food and is very attractive to waterfowl.

WWA completed a wild rice restoration planting this past October, once again engaging the local Three Lakes, Global Science class.

WWA Project Director Peter Zielger speaks to the group before Wild Rice seeding. Photo credit: Jennifer West, Three Lakes School District

Thanks to their help, we were able to seed 150 pounds of locally harvested rice to try to reestablish an historic rice bed. The seeding efforts went really smoothly after having worked with this group in the past, and kudos to Honey Rock Camp (A Wheaten College affiliated camp) for providing the canoes for the students to help make this happen.

Students paddling out for Wild Rice seeding. Photo credit: Jennifer West, Three Lakes School District

We will be looking for more wild rice sites in the Eagle River, Three Lakes and Rhinelander areas, so if you have ideas let me know so we can do the background work for viability, historical presence (not mandatory), locations for access and proper notification of landowner(s) (many of the sites end up being within the national forest).

Goose Pond Property

Project: Goose Pond
County: Dane
Project Start Date: 09/01/2018
Project End Date: 09/30/2018

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

Water is not an issue in most parts of the state right now and the waterfowl are loving it. They have been spread out feeding in recently flooded areas which hold a tremendous amount of valuable food resources as they begin their fall migration.

Many wetlands went underwater in the past month and have recently begun to return to normal levels, but water is high and abundant throughout much of the state. This has delayed some projects and a few that will have to wait until winter to be completed due to the wetness.

A project WWA partnered on was completed recently out at the Madison Audubon Society – Goose Pond property. For those who do not know about this place, it is a tremendous spot for birds during migration and breeding. WWA, USFWS and Madison Audubon partnered on the project to restore a basin, which will aid in bird habitat in Columbia county.

This project was partially funded through WWA’s successful NAWCA grant received this year in which all partners provided matching time or money, thereby bolstering our competitiveness for the grant and helping all of us get some quality wetland habitat on the ground.

Mark and Sue Martin of Madison Audubon checking to see how the project is going; shallow ground water can be seen seeping in. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

This area was highly impacted by sediment loading through time. There were spots on the site where 18+ inches of sediment have buried the original wetland, changing the hydro periods and vegetative components and ultimately use by wildlife which rely on wetlands for survival.

Wetland scrapes filled with water after 2.8 inches of rain. The prairie restoration surrounding this wetland provides excellent nesting habitat for many birds and aids in the long-term ecological protection of the wetland. Photo by Mark Martin.


Late Summer/Early Fall 2018 Project Program Updates

Project: Multiple
County: Multiple

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

Over the past month we have been busy working on projects during which time I have installed four water control structures, disabling drainage features of several wetlands. These will provide the ability to manage water levels to control vegetation. This becomes a key component in wetland management these days, with our wetlands being workhorses for water management, they take on a lot of nutrients and sediment and are continually being invaded by invasive species. Having the ability to manage water levels gives landowners the ability to effectively manage wetlands for desired vegetation and wildlife. It also provides the ability to mimic natural wet and dry cycles through draw downs. Draw downs are an important aspect and natural occurrence for wetlands. If you plan ahead you can accomplish two critical goals with the water control structures; drawing down the water to solidify suspended solids and promote native wetland vegetation, while at the same time providing access to control unwanted or invasive species.

We should be busy in the coming month so long as our recent large rain events do not continue. It was well needed in most parts, but the volume over such a short period puts wetlands hard at work and hampers our ability to access many of the restoration sites.


Abrams Project Property Blind Additions

Project: Abrams Property
County: Oconto
Project Start Date: 08/01/2018
Project End Date: 08/31/2018

By Bruce Urben, President


A work crew of WWA volunteers from the Green Bay Chapter, (Bryan Urben, Logan Sincoular and Jeremy Van Sistine) along with Don Kirby (WWA ED), Don’s son Blake and daughter Brooke, and I, completed brushing of the disabled duck blinds at the Abrams property just north of Green Bay on US Hwy. 141. The blinds are brushed and ready for the upcoming season opener.

We also added the fourth disabled deer blind at the Abrams project property along with wheelchair ramps and rails. Four disabled accessible deer blinds are now available for use for the season opener in September (two on the north property off US Hwy. 141 and two on the south property off Oak Orchard Rd. ). A fifth disabled deer blind is under construction and will be available for use for the November gun opener on the Oak Orchard side. Check out the Abrams project property on our website for maps and rules for use for all available blinds.

The food plots planted and maintained by Eric Schultz (Pro Plots Wildlife Plots) are located at each blind location. You can find more information for Pro Plots here or by contacting Eric at

A huge Thank You to WWA Green Bay Chapter volunteers (Logan Sincoular, Jeremy VanSistine, Shawn Demeny, Bryan Urben and Bruce Messenger) for helping install the disabled deer blind and to Chad Bolle (Bolle Construction), Andy Ryczek (Ryzcek Construction) and Bryan Urben of Urben Construction” for coordination and construction of the wheel chair ramps to each deer blind.

Fall is in the air and season openers will be here before you know it. Get out and enjoy the WWA’s Abrams property this fall for hunting, hiking, bird watching or a leisurely walk in nature.

August 2018 Project Program Updates

Project: Mallard Nesting Tubes, Washington County Project
County: Statewide

A nesting tube WWA gave to a landowner shows signs of use

By Peter Ziegler, WWA Project Director

So what happened to all the mallard nesting tubes WWA received? We distributed them around the state this past spring to anyone who wanted them at no charge. I have not have time to check the ones I put up; they are out in the middle of a marsh, but I did receive the below picture from a happy landowner. Indications are that his tubes were successful and producing duck broods, not bad since they were installed as egg lying had already begun.

A nesting tube WWA gave to a landowner shows signs of use

Then, last week I was with a contractor, who I have used many times before on WWA project sites, and as we began a restoration project he told me all four of the mallard tubes he installed this spring were utilized. That is pretty good success and I would hope others are seeing this type of success as well; we can only imagine that as these nesting structures remain on the landscape for a longer time frame, the percentage that are used successfully will continue to increase.

How do you know if the eggs hatched successfully or were predated? It is hard to explain, whereas pictures tell a much better story. Successfully hatched eggs will have a leather-like membrane mostly detached from the egg shell itself. The majority of it will be outside the egg, usually in large sections. If you have ever seen turtle eggs which have been dug up and eaten, the white leathery egg, once dried, closely resembles what this membrane looks like post hatching. If predated on, the membrane many times is still attached to the egg shell, or what is separated is in small pieces. Shell-wise, a successful hatch will have a few large sections of egg shell, many times two halves can be identified, while predated ones will be gone or scattered about and are in numerous pieces.

For those of you who are a part of our Facebook group (join in if you’re not, we post some great updates there), you’ve perhaps already seen this, but here’s a great shot I got of a Washington County project WWA completed just before the rain started in today. The waterway mimicking a natural stream channel feeds a small scrape at the headwaters to a larger wooded wetland:

July Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) Updates

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Statewide

Chainsaw training at George W. Mead wildlife area earlier this year

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

A huge congratulations and thank you goes out to the entire team of AWA volunteers up in the Wausau area for completing their first year of adoption of the George W. Mead Wildlife Area.  The chapter went above and beyond and donated 120 hours of volunteer work at Mead.  Check out their full report here that details the projects they completed including trail clearing, wood duck habitat improvement and chainsaw certification.

Summer is usually tough for projects as volunteers scatter to take advantage of the warmer weather and busy summer schedules. It is a time when this update gets a little “thinner”, but this year the teams are still pushing forward at a good clip. Members have been busy helping to band geese and finish projects across the state.

Scott Hamele & DNR Biologist Sara Kehrli with the new WWA AWA sign on Mud Lake

Our highlight of the week: Mud Lake WA received their AWA signs! Scott Hamele, WWA’s lead volunteer at this wildlife area, has been working with area biologist Sara Kehrli in launching projects for their first AWA contract year. As previously reported, they have installed nesting structures and helped with apple tree planting. On July 14th, the team will be going through chain saw training and performing a clean-up project. There are still openings for any AWA volunteer to get the training with Scott’s team. Interested in participating in this and/or other AWA projects?  Fill out our volunteer form here and we’ll be in touch ASAP!

Paradise Valley WA: In early June, the Waukesha team composed of Anne and Ron Churchill, Nick Smart, Don Guenther and Mike Alaimo helped to clear around a parking lot to make the entrance more visible to users.

Rome Pond WA: The Black Tern nesting experiment had a few set backs. The floats had the mud wash away with our heavy rains. There is evidence that birds are using them to roost, but there were no eggs on them.

Pre-heavy summer rainfall, this was the construction of Mike’s tern nesting platforms


Post rainfall, the flats are heavily damaged but still boasted a successful nest of Tern eggs

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN WHEN BOATING NEAR MUD FLATS WITH TERNS PRESENT! When settling back away from the Tern colony to take pictures, my daughter and I started to watch patterns. Birds started to settle back down onto the small flats and lilies. There is a reason that these birds are struggling in our state with nesting habitat. We went back to check where there were settling down and found eggs by luck on some of the flats. An almost oatmeal thick mud clump the size of a frisbee was supporting three eggs. Looking around further, more nests were found that were similar.

A Tern duckling spotted at Rome Pond, boaters are asked to use extreme caution during nesting season

It would have taken only one shallow runner on plane to wipe out the entire colony, as they were that close to one another and on very fragile surroundings. Once fledged, the chicks can swim within 2 days, but they are not built to swim. We watched a pair of chicks struggle swimming for minutes. They would be defenseless against a boat.

Although we might have missed the nesting season with the floats, the research proved invaluable. Knowing the species you are helping is really important. All my Google time reading about them could not replace discovery and observation.

Enjoy the summer and remember to be watchful for our new arrivals by being careful running through our marshes during the summer!

July Project Program Updates

Project: Multiple
County: Multiple

By Peter Ziegler, Project Director

Project season is rolling along. Thanks to many of our members, and those they know, I have gotten more project requests this season than ever before. This is a good thing from WWA’s perspective, as it allows us to maximize our dollars to the best possible habitat projects in the state. The more options we have, the better chance of having more impact with the projects we can choose to work on. As an example, I just looked at four potential projects in Manitowoc County in a single day this past month. I submitted two more permits in the last week and already have a couple permits for projects ready to go on hand. I hope to get a couple more submitted soon, so once the conditions are appropriate we can move ahead with putting more habitat on the ground.

By next spring this drainage ditch will cease to exist. This is a restoration project WWA is working in Waushara County

Blandings Turtle

I visited a project we did last year and saw the importance of what we (WWA  and our members) do. I crossed paths with a Blandings Turtle, a state species of concern. This enforces that the work we do is important to all wetland dependent species. On that same trip I saw a single hen Mallard with 17 ducklings. That is a lot of ducklings for a single hen. Either another hen was around or she met her fate and the ducklings most likely merged into a single group with another clutch creating this larger group I noticed. Normal max clutch size for mallards is about 13, so I suspect this was two clutches. Nevertheless, great to see this kind of production in Wisconsin on our habitat projects.

June Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) Program Updates

Project: Statewide Wildlife Areas
County: Statewide

WWA volunteer Melanie Love during spring chainsaw training at Mead earlier this year

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA Volunteer

This has been quite the exercise in planning to get our scheduled Adopt-A-Wildlife Area projects done, but there has been some great progress by the AWA teams!

George W. Mead Wildlife Area: With just over a month left of their first year of adoption, the Wausau team silently banked all their required volunteer hours. They will be submitting a full boat of 100 hours after their wood duck box work with UW Stevens Point and the fully attended Chain Saw Training event. Congrats to Melanie and the team in Wausau!

Spring work at Jackson Marsh

Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area: At the Annual State Meeting, there was only a handful of hours volunteered on a quickly approaching anniversary date at Jackson.. Then WWA’s newest board member and long-time Cedar Creek chapter volunteer, Mike Depies, stepped in and paved the way to a successful 60+ hours and $1500 in donated materials to close out the May 23rd reporting year.  A BIG THANKS goes out to Mike and all of the Jackson volunteer team!

Rome Pond Wildlife Area: Five months into this year’s contract, the crew from Waukesha and Jefferson are only a handful of hours away from completing 100 hours of required volunteer work. Purple Loosestrife work should take this over the goal line before August. This was a great effort in three months, especially during banquet season! All the team members should be commended for this effort! Great work!

Volunteers at Rome Pond in April

Mud Lake Wildlife Area: Scott is leading the charge and has already put a good dent into the required volunteer hours with habitat and nest structure work. Chain Saw Training is being mustered-up with a large number of slots available. The date is being changed from mid-June and the new date is TBD. Members from all over will be encouraged to participate to help out and receive this valuable training. Details will follow.

Paradise Valley Wildlife Area: Well, I do not know what to say… five minutes from my own home and more or less in my backyard, but we will come up short on

Paradise Valley Wildlife Area

the required volunteer hours due to a number of reasons. I am encouraged that we may receive a new biologist in Waukesha this summer that should help fuel the fire for available projects we can work on out there. We will push on and double our efforts for this next year, with one last effort this weekend opening up an entrance to a parking lot to make it easier to maintain.