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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Archive for the ‘Econotes’ Category

Assessing Coastal Hazards in Great Lakes Communities

You know those scenes in movies where the main character is standing on the edge of a cliff and all of the sudden the ground falls out beneath him and he drops into the water? In Great Lakes communities, that is an actual concern for some people.

There has been an increasing demand for a new standard of care to be upheld in the Great Lakes. People demanded that we not just minimize harm but also rehabilitate the Great Lakes. In February 2009 President Obama proposed a $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. The Great Lakes Restoration is now a National Priority.

There are five significant ecosystem problems in the Great Lakes.

  • Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern (e.g. pollution prevention and clean up)
  • Invasive Species
  • Nearshore Health and Nonpoint Source Pollution (e.g. reduce polluted runoff from urban, suburban, and agricultural sources)
  • Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration
  • Accountability, Education, Monitoring, Evaluation, Communication, and Partnerships


The green color of the bay comes from chlorophyll present in algae.

Where does the Biodiversity Center fit into all of this? The Center is hosting a workshop that will be held at UWGB on June 19, 2012. This workshop focuses on developing online tools to help local decision-makers address hazard related threats and effects of climate change on Great Lakes communities. For example, if a company wanted to build on a bluff near Lake Michigan they would have to talk to a zoning director about how close to the edge of the bluff they can build. The zoning director could use these online tools to figure out how far away from the edge the building has to be so it won’t be at risk of falling into the water someday due to bluff erosion. The goal of this project is for coastal communities to have a better understanding of how they may be impacted by the hazards of a changing climate, and to provide new tools and information for developing adaptive plans.

At this workshop, decision makers will have the opportunity to interact with the online tools. The tools incorporate geospatial data, science-based information, and visualizations. The goal is for decisions-makers to understand and document the effects of “proposed projects” and what liabilities those projects may create for the community. At the workshop, the instructor will propose a project and the users can use the tools to consider if the project will:

  • Accelerate/amplify existing hazards (e.g. erosion and flooding)
  • Increase infrastructure costs and liabilities related to flooding and shoreline protection
  • Worsen resource management challenges associated with water quality, habitat conservation, and the public trust doctrine
  • Decrease the economic, cultural, physical, and ecological resilience of natural and built coastal environments

After the workshop, the users will give their feedback based on their experience with the online program. This feedback is vital in determining how beneficial these online tools will be for local officials in their decision making tasks.

There are four main categories for the online tools.

  • Hazards Management and Planning: this section of the online tools is based on demographic data, land use and parcel data, hazard and flood maps, and climatology data (e.g. extreme temperatures, precipitation change, and flood events).
  • Coastal Erosion and Bluff Recession Prediction: the section demonstrates the connections between weather and climate conditions, coastal recession, bluff retreat hazards, and shoreline management strategies.
  • Coastal Infrastructure Planning: the section focuses on coastal structures including their maintenance costs, effectiveness and regional impacts (e.g. hardened shorelines, recreational and commercial use).
  • Habitat Conservation and Restoration Planning: this section focuses on protecting the region’s key ecosystem resources, especially maintaining the protective and beneficial functions of natural floodplains.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center and Association of State Floodplain Managers are key partners for this project.

The Big Day – Bird Survey April 27, 2012

The Big Day Bird Survey final total was 56 different species found around the UWGB campus and arboretum area, a fantastic number! Dr. Howe’s Spring Ornithology class went out at 7:00am to start their share of searching in the morning. The count continued until midnight. The 50th bird species seen was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the first one of the year at UWGB!

April 27, 2012 Big Day Bird Survey


  1. American Crow
  2. Killdeer
  3. Herring Gull
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Double-crested Cormorant
  6. Lesser Scaup
  7. American White Pelican
  8. Mallard
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Common Goldeneye
  11. Red-breasted Merganser
  12. Northern Cardinal
  13. Redhead
  14. Greater Scaup
  15. American Black Duck
  16. American Wigeon
  17. Gadwall
  18. Purple Martin
  19. Tree Swallow
  20. Song Sparrow
  21. Canada Goose
  22. American Robin
  23. Blue Jay
  24. White-throated Sparrow
  25. Wild TurkeySearching for the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher!
  26. Brown-headed Cowbird
  27. Red-winged Blackbird
  28. Black-capped Chickadee
  29. European Starling
  30. Common Grackle
  31. Bald Eagle
  32. Ruddy Duck
  33. Great Egret
  34. House Wren
  35. American Goldfinch
  36. Chipping Sparrow
  37. Eastern Bluebird
  38. Barn Swallow
  39. Lesser Yellowlegs
  40. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  41. Cooper’s Hawk
  42. House Sparrow
  43. Cliff Swallow
  44. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  45. White-breasted Nuthatch
  46. Downy Woodpecker
  47. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  48. Northern Flicker
  49. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  50. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  51. Red-tailed Hawk
  52. House Finch
  53. Rock Pigeon
  54. Sandhill Crane
  55. Great Horned Owl
  56. Turkey Vulture

National Estuarine Research Reserve Climate Sensitivity Analysis Project

Patrick Robinson

By Chelsea Gunther


Patrick Robinson, an adjunct faculty member and Cofrin Center for Biodiversity affiliate, is working on a project examining the effects of climate change, both socially and ecologically. He is working on this project along with other researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Extension, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in Maryland.

So what is NERRS? It is the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. This system contains 28 diversely located reserves. These reserves are being exposed to several human-related (anthropogenic) and climate-related stressors. The goal of this project is to understand how climate change impacts coastal areas and categorize each reserve based on the results of the anthropogenic and climate impacts. The team plans to present the project results in the fall of 2012.

Whose idea was it? NOAA’s Climate Program Office is developing a partnership with the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. It is their goal to understand how climate change impacts coastal areas.

How do they plan on doing this? The team is taking a three step approach. First they analyze and synthesize key data describing physical, ecological, and socio-demographic characteristics in these areas. Second, they isolate the main anthropogenic and climate stressors impacting the reserves. Examples of anthropogenic stressors are nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, hypoxia, and physical disturbance including water diversions. Examples of climatic stressors are sea level rise, precipitation frequency and intensity, and drought. Third, from the data they have gathered they will categorize each reserve based on their results to those stressors. Assigning each reserve to different categories allows the research team to better assess the impacts from humans as well as climate on these coastal ecosystems.

Why are they doing this? NOAA hopes to continue further investment in this program and share the information learned with similar projects.  The research will help prioritize future environment vulnerability assessments and planning efforts.

The Red River Breaks are a part of the St. Louis River Freshwater Estuary and Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve.

A new reserve, the Lake Superior NERR, was designated in Wisconsin in 2010 (see Patrick, along with many others, worked for over four years on the designation process for the reserve. The Lake Superior NERR represents only the second reserve on the Great Lakes, with the other being in Ohio on Lake Erie. 

Holiday Cluster Flies

Last week I was at a concert where two large fresh-cut trees had just been brought in. I noticed several insects lazily flying about the auditorium and when one landed nearby we recognized it as a cluster fly.  I knew that cluster flies overwinter in attics and walls like Asian Ladybugs, but I wondered if they could also overwintering in Christmas trees. Last year I had seen these same insects shortly after we brought in a fresh-cut Christmas tree as well. Did they come in on the trees?

Cluster fly larvae are non-native imports from Europe.  They are not considered invasive in northeastern Wisconsin because they are parasites on earthworms, which are also not native to our area.  In the autumn adult flies search out protected over-wintering sites. In the wild these would be under bark or in dense vegetation or other crevices in rocky piles or cliff faces. Of course buildings mimic cliff faces to these insects, and the flies will cluster under siding and in walls or attics. Christmas tree farms are likely to provide good overwintering sites if there are brush piles or dead trees or sheds nearby. But it isn’t too likely they could use living Christmas trees successfully because there are few good places for them to hide.

I spoke with UW Madison entomologist Phil Pellitteri who agreed the flies are unlikely to find good winter protection in Christmas trees and suggested that the flies were probably in the building and were roused by warm outside temperatures. Wherever they came from they are slow and easy enough to catch. Unlike other “house” flies, cluster flies do not feed in our houses and are unlikely to spread disease.

Cluster Fly (Phormia rudis). Photo by Gary Fewless.

Cluster Fly (Phormia rudis). Photo by Gary Fewless.

Are cluster flies a pest? That probably depends on how many there are in one place. They can sometimes accumulate inside walls and attics in large numbers. When temperatures rise on warm days some flies become active and make their way into living spaces. Once inside, they are not easily controlled by pesticides. Experts at the Entomology department at Penn State  and UW Extension suggest killing flies trapped in walls or attics might makes matters worse because the dead flies will attract other more onerous pests like carpet beetles that would  invade closets and rugs looking for wool and furs after they devour the flies.

Real Christmas trees are clearly the better choice for the environment when compared with artificial trees. They sequester carbon, produce less pollution and waste when recycled, and tree farms provide habitat that helps to preserve local biodiversity. Sometimes people are worried about that biodiversity, especially insects or spiders, coming inside with their trees. The best way to remove any stowaways is to give the tree a good shake before bringing it in the house. Fresh Christmas trees should never be sprayed with chemical pesticides, which are flammable and environmentally unfriendly. And of course sprays would ruin that wonderful fresh conifer scent.


Phillip Pellitteri, University of Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratory:

Insect Advice from Pennsylvania State Extension:

University of Wisconsin Extension News: “Homeowners find fall insects unwelcome guests.”

The Nature Conservancy “Real versus fake Christmas trees”

Flycatchers Switch to Berrypicking in the Fall

The borders of the Lenfestey Family Courtyard are heavily planted with elderberries and each August and September as they ripen I have great views out my window of the birds that come to feast. There are always the usual bunch, the robins and their young that nested all summer in the Serviceberry, Cardinals of course, and the flocks of Cedar Waxwings that easily navigate the tangle of branches like bands of pirates finding the richest caches of fruit.

Eastern Kingbirds

Eastern Kingbirds foraging on elderberries. Shot through my office window. Note the textbook reflected by the flash.

But there are Eastern Kingbirds joining the party too. Kingbirds rarely visit the courtyard, preferring the open edges of the trail near the ponds where they gracefully dive and roll, capturing flying insects in their pincer-like beaks. It is strange to see them flapping through the dense foliage of the elderberries, where they tip themselves forward off the branches as they clumsily pluck berries one by one. And while they seem a bit unfamiliar with the technique they do manage to gorge themselves with fruit.  Fruit-eating also coincides with a remarkable tolerance in this notoriously aggressive species. Kingbirds will flock together during migration and in their South American wintering grounds.

Scientists have long recognized this feeding switch from insects to fruit in several species of primarily insectivorous birds shortly before and during migration.  It was originally thought that the birds switched to fruit as insect populations declined, but this does not seem to be the case. It was also hypothesized that fruit might provide more calories, but nutrition studies showed that while some species did gain weight on fruit others lost weight (Smith et al. 2007).  Other research has focused on the advantages of feeding on fruit.  Insects require a lot more energy to find and capture and are usually caught on the wing, exposing birds to migrating hawks. Berries offer an easily collected high density food source and the foliage offers cover from hawks and other predators.  Studies have also shown that birds do seek out berries that are highest in proteins and lipids (Parrish, 1996).

Just this year scientists have started to look at micronutrients including antioxidants in fruit. Migration is extremely stressful and scientists speculate that ingesting more antioxidants might improve these birds ability to survive during migration and in tropical wintering grounds where birds are packed closer together (McCue et al. 2010).

It has even been suggested by ornithologist Gene Morton (1971)  that the white tip on the Eastern Kingbird’s tail might analogous to the bright tail feathers of the waxwings. As they forage tail flicks signal food locations to others in the flock .

Regardless of the physiological reasons migratory birds are switching to fruit, the take-home message is strong.  Make sure that migrating birds have access to reliable sources of fruit in the fall. Both Parrish’s and McWilliams’ research suggests that native berries, are superior in nutrition to non-native species. We need to make sure that we preserve native habitats along migratory routes so that birds have reliable high quality food during stop-overs.

Parrish (1996) also argues for us to become better land stewards of our own yards. “Conserving native habitat in a backyard is simple and inexpensive,” he said.  “Many songbirds will even use small, yard-sized patches of these natural landscapes during migration, providing people with exciting opportunities for bird observation–and providing the birds with the critical fuel for a long journey south.”


McCue, M. D., O. Sivan, S.R. McWilliams, and B. Pinshow (2010) Tracking the oxidative kinetics of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fatty acids in the house sparrow using exhaled 13CO2. Journal of Experimental Biology, in press.

Parrish, Jeffrey D. (1997) Patterns of Frugivory and Energetic Condition in Nearctic Landbirds during Autumn Migration. The Condor Vol. 99, No. 3 (Aug., 1997), pp. 681-697

Morton, Eugene S. (1971) Food in migration habits of the Eastern Kingbird in Panama. The Auk: 88: 925-926.

Smith, Susan B., Kathleen H. Mcpherson, Jeffrey M. Backer, Barbara J. Pierce, David W. Podlesak, and Scott R. Mcwilliams (2007) Fruit Quality and Consumption by Songbirds During Autumn Migration . The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(3):419–428

Turner, Scott (1996) Study shows songbirds switch from bugs to berries to fuel fall migration. Brown University news Bureau.

Brown, Kewaunee, Shawano, and Oconto Bird Surveys: May 26 to June 24, 2010 by Erin Gnass

As I mentioned in one recent blog posting entitled “May 26, 2010 by Erin Gnass,” I performed bird surveys for the greater part of the month of June for my thesis project—the index of ecological condition model, as applied to northern hardwood forests of Wisconsin. In order to most appropriately create this model, I surveyed additional hardwood forested sites considered to be of poorer forest condition so as to sample across a wide range of environmental condition. This enables the model to be more accurate and effective at calculating forest condition. Therefore, I went in search of hardwood forest sites on both public and private lands near and within heavily managed, fragmented, and human-disturbed or developed areas. Within Brown, Kewaunee, Shawano, and Oconto counties here in east-central Wisconsin, I found 27 sites that I surveyed, with the much-appreciated assistance of Joan Berkopec (the same wonderful volunteer who helped with the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest surveys and the Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey that I described in the two previous posts).

From May 26 until June 24, I observed 49 total species at these 27 additional sites, including the following species of interest:

Seven warblers:  Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, Mourning, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird (in moderate numbers), Pine, and Yellow Warblers

Seven woodpeckers:  Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Pileated, Red-bellied, Red-headed, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Woodpeckers

Four flycatchers:  Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee (in moderate numbers), Great Crested (in moderate numbers), and Least Flycatchers

Three thrushes:  American Robin (in moderate numbers), Veery, and Wood Thurshes

And one vireo:  Red-eyed Vireos (in large numbers)

Please feel free to look at the photographs that I took shown below:

Hardwood forest in Brown County

WI DNR sugar maple forest plot in Shawano County

While scouting out potential survey sites in Brown County, I heard then observed this spectacular Mourning Warbler pictured here

One of two Red-headed Woodpeckers that I found nesting along the pond at the Brown County Pet Exercise Park, which is full of sugar maple hardwoods

Red-headed Woodpecker

One of the two Red-headed Woodpeckers at their nesting cavity site

Thank you to professional photojournalist, Scott Giese, my boyfriend, for taking these additional photographs of me while I completed a bird survey in Brown County:

Me, Erin Gnass, obtaining a GPS coordinate at a bird survey site in Brown County

Me, Erin Gnass, recording data for a bird survey in Brown County

Me, Erin Gnass, trying to obtain a visual observation of a bird during a bird survey in Brown County

June 11-13, 2010: Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey by Erin Gnass

Every year since 1987, a large group of ornithologists have performed breeding bird surveys within the Nicolet National Forest (NNF; see the Nicolet National Forest Bird Survey: ( in northeastern Wisconsin, now contributing to well over 40,000 records of birds consisting of over 200 total bird species. Whether you are an ornithologist by profession, a volunteer, a student, a back-yard birder, the state’s best expert, or a complete novice who has never seen a Canada Goose in your life, absolutely anyone can come and assist in the survey! Luckily, I was able to be one of the group leaders and engage myself in the survey for the very first time. Having heard about how much fun and exciting it is to participate in such a wonderful annual event, I was not disappointed in the slightest!

On the first day of the survey, I led a small team birders consisting of a young couple and another woman to pine and hardwood forests and a few beautiful bogs. Although the sites were not as biodiversity rich as other sites within the Nicolet National Forest, we were able to observe many interesting but “usual suspect” birds, such as the Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, American Robin, Brown Creeper, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Black-throated Green Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and many others. After this first morning of surveys, a large group of us, including (some of my favorite ecologist/biologist friends) UWGB undergraduate student, Aaron Groves, former UWGB Environmental Science & Policy graduate student, Kathryn Corio, Ron Eichhorn (who helped the Nature Conservancy and me with the WRLF project), and a few others went out to a bog near the NNF to look for interesting plants and birds. A few of us chased down a Palm Warbler while others observed uncommon plant species. Please see the photographs that I took down at the bottom of this posting. Thank you to all of the botanists in this group who showed me these beautiful plants.

On the second day, graduate student, Nick Walton, joined our group and helped to lead the surveys.  Near the end of one of the last surveys of the day, we heard a nearby soft chickadee-call where we discovered two Boreal Chickadees—the highlight of my entire summer. Not only did these individuals continue singing throughout the remainder survey, they flew low in the trees only ten meters away from us for quite a few minutes. Not many people have the opportunity to view this species in particular because they are considered an uncommon, northern U.S./Canada dwelling species. Thus, when we shared the news with other birders upon returning to the field houses, everyone expressed their surprise and excitement to us. What a thrilling day it was.

I look forward to next summer’s bird surveys at the Nicolet National Forest.

My photographs:

Me, Erin Gnass, leading one of a few bird surveys in a bog within the Nicolet National Forest

One of a few beautiful bogs that we surveyed.

After the first day of surveys, a small group and I went in search of plants and birds around the bog pictured here.

UWGB undergraduate, Aaron Groves, bird watching at the bog.

Ron Eichhorn and Aaron Groves trying to identify a plant.

Aaron Groves, and his mother, former UWGB Environmental Science & Policy graduate student, Kathryn Corio

A stunningly gorgeous carnivorous pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

Another carnivorous plant, the sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

Aaron Groves and I found a previously made teepee-like structure on a hill leading down to the bog.

Puddles of Sulfurs


puddling sulfurs

Sulfur butterflies puddling in a drainage ditch.

On a weekend in early August on a country road in Door Co., Wisconsin Mike Draney and I were surprised to find ourselves in a cloud of butterflies. Driving along County Road EE in Door County we were scaring up clouds of Clouded Sulfur butterflies (Colias philodice). We stopped and found that they were gathering by the hundreds in the wet mud of the stormwater ditches. We collected several dead butterflies, likely the victims of car traffic, and found that every individual we collected was a male.

Congregations of butterflies at mud puddles, animal dung, or carrion were first recognized in the early 1900s, but surprisingly, scientists still don’t know a lot about why they do it. It was long suspected the behavior was related to nutrients and salts. Flower nectar, while high in carbohydrates, is extremely low in nutrients like salts and amino acids.  Experiments by chemical ecologists S. Smedley and T. Eisner conducted in 1995 confirmed that butterflies do prefer saltier puddles. And since them numerous studies have confirmed that butterflies are seeking sodium or proteins and sometimes other nutrients in the puddles that are scarce in nectar.

Females are not usually seen at puddles, even though it makes sense that they would also be in need these scarce nutrients to produce healthy eggs. In fact it has been demonstrated that males transfer some of the nutrients they collect at puddles to females as “nuptial gifts” during mating that she will then use to provision her eggs. In some cases may give away almost half of their total reserves.  The gift is important because larvae that are born with higher amounts of nutrients probably have an advantage in surviving especially in low sodium environments. (See Molleman et al. 2005 for more information)

But why so many of this species?   Clouded Sulphur caterpillars feed on legumes like alfalfa and clover, and there can be as many as 3 generations in favorable years, so it isn’t surprising to expect to see large numbers of them in agricultural areas in mid to late summer.

But Sulphurs aren’t the only butterflies you might see visiting puddles, many other species of   terrestrial arthropods that have low salt diets including Blattodea, Diptera, Diplopoda, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera and Orthoptera have also been observed to puddle.


Molleman F, Grunsven RHA, Liefting M, Zwaan BJ, and Brakefield PM, 2005. Is male puddling behaviour of tropical butterflies targeted at sodium for nuptial gifts or activity? Biological journal of the linnean society. 86: 345-361   

Smedley and Eisner, 1995. Sodium Uptake by Puddling in a Moth. Science. 270: 1816-1818

May 30 to June 5, 2010: Wild Rivers Legacy Forest by Erin Gnass

One of the many exciting bird research projects that I helped to investigate this summer was with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) in the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest (WRLF) north of Armstrong Creek in northern Wisconsin. With a field crew of eight people, many of us living in one field house, we not only gathered very useful bird survey data for TNC and my graduate thesis project, but we were also fortunate enough to listen to and observe many unique and beautiful bird species. Every afternoon or evening, we met as a group to decide how to break apart all of the required bird survey sites within the forest. Some of us went out in pairs while others surveyed independently to perform as many bird point counts as possible between the half hour prior to dawn until 9:30 AM (the short window of time that breeding birds are allowed to be surveyed). Depending on the terrain, distance between points (via car or on foot), and weather, many pairs or individuals performed as few as 5-6 surveys to as many as 12 in a morning! Therefore, we finished all 200 bird survey sites in the WRLF and the 23 additional sites of poor ecological forest condition in one week’s time!

For some of the bird sighting highlights of this week during the first week of June, we viewed 73 total species within the WRLF including:

16 warblers:  American Redstart, Black-and-white, Blackburnian (in large numbers), Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green (in large numbers), Canada, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Mourning (in large numbers), Myrtle (the official name of the eastern population of the Yellow-rumped Warbler), Nashville, Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird (in large numbers), and Tennessee Warblers

Six flycatchers:  Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee (in large numbers), Great Crested, Least (in large numbers), and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers

Six woodpeckers:  in comparison to last year’s data, we observed many more woodpecker individuals:  Downy, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Pileated, Red-bellied, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (in large numbers) Woodpeckers

Five thrushes:  American Robin (in large numbers), Hermit Thrush (in large numbers), Swainson’s, Veery, and Wood Thrushes

Four birds of prey:  Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, Barred Owl, and Red-shouldered Hawk

Two vireos:  Red-eyed (in large numbers) and Blue-headed Vireos

And several other birds of interest included:  Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-capped Chickadee (in large numbers), Blue Jay (in large numbers), Brown Creeper, Common Raven, Chimney Swift, Evening Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Purple Finch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (in large numbers), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Scarlet Tanager (in large numbers), White-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrow (in large numbers), Winter Wren, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

In comparison to the 200 sites of the WRLF, we only observed 47 total species within the sites of poor ecological forest condition, including many of those observed within the WRLF. In these additional sites, however, we also observed the Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, Golden-winged Warbler, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Yellow-throated Vireo, which were not observed during point counts in the WRLF.

For fun in the afternoons, we would gather for lunch at a nearby lake, such as Savage Lake, and enjoy the Black Terns, Sandhill Cranes, and Common Loons, which foraged within a few hundred meters of us. Other days we searched for different bird species (e.g. Bobolink) and other walks of life, such as dozens of dragonfly species, as expertly identified by Ron and Joan. We ran into several deer and quite a few black bears, including one close call during a survey that I was conducting by myself. Around minute three of one ten-minute bird point count survey that I was doing, a large black bear peered through thick brush about 25 meters away from me. After shooing it away from me, it still remained close, only about 200 meters away. Upon completing the bird survey and heading back to my car, it stood on its back legs and kept a close watch over me! Thankfully, it continued to forage and stay clear of me.

In one short week’s time, our dedicated and tireless field crew performed many surveys, which provided this study with incredibly useful data that will contribute towards a vastly important conservation project for the future. Luckily, I had some of the most fun that I have ever had working on a bird field crew and am grateful to be a part of this project. Thank you to all of those expert birders on this crew who helped me to become a better birder!

Please take a look at some of the photographs that I took during this week.

TNC's Nick Miller and John Wagner

Lunch break

Dragonfly emerging

TNC John Wagner and volunteer Joan Berkopec with the field crew dog, Pogo

Sandhill Crane foraging along the muddy edge of a lake

Forest road leading to a few of the last bird surveys that I performed just north of Goodman, WI

How NOT to Control Gypsy Moths

Burlap tree wrap.

Burlap "skirt" tied around young oak.

One of the most common ways to try to control gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) populations is to wrap tree trunks with control bands. These are simply burlap skirts that are wrapped around the tree. Gypsy moths feed on the leaves of the trees at night and then climb back down the tree trunk and hide under the bark or leaves during the day to avoid predators. The burlap skirts provide an ideal hiding spot for the caterpillars and they will congregate there in large numbers. This makes it easy to capture and kill them during the day. The burlap itself does not act as a trap, and actually increases the moth’s chance of surviving to adulthood, because it prevents predators like Blue Jays from seeing them. Burlap only works if the caterpillars are removed every few days. So if you are going to put up the burlap skirts, you must be committed to checking them every few days and killing the caterpillars by squishing them or by scraping them into a jar of soapy water so they drown.

We saw thousands of male gypsy moth flying around burlap skirted oak trees in one of the parks in Green Bay, Wisconsin in July of 2010. There were many females actually laying their eggs underneath the burlap.  This is unfortunate because now there will be more work to remove egg masses this winter and spring.

Burlap lifted revealing gypsy moth pupae.

Burlap lifted revealing gypsy moth pupae.

Some Links on How to properly use burlap tree skirts:

Male (dark) and female (light) gypsy moths with egg masses.

Male (dark) and female (light) gypsy moths with egg masses.