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F O R WA R D From the beginning, a significant component of the vision for the Mequon Nature Preserve was that it would serve the metropolitan area as a premier site for environmental education. Whether it was young children who were having their first experiences in a nature-based setting or university students conducting field work for a course or adults and families reading interpretive signs as they hiked the trails, all would be welcome. Today, that vision is becoming a reality. Visitors come daily to enjoy and learn from this beautiful, rolling landscape that is only a short drive for over 1.5 million people. To introduce and explain the many natural treasures of the site, we asked Kate Redmond to author a field guide specifically for the Mequon Nature Preserve property. The result is an engaging narrative illustrated with numerous photos that describe and explain the site’s diverse ecological communities. The Mequon Nature Preserve Field Guide is placed on the Mequon Nature Preserve website so that teachers and students have easy access to information about the Preserve. This information helps visitors better understand the natural environment that awaits them on their next trek. We asked Kate to write the Field Guide because we thought she was the best person to do so. After Kate graduated from college, she became a naturalist and Assistand Director at the Museum of the Hudson Highlands in Cornwell-on-Hudson, New York. She soon earned her Master’s degree in Nature Education at Cornell University, and then took a position as a naturalist at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Kate and her husband settled in Ozaukee County, not far from where Kate grew up. She works as a self-employed environmental educator, calling herself the Traveling Naturalist. She also volunteers as an educator at the Cedarburg Bog, Lac Lawrann Conservancy, and Riveredge Nature Center. You may know her as The Bug Lady who has written more than a hundred weekly Bug-of-the-Week columns. The Mequon Nature Preserve is working to archive these columns on its website. You also may have read her work in the Bog Haunter, a newsletter of the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog. Through all of these experiences and her professional training, Kate has become a well-respected teacher whose love of the natural environment inspires all those who come under her wing or read her extensive writings. Our great thanks go to Kate who, without hesitation, took on the task of writing the Field Guide. To Kate we say,“Well done!” Our great thanks also go to the Frieda and William Hunt Memorial Trust whose generous grant underwrote this two year project. Thanks too, to photographers Gary Casper, Seth Cutright, Kristin Gies, Rob Nuernberg and Kate Redmond, whose contributions made the Field Guide come alive. This field guide is only part of the story. The rest or the story can be found on the trails of the Mequon Nature Preserve. Take a hike here. Venture out in all weather conditions and in each season, from sunrise to sunset. Find a favorite spot, and visit it often. Watch for the large and the small changes that happen from winter through spring, summer and fall. Look, listen, touch and smell. Create your own Field Guide! You are welcome 365 days of the year. Christine Nuernberg December 2010



Contents 1. Where to find them 2. What are they 3. The living isn’t easy 4. Turning leaves into dragonflies and frogs

Ephemeral Ponds

5. A year in the life of an ephemeral pond – how do they live there 6. Ephemeral pond V.I.P.s 7. Human impact 8. Do you have an ephemeral pond 9. For more information

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Ephemeral Ponds 2. What are they Question: When is a pond not a pond? Answer: A pond is not a pond when it has dried up. Ephemeral ponds are unusual and hard-torecognize wetlands that are only wet for part of each year, usually the spring. “Ephemeral” means “lasting a very short time” or “transient.”

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1. Where to find them A large ephemeral pond is located on the south side of Harvey’s Woods and a smaller one is on the west edge of Harvey’s Woods. From the Swan Road parking lot and trailhead located at 10000 Swan Road, take the Swan Road Loop to Harvey’s Woods. Or, park at the PieperPower Education Center, 8200 W. County Line Red, Mequon, WI, walk north on the Lower Link Trail to the Observation Tower and follow the Swan Road loop through the woods to the ephemeral ponds.

The plants and animals that depend on ephemeral ponds have developed adaptations and lifestyles that allow them to survive the wetdry extremes of their environment. Ephemeral ponds are often defined by the two things they generally lack – permanent water and fish. Some ephemeral ponds are found in woodlands; some develop in the open.

The same ephemeral pond in Harvey’s Woods, dry in September.

“Community” is an ecological term that refers to a set of plants and animals, living within recognizable boundaries, like a pond or a forest. Like the residents of a human city, the inhabitants of a community can meet all their needs within that community. In other words, within its boundaries, a community feeds and shelters itself.

An ephemeral pond in Harvey’s Woods in May

Between twenty-five thousand and ten thousand years ago, our most recent glacier ground across Wisconsin’s landscape and then retreated. Geologists say we are in an “interglacial period” now. The glacier scoured the earth and left the

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kettles, ditches, and other low spots that would become the state’s rivers and streams, lakes and ponds – and ephemeral ponds. Southeastern Wisconsin’s landscape contains lots of the rolling topography that favors the formation of ponds. Man-made depressions may also develop into ephemeral ponds. An ephemeral pond may take years to develop its own unique quality, but even rain puddles, if they last long enough, may act as miniature ephemeral ponds. An ephemeral pond gets its water from the rain and snow that fall directly into it or that flow down from surrounding hills. Another source of water is rain that feeds the ephemeral ponds indirectly. Precipitation soaks into the ground, causing the water table (the zone in the soil that is soaked or saturated with water) to rise, and keeping ponds from drying out. Because many ephemeral ponds are wet in springtime and dry from mid-summer on, the names “spring pond” and “vernal pond” (“vernal” means “spring”) are also used. During a series of wet years an ephemeral pond may keep its water, and during a period of drought there may be years when it never gets wet. When they are wet, ephemeral ponds are magnets for animals. Frogs, toads, and salamanders that spent the winter buried in the woods migrate to the newly-wet ponds to lay their eggs. Ducks and geese feed in these temporary ponds during migration (fertilizing them with their droppings), and some stay to raise their young. Many insects and other invertebrates spend part or all of their life cycle underwater. They arrive to repopulate ephemeral ponds each spring or hatch from eggs that were left in the mud of last year’s pond, protected from cold and drought by tough shells.

A Meadowhawk dragonfly watches for flying insects from its perch.

Like an African waterhole, an ephemeral pond draws land animals to drink, to eat its plants, and to prey on the other animals that live or visit there, increasing the diversity of animals in the area.

3. The living isn’t easy Ephemeral ponds don’t have streams flowing through them; their water is shallow and still and is isolated from other wetlands. Quiet, shallow water warms quickly and doesn’t hold much oxygen. Shallow water, low oxygen levels, and seasonal dryness - a set of conditions that challenges the hardiest pond dweller. Not every temporary pond qualifies as an ephemeral pond. Along with the frogs, turtles, and insects that can be found in most wetlands, scientists look for animals that are specially adapted to the wet-dry cycle of an ephemeral pond. Blue-spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and fairy shrimp are a few of the indicators of ephemeral ponds in Wisconsin. They are called obligate or direct indicator species, and they are linked to ephemeral ponds for part or all of their life cycles. Timing is everything, and these species have the ability to telescope the time that is needed to grow to adulthood into the period before the pond dries.

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form fantastically complex energy relationships called food webs.

It’s hard to believe that tadpoles will live here in spring.

Many of the plants that grow in and around ephemeral ponds are also found in permanent ponds and lakes. Wisconsin’s ephemeral ponds have many plant species in common, but there are no plants in the state that are considered ephemeral pond indicators. For the plants, as well as the animals, the trick is to grow up fast, bloom early, and set seed before the water disappears.

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4. Turning leaves into dragonflies and frogs A community feeds and shelters itself. Every living thing in a community is involved in the exchange of energy. Communities contain plants that turn the sun’s energy into food (producers) and animals that take it from there. Herbivores eat plants; carnivores eat animals, and omnivores eat both plants and animals. Scavengers feed on the remains of dead plants and animals, breaking them down into smaller pieces and processing them through their guts. Decomposers like bacteria and fungus are the last stop on the food chain. They break down and absorb the organic (living or formerly living) matter. Decomposers free up the inorganic building blocks of life, like minerals, making them available for recycling to the living plants and animals in the community. These roles (niches) are the same in each community, although the species that perform them are different from one community to the next. In all communities, these living things are connected by food chains that are interwoven to

Fallen leaves are the base of the energy in an ephemeral pond.

Green plants are the source of energy in a permanent pond, but the majority of the energy of an ephemeral pond comes from outside its borders. Every autumn, leaves and twigs fall to the ground and collect in the dry depression that used to hold a pond. This loose layer of leaves and twigs is called leaf litter. As the water collects and begins to warm in spring, the leaf litter is submerged on the floor of the ephemeral pond. Tiny, microscopic organisms like fungi and bacteria start to break down the dead leaves. The bacteria are eaten by zooplankton – animals so small that they blow where the wind pushes them. Zooplankton includes the almostinvisible-to-the-naked-eye daphnia and copepods, which eat algae and tiny pieces of debris from the pond floor, as well as bacteria. Zooplankton exist in the pond in huge numbers and are a very important food source for most predators larger than they are, including young salamanders.

A basin of water from an ephemeral pond contains fairy shrimp and many other animals.

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The leaves are also eaten by small “grazing” herbivores like water sow bugs, snails and tadpoles, and by a group of animals called “shredders.” In the process of eating, shredders assist the decomposers by breaking leaves into pieces, setting the table for themselves and for smaller plant eaters.

Water scorpions grab their prey with their long front legs. They breathe (but don’t sting) with the long tube on their abdomen.

5. A year in the life of an ephemeral pond – how do they live there

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This caddisfly larva wears a case that it built by cutting and gluing together small plant pieces.

Within the ephemeral pond, carnivores come in all sizes and shapes. Diving beetles, immature dragonflies and damselflies (“naiads”) and mosquito larvae (“wigglers”), backswimmers, giant water bugs, water scorpions, adult and immature predaceous diving beetles (“water tigers”), and water mites all compete for prey below the surface of the water. When salamander eggs hatch, the young salamanders prey on smaller animals – they even eat the young of later-emerging species of salamanders. Seasonal drying and low oxygen levels keep fish from surviving, so most ephemeral ponds are missing an important predator that lives in permanent bodies of water. While it is wet, the pond may host a snapping turtle, a predator at the top of its food chain, which may eat frogs, snakes, and a duckling or two. Owls, herons, snakes, and raccoons are predators that drop in from the air or the dry land to dine on the ephemeral pond’s inhabitants.

Ephemeral ponds may go through the winter containing a little water covered by ice.

Many ephemeral ponds start the New Year holding a little water (autumn rainfall) under a layer of ice, and aquatic insects and other invertebrates move slowly through their chilly environment. As ice and snow start to melt in early spring and the rain begins, the pond deepens. Amphibians - the frogs, toads and salamanders whose tender eggs must be laid in water - start their journeys to the pond even before the ice disappears. The first “songs” are the clear notes of the spring peepers, the “thumb-on-the-teeth-of-a-comb” calls of chorus frogs, and the “quack” of wood frogs. Their voices are soon joined by the “snore” of leopard frogs. Frogs sing by forcing air out of their lungs, through their throat, and into a vocal sac, a loose pouch of skin under their chin (leopard

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frogs have two vocal sacs). Sound is made when the air vibrates the vocal cords as it passes them. The air in the vocal sac can then be “inhaled,” producing more sound on its way back to the lungs. The vocal sac puffs up like a big bubblegum bubble. Salamanders approach the ephemeral pond quietly, and soon their eggs float in the pond’s water, too. An ephemeral pond is a fascinating place by day, but by night, it’s magic. Warming water also signals another group of animals, those whose eggs were left in the debris at the bottom of the pond as it dried in the previous summer. These tough-shelled eggs need the drought of autumn and the cold of winter in order to hatch in spring. Also hatching are the eggs recently laid by insects that arrived as the pool filled. By early May, the waters of the temporary pond are teeming with life forms, large and small – and very small. Plants grow around the edges and throughout the pond. Most have roots, but some, like the algae, float freely. In either case, the plants provide food, shelter, shade, a perch for predators, and a place for eggs to be laid. They also contribute to the mass of leaves that is the ephemeral pond’s source of life.

Young frogs – tadpoles – feed on algae and small pieces of plant material.

By late spring, the activity in the ephemeral pool has peaked and its boundaries start shrinking. With its water supply no longer assured, the race is on. Two races, really – the first is the race to mature and leave before the drought, and the second is the drive to lay eggs before being eaten by the predators in the ephemeral pond. The disappearance of the water is predictable, and

ephemeral pond dwellers have developed a variety of adaptations to cope with being left high and dry. Despite all their adaptations, if the water disappears too quickly, the result can be deadly for the pond’s inhabitants.

Blanket algae floats at the surface of the pond.

Those equipped with legs and wings can leave when the water does. Although they need to lay their eggs in a watery environment, not all amphibians live in water year round. Adult blue-spotted salamanders and wood frogs spend only enough time at the pond each spring to reproduce before returning to their woodland homes. Their offspring are ready, when the pond dries, to live on land. Other water dwellers, like green frogs, water beetles, and turtles may leave the shrinking pond and hop, fly, or trek to a permanent pond nearby. They trade the dangers of fish predation for the assurance of water. Dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects whose young are aquatic become adults as the water dries up. When the tepid water of summer evaporates, fairy shrimp dig in – literally. Their eggs, buried in the leaf litter on the pond’s dry floor, are encysted – they have thick walls that withstand the heat of late summer and the freeze of winter. In fact, these eggs require drying and rehydration before they can hatch, and they can survive two decades of drought. Other denizens of vernal ponds are similarly adapted to wait for the return of water. Some become dormant in a state called diapause, a state of suspended

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animation that helps insects get through extremes of weather. It is tempting to say that these specialists live in ephemeral ponds because they have adaptations that allow them to survive the inevitable drought. Considered from another angle, fairy shrimp and other ephemeral pond obligate or indicator species live where they do because they require something that permanent ponds lack – a dry period.

leaves or in the top layer of soil. They hibernate close to the ephemeral pond so that their spring migration to water will be a short one. Like other animals that hibernate during freezing temperatures, wood frogs produce an antifreeze-like chemical that protects their cells from the damage of freezing and thawing.

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Wood frogs live on land most of the year.

Young damselflies (naiads) are underwater predators.

Most tadpoles eat plant material. Wood frog tadpoles are omnivores, feeding on plants like algae and also on both the eggs and the larvae of amphibians, including other wood frogs. Adult wood frogs eat insects and other small animals that they lunge at and catch with the tip of their sticky tongue. Are ephemeral ponds important to wood frogs? A moderate-sized ephemeral pond may produce several thousand wood frogs each year.

6. Ephemeral pond V.I.P.s. Wood Frog This handsome, medium-brown frog, which sports a dark, “mask” that runs from ear to ear, is a well-camouflaged resident of the forest floor in summer. During its lifetime, it lives in three different places – ephemeral ponds, damp woods, and dryer uplands. Wood frogs are found in the pond during their courtship and egg-laying period when the temperature reaches about 50 degrees in spring. During the summer, they live in shady, damp woods and ravines, although they may go back to the water if summer is hot and dry. In winter, wood frogs migrate to the uplands surrounding an ephemeral pond. There, they hibernate under

Blue-spotted salamanders are one of the first amphibians seen in spring.

Blue-spotted Salamander Blue-spotted salamanders are seldom seen except during their spring migration to an ephemeral pond to breed. The rest of the year,

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they are forest-dwellers. During the summer they live under bushes, logs and fallen leaves. They like moist forests, but they can also be found in dryer habitats than many other salamanders. They live under logs and leaves and they eat the earthworms, slugs, and other invertebrates that they encounter there. Blue spotted salamanders spend about a month as eggs and another two to four months as larval salamanders in the ephemeral pond before they are mature enough to survive out of water. They are found in all of the state expect for the unglaciated “Driftless area” in southwestern Wisconsin.

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In early spring, a female blue-spotted salamander lays as many as 500 eggs on sticks, plants or rocks at the edge of the ephemeral pond. The eggs hatch in a month, and the young salamander is ready for life on land by the end of summer.

eaten by amphibians and by some aquatic insects.

An immature predaceous diving beetle preys on a fairy shrimp.

A female fairy shrimp carries eggs in a brood sac on the underside of her body. She releases from 10 to 250 eggs at a time, every 2 to 6 days. Eggs that are laid early in the spring are thin-walled and will hatch and develop quickly. They will add to the population of fairy shrimp in the pond, and they may live for little more than two weeks. Eggs deposited as the water dries are thick-walled (encysted) eggs that can wait in the dry litter of the pool’s floor until the pond re-fills the following spring – or many springs later. Their population peaks in April before migrating birds can make a meal of them and then drops in May as their underwater predators increase. Fairy shrimp eggs may be accidentally carried to new ponds by animals, or they may blow across the landscape on a strong wind. There may be lots of fairy shrimp one year, and very few the next. No one knows why.

A fairy shrimp’s color is influenced by what it eats.

Fairy Shrimp Tiny (three-quarter-inch long) fairy shrimp are Crustaceans; their relatives include lobsters, shrimp and sow bugs. They swim on their back, using the movements of their legs to propel their food - algae, diatoms, protozoa, bacteria, detritus (tiny, decaying pieces of dead plants and animals), and other tiny aquatic life - toward their mouths. Their “feet” also aid their breathing and movement. Fairy shrimp are

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Mequon Nature Preserve Field Guide

gliding along the under surface of the water. Many kinds of snails protect themselves from predators by pulling their body into their hard shell and pulling the shell’s door (operculum) tightly, but disc pond snails don’t have an operculum. They deal with the seasonal drying of an ephemeral pond by burrowing into the mud on the pond’s floor and pulling into their shell. Snails hatch in spring from eggs that were laid almost a year earlier. A disc pond snail has a flat, not peaked, shell.

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Pond Snail The quiet, warm, shallow water of an ephemeral pond is ideal habitat for many aquatic snails. Snails inhabit a coiled shell that they make themselves. Some shells are cone-shaped, and others, like the disc pond snail, are flat. Disc pond snail is sometimes called orb snails and “ram’s horn snails.” A snail’s diet includes leaf litter and algae, and they break down large pieces of plant material by scraping the leaves with their toothed “tongue” (called a radula). They are eaten by ducks, turtles, leeches, some amphibians, and a few aquatic invertebrates.

Water Sow Bug Wood frogs owe a lot to Water Sow bugs, or Isopods. Water sow bugs are related to the sow bugs or pill bugs we find on land, hiding under logs and flower pots. Water sow bugs live under dead leaves and other debris in shallow water. They have a flattened body with seven pairs of walking legs, and they walk along the pond’s floor or crawl under the leaves to escape predation and to avoid the light. They are found in both temporary and permanent ponds, but they do not have any special adaptations that let them live through an ephemeral pond’s dry period. They are able to live in water with very low oxygen levels.

Water sow bugs are related to crayfish, lobsters and shrimp.

The shells of many pond snails are spiral and pointed.

Snails glide along on a layer of mucous that is produced on the bottom of their body (their body is called a “foot.”). This slime also helps them to stick to some surfaces and to keep from sinking into others. They can be seen under water clinging to plants, crawling on the mud, or

Water sow bugs are omnivores and scavengers that help to turn big pieces of dead plants and animals into little ones. In the process, dead material is removed from the pond. The smaller chunks of material that remain can be colonized by fungi and algae more easily, and these nutritionally-enhanced morsels of food are eaten by tadpoles and other herbivores. Water sow bugs are food for many larger animals in the pond.

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Dragonfly Naiad Immature dragonflies (naiads) are important predators in the world below the surface of the pond. They will eat any small animal that they can catch. To catch their prey, they extend their “lower lip” and pull their prey into their mouth. With their long legs, they walk or sprawl on the pond’s plants and floor. Water sow bugs, pond snails, and fairy shrimp spend their whole lives in the water, but dragonflies spend only their immature stage there. Most prefer ponds that are wet for longer periods or that don’t dry out every year, but several species have adapted to ephemeral ponds.

together. The portable case they build protects them. They haul themselves over the pond floor using both their legs and their mouthparts. Caddisflies that live in streams make a case of tiny bits of stone, or they spin web into “caves” to live in.

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A caddisfly larva sticks its head out of its home-made, portable case.

A dragonfly naiad uses its long legs to climb on underwater plants.

Dragonflies lay their eggs in the water or on plant stems. Deposited as the pond starts to decline, the eggs may weather the dry season by becoming dormant (stopping activity) in a state called diapause. They will hatch the following spring when the water returns. The warming of the water speeds the growth of other ephemeral pond dragonflies. They are able to grow enough to emerge as adults and fly away before the pond disappears. An adult caddis fly.

Caddisfly Immature caddisflies shred leaves for food, providing smaller animals with smaller chunks of plant material to eat. Their head and thorax are armored, but their abdomen is soft, so the caddisflies of the ephemeral pond make silk and use it to “glue” bits of plant stems and leaves

Many caddisfly larvae are omnivores, eating detritus (tiny, decaying pieces of dead plants and animals), dead leaves and some of the small animals they share the pond with. Some species are predators - one group feeds on the embryos in salamander egg masses. Caddisfly eggs and larvae will enter diapause to withstand the

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pond’s seasonal drought, and the presence of their cases in the leaves of a dry basin is an indication that it is an ephemeral pond. Just as caddisfly larvae resemble caterpillars, adult caddisflies look moth-like, and they are closely related to butterflies and moths.

8. Do you have an ephemeral pond? Many ephemeral ponds are quite small, and many more are unmapped. Because the concept of vernal ponds is not on many people’s radar, landowners may not recognize them as wetlands. Not every temporary pond is an ephemeral pond.

7. Human impact Some land owners may not recognize an ephemeral pond or understand how special it is. They may think of it as a mosquito producer and may drain or fill it. Landowners sometimes enlarge and deepen ephemeral ponds in order to make them permanent, allowing fish to enter or stocking them with pan fish. Draining and deepening both are disastrous for animals whose life cycles are adapted for alternating water and drought. Ephemeral ponds are classified as wetlands, so draining, filling or enlarging them requires a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Housing, shopping malls, recreational fields and business developments destroy habitat. Water use connected with development may lower the water table, leaving less water to fill ephemeral ponds in spring. Use of chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides contaminates both the ground and the surface water. Because the edges of ephemeral ponds do not flood each year, invasive species like buckthorn and narrowleaved cattail may gain a foothold there and develop dense thickets of growth that could choke the pool. Like other amphibians and some reptiles, the wood frog needs to migrate between several different habitats each year. Roads, with their speeding vehicle traffic, make spring migration perilous for creatures that hop and crawl, and a road may fragment important habitat (divide it into parcels that may be too small to support species that need more space). Conservation plans for these animals can be very complex.

The Wisconsin Ephemeral Pond Project, or WEPP, a Citizen Monitoring network, is studying ephemeral ponds in southeastern Wisconsin. WEPP’s goal is to inventory ephemeral ponds in Wisconsin, starting in the counties along southern Lake Michigan, to increase our understanding of their ecological importance and to support their conservation. WEPP’s conservation effort includes mapping ephemeral ponds, surveying to verify the maps, collecting baseline data to understand their variety and ecological importance, and monitoring at reference sites. To find out more about WEPP, the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Citizen Science Monitoring initiative, see

9. For more information about ephemeral ponds ON-LINE: s/index.asp?mode=group&Type=Wetland

Click on ephemeral pond. x.htm&2 s.html

The Vernal Pool Association:

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BOOKS A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools, Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne. 2000. Massachuetts Division of Fisheries and Wildflife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Westborough, MA 01581. A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr. 2002. The MacDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA. Amphibians of Wisconsin, Rebecca Christoffel, Robert Hay and Michelle Wolfgram, WI Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Endangered Resources, Madison, WI Pub ER105 2001. “Pond Watchers,” Guide to Ponds and Vernal Pools of Eastern North America. Massachusetts Audubon Society. Lincoln MA. Turtles and Lizards of Wisconsin. Christoffel, Rebecca, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2002. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Vernal Pool Lessons and Activities, Nancy Childs and Betsy Colburn. 1995. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA

Contents 1. Where to find it

Farmland and Grassland

2. Clearing the land 3. Grasslands 4. The most unwanted 5. Community life 6. Life in the sun 7. Rock walls 8. The next generation 9. A word about snow

10. Lives of the six and eight-legged 11. Milkweeds and goldenrods – bug magnets 12. Some more sun-lovers 13. The observation tower 14. Human impact 15. For more information

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Farmland and Grassland fields they wrested from the forest. To cut down a tree, Native Americans built a low fire at the base of its trunk. The fire gradually burned through the trunk and the tree toppled over. Sometimes stone axes were used to speed the job or were used to girdle a tree (cut a strip of bark off all the way around a trunk), which killed it. Native Americans also used fire to clear away the brush in the forest, which made tracking and traveling easier.

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1. Where to find them The Mequon Nature Preserve occupies about two-thirds of the square mile block that stretches from Swan Road on the west to Wauwatosa Road on the east and from Donges Bay Road on the north to County Line Road on the south. Most of the trails on the Preserve wind through land that was farmed or is still being farmed. From the trailhead at the Swan Road parking lot, located at 10000 Swan Road, Mequon, WI, walk east on the Swan Road Loop and travel the Observation Tower Loop. If you start at the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI, and take the Cross Connector Trail to the Lower Link, Middle Link and Farmstead Link, you will be walking through grasslands and farmlands.

2. Clearing the land When the first white settlers arrived in Ozaukee County, they found most of it covered with dense forests (see “The Big Picture” in the chapter on Woodlands). There were clearings caused by lightning, by wind, and by Native Americans who grew crops like corn, beans and squash in

A mature forest.

When Columbus arrived in America in 1492, its natives had been farming for a very long time. Indians in Peru grew peppers and beans 8,500 years ago. Corn, which Columbus introduced to Europe, was developed in Central Mexico about 7,000 years ago. More than 300 different kinds of crops were grown in the Americas by 1492, and most were unknown in Europe at the time. Three-fifths of the crops that are farmed today started in the Americas. American Indians used a mound system of farming, which conserves water and soil. They poked a hole in the ground, often with a planting stick, put in several seeds, and mounded earth over the seeds. The crops they planted, like corn, beans and squash were native to the Americas, and the Native Americans used plant breeding methods to develop strains of these crops that could grow in their local climates. Some of the Wisconsin tribes grew distinct

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strains of wild rice in different lakes and did not mix them. Although a few tribes in the southern United States kept half-wild flocks of turkeys around their villages, Indians in North America didn’t have any hoofed herd animals like goats, sheep and cattle. European settlers introduced a very different kind of agriculture. Their metal axes allowed them to clear the forests faster, and their plows turned the topsoil, exposing it to erosion by rain and wind. It has been estimated that due to such erosion, half of the rich prairie soil that existed before the Great Plains were farmed is now at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. European crops were “one-size-fits-all” varieties; instead of modifying the crop to suit the land, they modified the land to suit the crop. Fields that were not being plowed and fields that were too wet or too dry or too hilly to be plowed were used by the settlers for grazing. Livestock were also allowed to graze in uncleared forest patches as well. There wasn’t as much food in the forests, but the livestock welcomed the shade. Sheep and cattle chew the plants off close to the ground. Native plants have trouble recovering from that type of grazing, and livestock grazing allowed European grasses to take hold. The livestock that were turned loose to graze in the forests set the stage for introduced weeds, and then they introduced many of those weeds as seeds left behind in their droppings.

A sulphur butterfly gets nectar from red clover.

The grains and clovers planted by the settlers were new to America, and “weed” seeds that hitchhiked in the bags of agricultural seed also grew up around the farm fields. Along with field crops, each group of settlers planted orchards of imported fruit trees, “kitchen gardens” for their European vegetable crops, and gardens for the flowers and healing herbs they had enjoyed in their home countries.

Chicory is grown as livestock food in Europe. It’s related to the salad green Endive.

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Many of these plants, like chicory, ox-eye daisy, ragweed and plantain, are plants that love the sunny, newly-disturbed soils of plowed fields and road edges. Some of these introduced or “alien” plants, like teasel, mullein, Queen Anne’s lace, Kentucky bluegrass, brome grass and sweet clover, have become “invasive.” They are so successful that they crowd out native wildflowers and lower the diversity (the variety) of plants on the land. When native plants are crowded out, the animals that rely on them must adjust, move on, or die. As settlers controlled more and more land, there were fewer fires. Wisconsin’s landscape has changed greatly in the past 200 years.

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What were the first two “crops” these new farmers harvested from their fields? The first was trees, which were converted to firewood and charcoal and into lumber for homes, barns, stores, fences, sidewalks, furniture, bowls, and wagons – all their building needs. The settlers cut the trees but had to wait until the stumps rotted for a few years before they could pull them, using teams of oxen. In the mean time, they plowed a crooked furrow around the stumps. The second crop was rocks. Once the trees were cleared, it was time to “pick rocks.” The glacier deposited a wealth of rocks, mostly dolomite, on the Mequon Nature Preserve, and over thousands of years, soil formed over and from those rocks. In order to plow a field and raise crops, farmers had to remove the rocks that were at the surface. These they used in the foundations of their buildings and for rock walls to divide their fields, and when they ran out of building projects, they simply made rock piles. It was – and still is – a backbreaking job. Rocks are continually being moved toward the earth’s surface by the action of freezing and thawing on the soil. The first settlers in Wisconsin loaded rocks onto wagons and sledges, and today’s farmers may throw rocks into a front-loader, but rocks must still be “picked” so that fields may be plowed. Look for old rock walls and rock piles as you walk the trails – they are a sure sign of the farming history of the Preserve.

The rock foundation of an old Ozaukee County barn.

3. Grasslands There are two kinds of grasslands in southeastern Wisconsin today, prairie patches and old farm fields. Tallgrass prairie patches contain native grasses and wildflowers. A recipe for creating a prairie includes cold winters, warm summers, and fire. In prairie areas, much of the rain that falls on the ground evaporates back into the sky, leaving the soil dry. Many prairie plants have roots that grow five feet long or longer in order to reach water, and they have other adaptations that let them live in the extremes of temperature. It is a climate that is not friendly to trees, and trees and shrubs were also discouraged by the grazing by bison and elk. The great Eastern forests met the Western prairies in Wisconsin, where tallgrass prairies hugged the western edge of the forests. The prairie-forest edge has see-sawed back and forth for the past 8,000 years. Prairies spread farther east during a drought that lasted until 3,000 years ago (communities move slowly), and they retreated west again when the climate got wetter. Today, the climate of southeastern Wisconsin favors trees. True prairies are climax communities – that is, they are not on their way to becoming anything else.

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Fire helps prairies be prairies.

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The sun-loving plants of the prairie convert sunlight into a gigantic source of food that feeds many animals. When we think of prairies, we picture the tall plants and large animals. In fact, insects and spiders dominate the prairie by their numbers alone. It is said that one acre of grassland may contain a million spiders and that the biomass of insects (the total mass or weight of insects in a certain area) in the great prairies was greater than the biomass of the huge herds of bison. Because they are very fertile, prairies were eventually seen as choice land for farming. The Native Americans understood that fire was necessary to maintain the prairie, but the settlers didn’t set fires, which made it possible for trees to sprout. In 1837, John Deere invented a steel plow that was able to cut deeply into the sticky prairie sod for the first time. Most of the grasslands in southeastern Wisconsin today were not originally prairies; they were farms that were carved from the forests. Part of the open land at the Mequon Nature Preserve is still being farmed and part is an “old field” – former cropland or pastureland that is being left alone. Unlike prairies, old fields are on their way to becoming something else; in this part of Wisconsin old fields are a middle stage between farm and forest.

Black-eyed Susans are showy prairie flowers

Not all old fields age at the same speed, but most do go through similar steps as they age. The time period between field and forest depends on how long ago the field was last grazed or plowed, how disturbed the soil was, the local rainfall, hilliness, soil type, and the kinds of plants – native and alien – that are available around its edges. There are an endless number of combinations of plants that are possible in old fields as they move toward becoming a forest, but generally speaking, the first stages are predictable. Annual plants and grasses, especially European grasses like brome grass, arrive first. Annuals are the plants, like fleabane and cocklebur that start anew from seed each year and then die back completely in fall. Being an annual is a risky business. If the plants fail to make seeds, if their seeds are destroyed by insects or weather, or if bad weather the next spring keeps the seeds from sprouting, those annuals are wiped out of an area until new plants can move back in from outside. One kind of cocklebur, has found a way around this. Each bur contains two seeds – one that is able to grow the first year the seed is shed, and one that will not mature until the second year.

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Daisy fleabane was used by Native Americans to treat colds.

Soon, the annuals are joined by biennials like Russian thistle, burdock, Queen Anne’s lace and mullein, and by other native and alien species. Biennials have a two-year life span. During their first year, they only grow leaves near the ground. They store food in their roots and produce a flower stalk in their second summer. Grasses continue to be the main plant in most old fields. Grasses like the alien brome grass form thick mats of roots and dense thatches of old stems and leaves, and it can be hard for other plants to find an opening to grow in. Finally, the perennials like Bouncing Bet, asters and goldenrods begin to colonize. Perennial plants die back to the ground in fall, but the energy stored in their roots lets them re-grow from the same spot year after year. In the final steps toward becoming a forest, shrubs and then trees take over. Each plant stage has a set of animals, from tiny insects to large mammals, that goes with it.

The stem and root of the perennial Bouncing Bet were used as soap. Bouncing Bet was an English nickname for a laundry woman.

How long does it take to make the journey from a disturbed landscape to one covered with native plants? Left alone, the time needed for native plants to reclaim a disturbed field may be as short as 25 years, or it may be longer than a century. Growing a forest takes even longer. The Master Plan for the Mequon Nature Preserve calls for most of the land to be returned to forest. Thousands of native trees have already been planted at the Preserve and more will be planted as a part of that very long-term restoration plan.

4. The most unwanted What is a weed? There are lots of definitions: • A weed is a plant that’s growing in the wrong place; • A weed is an undesirable, unwanted, useless, or harmful plant; • A weed is a plant we are not familiar with; • A weed is a plant that grows easily and abundantly in a man-made habitat;

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• • •

A weed is a plant that competes with agricultural plants for soil, sun and water; A weed is a plant that is so plentiful that it crowds out native plants; A weed is a plant that man hasn’t found a use for yet. Remember, one person’s weed is another person’s wildflower, and viceversa.

There are a few native plants that are pests, like poison ivy and prickly ash, but most of the plants we call “weeds” are plants that came to America from Europe or Asia in the past 500 years or so. Many weeds have developed for thousands of years with the farm plants whose turf they invade. They like the same soil types and sunny growing conditions that the farm crops like, and some are not found away from agriculture.

Dandelion’s name comes from “dent de lion,” French for “tooth of the lion,” which describes its jagged leaves.

Weeds have some things in common, and dandelions are a perfect example of why weeds are so successful. The dandelion leaves, flowers and roots have been a very important source of food and drink for people for thousands of years, and it is rich in vitamins. It was introduced to America in 1620 because of its value as a medicine. Its ground-hugging leaves use the heat of the newly-warm ground in spring to get a jump-start on other plants. It’s very adaptable to different soil conditions, and it grows and blooms quickly. When it grows in short grass, its flower stalk is short, but when it grows in tall grass, its stem may be a foot long or longer.

Dandelions have a tap root, and if the tap root breaks in half when it’s being pulled, the bottom half will grow into a new plant. Like many other weeds, it makes lots and lots of seeds.

Flower-of-an-hour is a weed that is associated with farming.

Most farmers rotate the crops they plant, sowing corn one year, oats the next, and then hay (alfalfa). Soybeans are a relatively new crop on Wisconsin’s landscape, and they are now grown between oats and hay. These crops are grown in a set order because they either take out or restore certain minerals in the soil. Some weeds seem to be “partners” with each farm crop. Oats bring foxtail grass and ragweed. Corn brings flower-of-an-hour and velvet leaf (also called butter print because its stiff seed pods were used in frontier days to make fancy designs on pats of newly-made butter). Wild mustards, Canada thistle, fleabane, and quack grass share the farm fields and edges with hay. Amaranth grows with soybeans at the Mequon Nature Preserve. When an old farm field is left alone, the first annuals that start to grow there are usually the ones that are “partnered” with the last farm crop.

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Mug Shots – The Most UnWanted

Amaranth shares the fields with soybeans at the Preserve.

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Weed seeds are important foods for animals like mice, ground squirrels and insects. Birds don’t care if we call them weeds or wildflowers; the fields of the Mequon Nature Preserve are a cafeteria for migrating birds that stop, eat the seeds, and get the strength to continue their journeys south. Any seeds that are left over will feed local birds during the winter.

Garlic mustard invades disturbed ground, roadside ditches and woodlands.

Ragweed pollen is responsible for allergies and hay fever.

Goldenrod seeds will feed birds and mice in winter.

There are a few invasive woody plants in America (trees, shrubs, and vines), but most “weeds” are herbaceous – soft-stemmed plants that die back to the ground each winter. Even though some alien plants are pretty, many people don’t think that one pretty alien plant is a good trade for all the native plants it will crowd out. Volunteers at the Mequon Nature Preserve work to control and eliminate invasive plants.

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Burdock’s large leaves make the ground under it too shady for other plants to grow.

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Wild parsnip was brought to North America in 1625 as a food plant. Its sap can cause a blistering “burn” on people’s skin.

Crown vetch is planted to keep soil from eroding, but it spreads and crowds out native plants. It is very hard to control.

Yellow sweet clover and white sweet clover (not shown) take over fields and road edges. Eating sweet clover hay can make cattle sick.

Bindweed is one of the worst agricultural weeds because it has a huge root system that robs other plants of water.

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Queen Anne ’s lace was the parent plant for carrots. Its taproot has a carroty smell.

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European settlers used mullein as a medicine, and its thick, furry leaves were used to insulate boots and leggings.

St. Johnswort grows in pastures. Cattle sunburn easily when they have been grazing on St. Johnswort.

Russian thistle leaves grow in a ground-hugging rosette during its first year of life. Its leaves have frosty white tips.

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Asian bittersweet vines are planted as a decorative vine.

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The Russian thistle flowers in its second summer. It grows in thick clusters in waste places and its dead, prickly stems stay on the landscape after flowering.

Leafy spurge grows along roadsides and other open spaces. Chemicals from its roots and decaying leaves keep other plants from growing. Insects love leafy spurge.

Asian bittersweet vines kill their support trees by strangling the trunks, cutting off the flow of nutrients between the tops and the roots of the tree.

Teasel was brought to the United States on purpose about 300 years ago. The dried flower head was used to comb woven material to make it soft.

In the South, multiflora rose takes over pastures. It is becoming more common in Wisconsin as winters get milder.

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mixture of plants and animals from each community. A grasshopper eats grass and is eaten by a toad. The toad is caught by a garter snake, and the garter snake becomes a meal for a Red-tailed Hawk. When the Red-tailed Hawk dies, a variety of small animals, bacteria and fungi digest the hawk and recycle it.

Honeysuckle both shades and poisons the ground below it to discourage competing plants.

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A toad has dry skin and is found on land. Toads do not cause warts.

Autumn olive is a shrub that takes over grasslands. Birds love its berries.

5. Community life Whether it is a native prairie or an old farm field like much of the open land at the Mequon Nature Preserve, a grassland is an ecological community. A community is a set of plants and animals that live together in the same environment. Communities have borders called edges where they meet the neighboring community. You can easily see the border of the grassland community as it meets a woodland community like Gengler Woods or a wetland community of Paul’s Pond. Edges contain a

The energy of the sun allows plants to make food for themselves, and that energy is used by planteaters (herbivores) like the grasshopper. Herbivores are preyed on by meat-eaters (carnivores) like the toad, snake and hawk. Carnivores may be eaten by even bigger carnivores. Omnivores like ground squirrels eat plants and animals. When a plant or animal dies, its remains are food for scavengers, which break the large pieces of organic (once-living) material into smaller pieces that feed smaller scavengers. Decomposers finish the job. They absorb what’s left of the dead plant or animal, and they leave behind the minerals – the building blocks – that will be recycled by living plants and animals. The plants and animals that live there can find food, water, air, sun, soil, and space within their home community.

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Barn Swallows are important predators of flying insects over grasslands.

Sun-to-grass-to-grasshopper-to-toad-to-snaketo-hawk-to-decomposer. When these “dots” are connected, they form a simple “food chain,” but the flow of energy in a community is never simple. A food chain that starts with grass branches out quickly. Grasshoppers eat many plants besides grass, and grass is eaten by many animals besides grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are prey for birds and for foxes and other mammals. The huge jumble of interwoven food chains in any community is called a food web. Some strands of the grassland food web reach outside the grassland and include animals like whitetailed deer and red-tailed hawks that live in the woodland or edge and visit the grassland for food. All of the grassland dwellers are connected by this exchange of energy. Within its borders, a community feeds itself.

Dragonflies skim the air above the grass tops for small insects. Sometimes these insect-eaters get eaten by the Barn Swallows.

Animals need shelter – places to sleep, to raise their young, to hide from predators, and to get out of the heat or cold or rain. Look around the fields at the Mequon Nature Preserve. Where do grassland animals find shelter? How large an animal could hide there? The habitats that exist with the grassland community fit the needs of the animals that live in them. Within its borders, a community shelters itself.

An orb-weaving spider finds shelter in a cone of leaves at the top of a milkweed.

A habitat is the place where you would look for a particular plant or animal – a place that has

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everything that plant or animal needs. Like the other communities at the Mequon Nature Preserve, the grasslands are divided like a jigsaw puzzle into many smaller habitats. These separate nooks and crannies are part of the whole grassland community, but they may be quite different from each other. Compare the weather experienced by an insect that lives just below the ground, a grasshopper in a thicket of flower and grass stems, an ant under a rock, an insect that spends its life inside a milkweed stem, and a spider that lives on a milkweed flower. They may live just inches apart but their worlds are dramatically different. Animals (like plants) look for just the right combination of light, darkness, temperature, humidity, and wind. The thick clump of grass stems, the plant stem, the soil and the flower are all microclimates – they are small areas with different weather within the larger grassland community.

cold. The plants and animals that live there must be adapted for life in extreme weather. In search of water, grassland root systems may run deep or wide. Taproots, thick, carrot-like roots, are common and so are shallow root systems that spread out in search of water. The top six inches of soil contains lots of roots. A Common milkweed may have roots 15 feet long, just below the soil surface. At least half of each grassland plant is below the surface, much more than wetland or woodland plants. Unlike the trees in a woodland, most of a grassland plant is below the snow in winter. The largest leaves of many grassland plants are found close to the ground, where the weather is more stable, but the weather on the ground changes as the growing season goes on. Grasslands bloom in stages. The shortest plants bloom in late spring; mid-level plants bloom by mid-summer, and the tallest plants bloom toward the end of summer. It’s all about shade. As plants mature they grow more stems and leaves, which make shade and act as a windbreak for whatever’s below them. Temperatures are cooler in the thatch of flower and grass stalks near the ground than they are at the tops of the plants.

The widow skimmer hunts for insects from the air, but it perches near the ground, sheltered by the grass stems.

6. Life in the sun Plants and animals of the woodlands are shielded from the weather by the shadeproducing, umbrella-like canopy of trees (see “The Anatomy of a Forest – Looking Up” in the chapter on Woodlands). Conditions in the pond change slowly because it takes a lot of energy to alter the temperature of water (see the chapter on Paul’s Pond), and the effects of rain and wind on pond-dwellers are usually small. But grasslands are completely exposed to sun, rain and snow, wind, flood and drought, heat and

The rosette of a prairie plant in early spring

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If the grass is short, the plants and animals at ground level face sunnier, hotter and windier weather than they would if the grass were long. In cooler weather, plants that hug the soil can take advantage of the heat that is stored in the ground each day, and they may start growing when it’s too cold for other plants. In hot weather, only the top surfaces of their leaves are exposed to the sun. Grassland plants often have smaller, narrower, thicker, hairier, or more leathery leaves and stems than their woodland relatives do. Hairs reflect the sun’s rays and also slow down the wind that hits the surfaces of leaves and stems, reducing water loss. The leathery texture of milkweed’s leaves help prevent them from drying out. Surrounded by sun, grassland plants do not need big sun-catching leaves like forest plants do, and narrow leaves also protect a plant from drying and over-heating. The largest animals in the grassland are grazers. Grassland plants need protection from the weather, but they also need to defend themselves against grazing. If you look in a livestock pasture in August, you can see the plants that have the best protection against horses, cattle or sheep. Rosettes of leaves on the ground are harder for grazers to reach, and hairs, thorns and spines on the leaves and stems discourage grazers. Another defense is chemical; milkweeds and buttercups have bitter or poisonous sap.

The thistle’s spines don’t bother a tiger swallowtail looking for nectar.

Some plants protect themselves against competition from other plants so they don’t have to share the space, water, or soil. Burdock’s large leaves make too much shade for other plants to sprout below them, but the leaves are angled on the stem so the plant doesn’t shade its own leaves. Plants like honeysuckle and spurge practice chemical warfare. Using a strategy called allelopathy, they put a chemical into the soil that is poisonous to other kinds of plants that might compete with them. Shrubs like sumac, honeysuckle, and prickly ash carry the competition one step farther. They make seeds, but, like the cattails in the wetlands, they also send up sprouts from their roots. These can grow into very dense stands of shrubs that shade out the competition.

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they may also simply “freeze” and blend into their background.

Snapping turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs in sunny places.

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Tiny, pale grass flowers dangle from the head of the plant.

Grasses developed many thousands of years ago during a long period of drought, and every part of the plant is supremely adapted to life in the open. Tall and skinny, their hollow stems allow them to bend in the wind without breaking, and their narrow leaves catch the sun but don’t create too much “drag” in the wind or rain. Grass leaves are tough and challenging to grazers (but grazers have developed their own adaptations for eating and digesting grasses). Most of the grass plant is underground. Dense root masses are efficient soil-holders, waterfinders, and water-holders. As anyone who mows a lawn has observed, grass that is mowed – or grazed or burned – keeps coming up because it re-sprouts from its root, not from its top. Its many small flowers are wind-pollinated, and allergy-sufferers will agree that grass produces vast amounts of pollen. Grassland animals are usually well-camouflaged by brown or gray fur or feathers. They often have long legs that let them “stand up” and look for predators over the tops of the plants. They use speed to get away from their predators, but

Snapping turtles in the grasslands? Amphibians like frogs, salamanders and toads must lay their soft eggs in the water, or the eggs would dry out. The eggs of reptiles like turtles and snakes have a tough, leathery shell. Snapping turtles and painted turtles (see “Who Goes There?” in the chapter on the Streich Family Wetlands) live in the water, but they come to grasslands and other sunny areas to lay their eggs. They dig a hole with their back legs, and they lay their eggs in the hole. Then they cover the eggs up with dirt and walk away. The heat of the sunlight on the dirt turns the nest into a mini-oven which incubates the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the baby snappers, with shells about one inch across, must walk overland to find water.

A turtle nest that was dug up and cleaned out by a predator.

Most turtle eggs don’t make it. Many nests are raided by raccoons, foxes, or skunks before the

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eggs even hatch. Those that do hatch face a dangerous trip across open land, where predators may spot them. Turtles are easily disturbed when they are laying eggs. If you see a turtle laying her eggs along a trail at the Mequon Nature Preserve, please don’t bother her. Try to walk in back of her so she can’t see you.

7. Rock walls

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The rock walls created by generations of farmers are a community within a community. Surrounded by bight sunlight and the extremes of weather, rock walls provide a home for animals like snakes, insects and millipedes that need a dark, damp and cool environment, and these old walls are shelter for animals that prefer the security of burrows.

Milk snakes live in the fields near rock walls. Please leave snakes alone at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

Besides giving shelter to animals, rock walls act as nurseries for plants. Algae, mosses and lichens cover the rock surfaces and gradually make soil for larger plants. Seeds of trees and shrubs that land in the shelter of the rocks grow from the middle of the old walls. Over time, an old wall’s value to wildlife increases as the rock walls became shrub lines and the shrubs are replaced by trees.

This wall of moss and algae-covered rocks was made by farmers clearing a field.

8. The next generation For plants as well as for animals, the point of being alive is to produce the next generation. Most flowers need to have pollen brought to them from a different flower in order to be fertilized so they can make seeds. Pollen may blow through the air or be brought by insects or birds. Many flowers are equipped with “insectfriendly” colors, smells, “landing strips,” or lines in their petals that invite animals to visit and feed. Lines on a petal that look faint to us may look like super highways to insects that can see different light waves than we can. Other flowers are designed to be pollinated by birds like hummingbirds. Those flowers don’t need odors or platforms to land on; since most birds have no sense of smell, and hummingbirds hover without landing. An insect that comes for a drink of nectar may leave with a load of pollen, which it carries to the next plant it feeds on. Once the pollinators have done their jobs, the plants can make seeds. After the seeds have grown, dispersing them – getting them away from the parent plant so they can grow in new ground – is the next challenge. As you walk through the communities at the Mequon Nature Preserve, try to spot the different methods of seed dispersal.

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it won’t grow for long. It’s a big gamble, and plants increase the odds by producing many seeds.

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Maple seeds are “helicopter” seeds.

The way seeds are spread depends on the habitat of the parent plants. Water plants make seeds that sink, that are eaten by animals, or that are carried away by currents. Woodland plants are sheltered from the full force of the wind. Since they can’t depend on wind to disperse their seeds, their seeds are heavier, designed to spread in other ways. Many forest trees depend on gravity to plant their seeds. The “wings” on maple and ash seeds cause them to helicopter down and spiral into the ground. Seeds of box elder and ash trees often stay attached to their trees well into the winter. They break off during winter storms and find new growing places when the wind pushes them across the surface of the snow. Birds and rodents eat and hide (and plant) acorns, beechnuts and maple and ash seeds. There are a few plants, like the witch hazel shrub of the woodlands and the jewelweed of the wetlands, whose seeds explode out of their pods. Most grassland wildflowers and weeds produce huge numbers of seeds. Seeds of plants that grow in the open may spread by gravity, with the help of animals, or by parachuting through the air. Lots of animals eat the seeds, but there’s no guarantee that a seed that travels through the air, in an animal’s stomach or on its fur (or on a kid’s jacket) will ever land in the right place to grow. The right place has the correct amount of sun and water and the right kind of soil for that species of plant. A seed may sprout for a while in a spot that is too sunny, too shady, too wet or too dry or that has the wrong soil chemistry, but

Mullein flowers are arranged on a tall stalk; only a few flowers bloom at a time.

Mullein is a very successful alien plant whose tiny seeds simply fall to the ground near the parent plant. The seeds of the wetland invasive Purple Loosestrife spread the same way. Mullein seeds are so small that they sift right through the thatch of grasses and leaves at the base of the parent plant. Mullein likes bare, disturbed ground, and its seeds can wait – for a century if necessary – for the growing conditions that suit it.

The hitchhiking seed pods of tick trefoil are covered with short, “sticky” bristles.

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Hitchhiking seeds have a variety of hooks, bristles and sticky hairs that attach themselves to feathers, fur – and clothing – so the seed can be carried away from its parent plant. The seed or pod pulls loose from the plant easily. Hitchhikers use different strategies. Some hitchhikers are individual seeds, and others are pods or seed heads containing lots of seeds. When you try to pull a burdock off a coat or out of a dog’s fur, the seed head crumbles and the individual seeds are released.

Cockleburs are firm and sharp and their hooked barbs can be painful.

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Wind-blown seeds work very well for plants that grow in the open. Airborne or “parachute” seeds usually have a small, light seed at the center of a ball or umbrella of fluff.

An old Queen Anne’s Lace flower looks like a mini-bird’s nest. Its bristly seeds are hitchhikers.

The inventor of Velcro got his idea from the seed heads of the invasive Burdock plant.

The cattails of the Mequon Nature Preserve wetlands (see “Adapting for Survival” in the chapter on Paul’s Pond) are a perfect example of why plants with air-borne seeds produce lots of seeds. Cattails grow at the edge, with water on one side and dry land on the other. Most of their airborne seeds will get eaten or will fall on soil that is too dry for the seed to grow, but some will land in the water.

Cattails shed their seeds in fall and winter when the seed head dries out.

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Milkweed seeds develop inside large pods on the plant.

When their pods dry out at the end of summer, the parachuting milkweed seeds are released.

Some seeds are known as “bird poop seeds.” Birds (and some mammals) eat the seeds, which may be inside a fruit, and the seed travels through the animals’ gut. When the seed is released in the animal’s droppings, it may be far from its parent plant. Honeysuckle and buckthorn are two invasive grassland shrubs that are spread by birds. If you look around the edges of a bird bath, you can see seedlings of plants that were deposited on the ground in bird droppings as birds drank.

Honeysuckle berries are a favorite food of robins and other birds, which may get drunk on old berries. The berries shouldn’t be eaten by people.

Grass seeds have many ways of spreading. Goatbeard seeds look like giant dandelion seeds – or miniature umbrellas.

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Depending on their species, grass seeds use all of the methods listed above. They may be eaten by mice and birds, may have a barbed covering that stick to by-passers, may get knocked off the plant and simply fall to the ground, may get buried by an animal that is storing them for future use, or, like some of the original grasses that came to this continent, may arrive accidentally with other kinds of seeds.

to find food. Three or four inches of snow cover the earth with a blanket that keeps the soil and soil animals at 20 to 30 degrees while the air above them may be much, much colder. The small animals that live in the dirt are insulated under an igloo of snow.

Food is tough to find when the snow falls.

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Most wild seeds never get planted.

9. A word about snow

Mice can tunnel in shallow snow.

What good is snow? Snow has a dramatic effect on the survival of most of the plants and animals of the Mequon Nature Preserve. An inch or two of snow is enough for mice and shrews to tunnel in. It hides them from predators like coyotes and Red-tailed Hawks, but small meat-eaters like weasels will dive right into the tunnels after their prey. An inch or two of snow means that birds like pheasants and turkeys that eat seeds off the ground have to scratch through the snow

Squirrels and rabbits will tunnel into deeper snow, looking for food. A fox can still trot easily in six inches of snow, but it must “bound” (take leaping strides) if the snow gets deeper. Bounding takes a lot of energy. Catching prey becomes more important, but lightweight prey, like cottontail rabbits, may be able to stay on the snow’s surface and escape more easily. Deer can walk on a thick snow crust; in deep drifts, deer “yard up,” staying in sheltered spots and eating every bit of food in a small area. Winter is a dangerous time for animals, and they emerge into the spring hungry and with their populations at a low point for the year.

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fossil dragonflies have been found that have three-foot wingspreads.

In the spring, melting snow replenishes the ground water and wetlands and “waters the plants” that grow on the landscape.

More than three-quarters of all known animal species are insects. Over a million different kinds of insects have been named and described, and there may be another million waiting to be discovered. About 100,000 different species of insects live in North America. The weight of all the insects in the Mequon Nature Preserve is probably greater than the total weight of the deer, raccoons, ducks, etc. that live on the land, and it has been estimated that the weight of all the insects eaten by spiders in the world each year is greater than the weight of the world’s people. They really, really do outnumber us.

Humans are the only animals that follow tracks like these squirrel tracks; predators hunt by smelling or seeing their prey.

The head, thorax and abdomen of this meadowhawk dragonfly are easy to see.

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When the snow melts, the winter work of mice can be seen.

10. Lives of the six and eight-legged The Six Legged Insects are an astonishingly successful group of animals, and they are a major presence in the grasslands of the Mequon Nature Preserve. Insects are everywhere, from basements to oceans to mountain tops. They do everything; they are herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, scavengers, and decomposers. Insects have been around for a long time – 300 million-year-old

Insects have bodies that are divided into three main parts, the head, the thorax (“chest”) and the abdomen (“gut”). An insect’s legs are attached to its thorax and so are its wings, if it has wings. Most kinds of insects have four wings; some have two wings, and some have none. Most insects develop in one of two ways. The young of the first group of insects hatch looking pretty much like an adult, and just eat and molt (shed their skin) until they are adults. The process is called simple metamorphosis, and the young are often called nymphs. Metamorphosis

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means “change form” and refers to the way animals grow and change from their young to their adult stages. Grasshoppers, aphids, ambush bugs, and spittlebugs develop this way. Insects in the second group hatch as a wormlike larva that eats until it has enough energy to change into an adult. A caterpillar is a larva. A larva’s resting-changing stage is called the pupa. Butterflies, flies, wasps, and beetles develop this way, which is called complete metamorphosis. Most insects live far less than a year as adults, and they usually spend the winter as eggs or as pupas.

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Inside this case, a beetle pupa is changing to an adult beetle.

Grasshoppers in the Short-horned Grasshopper group have short antennae, and those in the Long-horned Grasshopper group have antennae that are as long as their body.

Field crickets are dark and chunky, with long antennae. Although field crickets have wings, their wings are too short to carry their weight, so they can’t fly. Field crickets eat plants, but they also feed on dead and dying insects when they can find them. The female has a long, sharplooking ovipositor (an “egg depositor”) that looks like a stinger, which she pokes into the ground or into plant stems to lay her eggs. She does not sting people.

Cricket wings are too short to allow them to fly.

Insects are very important to humans. On the minus side, some spread disease, bite or sting, tunnel where we don’t want tunnels, or eat the same foods we do. On the plus side, insects pollinate our crops, eat their harmful cousins, get rid of dead plants and animals, convert plant energy into animal energy for carnivores to use, add beauty to the landscape, and provide food for birds, fish and many animals, including people. People worldwide have made use of the protein they get from eating insects.

Meet the Grasshoppers Some of the most common insects in the Mequon Nature Preserve grasslands are grasshoppers. Grasshoppers have long legs for leaping, and many kinds can also fly. They are mainly plant-eaters, though some kinds eat other insects or scavenge on dead insects.

Male crickets make noise by friction, rubbing a “scraper” at the base of one wing against a “file” located on the base of the other, like a thumbnail on a comb. Animals that make sound must be able to hear sound, and crickets’ “ears” are located on their front legs. They chirp to attract females and scare off rival males. A cricket’s rate of chirping gets faster as the temperature around it gets warmer. There is a formula for figuring the temperature based on the chirp rate of crickets. For the field cricket, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, add 40, and you have the temperature of the spot on the ground, in the dense, grassy microclimate where the cricket is sitting. Katydids call both day and night. They have two sets of wings; the back pair of wings is used for flying, and sound is made with the front pair.

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They make sounds by stridulation (friction) by rubbing the stiff edge of one forewing against a comb-like “file” on the other. Katydids have a slit-like “ear” on each front leg. To pick up sound, they raise a leg, kind of like a human cupping their hand behind an ear. Along with stridulation, they may also “talk” to each other by thumping on twigs to make vibrations, and some kinds of katydids make ultrasonic sounds.

the adults, and skunks, shrews, mice, and moles feed on eggs buried in the soil.

A female two-lined grasshopper depositing eggs.

A ton of locusts can eat as much as can 250 people – or 10 elephants. The “tobacco juice” that a grasshopper spits out on your hand is just its stomach contents and is harmless.

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This young bush katydid doesn’t have full-sized wings yet.

In late summer or early fall, a female katydid lays her eggs in or on plants. The eggs hatch the following spring, and the newly-hatched young katydids (nymphs) look like the adults, except that they have no wings or reproductive organs. After a few weeks of growing, a nymph has added all of its adult parts. Most katydids eat plants, but some species prey on other insects and even on other katydids. Katydids are large, plentiful, harmless, and tasty. Even though they are well-camouflaged, they are an important food for birds, including birds of prey like owls and kestrels, and for rodents, insects, and spiders. Short-horned grasshoppers like red-legged and two-lined grasshoppers are mostly vegetarians. These are medium to large-sized grasshoppers and locusts of open spaces, and the family includes some serious crop pests. In summer, the females drill holes in soft soil and lay about 20 eggs in each hole. There, the eggs spend the winter. Nymphs appear in late spring and mature by early summer. Short-horned grasshoppers are an important food source for animals. Skunks, birds, snakes, and toads eat

Carolina locusts eat grasses, wildflowers, “weeds,” and sometimes beans. The courtship dance of a Carolina locust is fun to watch. A male locust flies up from a weedy field, lawn, vacant lot, or dusty dirt road or path. When he gets about three feet above the ground, he “hovers” for a moment, twitching and clicking, before dropping to earth again.

A Carolina locust is well camouflaged when it’s sitting still.

These locusts are sometimes mistaken for Mourning Cloak butterflies (see the chapter on Woodlands) because their flying wings are dark with cream-colored edges. Bright wing patterns are called “flash colors.” In flight their wings and flight noises may attract a predator, but

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once the grasshopper lands and tucks in its flying wings, it is very well camouflaged.

Adult froghoppers are small and drab. They can jump and fly, but they can no longer make “spit.”

Spittlebug “Snake spit,” “Cuckoo Spit,” and “Frog spit” are other names for these bubbly masses of foam that are seen on grasses, on wildflowers, and even in trees.

Aphid Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that suck juices from the flowers, leaves, and plant stems through their sharp “beak.” A few aphids won’t damage a plant, but large numbers of aphids can be harmful.

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Spittlebug on grass.

The “spit” is made by plant juice that flows through the body of a small, soft-bodied young spittlebug or froghopper (the nymph). The nymphs eat plant juices that they suck from a plant, using their sharp beak like a drinkingstraw, while sitting upside down. They suck in more plant juice that they can possibly use for food. The extra juice flows through their body and exits at the tip of their abdomen. There the juice is mixed with a sticky liquid made by the nymph, and air is whipped into it like a tiny Cappuccino machine. The result is a mass of bubbles that is tough enough to last for days and to survive rainstorms. The humidity inside the mass of “spit” helps the nymph breathe and keeps its soft skin from drying out. The foam’s bad taste and unlikely appearance protects the nymph from most (but not all) predators.

Ants farming aphids on the underside of a leaf.

The extra sap that an aphid drinks comes out the tip of its abdomen and falls on nearby leaves. Wasps, butterflies and flies feed on these sweet droplets (honeydew). Some species of ants "farm" aphids. They protect their chosen “herd” of aphids by chasing away enemies like ladybugs

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and by carrying the aphids to new feeding areas. The ants "milk" their aphids by stroking the aphid’s abdomen, and aphids give off a drop of honeydew for the ant to eat. It is said that aphids reproduce so quickly that a female aphid that starts walking up the stem of a plant will be a great-grandmother by the time she reaches the top.

Ambush Bug

Can you spot the ambush bug that caught this small wasp?

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How? Ambush bugs are awesomely camouflaged. Their front legs are very strong, and each front leg ends in a hook that works like a pincer. When it catches its prey, an ambush bug pierces the prey with a sharp “beak” and injects a chemical that stuns its prey and softens its insides. The ambush bug sucks out the insides of its prey and throws away its empty skin.

An ambush bug is easy to see on New England aster.

If you see an insect that is dangling from a flower or that stays on a flower-top without moving as you approach, you may be looking at the prey of an ambush bug. If you are lucky, you’ll see the master predator itself. Ambush bugs are small, about 1/2 inch long, but they can capture other insects like bumblebees that are much larger than they are.

Tent caterpillar Eastern Tent caterpillars emerge by the hundreds from egg cases that circle the twigs of their food trees – shrubs and small trees like apple, cherry, and hawthorn that grow in the open and near the edges of woodlands. The caterpillars spin webby tents in the forks of the trunk or branches in late spring and summer, and each tent holds many caterpillars. A tent is made of layers of tough silk, spun in great sheets with many “doors.” The web of the tent caterpillar is its home but not its dining room; it feeds on leaves outside the tent.

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Tent caterpillar webs are spun in the forks of branches.

Monarch butterfly Monarchs are present at the Mequon Nature Preserve from May through September, but the monarchs that visit the goldenrods and asters at the end of summer are programmed to migrate all the way to Mexico in fall. In spring, the same butterflies that flew south and spent the winter in the mountains of central Mexico will begin the trip back north. They don’t live long enough to get all the way back to Mequon, but they lay eggs as they go, and their offspring and their offspring’s offspring follow the milkweed crop north and eventually return to Wisconsin. Here, they may produce two more, short-lived generations during the summer, but only the final brood of summer migrates.

If you look closely at a tent, you can see inside it beads of “frass” (insect droppings) along with tiny, accordion-like shed skins. As the caterpillars grow, the old, inside layers get crowded and new, roomier layers are spun over the old one. The tent is a “climate-controlled” greenhouse that stores warmth and humidity and provides some protection from predators. When the caterpillars are mature, they leave their web and pupate for about three weeks before becoming adults. With the caterpillars gone, the web starts to fall apart. In early fall, a different kind of caterpillar, the fall webworm, also makes a big tent in shrubs, but it spins its tent around the outside of the clump of leaves it plans to eat. When it has eaten all the food inside its web, it moves to fresh leaves and encloses them.

A monarch butterfly eats the nectar from a milkweed flower.

Monarchs navigate by the sun. The shortening of the hours of daylight in early fall helps “set” the monarch’s clock, and the changing tilt of the earth in late summer also plays a role.

Bumblebee The big bumblebees that visit spring’s early flowers are queen bumblebees. Bumblebees do not store food over the winter, and only the queen survives until spring. She emerges early to compete with other queens for nest sites (often in deserted rodent burrows), but her body

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is extra hairy and well insulated against the chill of April. When she finds a nest, a queen camouflages it by piling dried plant material outside its entrance, but even so, a rival queen will sometimes find it and evict the original owner.

Morning dew reveals the beauty of a spider web.

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A worker bumblebee searches for pollen on Purple Coneflower.

A queen collects moss and grass and forms them into a nest inside her tunnel. Then she collects pollen, forms it into bean-sized loaves and lays her eggs (400 to 1,000) on the loaves. When her young hatch, they eat the pollen loaves and soon form pupas. When they emerge as adults, the female workers will care for the queen and for the future broods and will gather pollen and nectar. Bumblebees “buzz pollinate” some flowers – they set up a vibration that causes pollen to be released.

And the eight-legged Insects eat both plants and animals, living or dead, but spiders are carnivores (meat eaters) that hunt live prey. They are important predators of insects on the ground and on plants. Some spiders trap their prey in webs, and others ambush their prey or chase it like a wolf. Spiders’ bodies have two parts: a combined head and thorax (cephalothorax) and an abdomen, and they have eight legs.

Orb weavers

Bumblebees wear nature’s warning colors – yellow and black. They do sting, but like many bees and wasps, they are more aggressive near their nests or if they are “bugged.” Their hidden nests often surprise hikers, outdoor workers and livestock.

A banded argiope orb weaver on her web in a field.

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The “garden spiders,” like Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web, are large spiders in the “Orbweaver” group. They stretch their flat, sticky, roughly round webs between twigs or stalks of grass from mid-summer through fall. The female spins the center of the web, using silk that is made in her abdomen, and the male spins the outside. He often adds a thick, zigzag “zipper” that may attract insects or may make the web easier for bats to avoid. Orb-weavers are fascinating to watch, but you have to move slowly so you don’t scare them. Young orb weavers stay together for a few days after leaving their egg case.

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Funnel-web spiders Flat, grass-hugging sheet webs with a tornadoshaped hole in the top are spun by funnel-web spiders. Unlike the web of an orb-weaver, the web of a funnel-web spider is not sticky. When an insect flies or hops onto the web’s top layer, it slides down the funnel. The spider waits at the bottom of the funnel for its prey to arrive.

A black and yellow garden spider and her prey, a cicada.

Female orb-weavers place their eggs in a sac and attach the sac to the edge of the web or to a nearby plant where they can protect it. The young hatch in fall, but they stay in the sac, eating yolk material (and each other) until it’s warm enough to emerge in spring. Orb-weavers have nine eyes but their eyesight isn’t very good. When an insect flies or hops into their web, they find it by following the vibrations of the web.

The web of a funnel-web spider, covered with dew.

Funnel webs are very tough, and if they are not disturbed they may last for months. Funnel webs are easy to notice when they are covered with dew. Some birds steal webs from the spiders and use them to line their nests.

Crab spiders Crab spiders move sideways and backwards across the flower tops, holding their front pair of legs like a crab holds its claws. Crab spiders

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don’t use webs for hunting, they rely on camouflage and ambush to catch insects that visit flowers. When they nab an unwary insect, they use a few of their eight legs to hold their prey up in the air while they suck out its juices.

A yellow-colored goldenrod spider hunts on black-eyed Susan. A crab spider waits for her prey on a flower top.

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The flower spider or goldenrod spider is a common crab spider at the Mequon Nature Preserve. It can change color from white to yellow and back to white, based on the color it sees around it. Each switch takes a week or two.

Daddy longlegs Harvestmen or daddy long-legs are not true spiders, but they have eight legs and are spider relatives. The females are larger than the males, but the males are more brightly-colored. Even though they have eyes, daddy longlegs don’t see very well, but they can feel sound through vibrations. They smell, taste, and touch with their long, second pair of legs. If you watch a daddy longlegs for a while, you will probably see it cleaning those legs.

A honeybee falls prey to a crab spider.

A daddy longlegs rests on a leaf

Daddy–longlegs do not make a web; most are carnivores that catch their food on the run. They hunt for soft-bodied prey like insect eggs, small insects like aphids, and critters as large as snails and earthworms. These they squeeze with their

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pincers and then stuff into their mouth. Daddy longlegs do not have the poisonous fangs of true spiders, but they do produce a smelly odor as a defense. They are harmless to people.

11. Milkweed and goldenrod – bug magnets Milkweeds start to bloom in late June, and goldenrods begin to flower by mid-August. They attract many different kinds of insects, spiders, and other small animals. Ragweed, mentioned in the “Most Unwanted” section, is a big cause of allergies and hay fever, but its flowers are small and green. It blooms at the same time as goldenrod, which has very showy yellow flowers that “promise” pollen and nectar. Many people wrongly blame goldenrod for their allergies, but goldenrod pollen is very heavy and doesn’t blow through the air like ragweed pollen does. Insects that have milkweed in their diet at some point in their life cycle are poisonous to their predators because of the poisons contained in milkweed sap. They often wear nature’s warning colors – yellow and black or red and black – to advertise their toxicity. Look on the flowers, seeds, leaves and stems of milkweed and goldenrod for the folllowing insects – and more.

Red milkweed beetles are in a group of beetles called Long-horned beetles because they have long antennae. Long-horned beetles are often large and colorful. Red milkweed beetles eat the leaves of common milkweed. Their grubs (young beetles) feed on stems and roots of milkweed, and they spend the winter inside the stem. They are sometimes called “four-eyed beetles” because each antenna sits in a socket in the middle of an eye, dividing it in two. Red milkweed beetles are not camouflaged; their color says “Stay away!”

Monarch caterpillars, like most caterpillars, are picky eaters. Adults get nectar from many kinds of flowers, but a female monarch will lay her eggs only on actively-growing milkweed plants because that’s the only food her caterpillars will eat. How does she know one plant from another? She knows “milkweed” and “not milkweed.” She scratches a leaf with a rough spot on the bottom of her foot, and she “tastes” the plant with her foot or with her long tongue (proboscis). If it doesn’t “taste” like milkweed, she doesn’t lay her eggs.

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves. A red milkweed beetle doesn’t need to hide from predators because it’s poisonous.

Monarch eggs are laid on the undersides of milkweed leaves, and impossibly tiny caterpillars hatch a few days later. They grow from egg to

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adult in a little less than a month, spending around four days in the egg, ten or twelve days as a caterpillar, and twelve as a pupa in a palegreen chrysalis. Monarch caterpillars are toxic and bitter, and a bird that eats one will avoid the next one it sees.

Milkweed Tussock moths are the other common milkweed caterpillar. They are similar in color to monarchs, but tussock moth caterpillars are fuzzy. Female milkweed tussock moths lay their eggs in clusters, and the caterpillars stay in groups during the first part of their lives. They don’t really compete with monarch caterpillars because monarchs are found on newer, still-growing leaves, and tussock moths like older plants. The adult tussock moths are silvery-white moths with ragged wing edges.

globs of white, dried “latex” that has seeped from the chewed part of the plant. The larvae develop in the stem, eating its pith material. Like many other beetles, they drop to the ground when they are startled.

You have to look closely to find these small milkweed stem weevils.

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A goldenrod and milkweed picture gallery

The caterpillars of Milkweed tussock moths, also called Harlequin moths, feed on milkweed leaves in groups early in their lives.

Milkweed stem weevils are “short-snouted” weevils that appear on milkweeds well before they flower. Milkweed stem weevils gnaw into the leaves, and later into the stems of common milkweeds. Females chew a series of holes in the stem and lay their eggs in the holes. You can see the scars on the plant’s stem or look for little

A crab spider caught a meal and is hanging on. Can you spot a few of the spider’s legs?

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Honeybees love milkweed, but they sometimes get their feet stuck in the flower when they try to remove its pollen sacs.

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Small milkweed bugs burrow into the pods and suck sap from milkweed seeds.

Insect eggs hidden on the under-side of a milkweed leaf.

Green stinkbugs feed on plant juices. They protect themselves by spraying a smelly liquid at their enemies.

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A gray tree frog sits on a milkweed leaf, waiting for an unwary insect to eat. Gray tree frogs can change color from gray to green and back, very slowly Velvety-looking blister beetles ooze a chemical from their leg joints that causes an itchy blister. Don’t touch!

A honeybee forages on stiff goldenrod.

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Many large solitary wasps drink nectar from goldenrods in late summer. They also look for insects and spiders to put into their young’s egg chamber.

A ladybug hunts on goldenrod for aphids to eat.

The growths on goldenrod stems – goldenrod ball galls – are caused by a small fly larva growing inside it.

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12. Some more sun-lovers Bur oak Bur oaks can thrive in prairie communities that other trees can’t grow in. They are hardy enough to survive drought, cold, fire, and either very wet or very dry soils, and they often live for 200 to 300 years or more. Bur oaks can survive dry conditions because they have a long taproot that connects them with the water table. The top of the bur oak grows very slowly, but a three foot tall tree may have a six-foot taproot.

Bur oak is one of the white oaks. The edged of its leaves are rounded, not pointed.

Bur oak acorns are the largest produced by any American oak, and they are enjoyed by people and by animals like deer, ground squirrels, rabbits, mice, and blue jays. Native Americans used its bark for medicine and its acorns for food. A large bur oak in the middle of a field may be used as a nest tree by Red-tailed Hawks.

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The thick, corky bark of a bur oak helps it survive quick, hot prairie fires.


The thick bark of a bur oak is an adaptation that protects it from fire. A large tree may not be damaged by fire at all, and if the top of a smaller tree is killed, it will send up sprouts from the base of its trunk.

Chokecherries are sun-loving shrubs.

Hundreds of years ago, chokecherry was the most important fruit to the Native Americans on the Great Plains. It was an ingredient in pemmican, a mixture of dried meat, fat, and sometimes fruit that was pounded together, and

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formed into loaves. Pemmican was used, like today’s energy bars, as a travel food. Chokecherry fruit, including the hard pits, was pounded and dried in the sun, making “fruit leather,” and its bark was used in medicines. Its name – chokecherry – comes from people’s reactions to eating the very sour fruit. Wild birds and mammals eat the fruit and seeds, and tent caterpillars often spin their tents in the branches of chokecherries.

members of the Composite family. Each purple “petal” is an individual flower, and the center is made up of many separate yellow or orange flowers. Asters bloom from mid-summer through September, and they are among the last flowers of fall. Asters are perennials that appear in the later stages of a field’s development.

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New England asters can be purple or rosy-colored.

Chokecherry seeds are spread by birds and mammals that eat its fruit.

Chokecherries have also developed a way to survive prairie fires. Chokecherries produce clones. They do make seeds that get eaten by animals and deposited away from the parent plants, but they also send up sprouts from their roots. A clump of choke cherries may be all the same plant. Fire may kill the plant above the ground, but its roots will continue to send up new shoots. Prickly ash and sumac, two other shrubs of the forest edges and fields, also grow in dense clumps because of cloning.

New England aster and other asters Each flower head of an aster is really a bouquet all by itself. Asters, like daisies, dandelions, goldenrods, thistles and sunflowers, are

There are many kinds of asters. Most of them are white with much smaller flower heads than the New England asters’, and they can be tricky to tell apart. If you look at the asters that grow in the woodlands at the Mequon Nature Preserve, you will see plants with big, heartshaped leaves (sun-catchers) and a few small flowers. Asters that live in grasslands are the opposite. They are surrounded by sunlight and have many small leaves and lots of flowers. Some tribes of Native Americans smoked parts of the New England aster as a charm to attract game when they were hunting. Others used them for medicine or food. Many insects, especially bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies, are attracted to aster flowers. The stems of New England Aster are covered with many tiny, sticky hairs that discourage small animals from chewing on them, but birds feed on their seeds in fall and winter.

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Wild Bergamot Members of the Mint family have square stems. If you feel the stem of Wild Bergamot, you can feel the angles of the square, and if you rub its leaves with your thumb and forefinger, you can smell its minty aroma. Its flowers range from almost-white through lilac and rosy purple. Wild bergamot blooms in fields, along roads, and in sunny patches in woodlands from late July through August. Its nectar feeds hummingbirds and dozens of kinds of insects, especially butterflies, and other insects graze on its leaves. Each flower head is made up of many small flowers, each with a wide “lower lip” that acts as a landing strip for pollinators. Ambush bugs like to hunt their prey from the center of the flower head.

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Wild bergamot is sometimes called Purple bee-balm.

Wild bergamot is a good honey plant, and humans have used it for medicines for thousands of years. It was used to treat colds, coughs, fever, upset stomach, headache, and even pimples. It may have been used by the Colonists to make tea after the Boston Tea Party.

Eastern tiger salamander Tiger salamanders live on land most of the year. They are at home in woodlands, but they can also be found on golf courses and in subdivisions, farm fields, and city landscapes. They spend the day under leaves or logs or in a burrow. They will often use a tunnel that was made by a crayfish, mouse, chipmunk or ground squirrel. Tiger salamanders are nocturnal (active at night) and are often seen after a rainstorm. At seven to twelve inches, they are the longest land salamander in Wisconsin.

Some tiger salamanders have lots of yellow splotches, and some only have a few.

Tiger salamanders visit ponds to lay their eggs in spring, and young (larval) salamanders grow there for about six months before climbing out on land. They like ponds that are two to four feet deep, without the fish that might prey on salamander eggs and young. Like its tiger namesake, these salamanders are meat-eaters. They eat almost anything they can catch that is smaller than they are, like earthworms, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, and even small frogs, mice, and young salamanders. Even though they are very flexible about where they can live, tiger salamander numbers are going down. Why? Their habitat is being destroyed. Ponds are the key. If the ponds they need for egg-laying are destroyed or if fish are introduced, they must find another place to breed. Chemicals that are used on farm fields and lawns may run off and pollute their breeding ponds. Salamanders get squished by cars as they cross roads to get to ponds in spring. And finally, salamanders that are sold in pet stores are often caught in the wild. In ideal wild habitats, tiger salamanders may live for 20 years.

Red-tailed Hawk Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawks in Wisconsin, year ‘round, and are found throughout the United States. They are large – sitting about two feet tall with a wingspread of over five feet. Red-tails perch on, and hunt from, telephone poles, fence posts, trees at the edges of woodlands, or small shrubs in open

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fields. They also hunt as they soar in wide circles over the grasslands, and they have super eyesight. Red-tails like open country, and they have become more common since settlers cleared the forests. Like all hawks, they are carnivores. They eat insects, snakes, and birds, but most of their food is small mammals such as ground squirrels, mice, and rabbits. Red-tailed Hawks are sometimes called “Chicken Hawks,” but most Red-tails never bother chickens.

Turkey vultures soar with their wings stretched out and held up in a very shallow “V.”

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This young Red-tailed Hawk has a barred tail. When it is older, its tail will be rusty red.

They build a big nest of sticks high up in a tree at the edge of the grassland, and sometimes they take over the old nest of a Great-horned Owl. Red-tails compete with Great-horned Owls, which eat the same-sized food. They divide the day; Red-tails take the daylight hours and Greathorned Owls hunt at night.

Turkey Vulture Turkey Vultures are long-tailed, eagle-sized birds that soar in great circles over open country. Their wingspread is about six feet wide. They can travel a long time without flapping as they ride the warm air rising from the fields. When they do flap their wings, their wing beats are slow and deep, and as they sail through the air, they often rock back and forth a little. They are dark gray, and the back edges of their wings are a lighter gray.

Their size and their bare, red heads give them the “Turkey” part of their name. “Vulture” comes from their diet (they’re also called “Buzzards”). Turkey Vultures are scavengers that find their food – carrion (dead animals) – with their keen sense of smell, a sense that most birds lack. They also eat a lot of plant materials like pumpkins and some small farm crops. Turkey Vultures often nest in a dent on the ground, in hollow logs and stumps, and even in old buildings. They protect themselves by vomiting at their enemy.

American Crow It’s hard to imagine a visit to the Mequon Nature Preserve without experiencing crows. They are both noisy and visible on the landscape, and they are a lot of fun to watch. Crows can be found in woods, fields, roadsides, parks, wetlands, and in urban and suburban areas. Many people feel that crows, along with their relatives the ravens and jays, are our smartest birds. Crows can be taught to talk and they have been seen using tools. They can count, and they have a good memory. Crows are generalists (they are flexible about where they live and what they eat), and they can make themselves at home anywhere. “Caws,” chuckles, rattles and many more sounds are part of their vocabulary. They may live for 15 or more years in the wild.

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Mequon Nature Preserve Field Guide

A female meadowlark builds her nest on the ground, under a clump of grasses that make a domed roof. The microclimate made by the thick grasses is cooler and drier than it is out in the open. During most of the year, meadowlarks eat insects like grasshoppers and beetle grubs, and they help to control crop pasts. They migrate south in fall.

Crows include bird food in their diet.

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Crows are omnivores that eat almost everything – insects, earthworms, mice, fish, young turtles, crayfish, clams, seeds, fruit, nuts, garbage, dog food from outdoor dishes, and carrion. They rob eggs and young birds from smaller birds’ nests, and they also steal food from other birds. They are crop pests because of some of the food they eat, but they control other crop pests by eating mice and grasshoppers. You seldom see just one crow. Young crows stay with their parents for several years after they hatch, and they help their parents raise their new young. Groups of crows gather to drive off noisily any hawks or owls they find in their territory, an activity called “mobbing.”

Eastern Meadowlark Eastern Meadowlarks are the voice of the grasslands, pastures, prairies, croplands, golf courses, and other open areas they call home. Their clear whistles ring from perches on top of fence posts, telephone wires, and shrubs. Look at the robin-sized meadowlark face-on and it’s easy to spot; its front is yellow, split by a big, black, bib-like “V.” Seen from the back, it’s wellcamouflaged with a streaky, brown and tan pattern that melts into the grass stems. When it flies, a meadowlark’s wing beats are quick and stiff, and the outside edges of its short tail are white.

Meadowlarks increased in number as the early settlers created fields within the great forests, but today, the voices of meadowlarks are getting harder to hear. Grassland habitat is disappearing quickly as fields turn into parking lots, homes, roads and woodlands. Nests are often destroyed when hay fields are harvested.

Coyote Coyotes are often mistaken for dogs, especially for German shepherds, but a coyote moves with a springy step and it tucks its tail close to its body when it runs. Coyotes are grayish-brown and have bushy tails. They can be seen at any time of the day, but they are mainly active at night. They are heard whining, barking, howling, yelping, yipping, and growling. Sirens and thunderstorms often make coyotes call, and the sound of their barks and howls can be heard two to three miles away. Their dens are made under fallen trees and in small caves, or they enlarge a woodchuck or a skunk burrow. Both parents care for the pups and will move them to a different den if they feel threatened. Coyotes are the largest predators on the Mequon Nature Preserve, but they are rarely seen. They eat vegetables, fruits, and any animal they can catch. Mice, voles, and cottontail rabbits make up the bulk of their prey; but they also eat snakes, frogs, insects, and carrion (dead animals). Coyotes may live and hunt alone, in pairs, in family groups, or rarely, in larger packs. A lone coyote stalks and pounces on small animals. Pairs of coyotes and family groups, hitting speeds of 45 mph, use a “tag-team” method to bring down faster prey.

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How do you say their name? Many people favor the Mexican-Spanish “Ki-oh’-tee” rather than the two-syllable “Ki ‘– oat”

Cottontail rabbit

The thorns on prickly ash did not stop a rabbit from feeding on it.

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Cottontails get their name from the fluffy white of its tail. This cottontail is alert and ready to hop away from the photographer.

Cottontail rabbits are a familiar sight on lawns, in gardens, under bird feeders, and in grasslands, especially in late afternoon and at night. They eat the leaves of many kinds of plants (but they don’t dig up bulbs or garden plants), and in winter they chew on grasses and on the bark of trees and shrubs. Snowdrifts act as stepladders that help rabbits reach branches and bark that is several feet off the ground. Both rabbits and deer eat twigs. Deer rip twigs off, but rabbits cut twigs off neatly with a sharp, 45 degrees cut.

A rabbit will use the same route over and over, and will wear a trail in the grass or snow. When a rabbit is not feeding, it is found in a “form” – a shallow, rabbit-shaped, low spot in the ground surrounded by plants. Cottontails don’t burrow underground. A rabbit’s long ears help it hear its enemies, its gray-brown fur provides good camouflage, and its powerful back legs help it escape from predators.

A rabbit trail in the snow

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Many meat-eaters like dogs, cats, foxes, weasels, snakes, hawks, and owls include cottontails in their diet. Animals like rabbits and mice that have many predators often have three to five litters of young each year.

Ground squirrel A thirteen-lined ground squirrel is camouflaged by brown stripes that alternate with tan stripes across its slim body. It is a grassland version of the woodland community’s chipmunk (see “Important Woodland Dwellers” in the chapter on Woodlands), but ground squirrels are longer and slimmer than chipmunks. Ground squirrels hold their tails straight out behind them when they run (chipmunks’ tails point straight up), and they don’t have stripes on their face (chipmunks do). Both ground squirrels and chipmunks are active during the day, and both store food underground. Ground squirrels enjoy sunny, open places like golf courses, pastures, road edges, waste places, and grasslands. There probably weren’t many ground squirrels in the Mequon area until the settlers arrived and cleared the forests.

with dirt. Ground squirrels hibernate in their burrows in winter.

Ground squirrels stand up straight to look for predators.

Ground squirrels are omnivores whose diet includes the roots, leaves, seeds and leaves of plants, insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers, small mice, and ground-nesting birds like meadowlarks and their young. Ground squirrels are eaten by hawks, snakes, dogs and cats, and can be a victims of flooding. When a ground squirrel is startled, it makes a sharp, bird-like alarm chirp and runs down a nearby burrow.

13. The observation tower

13-lined ground squirrels are the only ground squirrels with stripes.

Neither chipmunks nor ground squirrels leave a tell-tale mound of dirt near the entrance of their tunnels. Because they live underground, ground squirrels have very small ears – big ears would scrape on the sides of the tunnel and get covered

Forty feet tall, at eye level with soaring Redtailed Hawks, the Observation Tower dominates the landscape of the Mequon Nature Preserve. The Preserve occupies 438 acres, about twothirds of the square mile described by Swan Road on the west, Donges Bay Road on the north, Wauwatosa Road on the east and County Line Road on the south. Twenty of those acres are restored wetlands, and there are more than five miles of trails. The tower stands near the high point of the property, which is 764.5 feet above sea level. It offers a view of the rolling topography of the Preserve. From its top you can see Harvey’s woods close by to the west, Paul’s Pond and Gengler Woods to the east,

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Farmhouse Woods to the north, and much of the trail system.

The observation Tower grows out of the field. The Observation tower was built from “greenstamped” timber - ecologically harvested and treated with non-toxic borate.

September 26, 2007

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

October 24, 2007

October 4, 2007

Finished October 18, 2007

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14. Human impact Farming The square mile section that is occupied by the Mequon Nature Preserve was surveyed in March of 1836 (see “How Do We Know?” in the chapter on Woodlands). Eighty acres on its northwest corner were sold to the Stauss family in 1842 and were farmed by generations of Stausses (see the chapter on the Cultural History of the Mequon Nature Preserve). The present-day Bacher farm, just east of the Stauss farm, was settled not long after that. Since then, logging and farming have dramatically changed the landscape and the ecology of the section.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Soybeans ripening for harvest at the Preserve

A farm field is a community, just like a woodland or a pond. Plants, plant-eaters and meat-eaters exchange energy and form food chains and webs. There are places for the animals of the community to shelter. The same rules that organize and operate other communities also apply to croplands, with a few exceptions. A farm field is a monoculture – a community that is dominated by only one kind of plant. A large field planted with soybeans is not very diverse; if an herbivore doesn’t eat soybeans, there’s not much else for it to choose from. Farm fields are not very diverse – the list of different kinds of living things that live there is much smaller, and the relationships are not as complex. A crop field is an artificial, man-made, managed community. The farmer plants the crop – usually an annual plant. Fertilizers are often used to encourage plants to grow; herbicides are used to kill off competing plants, and pesticides

kill harmful insects. Most farm crops don’t escape and live in the wild.

Sandhill cranes search for grasshoppers where grassland and soybean field meet.

The soil may be plowed – turned over – at the start and end of each growing season. Fall plowing can cause erosion of the soil by both wind and by precipitation until the spring planting, but it also helps to control pests without the aid of chemicals. Some grubs (immature beetles) are crop pests that live in the soil. When a field is plowed after the harvest, grubs that would have wintered safely below the ground are rotated closer to the surface where they die from cold. The farmer is mechanically changing the microclimate that the grubs depend on. In a method called “conservation tillage,” a farmer leaves the stubble in the field after harvesting (stubble is the cut stalks of the crop) and then plants seeds into the stubble in spring. The soil is not exposed to erosion when conservation tillage is used.

Geese take advantage of a field of ripe soybeans.

The Restoration Plan Part of the open land at the Mequon Nature Preserve is still being farmed in order to keep the soil in place and keep the weeds out. Part of the open land is an “old field” – former cropland

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or pastureland that is being left alone. The old farm fields on the Preserve are on their way to becoming something else. On their own they might go through a century of different stages before they are ready to become woodlands. The people at the Nature Preserve are giving the fields (and the woods) a little help. The preserve was founded in 2000, and the first land was bought in 2004. The Master Plan of the Mequon Nature Preserve states that its goal is to “restore it to the deciduous hardwood forests and wetlands that existed prior to European settlement” and to restore the areas that have wetter soils to wetland vegetation or forested wetlands. That means that when the restoration is complete, the area between Harvey’s Woods and Gengler Woods and the Farmstead Woods will be a diverse forest with mature trees. As the forest returns, the forestloving animals will come back. “If you build it, they will come.”

Preserve to sign on to share the dream with generations to come!

Volunteers use a tree planter to start a forest at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

15. For more information Internet references Environmental Education for Kids: EEK! A great resource for kids and adults, by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Mequon Nature Preserve Master Plan at

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Wisconsin Nature Mapping:

links to on-line mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian field guides. Oak and other seedlings are sprouting in the grasslands.

One hundred twenty-five acres of drainage tiles, buried by farmers so that water would soak into the soil without pooling on its surface, have been broken up or removed. Paul’s Pond is one result. In some areas, prairie plants will be seeded to hold onto the ground until it’s time for the trees. Native plants are being added in and around the three woodlands. Walk along the Middle Link between Gengler Woods and Harvey’s Woods and you can see the seedlings of thousands of oaks and other forest trees. You can see the forest starting to grow. You can help the forest happen! Contact the Mequon Nature

Books The Book of Field and Roadside. John Eastman. 2003. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA Caterpillars. Peterson First Guides. Amy Bartlett Wright. 1984. Houghton-Mifflin. Discover Nature series. Titles include Discover Nature Close to Home, Discover Nature at Night, etc. Stackpole Books Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. Jim Brock and Ken Kaufman. 2006, Houghton Mifflin

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Field Guide to the Birds east of the Rockies. Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton-Mifflin Field Guide to Insects of North America. Eric R. Eaton and Ken Kaufman. 2007. Houghton Mifflin. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders. Lorus and Margery Milne. National Audubon Society 1980. Borzoi/Knopf. Field Guide to the Mammals. William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider. 1976. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton-Mifflin. Field Guide to the Wildflowers. Roger Tory Peterson and McKenny. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton Mifflin A Guide to Observing Insect Lives. Donald W. Stokes. 1983. Little, Brown and Company.

Copyright Š2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Milkweed, Monarchs and More. Ba Rea, Karen Oberhauser and Michael A. Quinn. 2003. Bas Relief Publishing Group. Nature in Winter. Donald W. Stokes. 1976 Stokes Nature Guides. Little Brown and Co. The Vegetation of Wisconsin. John Curtis. 1959. University of Wisconsin Press.

Contents 1. Where to find it 2. What is it 3. The next meal – energy

Paul’s Pond

4. Winter in Paul’s Pond 5. Adapting for survival 6. Alien invasion 7. Human impact 8. For more information

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Paul’s Pond: 1

Paul’s Pond 2. What is it A pond is a pond because of its depth, not because of the size of its surface area. Whether large or small, a pond is a body of water that is shallow enough that rooted plants can grow from shore to shore. Twelve to fifteen feet is the maximum depth for most ponds; any deeper and sunlight can’t penetrate to plants on the bottom. Because a pond is shallow, its water – and its inhabitants – are warmed by the sun during the day and cool off at night.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

1. Where to find it Paul’s Pond is near the center of the Preserve, on the Middle Link Trail between Harvey’s Woods on the west and Gengler Woods on the east. To see Paul’s Pond, park in the Swan Road lot, at 10000 N. Swan Road, Mequon, WI, and take the Swan Road Loop around the outside or through the middle of Harvey’s Woods. Connect with the Middle Link Trail at the northeast corner of Gengler Woods and walk east to Paul’s Pond. Or, park at the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI and take the Cross Connector Trail north. Follow the Middle Link Trail west through Gengler Woods to Paul’s Pond.

Looking south at Paul’s Pond from the bridge/boardwalk.

A boardwalk crosses Paul’s Pond, looking east toward Gengler Woods

At five feet deep, Paul’s Pond is the deepest pond on the Preserve. Its water comes from a combination of rain, snow melt, springs and ground water, and its size swells and shrinks from wet seasons to drier ones. The rolling landscape left by the glaciers (see “The Bigger Picture” in the chapter on Woodlands) favors the formation of ponds, but the soil must contain some clay that will “seal” the pond floor and keep the water in.

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Emergent cattails, reeds, and water plantain crowd the wetland at the edge of Paul’s Pond.

Emergent plants, plants that have roots under water and stems that reach into the air, thrive in the shallow water near the pond’s edge. The open water of Paul’s Pond is surrounded by the tall, slim stems and leaves of reeds and cattails, and the short, broad, leaves of water plantain. This area of emergent plants, neither open water nor dry land, is often given its own name “wetland.” A wetland whose plants have soft, not woody, stems is called a marsh. In deeper water, many ponds support floating-leaved plants, like water lilies, that have their roots in the pond floor and their leaves at the surface. The plants that grow in the deepest part of a pond are designed to live submerged. Together these zones of plants provide a forest of vegetation for animals to feed on and shelter in. Paul’s Pond is a community, a set of plants and animals living in the same area, interacting with each other. The borders of a pond community are easy to spot - the soil is dry, and then it’s not. Within the community its inhabitants find everything they need to survive. Communities like Paul’s Pond contain huge numbers of different kinds of plants and animals, but more species – greater diversity – means a healthier community.

Giant water bugs hunt for small animals in the water of Paul’s Pond.

Like a multi-family housing complex, Paul’s Pond is divided into distinct areas, each with its own plants and animals. The “basement apartment,” the pond floor, is occupied by water sow bugs (see “Ephemeral Pond V.I.P.s” in the chapter on Ephemeral Ponds) and other animals that are adapted for life in the low-oxygen conditions of the muck. In the “roof-top apartment,” water striders and fishing spiders spend their time hunting on top of the pond’s surface, while snails and leeches glide, belly up, on the underside of that same surface. For an insect-size animal, the top layer of water molecules is a tough film. Some skate on it, others become someone’s meal when they fly too close and get stuck on it. For some underwater animals it can be a prison that they aren’t strong enough to break through. Immature mosquitoes that are about to emerge as adults (called pupae) float just below the water’s surface. To escape the “gluey” surface film, they literally explode out of their old skins. In between top and bottom, the pond and its wetland are divided into even more living spaces (habitats). Habitat is the place that a plant or animal chooses to live, because all its needs are met there. Plant stems provide a surface for water boatmen to hang on to and for young dragonflies and damselflies (naiads) to sprawl on as they hunt. The floating leaves of water plants host one set of insects and small animals on their top surface and a different group on the

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underside. Water beetles prefer the weedy shallows, but other pond dwellers prefer the deeper, open water in the middle of the pond.

Wisconsin lakes and ponds are dying. Whether slowly or quickly, their fate is to become land. Over the years, as generations of emergent plants grow, die, and decay in the shallow water, soil is built. Eventually the shoreline creeps toward the middle of the pond and wildflowers grow where open water used to be. This pond habitat is important for the diversity of the Mequon Nature Preserve, so volunteers will work to keep Paul’s Pond open.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

A pond snail

Paul’s Pond and its shallow wetland are home to thousands of animals that come in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes, and most are far smaller than a house key. They may live there temporarily or for their whole life. Amphibians (toads, frogs, and salamanders) lead a “double life.” Their soft eggs must be laid in ponds and their young grow up there. Some kinds of salamanders and frogs spend their entire lives in the water, but toads, a few species of frogs and most salamanders live on land as adults. While adult dragonflies and damselflies sweep the fields for their insect prey, water is the nursery for young dragonflies and damselflies (naiads). Snails and other animals are permanent residents of the water.

A dragonfly rests while hunting

Green frogs are common pond-dwellers.

When a pond dies, what happens to its frogs? A pond or lake that is dying slowly will first lose the species that need open water. Frogs will hop out, turtles crawl off, and insects will fly away. Ducks and geese that feed and rear their young there will find a deeper pond. Fish, snails and others less mobile will die there, and the nutrients in their bodies will be recycled to provide energy for the next, dryer, stage in the life of a pond. There are plants and animals to suit each of the stages it will go through on its way from pond to wetland to field to forest. Many animals and plants are specialists; they depend on a certain kind of habitat or food. If they can’t find it, they die off or move on. Others are generalists – they are more flexible, and can thrive with a wide range of conditions.

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Mequon Nature Preserve Field Guide

At the base of the Paul’s Pond “food pyramid” (as in ponds everywhere) are the algae and other tiny plants known as phytoplankton. They drift through the water, pushed by wind and currents, using the sun’s energy to make the food and oxygen needed by other pond inhabitants. Zooplankton are mini-animals that are responsible for much of the recycling decomposition - of dead plants and animals in the pond.

Ducks enjoy the open water of Paul’s Pond

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

3. The next meal - energy A community supplies the needs of its inhabitants, and one of those needs is food. Within the water of Paul’s Pond, animals eat and are eaten. Plants use energy from the sun to produce food for themselves, and they become the base of the food chain. Paul’s Pond provides a variety of plants, from seven foot tall cattails to single-celled algae for its plant eaters (herbivores), and herbivores provide meat for its meat eaters (carnivores). Omnivores eat both plants and animals, and even the predators have their own predators. There is material for its scavengers, which feed on and break down dead organic material - plants and animals. Decomposers are the final stage in the food chain. They absorb what’s left of the dead organic material and leave behind the minerals that are recycled into living plants and animals.

A tadpole eats algae and is eaten by a diving beetle. The diving beetle is eaten by a fish, and the fish by a heron, creating a simple food chain. Now add three other tadpole foods, a few more algae-eaters, four more tadpole-predators, a water snake, a snapping turtle, a scavenging crayfish, a few snails, and some decomposers, and multiple chains weave into an intricate food web. The web widens when raccoons, herons, ducks, and other animals that live outside the community visit to feed on the pond dwellers.

Great Blue herons prey on the animals of the pond.

An immature predaceous diving beetle, also known as a “water tiger” will eat any animal it can catch.

Plants and herbivores, carnivores, scavengers, and decomposers – all exist in the pond community as well as in the Mequon Nature Preserve’s old field, forest, ephemeral pond, edge, prairie, and agricultural communities. As you move from community to community, on

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the land or in the water, these roles remain the same, but the players differ.

4. Winter in Paul’s Pond

they use almost no energy and don’t need to eat. Fish may sleep leaning against plant stems (with their eyes open – no eyelids). A few insects remain active in the chilly water below the ice.

Paul’s Pond gets drier in mid-fall.

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Winter comes gradually to the inhabitants of Paul’s Pond. It takes a lot of energy to heat and cool water, so its temperature changes slowly. Aquatic plants and animals don’t experience the sometimes-dramatic daily shifts in temperature that we air-dwellers do. As nights grow cold, the pond’s surface water freezes, insulating the slightly warmer water on the pond floor. Ice, which stops raccoons and other predators from above, seals the aquatic plants and animals under the water.

A thin layer of ice forms on the water’s surface.

Almost all of the frogs, salamanders, insects and other animals that call Paul’s Pond home are cold-blooded – the temperature inside their bodies is about the same as that of the air or water that surrounds them. The colder it gets, the more slowly they move, and by late fall, they don’t have a lot of options. Many hibernate, slowing down their breathing and heart rate so

Backswimmers stay active under the ice all winter, getting air from air pockets in the ice’s lower surface.

At first, when the ice is thin, sunlight can penetrate, and the underwater plants will continue to produce food and oxygen. Paul’s Pond may be the deepest pond on the Mequon Nature Preserve, but five feet deep is not very deep, and the pond is usually much shallower by the end of fall. During a really cold winter, half of the water could turn to ice, blocking the sunlight and drastically reducing the amount of space available for the water animals. When that happens, plants die and decay, and in the decay process, oxygen is being used, not made. After a long or a severe winter, the oxygen under the ice may be used up. Animals burrow into the muck on the pond’s floor, minimize their lifesupport systems, hibernate, or go into a state of suspended animation in order to survive. In general, the life span of many insects and other small invertebrates is a year or less. Adult insects die by late fall and leave behind eggs or immature offspring to develop in spring. Animals, large and small, that survive the harsh winter will repopulate Paul’s Pond in spring.

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5. Adapting for survival A person who wanted to spend a year in Paul’s Pond would face some snags. How would they move and breathe? What and how would they eat? Where would they find shelter from whatever wanted to feed on them and how would they spend the winter? The animals of Paul’s Pond live side by side and have similar needs - food, water, air and shelter. Aquatic plants operate in the same way land plants do; they use the energy of the sun to make food, and they need sunlight, air, soil and water. They, too, have adaptations that allow them to be successful in the habitats they choose, whether they are partly or completely covered by water. A person who wanted to spend a year in Paul’s Pond would face some snags. How would they move and breathe? What and how would they eat? Where would they find shelter from whatever wanted to feed on them and how would they spend the winter? The animals of Paul’s Pond live side by side and have similar needs - food, water, air and shelter. Aquatic plants operate in the same way land plants do; they use the energy of the sun to make food, and they need sunlight, air, soil and water. They, too, have adaptations that allow them to be successful in the habitats they choose, whether they are partly or completely covered by water.

Cattails, Bulrushes and Other Plants Plants that grow in full sunlight don’t need broad sun catching leaves. Cattails have long, slender, flexible leaves that are internally divided and re-divided by horizontal veins that act like the struts that strengthen an airplane’s wings. Wetland soils are either submerged or are soaked (saturated) with water. How do emergent plants stay upright, with their roots in loose, wet soil that doesn’t offer much support and with much of the plant exposed to the wind? Underwater, creeping stems (rhizomes) form dense, impossibly interwoven mats in the muck. If the soil can’t hold them upright, the rest of the cattail colony can.

When a cattail leaf is held up to the sun, its supporting “struts” can be seen.

Cattails grow with dry land on one side and water on the other side. They are champion marsh-builders, sending out dozens of shoots from each rhizome. One cattail can produce as many as 200,000 seeds on its familiar “hot-dogon-a-stick” flower head. The colony in Paul’s Pond started when airborne seeds blew into the shallow water, but after that the colony spread mainly by the growth of its rhizomes. In ideal conditions, the colony can advance by more than 15 feet in one year.

A cattail shedding its seeds in winter.

The shallow edges of a wetland may dry out in late summer, exposing its mud flats. Seeds of emergent plants fall into the mud and are ready to grow when water returns.

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thickets. Geese and muskrats dine on the rhizomes and stems.

Paul’s Pond disappears after a long, dry spell.

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Ponds and their wetlands were prized by the Native Americans who lived here. Food, medicines, fibers for twine and nets, dyes, and construction materials came from wetlands. Cattails were especially important to them. The leaves were woven into mats, and some part of the cattail plant is edible at any time of year. Red-winged Blackbirds, muskrats, fish, turtles, insects, and other invertebrates feed and shelter in the leaves, stems, fruits, and rhizomes of cattails, and the community is enriched by the droppings of the blackbirds that roost there.

The seeds of bulrushes are important wildlife food.

The stems of floating-leaved plants like water lilies reach from the pond floor to the water’s surface. Air chambers in the stems reduce the weight of the stem and buoy it up so the leaves and flowers don’t get dragged under the water. At the time of this writing, there are no water lilies in Mequon Nature Preserve ponds or wetlands, but one of their seeds could arrive any time. Like cattails, water lilies are beautiful in small numbers, but they can choke and shade a wetland in large numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds make their nests in cattails.

Like cattails, bulrushes occur in colonies in shallow water, where they are important soilbuilders. Their seeds, borne in a loose cluster of fruits, are spread by the wind, but the colony expands through growth of the rhizomes. Their stems are divided into many air chambers for strength. Geese, ducks, and other wetland birds eat the “nutlets” of bulrush and nest in its

The long stems of water lilies are full of air pockets.

Duckweed looks like tiny, oval leaves, floating on a pond’s surface. Its short rootlets dangle below the leaf, but the plants are not anchored to the

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pond floor. On windy days, duckweed blows across the surface of the pond. A thick growth of floating plants blocks the sun from plants on the pond floor. When those plants die, the animals that eat, hunt or live on them must live elsewhere. Duckweed is like a salad bar for ducks; they eat the plants and the tiny animals that cling to them.

plant. Plants that live on the floor of a deeper pond must be able to survive on less than 10% of the sunlight that their surface-dwelling relatives receive.

Damselfly A damselfly’s parents are creatures of the air, but young damselflies (naiads) are pond dwellers. They crawl on leaves and stems of underwater plants, and they swim through open water by swishing their abdomen back and forth. After they become adults, they never re-enter the water again.

A dense blanket of duckweed and tiny water meal leaves float on a pond’s surface.

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Adult damselflies can fold their wings over their backs.

Some ponds have a thicket of plants growing under the water’s surface.

Submerged plants like algae and pondweeds must get oxygen and minerals from the water that surrounds them. The waxy cuticle that covers the leaves of land plants slows the escape of water from leaf surfaces. Underwater leaves don’t need to worry about water loss - they have soft surfaces so they can absorb nutrients and gases from the water. Submerged plants don’t need stiff support tissue in their stems, either, because the water buoys them up. They collapse into a heap on land. The roots of pondweeds are constantly waterlogged, which would kill a land

Smaller than the related dragonflies, the slim, bug-eyed adult damselflies hunt for small, flying insects among the plants near the edge of the pond. Their equally carnivorous naiads find food below the surface. When a naiad finds some prey - and it will eat any living animal smaller than it is - it extends its long, foldable lower lip, snags its food, and brings the prey to its mouth. Small animals are swallowed whole, and larger animals are torn apart and eaten.

The three tails of a damselfly naiad are gills that it uses for breathing.

The three “tails” at the end of the abdomen are gills. Damselfly naiads pick up air from the

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water they crawl through, spreading the gills apart as widely as possible in order to pick up the maximum oxygen. To get more air they may wave their gills back and forth. When oxygen levels get too low, damselfly naiads climb out of the water and take air in directly through their skin.

Water strider Water striders skate across the pond on tiny, water repellant hairs on the bottoms of their feet. They have claws, but their claws are located on their legs above their feet, so that the claws do not disturb the surface film. Besides skating, water striders can dive (water repellant scales and hairs keep their bodies dry), and they can fly.

Water striders are carnivores. Through special sense organs in its legs, a water strider picks up the vibrations of insects that are stuck on the water’s surface film. Water striders use their long second and third pairs of legs to skate to the struggling insect, which they grab with their shorter front legs. With their short beak, they inject a “meat tenderizer,” a chemical that liquefies the insides of their prey. When the prey is softened enough, the water strider sucks out the protein and discards the prey’s empty “shell.” Water striders also feed on tiny animals that float up from the water below.

Six-spotted fishing spider Six-spotted fishing spiders walk around on duckweed and other water plants and even on the surface film of the water. Besides walking, they can run across the water or row across it using several pairs of legs. Sometimes they glide, pushed by the wind like a sailboat, or jump straight up off the water’s surface to grab prey or to avoid becoming prey. Fishing spiders dive and walk on plant stems underwater, and they are equally at home on the shoreline.

A water strider’s feet press down on but do not break through the surface film.

When water striders are on the water’s surface, they breathe air like land insects, through openings in the sides of their body. When they dive, they breathe air that is trapped in the fine hairs on the surface of their body.

The six-spotted fishing spider lives in the wetland’s shallows.

A water strider rests on an old cattail leaf.

Fishing spiders carry a bubble of air with them when they dive, tucking it under their legs. With this “air tank,” they can stay under for as long as thirty minutes. Fishing spiders have “book lungs,” alternating layers of air pockets and a blood-like substance. They are covered with short, water-repellant hairs that trap an additional layer of air against their body when they submerge. All that air may make them so

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buoyant that they have to grab a plant or rock to keep from floating to the surface.

spider, it must grab vegetation to keep from bobbing up.

Like all spiders, fishing spiders are carnivores, eating aquatic insects and, occasionally, tadpoles and tiny fish. They hunt on the surface film, eating insects that get stuck there and also eating their competition – the water striders. Fishing spiders wait on shore to detect the ripples of an insect struggling on the water; then they dart out, grab their prey with clawed front legs, bite it, and inject venom to kill it. Fishing spiders don’t spin webs.

Backswimmers are often mistaken for water boatmen, pictured above in “Winter in Paul’s Pond.” Backswimmers, as their name suggests, row around belly-up. They are predators that catch other insects, very small tadpoles, and fish. Backswimmers use their front legs to capture prey, their middle pair of legs to hold their prey, and their oar-shaped back legs to row through the water. They get air by backing up to the water’s surface and poking the tip of their abdomen through the surface film into the air. You often see them hanging, head-down, just below the surface of the water.

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Water boatman and backswimmer Water boatmen measure a little less than onehalf inch long. Their flat, hairy back legs look and act like oars, allowing them to row around underwater. They swim, head down, searching for food in the detritus (the tiny pieces of dead plants and animals that fall to the bottom of the pond). They stir up this debris with their front legs and eat the pieces of living and dead plants they find there, along with small insects and worms.

Water boatmen swim “right-side-up” by rowing with their oar-like legs.

To get air for a dive, a water boatman breaks through the surface film with its head, grabs some air, and wraps it under its wings and around its abdomen. Because it can also pick up dissolved oxygen from the water, it can stay under water for a long time. Like the fishing

Both backswimmers and water boatmen are strong fliers as well as able swimmers, although the up-side-down backswimmer must climb out of the water and flip over onto its belly before it can spread its wings and take off.

Green frog The fast-developing tadpoles of wood frogs and leopard frogs mature and crawl out of their ponds in just a few months’ time, and the adults live in the woods and fields (see “Ephemeral Pond VIPs” in the chapter on The Ephemeral Ponds). Green frogs favor permanent ponds for themselves and for their tadpoles. The tadpoles hatch from eggs in the summer. They spend their first winter as tadpoles and grow legs during their second summer. Green frogs’ color ranges from mottled light green to brown. They are well-camouflaged as they wait along the shoreline, partly submerged, for their prey. Famous for leaping with their long legs, green frogs use those legs in combination with their webbed feet to push through the water.

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Crayfish move around on land or under water using five pairs of walking legs, and they can walk sideways. They can “swim” backward by quickly tucking or folding their jointed abdomen and flipper-like tail under them several times. Crayfish get oxygen from the water using internal gills. They can regenerate lost limbs.

Green frogs are well-camouflaged in the shallows.

Frogs breathe with lungs, but they can also absorb oxygen through their moist, thin skin. Their tadpoles have internal gills.

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A few kinds of frogs use their sticky tongues to capture prey, but green frogs lunge at live insects and other small animals and grab them with their jaws. Frogs are meat eaters - carnivores. In contrast, tadpoles are mainly herbivores, browsing on algae and other tiny plants.

Crayfish Crayfish are omnivores – they eat live plants and animals including snails, aquatic insects, and small fish. They are also scavengers that eat carrion (dead animals) and plants. They crush or rip their food using their largest claws, which are located on their front pair of legs. Crayfish are eaten by raccoons, otters, screech owls, fish, and humans.


Crayfish chimney

When crayfish species live in dry conditions or when their aquatic home dries up in late summer, they build “chimneys” in an attempt at climate-control. In search of water to keep their gills moistened, they dig vertical tunnels in the earth, constructing a chimney out of mud pellets at the mouth of the tunnel.

Canada Goose There are other “regulars” at Paul’s Pond use the pond and are a part of its food web, but they live on land.

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Geese graze both on land and in the water.

The calls of Canada geese fill the air during the spring and fall migrations, but the farmers who settled on this land over 100 years ago only saw wild geese during those seasons. The geese refueled in the fields and waterways on their annual flight between Canada and the southern part of the United States. Today, geese are permanent residents. They typically nest on the ground near wetlands, but they also use the tops of muskrat dens (made of cattails) as nest platforms. Geese eat land plants and insects, but they visit ponds to dine on submerged water plants.

habitats, and they are comfortable around humans (see “Who Goes There?” in the chapter on the Streich Family Wetlands). Raccoons are omnivores, hunting on land and from the shore for insects, mice, aquatic animals, farm crops (and the occasional chicken), and a variety of other plants. They are famous for their banded tail and for the black mask that extends across their eyes. They are also famous for robbing garbage cans and for washing their food before eating, which they do if they are near water. Their hind feet leave a track that looks like a human barefoot track, and the tracks of their front paws look like a hand. They are nocturnal (active at night), leaving signs in the mud to mark their presence.

Raccoon tracks record a night of hunting in the wetland.

6. Alien invasion

Geese may hatch as many as nine goslings.

Raccoon Raccoons prefer to live in areas where woods and water are close by; they frequently make their den in an old tree. They are “generalists” that can be successful in a wide variety of

The story of all natural areas today must include mention of invasive aliens. Alien (non-native) plants and animals are those that didn’t live in America when Columbus arrived in the West Indies. Columbus himself was responsible for introducing sugar cane to the Americas on his second trip. As North and South America were explored, there was a steady exchange of Old World and New World plants and animals. Some alien species were imported as garden flowers, medicinal plants or food; apple trees were introduced, and so were honeybees, cattle and sheep. Others aliens hitchhiked in bags of seed or in the root balls of imported trees. Many of our common, roadside wildflowers like

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daisies, chicory and Queen Anne ’s lace are European species that have been in North America for hundreds of years (see “The Most Unwanted” in the chapter on Farmland and Grassland)... In their native countries, these plants and animals are in balance on the landscape because there are herbivores or predators that eat them or diseases that keep their populations in check. With their natural enemies on a different continent, aliens may spread uncontrolled in America.

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Plants and animals are called “invasive” if their populations explode. They crowd or “outcompete” other species and do damage to the community structure. Alien plants and animals that are labeled “invasive” tend to be generalists that are successful because they can tolerate a wide range of conditions. Not all alien plants are invasive, and some native plants, like Canada goldenrod and prickly ash, are considered invasive because they can take over landscapes.

winter, and the pictures at the beginning of the Paul’s Pond chapter were taken three months later.

Paul’s Pond after cattail pulling.

A volunteer cuts cattails from the area around Paul’s Pond

Purple loosestrife flowers and Narrow-leaved cattail

Narrow-leaved cattail is listed by some references as an alien species and by others as native. Its colonies are established by airborne seeds and maintained by shoots from its rhizome. Cattails are used by wildlife, but a dense stand of cattails doesn’t allow other species of plants any space to grow. Two kinds of cattails grow in Paul’s Pond, but Common cattail is greatly outnumbered by the Narrowleaved cattail. If the cattails are not removed each year, Paul’s Pond will quickly become Paul’s Marsh, with little open water. The picture below, after cattail control, was taken in late

Volunteers gather cut cattails from the edge of Paul’s Pond

Fire can be used to burn away vegetation above ground and may damage the underground portion of the cattail plant. Fire will also discourage trees and shrubs from growing up around Paul’s Pond.

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A controlled burn removes cattails and shrubs Invasive Phragmites forms a dense stand.

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After the burn

Purple loosestrife was brought to the United States almost 200 years ago because it is a great plant for honey bees. It is not a problem in a flower garden, but in wetlands, the tens of thousands of seeds each plant produces create such dense stands of loosestrife that native cattails are crowded out. Loosestrife’s root sends up shoots year after year. Animals do not use the tiny purple loosestrife seeds or its vegetation for food or shelter the way they use cattails. European beetles that eat only purple loosestrife were successfully tested and are being released, a method called biological control.

Another wetland invader is Phragmites or Common Reed. Phragmites is native to North America, and the slow-growing native form is not a problem. About 100 years ago, a very aggressive form of phragmites landed on American shores, probably hitchhiking in the ballast of a ship from Europe. It is common in roadside ditches - clumps of grass, six feet tall and more, topped by feathery, reddish seed heads. Like cattails, Phragmites colonizes by sending out dense, interlocking suckers that can extend up to 50 feet in a year, producing impenetrable stands that crowd out native plants. The very adaptations that help it survive as an emergent plant make it extremely difficult to get rid of. Two invasive crayfish inhabit the waters of southeastern Wisconsin. The aggressive Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), is an “invasive native;” it is native to the Ohio River Basin but is considered a pest in Wisconsin. Rusty crayfish were probably introduced by bait fishermen and aquarium owners discarding unwanted animals into ponds and waterways. Sometimes bought as classroom pets, rusty crayfish are often released at the end of the school year. They are aggressive toward native crayfish, toward the fish that would normally eat them, and toward the toes of wading humans. Rusty crayfish eat twice as much as native crayfish, and they eat fish eggs, small fish, the insects eaten by fish, and aquatic vegetation needed by fish for cover and for spawning areas.

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Rusty crayfish can damage the wetlands they live in.

Wetlands are often mistaken for garbage cans.

Another native, but invasive, crayfish, the Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkia), was found in a pond in nearby Germantown in the summer of 2009. These crayfish may have been released by a bait fisherman or pet owner, or they may have been bought for a crayfish boil, and the excess crayfish were released. Red swamp crayfish can grow as large as eight inches, and like the rusty crayfish, they can out-eat Wisconsin crayfish.

Many of the wetlands that were not drained have been affected by pollution. Pollution has been described as the presence of something that isn’t supposed to be there. Not all pollutants are man-made or intentional. The silt being carried by flood waters may come from the erosion of soil, and wetlands are places where flood waters slow down, spread out, and drop some of their load of silt. Fertilizers are used in farming and lawn care to make plants grow. When fertilizers run off into ponds and waterways, they have the same effect on aquatic plants. A “bloom” of water plants sends more decaying leaves to the bottom of the pond and causes it to fill – and “die” – more quickly.

7. Human impact Historically, wetlands have not been highly valued. They have been viewed as wasted space, as trash cans, and as mosquito and disease producers. As a result, they have been drained, filled, farmed, and built on. More than half of America’s wetlands have been lost in the past two centuries. The impact of their destruction reaches far beyond the shores of the wetlands themselves. Some of the lost ponds were prairie potholes, the incredibly productive “duck factories” of the northern Great Plains. When a pond or marsh is destroyed, habitat is lost, aquatic plants and animals are displaced, land animals lose their watering holes, and amphibians lose breeding spots. The final result is fewer species and less diversity.

The small depression that would become Paul’s Pond can barely be seen in the middle of this picture taken in 2003.

But, Paul’s Pond owes its existence to people. Much of the land on the Mequon Nature

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Preserve was farmland, and to keep it dry, drain tiles were buried in the ground. The tiles were dug up by the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association so that ponds could form.

here. Volunteers at the Mequon Nature Preserve have planted wetland vegetation to help “jumpstart” the establishment of native plants at Paul’s Pond.

Planting wetland plants at the Paul’s Pond edge.

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Will Paul’s Pond die or will human effort maintain it as a pond? The forces of nature say that it will get shallower and drier and eventually disappear. But, with constant management – especially cattail eradication – Paul’s Pond will continue to exist, to attract new plants and animals, and to become an even more complex community.

A volunteer removes old drain tiles in a trench

Ducks enjoy the efforts of the Volunteers at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

A pile of old drain tiles

The seeds of some wetland plants travel by air; others may get stuck on the feet or fur of the birds and mammals that visit. Still other seeds travel in the animals’ guts and are deposited

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8. For more information ON-LINE d%20post.pdf d.pdf ivities/28.htm gy.htm

BOOKS A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr. 2002. The MacDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA. Amphibians of Wisconsin. Christoffel, Rebecca, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2001. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. A World in a Drop of Water. Alvin and Virginia Silverstein. 1969. Dover Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands, 2000. Elizabeth P. Lawlor. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA Golden Guide to Pond Life. George K. Reid. 1987. Golden Press

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The Book of Swamp and Bog, John Eastman Through the Looking Glass, A Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, Susan Borman, Robert Korth, Jo Temte. 1997. The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. UWEX-CNR, UWSP, Stevens Point, WI 54481. Turtles and Lizards of Wisconsin. Christoffel, Rebecca, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2002. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Wetlands Pamela Hickman. 1993. Kids Can Press Ltd., Toronto, Ont.

Contents 1. Where is it 2. What is it

STREICH Family Wetlands

3. Why wetlands 4. Three communities 5. Green islands 6. Who goes there 7. Human impact 8. For more information

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Streich Family Wetlands

A four-spotted skimmer dragonfly scans the edge of a pond, looking for flying insects to eat.

2. What is it

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The Streich Family Wetlands is a complex of wetlands around the PieperPower Education Center that includes three springs, a series of man-made ponds, and the Trinity Creek.

The Streich Family Wetlands, looking east

1. Where is it The Streich Family Wetlands are located immediately to the south and east of the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI. The first section of the Trinity Creek Link Trail borders the north side of the ponds and wetlands. The springs that feed the ponds originate on the east side of the PieperPower Education Center building.

One of the man-made ponds in the Streich Family Wetlands

3. Why wetlands Wetlands have been misunderstood, destroyed and polluted for generations, and yet wetlands make very important contributions to the surrounding natural and human communities. Simply put, they promote flood control and clean water, and they attract plants and animals to an area.

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• • •

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Wetlands absorb rainwater and spread excess water out so it can slow down, soak in, and reduce flooding and erosion. Wetlands help purify water by filtering out pollutants and sediments (little particles of material like sand and soil that are washed into the water from the land). Wetlands help to replenish ground water. Wetlands increase the diversity of plants and animals in an area. Wetlands are a home for the aquatic animals that spend their whole lives under water. Wetlands are a nursery for animals that live underwater in their immature stages but emerge onto land or into the air as adults. In fact, marshes are as productive as rainforests. Wetlands supply water and food for many land animals. Wetlands provide places where migrating birds can rest and eat, and a sheltered spot for ducks and geese to stay and raise their young.

Ponds are attractive to migrating geese

Wetlands are also an important link in the recycling of water - the water cycle. Water that falls as rain or snow returns to the air eventually, only to fall again and again. Water vapor rises

from the surface of bodies of water through a process called evaporation; the droplets are so tiny that it takes many, many thousands to form a single drop of water. Once in the air, water vapor collects into clouds and eventually falls to the earth again as precipitation. Water that soaks into the soil takes longer to return to the air. Droplets that are picked up by roots may move through a plant, and some will be released into the air through its leaves as the plant “breathes” (transpires). But, some of the water that sinks into the soil may not be recycled for a very long time.

4. Three communities A community is a set of plants and animals that live in the same area. All the inhabitants of the community can get their needs – for food, water, air, shelter, soil, sun – met within that community. Within its boundaries, a community feeds and shelters itself. Food chains begin with producers – plants. Plants use the energy of the sun to make food for themselves. Food chains continue with the herbivores (plant eaters) that transform plant energy into animal energy. Herbivores are eaten by carnivores (meat eaters); omnivores eat both plants and animals, and scavengers feed on the dead. All are broken down and recycled by decomposers when they die. There are an enormous number of food chains here, interwoven to form food webs within each community. When we look at a globe, we see a planet that has water covering about 71% of its surface. But, of all the water on earth, only about 3% is fresh water; the rest is salty and is not useful for drinking or farming. Almost a quarter (22%) of that precious fresh water is contained in the Great Lakes, and close to another quarter of it is found in the ground, worldwide. In one form or another, ground water feeds much of the Streich Family Wetlands.

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Artesian springs Water flows downhill, both above and below the surface of the soil, and the Streich Family Wetlands are downhill from most of the land at the Mequon Nature Preserve. The elevation at the north end of the property is 764.5 feet above sea level, and the south end, along County Line Road, lies at 676.9 feet, 87.6 feet lower. Rain and snowmelt feed these wetlands, and so does surface water that runs across the land to its lowest point along County Line Road.

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When rain falls onto the ground, part of it flows off the land, and part sinks in. Drops of water that travel into the ground may get attached to pieces of soil or may be absorbed by plant roots. Some drops keep going, finally getting down to a zone called the Water Table where the soil is saturated (soaked with water).

Water from the artesian springs as it nears the man-made ponds in the Streich Family Wetlands.

As water soaks down through the ground, more water continues to arrive from above. Ground water will keep traveling down through soil until it hits a rock layer that it can’t get through. Then it will move sideways, guided by the curves of the rock’s surface. If the water flows far enough along the rock, it may eventually get back to the land’s surface as a pool or a spring. If ground water is trapped under a rock layer, it builds up pressure. Water that escapes under pressure and wells up from an opening in the ground is called an artesian spring. Spring water that

surfaces and spreads out into ponds and wetlands can evaporate and become part of the water cycle once again.

A Heron hunts for food in the Wetlands in winter.

Several artesian springs come to the surface on the east side of the PieperPower Education Center. A pump directs the spring water away from the building toward the ponds to the southeast. Twenty-four hours after the ponds were excavated, artesian springs filled the ponds with water. Within days, quick-growing grass seed was broadcast over the ground to stabilize the bare soil and prevent erosion. In the weeks and months that followed, volunteers planted thousands of native wildflowers and pounds of grass seed. Because artesian springs originate underground where the soil temperature stays fairly constant, they tend to be cool. Their chemistry – their acidity and mineral content - influences the chemistry of the pools they feed. The constant supply of spring water provides a stable environment for plants and animals that live in the ponds. The springs’ current keeps the pond surfaces ice free longer into the winter, so water is available for most of the year to the pond animals and to the land animals that visit the pond. Along with the downhill movement of water on the property, there is also an east and west flow. The western one-third of the Mequon Nature Preserve is in the watershed of the Menomonee River. That means that a raindrop that falls on the west side of the Mequon Nature Preserve

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flows west toward the Menomonee River. Rain and snow that fall on eastern two-thirds of the Preserve drain east toward the Milwaukee River watershed. Both the Menomonee and the Milwaukee Rivers eventually find Lake Michigan.

Center pond, PieperPower Education Center

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One of a series of ponds of the Streich Family Wetlands

In 2009, two more ponds were excavated between County Line Road and the parking lot at the PieperPower Education Center. They are not spring-fed, but ground water and precipitation have filled them, and plants and animals have found them.

Ponds Just as agricultural drain tiles had to be removed in order for Paul’s Pond to form (see “Human Impact” in the chapter on Paul’s Pond), drain tiles were also removed from the area east of the Pieper Power Education Center by the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association in 2007. In all, the ponds and their wetlands amount to about 10 acres of the Mequon Nature Preserve. The ponds are divided by partial rock dams that provide habitat and force the water to meander and slow down. After a rainstorm, water running off the parking lots and the surrounding land joins water from the Trinity Creek and flows into the series of ponds. There the water is filtered and cleaned. Any silt or undesirable material carried by the water settles to the bottoms of the ponds before the creek continues on its path.

West pond, PieperPower Education Center

Trinity Creek The headwaters of Trinity Creek are on the Mequon Nature Preserve, west of the PieperPower Education Center and on the south side of County Line Road in the city of Milwaukee. The creek is confined to the roadside ditch along County Line Road. East of the Education Center, the ditch disappears as the creek is routed into the Streich Family Wetlands. A stream channel that starts at the north end of the Preserve’s Gengler Woods also carries water into the Trinity Creek Watershed. Trinity Creek eventually leaves the east side of the Preserve through a culvert under Wauwatosa

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Road and flows east through the Lilly Lane Nature Preserve and Trinity Creek Wildlife Area on its way to the Milwaukee River. In a wet summer, some pools in the Trinity Creek hold enough water to support small fish, but during a dry stretch, its pools may dry up, stranding the fish.

Channelization was also done for flood control, because water can flow faster in a straight, deep trench than when the stream is winding across the landscape. When the path of the water is regulated, the land nearby can be reclaimed for farming.

Sometimes there is enough water in the Trinity Creek to support small fish.

The Trinity Creek west of the PieperPower Education Center

Like many creeks and rivers in agricultural, suburban and urban settings, the Trinity Creek was channelized in this area – its bed was dug out and deepened. Waterways that are channelized are often straightened at the same time. In urban areas, the new stream or riverbed may be lined with concrete, so the water is confined to a straight, man-made path. Why? On large rivers, channelization may improve navigation and allow power generation - straighter, shorter, deeper channels are good for boat traffic and for power plants.

But, channelization has some significant “downsides” and is being done less and less. It wipes out the wetlands along the shorelines of rivers and streams, so all of the “pluses” of wetlands are lost. Those zones of shallow water along unchannelized rivers are important habitat, populated by emergent plants (see “What is It” in the chapter on Paul’s Pond) and by a huge number of animals including spawning fish. Studies have shown that there are fewer fish and less desirable fish in channelized stretches of waterways. The faster-flowing water can increase erosion, and the flooding that is avoided in one spot may happen farther downstream. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has spent millions of dollars to remove concrete

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channels and return streams to a more natural condition. De-channelizing the Trinity Creek is part of the recovery plan for the Mequon Nature Preserve.

5. Green islands

interspersed with occasional prairie patches (see “What are They?” in the chapter on Woodlands). The Gengler Woods east of the Observation Tower, the Farmstead Woods to the north, and Harvey’s Woods on the west have the same kinds of trees as these early forests. Cutting down trees without metal tools was a long, hard job, and Native Americans often used fire to open up the forest for farming. Their farms didn’t have a very big impact on the area. The European settlers cleared larger tracts of land for agriculture. Great stretches of forest were fragmented – broken up into smaller parcels that were more and more separated. The effect on animals was profound. A bird or mammal that needed a large stretch of continuous forest had only small islands of trees among the farm fields. Populations of forest floor animals like salamanders were isolated in separate remnants of forest. In addition to the loss of forest land, more than half of Wisconsin’s wetlands have disappeared during the last 150 years.

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Master plan green corridor

Humans need green spaces. We need to connect with nature, to recharge, to be inspired, to watch wildlife, to hear the quiet, to gaze at the stars, to find the unexpected, to tune in to nature’s daily and seasonal rhythms, and to see and know and appreciate the beauty and complexity of nature. The Mequon Nature Preserve, along with Kohl Park on the south side of County Line Road, is an important green space that loosely links the Lemke and the Joseph-Lichter Parks, the Swan Road Prairie, and the Little Menomonee River Parkway on the west with the Lilly Lane Nature Preserve and Trinity Creek Wildlife Area on the east. Taken together, this Green Corridor totals more than 1,700 acres, which is about twice the size of New York City’s famous Central Park. For plants and animals of the area, the need for green spaces is also great. Two hundred years ago, forests of beech, basswood, aspen, elm, ash, sugar maple, oak tamarack and cedar stretched far beyond the horizon in southeast Wisconsin,

A group of Mallards rests after feeding in the Streich Family Wetlands.

Human communities have an impact on natural systems, and urban and suburban populations continue to grow into the countryside. When buildings, roads, and parking lots cover the ground with surfaces that do not absorb water, precipitation runs off faster. Flooding becomes more common, and the water cycle is affected (but, check out our “green roof” at the

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PieperPower Education Center, which catches precipitation, uses it to water the plants on the roof, and then releases the extra water slowly). Farming replaces the great diversity of native plants with a small number of cultivated crops that may deplete the nutrients in the soil. With no plant roots to hold the soil after the harvest, soil erosion by water and wind becomes a problem. When native plant communities are disturbed, their animal inhabitants leave because they can no longer find what they need to survive. Introduced or alien plants get a foothold on disturbed ground, and some become invasive and crowd out native wldflowers. The Mequon Nature Preserve is a green island, a green space increasingly surrounded by homes and businesses. As it is now, it is a sanctuary where animals and plants have room to live. The long-range restoration plan of the Preserve is to return the land to the grasslands and the mixed forests of beech, basswood, sugar maple, oak, and other trees that grew here historically.

Mourning Dove

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6. Who goes there Must we choose between people and wildlife? Today, squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, deer, and Wild Turkeys compete with songbirds at bird feeders that provide a buffet for both resident birds and migrants. Raccoons raid trash cans, and foxes sun themselves in suburban backyards. Coyotes, which have dodged bullets, traps, and poisons for the past 150 years, have increased both their populations and their range; they now live in cities and countrysides from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The Red-winged Blackbird, a bird of the cattail marshes, now nests in subdivisions. Canada Geese, which were only seen during migration by the people who settled Wisconsin, now occupy parks, golf courses and farm fields all year. Bats emerge at night to feed on backyard mosquitoes. For wildlife watchers, there is plenty to see in the zone where urban meets rural.

A chipmunk helps itself to a mouthful of seeds at a bird feeder.

A red fox relaxes at the edge of a suburban lawn.

As human populations increase, animals that need special foods, solitude, or large chunks of wilderness become scarce. Today’s urban sprawl has forced some animals out of their historic ranges. The animals that succeed are the

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“generalists,” the animals that are adaptable, eat a variety of foods, can down-size to a smaller territory, will nest on or near buildings, and can put up with people as next-door neighbors. These generalists will use the man-made bits of nature that they find in parks, cemeteries and back yards, on roof-tops and school grounds – and in green islands like the Mequon Nature Preserve. Green spaces also provide habitat where migrating birds can rest and feed during their difficult spring and fall journeys. Many of the plants and animals that live in the Streich Family Wetlands are highly-adaptable generalists.

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A track in the mud on the shore of a man-made pond in the Streich Family Wetlands shows that deer come to drink.

Bullfrogs eat and get eaten in the ponds on the Preserve.

The tracks of a Great Blue Heron that hunts for frogs in the shallows of a man-made pond at the Preserve.

Green algae Green algae are tiny plants that can grow in such large bunches that they may carpet the surface of a pond. There are many different kinds of algae (over 5,000), and they come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They’re called by many names like pond scum, blanket algae, pond silk, and frog-spit, some of which are not very flattering,. Algae may float in ponds as streamers, clouds, or bubbly mats or may attach to rocks or to the shells of turtles. Some, like the Cladophora that piles up on Milwaukee’s beaches, smell terrible when they rot.

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Green algae floats just below the water’s surface in a pond in the Streich Family Wetland.

A pond may host a procession of different species of algae that thrive and die, depending on the season and the temperature of the water. Despite the larger leaves and more “plant-like” look of the other aquatic plants, algae are the champion producers in the pond community. Algae use the sun’s energy to produce food for themselves in a process called photosynthesis. The algae become food for a huge number of plant-eaters, and the oxygen they produce as a by-product of photosynthesis is vital to the community. Tiny animals called zooplankton eat algae, and so do snails, young mayflies and midges, some minnows, most tadpoles (young frogs and toads), painted turtles, and even deer. Masses of algae are a floating home for plant eaters and for the animals that come to eat the plant-eaters. Ducks feed on algae, swallowing both the plants and the animals that live in the mats.

Water plantain

Water plantain grows in the shallow water and the mud of the Streich Family Wetland.

Water plantain is an emergent plant – it grows on damp shorelines and mud flats and in the shallow water of the man-made ponds in the Streich Family Wetlands. Its roots are under water, and its oval leaves rise above the water’s surface. Its flower stalk splits into a cloud of branches and branch-lets, each tipped with a tiny, flower bearing three white petals. After water plantain is finished blooming, the flower stalks remain for a long time. It is a perennial plant, re-sprouting each spring from a thick rhizome (a rhizome is a horizontal underground stem). The decaying leaves of a dense thicket of water plantain can build soil and cause a wetland to turn into dry land.

A Mallard feeds in the algae mat

Some scientists believe that algae will be a future food for humans, and they are working on ways to farm it. They are especially excited about its use on very long space voyages, where algae might provide both food and oxygen for astronauts.

A dense stand of water plantain crowds the shore of the Streich Family Wetlands

Small, potato-like tubers form on the rhizomes of the water plantain. Tubers are meant to be food-storage for the plant’s future use, but the

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starches contained in tubers are eaten by animals, too. “Puddle ducks” like mallards, teal and pintail eat the tubers and the seeds of water plantain. Muskrats dine on its leaves and roots. Humans have also used water plantain as a food and as a medicine. It has been used to treat indigestion, wounds, bruises, and the bites of rabid dogs; one of its other common names is “Mad-dog Weed.”

Muskrat Muskrats are not rats. Like rats, they are classified in the rodent order along with beaver, squirrels, chipmunks, and mice. But, like rats, muskrats are very adaptable, living in a variety of conditions, both natural and man-made. Muskrats were named for the smelly musk they produce to mark their territory. They are dark brown animals that are about two feet long – their tail makes up about half of their length – and they’ve been described as looking like a twopound mouse. A muskrat’s unique tail is long, skinny, scaly, bare of fur, and slightly flattened. Muskrats are good swimmers and can stay under water for as long as 15 minutes. Their semiwebbed back feet and their tails propel them through the water.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed Swamp milkweed grows in the damp soil around the edges of the Streich Family Wetlands and can also be found in wet ditches. Like its dryland relative the Common Milkweed, its flowers attract butterflies and a variety of bees, and monarch caterpillars feed on its leaves. Other insects seek out its seeds, stem and roots. Like other milkweeds, its bitter sap is toxic. Insects that eat its leaves or stem are also poisonous, and they often wear Nature’s warning colors of red or orange and black. Deer sometimes dine on the top parts of the plant, and muskrats on the rhizomes. Native Americans used fiber from milkweed’s stem to make cords and fish nets, and parts of the plant were cooked and eaten. The root was used to treat coughs, heart problems, weakness and asthma, and the Mesquakie or Fox Indians made a medicine from it that was said to eliminate internal worms in one hour!

Muskrat tracks in the mud of the Streich Family Wetlands.

Look for muskrats in the shallow waters of rivers, streams, and permanent wetlands. There they find the water plants they like to eat, feeding on the seeds, leaves, stems and roots of shallow-water (emergent) plants. Muskrats will fight with other muskrats over food and territory. Their diet also includes small animals like fish, crayfish, clams, and frogs, especially in winter, when they stay active under the ice. Snapping turtles and large game fish prey on

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small muskrats, and the adults are eaten by owls, hawks, mink, foxes, and coyotes.

This young male Mallard is just starting to grow its green head and rust-colored chest at the end of its first summer.

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This muskrat lodge uses a flooded fence post for support

Muskrats dig burrows in the banks of streams and rivers, which causes erosion of the bank. In quiet water, they build a dome-shaped lodge that sticks up two to three feet above the surface of the water. Muskrats shape the marsh. Cattails (see chapter on Paul’s Pond) are a favorite food; muskrats eat its rhizomes and the young shoots, and they make lodges and feeding platforms from cattail leaves and stalks. By harvesting cattails, they keep the wetland open for waterfowl. Ducks and geese often take over the feeding platforms and lodges for nest sites, and animals like turtles, snakes and insects bask on top or live inside of them.

Mallard duck Mallards are a very common duck that belongs to a group called the “puddle ducks” or “dabbling ducks.” Puddle ducks can take off by leaping straight into the air, so they can live in small ponds surrounded by trees. The other main group of ducks, the “diving ducks” or “sea ducks” need more room - they must run along the surface of the water, flapping their wings before lifting off. A male Mallard has a shiny green head, a narrow white neck-ring, and a chestnut-colored chest, and the tips of its tail feathers are curled. Females are light brown with darker brown streaks that camouflage them. Both have pumpkin-orange legs and feet.

They are omnivores, dining on plants and animals on the land and in the water. In the Streich Family Wetlands, Mallards eat algae and the seeds of grains, sedges, rushes, and other emergent plants. Grasshoppers, other land insects, and small water animals are also on their menu. They consume lots of mosquito larvae. Nests are built on the ground near water, surrounded by tall plants. The well-camouflaged female sits on her eggs for about four weeks, and her ducklings are able to walk and swim very soon after they hatch. Mallard ducklings that hatch in late spring can fly in August and migrate in September. Although they are found in wild places, Mallards are also very tolerant of people. People enjoy feeding Mallards, but the white bread crusts that people offer to ducks are not good for them. The bread turns into doughy lumps in the duck’s gut; cracked corn is much better for them.

Painted turtle They are a common sight – and sound – groups of painted turtles basking on logs and sliding off into the water at the slightest alarm. They bask in the sun to warm themselves because they are cold-blooded; their body temperature is about the same as the temperature of the air or water around them. Sunning also helps keep their shells healthy. Painted turtles live in water; their shells are flat compared to the domed shells of land turtles. Flat shells are streamlined

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for swimming; domed shells allow land turtles to flip over more easily if they roll onto their backs.

Painted turtles sunning themselves on shore.

Painted turtles are one of the last turtles to go into hibernation each fall and the first to wake up each spring. A female leaves the water in early summer to lay eggs. Using her back legs, she digs a hole in the soft ground in a sunny location. Then she deposits her tough-shelled eggs, covers them up and walks away. The warmth of the sun on the soil turns the turtle nest into a solar-heated oven, incubating the eggs. Painted turtles hatch in fall, with shells a bit wider than an inch across, but they may stay in the nest until the spring, when the sun warms the soil and signals that they can emerge.

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from worms, tadpoles, snails, and fish to carrion (dead animals) and aquatic plants. As they get older, they eat more and more plants. Because of the way their tongues are attached, they can only eat underwater.

Two painted turtle hatchlings that emerged in spring.

Leopard frog and bullfrog Frogs are amphibians. They belong to a group of vertebrate animals (animals that have backbones) that lead a double life, part on land and part in the water. Their eggs have a soft covering and would dry out if they were laid on land, so, each spring frogs, along with their fellow amphibians, the toads and salamanders, must find a body of water to lay their eggs in. Leopard frogs are spring breeders, and their calls sound like a low snore. Bullfrogs breed later, and their deep “moo” or “jug-o-rum” call can be heard for quite a distance in early summer.

A newly-hatched painted turtle finds the water.

Raccoons, foxes, and skunks dig up turtle nests to dine on the eggs; a dent in the ground surrounded by dry, curled up egg shells is a sign of a nest that was raided. Small, painted turtles may be eaten by crows, herons, bullfrogs, bass, raccoons, mink, and rats as they walk across the landscape or swim on a pond. Adults are preyed on by eagles, snapping turtles, and raccoons. Painted turtles are omnivores; their tastes range

Like their namesake, the leopard, leopard frogs also have spots.

Some kinds of frogs, like the green frogs at Paul’s Pond (see “Adapting for Survival” in the chapter

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on Paul’s Pond), live in water all year, while others lay their eggs there but live much of the year on land. Bullfrogs are found in the water or on the shoreline, and like the green frog, they need permanent ponds because their tadpoles take at least two years to mature. Leopard frogs belong to the second group; they live on land (“meadow frog” is one of their nicknames), but they will head for water if they are startled. Their green skin, with its black spots, camouflages them very well in grass. A frog’s ear is a flat disc (the “tympanum”) located right behind each eye. Both bullfrogs and the similarlooking green frogs have a “folds” or ridges that start in back of the eye. The bullfrog’s folds hook around the back of the tympanum and stop. The folds on the similar-looking green frog extend from its eye, about halfway down its back.

Leopard frog tadpole also has spots.

Young frogs hatch without legs and are called tadpoles or pollywogs. They are mainly vegetarians - herbivores. Their diet is made up of tiny plants like algae, but they sometimes eat decomposing (decaying) plants and animals. Leopard frog tadpoles need only a few months from the time they hatch from eggs to grow their legs and hop out of the water as small adults.

Whirligig beetle Looking like shiny, dark watermelon seeds, mobs of whirligig beetles scoot across the still waters of ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. They row with their second and third pairs of legs, which are flattened and fringed for better speed. Whirligigs have been clocked traveling at speeds up to one yard per second. They can swim well underwater, and they can migrate from pond to pond by flying. A bullfrog waits in the shallows

Adult frogs are predators, meat-eaters that hunt for live prey. We usually picture frogs catching their food by extending a sticky tongue at a flying insect. A few kinds of frogs do eat this way, but most, including leopard frogs, just lunge at insects and worms and grab them. Fullgrown bullfrogs are more than double the size of leopard frogs and have large jaws, so they eat bigger prey like fish, insects, small snakes, small mammals, young turtles, other frogs, and an occasional duckling.

A group of whirligig beetles in the Streich Family Wetlands.

Whirligig beetles’ eyes are split; half of each eye lies below the waterline and half rises above it, so they can view two worlds at once – pretty handy for a predator. When they are on the surface, they absorb air from the atmosphere,

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but when they dive, they tuck an air bubble under their wings. Whirligigs can make a smelly chemical to discourage predators. For an insect-size animal, the top layer of water molecules has a tough “skin” called surface film. Whirligigs and water striders skate on top of the surface film; snails and leeches glide, belly up, on water’s under-surface. Other insects get stuck on it when they fly too close. Whirligigs are carnivores, and they find their food stuck in the water’s skin. The last two segments of their antennae are used to detect the tiny waves made by insects struggling on the surface film, and they also scavenge on dead animals floating on the surface. They swim with their front pair of legs forward, ready to grab their prey.

A whirligig rests on a cattail.

Like their parents, the immature whirligig beetles (larvae) are predators. They eat small animals that they find underwater, like water mites, snails, worms, and other small insects (especially mosquitoes). They’ll also dine on other whirligig larvae.

Mosquito Mosquitoes need no introduction; the adults are famous for their annoying whine and for driving us indoors when we try to enjoy outdoor activities. There are more than 50 species of mosquito in Wisconsin, and each species emerges in its favorite part of the spring or summer. Female mosquitoes bite (they don’t sting – stingers are located at the rear) because they need to have a blood meal before they can

lay eggs. Male mosquitoes and young females drink plant juices. Adult mosquitoes may live in the air, but water is the nursery for young mosquitoes. Shallow wetlands are ideal, but almost any outdoor water will do - birdbaths, old tires, puddles, flower pots, and holes in tree trunks. A young mosquito (larva) spends its time upside down, hanging just below the water’s surface and extending its breathing tubes through the surface film into the air above. The mosquito larva is called a “wiggler” because of the way it moves, and the comma-shaped pupa (the resting-changing stage before it turns into an adult) is called a “tumbler.” Most insects are motionless as a pupa, but a mosquito “tumbler” can move out of the way when it’s disturbed. It takes about a month for most mosquitoes to morph from egg to larva to pupa to adult, but some species mature in 10 days. Mosquito “wigglers” are predators; they feed on tiny invertebrate animals (smaller insects and almost-microscopic water animals) which they filter out of the water. In the water, they are eaten by fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds like the mallard duck, immature dragonflies and damselflies (naiads) (see “Ephemeral Pond VIPs in the chapter on Ephemeral Pond and “Adapting for Survival” in the chapter on Paul’s Pond), and many other underwater predators. Adult mosquitoes are very important food for birds, bats, dragonflies and damselflies. For reasons that are not completely clear, mosquitoes are more attracted to some people than to others. They may respond to clothing color (they prefer dark colors), perfume or soap (they like flowery scents), personal body odor, sweat, or to the distinctive chemistry of the carbon dioxide people exhale.

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A female mosquito needs a blood meal.

7. Human impact

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

The “Give and Take” of human intervention can be read on the face of the Streich Family Wetlands. The wetlands themselves were created by people. The problems the wetlands were designed to solve, like channelization, were also created by people. On the positive side of the ledger, people created the pond system along County Line Road, and are continuing to reclaim the land by dechannelizing the Trinity Creek and by planting native plants (plants that originally grew in this part of Wisconsin).

Trinity Creek before being diverted into the Streich Family Wetlands.

Pollution We think of pollution as man-made chemicals or poisons added to the water or land, but natural substances can be pollutants if they are in the wrong place or the wrong quantity. Dirt that is eroded from stream banks and fields by flood waters is a natural material, but in a river or stream it is pollution. It damages the plants and animals that live there by covering the plants and river bottom, blocking sunlight needed by underwater plants, ruining fish spawning beds, killing fish eggs, smothering small animals that live in the muck on the bottom of streams and ponds, and clogging the breathing systems of other water animals. Fertilizers have the same effect on water plants that they have on land plants – they encourage plants to grow. When aquatic plants become too dense, they clog the water and throw shade on plants below them, and their decaying leaves cause a lake or pond to fill more quickly. Fertilizer from lawns and farm fields and sewage

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from leaky household septic systems (which acts like fertilizer) often finds its way into rivers and streams and their wetlands.

Making a wetland

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Too much of a good thing - water lilies clog a pond.

The third and most obvious kind of pollution, chemical and industrial wastes that run off from industrial sites, has not affected the area around the Mequon Nature Preserve very much. Still, rainwater that drains from the streets and parking lots that border the Preserve carries a load of chemicals that are related to car and truck traffic, like road salt, motor oil, gasoline, and rubber. These pollutants are filtered out by the wetlands. Road salt that runs off from the PieperPower Education Center parking lot is caught by the ponds on its edges.

Drain tiles are removed so water will stay on the surface.

Discovering the contours of the pools.

Creating dams

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continue to study the area in order to see what new plants and animals arrive during the restoration.

The pools fill.

Scientists study the inhabitants of a pond by trapping its inhabitants in live-traps.

8. For more information ON-LINE d%20post.pdf d.pdf

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Mother Nature gets a helping hand. ivities/28.htm .html

BOOKS A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, J. Reese Voshell, Jr. 2002. The MacDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA. Wetland plants get a head start.

And Science The Mequon Nature Preserve is a place that people can visit for recreation and to learn about and reconnect with nature. It is also a research area. Scientists are finding out what kinds of plants and animals live here now, and they will

Amphibians of Wisconsin. Christoffel, Rebecca, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2001. . Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. A World in a Drop of Water, Alvin and Virginia Silverstein. 1969. Dover

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Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands, 2000. Elizabeth P. Lawlor. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA Golden Guide to Pond Life, George K. Reid. 1987. Golden Press Pond and Brook, Michael J. Caduto. 1990. Hanover Press (also, 1985, Prentice Hall) The Book of Swamp and Bog, John Eastman. 1993. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA. Through the Looking Glass, A Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, Susan Borman, Robert Korth, Jo Temte. 1997. The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. UWEX-CNR, UWSP, Stevens Point, WI 54481. Turtles and Lizards of Wisconsin. Christoffel, Rebecca, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2002. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Wetlands Pamela Hickman. 1993. Kids Can Press Ltd., Toronto, Ont.



1. Where to find them

9. How’s the weather in there

2. What are they

10. Vines

3. How do we know that

11. Introducing the Mequon Nature Preserve woodlands

4. The big picture 5. The bigger picture 6. A forest timeline

12. Important woodland dwellers

7. The anatomy of a forest – looking up

13. Human impact

8. And looking down

15. For more information

14. Tree stories

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Woodlands Walk west through Gengler Woods and across Paul’s Pond to Harvey’s Woods. Another route is to take the Cross Connector Trail north from the PeiperPower Education Center to the Lower Link Trail to the Observation Tower Trail. Walk to the Observation Tower Trail and access Harvey’s Woods using the Swan Road Loop.

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Gengler Woods runs north-south in the center of the Mequon Nature Preserve

Find Gengler Woods by parking in the Swan Road lot, 10000 Swan Road, and walking the Swan Road loop east to Harvey’s Woods. Walk through or around Harvey’s Woods and take the Middle Link Trail past Paul’s Pond and into Gengler Woods.

Harvey’s woods is the westernmost woods at the Mequon Nature Preserve

1. Where to find them

From the PieperPower Education Center, take the Cross Connector Trail to the east side of Gengler Woods. Turn west on the Middle Link Trail onto the Gengler Woods loop.

There are three woodlands on the Mequon Nature Preserve. One is on the west side, one is near the center, and one is at the north end of the property. Harvey’s Woods is just west of the Observation Tower and can be reached from the trailhead at the Swan Road parking lot. Park at the lot located at 10000 Swan Road, and walk east to the woods on the Swan Road Loop. Harvey’s Woods can also be reached from the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI. Hike the Cross Connector Trail north to the Middle Link Trail.

Farmstead Woods surrounds one of the old farmhouses on the property

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The Farmstead Woods surround the Hahmann House at the north end of the Mequon Nature Preserve property. From the Swan Road trailhead at 10000 Swan Road, walk east on the Swan Road loop to the Farmstead Link and follow it to the Farmstead Woods. From the parking lot at the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, take the Cross Connector Trail straight north past Gengler Woods to the Farmstead Woods. Or, from the parking lot as 8275 W. Donges Bay Road, walk south on the Cross Connector Trail to the Farmstead Woods.

2. What are they

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Four hundred years ago, most of what we now call Mequon was covered by a hardwood forest that was dominated by beech and maple trees, with smaller numbers of oak, ash, hickory, basswood, black cherry, and other forest trees. A forest is a large, dense stand of trees in which little sunlight reaches the ground because the upper branches of the trees interlock. Just about one-third of the land area of the earth, or a little more than 9% of the total surface of the Earth, is covered by some kind of forest. Right now, there are three woodlands on the Mequon Nature Preserve – Harvey’s Woods, Gengler Woods and Farmstead Woods. Woodlands, like forests, are tree-covered areas, but woodlands are smaller than forests. Woodland trees are farther apart than forest trees are, which allows more sunlight to reach the ground. As the original forests were cleared for farm fields or cut for lumber, small islands of trees were left so that the farmer had trees for firewood or a “sugar bush” to tap for maple syrup. A few large oaks were often left in the field so that grazing livestock, or the farmer and his team, had shade to rest in on hot days. Other trees were left uncut as a windbreak for farm buildings or on land that was too hilly for farming. The woods on the Mequon Nature Preserve are not old growth trees, but they are the descendents of the trees in those parcels, or

they are places where later farmers allowed trees to grow back after the land was cleared. What about wildlife? Some animals need trees – acres and acres and acres of trees. The large forests were cut, leaving much smaller islands of trees where once the trees went on for miles. It’s called forest fragmentation. Some animals could adapt to the smaller woodlands, and the ones that could not either moved or died. Most of the land on the Mequon Nature Preserve has been farmed for a long time – a century or more. A goal of the restoration plan at the Mequon Nature Preserve is to restore the original kinds of forest trees on about 90% of its agricultural land.

3. How do we know that The forests that covered most of southeast Wisconsin contained many deciduous trees (trees that drop their leaves in fall) like sugar maple, oak, and basswood. There were also conifers (cone-bearing plants) like pine, cedar, and tamarack. But how do we know what the forests of 200 years ago looked like? One hundred sixty years ago, settlers began to move into what is now Wisconsin. At that time, farming, logging and human settlements only occupied a small part of Wisconsin’s landscape, a landscape that had been unchanged for centuries. For 34 years, between 1832 and 1866, surveyors mapped the land for a project called the Public Land Survey. The main reasons for the survey were to describe the territory and to mark township borders so the land could be sold and settled. Using chains 66 feet long, surveyors divided the land into square-mile sections, and they marked every half mile with a post or a rock pile. The chain had to be stretched straight 80 times to make each mile! Every half mile and then again every mile, where the east-west and the northsouth section lines crossed, surveyors recorded the species and sizes of several trees that grew close-by. Those trees, carved with corner post

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numbers that corresponded to points on a paper grid, were called “witness trees.” Surveyors also drew maps in the field and wrote down what kinds of plant communities they walked through – forest, lake, prairie, wetland, or savannah (a park-like area with prairie flowers, grasses and widely-spaced oaks). They noted the topography (level or hilly) and rated the fertility of the soil. Using the information in the surveyors’ notebooks, we can look back from the distance of 160 years and construct a description of what the land looked like before statehood.

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4. The big picture When the first Pilgrims came ashore to settle New England about 400 years ago, the eastern half of North America was mostly forest, and much of the western half was prairie. The eastern trees met the western grasslands in Wisconsin, where there were prairie openings and savannahs in the southern and western parts of the state. It has been said that the eastern forests were so dense that a squirrel could climb a tree along the Mississippi and run all the way to the Atlantic Ocean without putting its feet on the ground. Native Americans used fire to create farm fields within the great forests. The Indians’ axes were stone, and using them to cut trees was very hard work. Fires set by lightning created more openings, so the squirrel’s path wouldn’t have been a straight one.

A mature forest

Many of the first Europeans who arrived in North America were city folks who knew little about farming and even less about wilderness survival. And wilderness it was! They stepped ashore into one of the biggest extents of forest the world has seen, and they were terrified - of the bears, the mountain lions, the wolves, and the Native Americans who were so at home in the forest. The trees were huge, and in many places, the shadows they cast were almost total. For the next century, people could always identify the settlers who were wresting small farms from the virgin forests because those farmers were so pale. Forests and woodlands are ecological communities - sets of plants and animals living together within a specific area. There are many kinds of woodlands, even in southeastern Wisconsin, because of differences in soil, water, hilliness, human activity, and other factors. The plants and animals that live in those woodlands find shelter and food within their community. Woodland plants, like plants in the pond or the field, get energy from the sun, although sunlight can be hard to come by on the woodland’s floor. The energy produced by plants is used by a wide variety of herbivores (plant eaters), which are eaten by carnivores (meat eaters). Some carnivores are preyed on by even larger carnivores.

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the ice extended south through the rest of Wisconsin and on into central Illinois. The ice sheet that covered most of Wisconsin was more than one and a half miles high, and it weighed many trillions of tons per square mile. Even though it wasn’t ice-covered, the land that lay south of the glacier was frozen by the cold, dry winds that swept down off its slopes. Tundra plants, musk oxen, and wooly mammoths lived in the center of North America.

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Possums, or opossums, are southern omnivores that are making themselves at home in southeast Wisconsin.

Omnivores like opossums eat both plants and animals. Scavengers feed on and break down dead organic material - plants and animals - and set the stage for decomposers, the final group in the food chain. Bacteria and fungi are the main decomposers. They absorb what’s left of the dead organic material and leave behind the minerals that will be recycled by living plants and animals. A diagram of the food habits in the woodland community would show a dizzying number of food chains interwoven to form a gigantic food web. Woodland dwellers may not be directly connected to each other by energy, but they are still indirectly linked to each other within their community. As the great conservationist John Muir once said, "As soon as we take one thing by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

5. The bigger picture The forests that grew in southeast Wisconsin in the 1600’s were the latest in a string of communities that had grown on that same land, one after another, for thousands of years. At the peak of the most recent glacier 18,000 years ago, one-third of the planet was covered by glaciers. Although the glacier missed what we now call the Driftless Area in southwestern Wisconsin,

Boulders in Gengler Woods

Within the advancing glacier, winds whistled through ice caves, and rivers carried and dumped their loads of rock. Trees, soil, animal carcasses, boulders from Canada, and more were picked up, pushed, mixed, and spit out by the giant ice sheet as the ground below the glacier was scraped bare. The “Wisconsin” that existed before the most recent glacier had mountains, volcanoes, and an inland sea. When the last glacier melted and retreated 10,000 years ago it revealed a landscape that had been scrambled. Hills were leveled and new hills built; the courses of rivers were changed; and there were new lakes and a rolling landscape that would allow even more lakes to develop. Although the surface layer of plants and soil had been bulldozed down to bedrock, the parent materials for today’s soils had been deposited. Lake Michigan was only as wide as a wide river, and Wisconsin was a garden, waiting to be planted.

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Pioneer plants - Mosses and lichens get a foothold on bare rock.

The tan rocks pulled up by the tree roots are dolomite, the bedrock at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

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During the thousands of years that followed the retreat of the glacier, the plants also retreated back to the north from the areas that the ice sheets had pushed them to. During that time, rock was weathered into soil, additional soil was formed by decaying plants, and the landscape greened. When a big tree falls over, we see tangled in its roots the rocks deposited by the glacier.

6. A forest timeline An ecological concept called plant succession explains what happened next. That concept says that in any area, there is a predictable series of plant communities that will follow each other, replace each other, until a final stage or “climax community” grows. The climax community is the one that can replace itself, over and over, if conditions stay the same. The stages progress slowly, with many setbacks. Succession takes longer when the starting point is bare rock, and it is “speedier” when there is some soil already present, as there would be after a forest fire, a flood, logging, or a farmer’s plow.

Lichens and mosses were the first plants (the pioneer plants) that sprouted on the bare rock and young soil of what is now the Mequon Nature Preserve. It took the growth and decay of many generations of these pioneer plants to produce enough soil to support the grasses and wildflowers that built even more soil. Leaves are the sun-catchers that a plant uses to collect the sun’s energy and are the place where a plant manufactures its food. The leaves of grasses and many wildflowers are long and slim. Plants that grow in the open don’t need huge leaves to catch the sun; they are surrounded by it. Narrow leaves lose less moisture to evaporation, an important water-conserving adaptation. Grasslands, not trees, are the climax community in some places in Wisconsin. The next stage in the development of the great forests was the arrival of woody shrubs and trees like choke cherry, black cherry, sumac, and elm. Their many leaves produce greater shade than the plants in the previous stages do, and they grow in the same spot for years. The seeds of sun-loving plants don’t sprout well in shade; they have made the environment unsuitable for their offspring.

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Sun-loving shrubs and trees grow at the edge of Harvey’s woods.

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Staghorn sumac is a sun-loving shrub. Its new twigs are covered in “velvet” like a deer’s antlers.

The shrubs and trees that follow may be more tolerant of shade, but again, their leaves produce more shade than their own offspring can handle. The final stage, the one whose plants can grow and reproduce in shade, is called the climax. Climax communities are diverse (they have many species of plants and animals), with a complex food web. In this part of Wisconsin sugar maple and beech are the plants that dominate the forest and continue to replace themselves. Because of its climate, much of Wisconsin favors forests of some kind. The idea of a permanent, climax community is misleading, because even this end stage is fluid. If a forest tree falls due to age, fire, logging, or wind, the ground below it is suddenly bathed in sunlight. Sun-loving plants crowd into that sunlit soil for a few years until the remaining tree tops grow over and shade dominates again. For a while, succession is set back and early plants live side-by-side with the ones that succeed them. Each community contributes to the one that follows it, first by making soil, and then by making shade. Succession is still happening today, everywhere, even within climax communities.

If you think of a community like a pond or a forest, the boundaries are easy to spot. Where two communities met, there is a zone called an “edge.” At the “edge” of the woodland and field communities, we find woodland plants growing out through the edge toward the field, and the more shade-tolerant field plants growing into the woodland. Field animals and forest animals may move back and forth from their communities into the edge, and some animals call the edge their home. The plants at the edges of Harvey’s, Gengler and Farmstead Woods are sun-loving shrubs and trees like prickly ash, aspen, and elms.

Small, non-flowering plants like lichens can only shelter small animals, like the millipede.

Just as the list of plants changes with each stage, different animals are found in each plant community. Pioneer plants eking out a living in shallow cracks on a rock don’t provide much food for herbivores, and only the very small animals, like spiders, ants, beetles, can find shelter there. Larger animals arrive in future stages when the plants get bigger and the community draws closer to its end stage. Animals “follow” the plants, but animals also

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shape plant communities. Squirrels and birds are famous for planting trees by forgetting where they hid nuts or by spreading seeds in their droppings or on their coats (see “The Next Generation” in the chapter on Farmland and Grassland). This seed-planting speeds succession, but grazing by animals may slow it down. In fact, some ecologists today believe that grazing by large or plentiful herbivores actually creates climax communities.

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7. The anatomy of a forest – looking up An ant on the forest floor is shaded from the sun by a series of leafy, living “umbrellas” formed by layers of plants. The layer that is farthest from the ant and closest to the sun is the canopy. Canopy refers to the top layer of a woodland and also to the top of a single tree. The canopy of the woodlands at the Mequon Nature Preserve is an uneven layer, made up of the tops of the tallest trees. It doesn’t shut the sun out completely, but the canopy does block the majority of the sunlight, and it creates a different set of weather conditions below it. Photosynthesis is the process used by plants to make food in their leaves using the energy of the sun. Because the canopy catches most of the sun, so it is the location of much of the photosynthesis in the woodland.

understory is the next highest layer that lies between our ant and the sky. Saplings (young trees) of the canopy species grow in the understory, ready to replace the canopy trees. Smaller kinds of trees, along with shrubs like leatherwood and maple-leaved viburnum, are also part of the understory. These woody plants don’t need full sunlight in order to thrive, and they have adapted to the shade by developing broad leaves to grab as much light as they can. The three woodlands at the Mequon Nature Preserve are all different. The understory is not very well developed in Gengler Woods, but there are many saplings and shrubs in Farmstead Woods and Harvey’s Woods. The herb layer is closest “umbrella” to our ant. There, the plants have soft, non-woody stems that die back to the ground each winter. Ferns, grass-like woodland sedges, and a seasonal parade of wildflowers that grow on the floor of the woods make this a very diverse layer.

Mayapple blooms on the forest floor in Gengler Woods.

Part of the canopy in Gengler Woods

Breaks in the canopy do let in enough sunlight so that some plants can grow below it. The

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the top of its canopy, and more layers can be counted going down into the soil.

Columbines grow in woodlands with sun-dappled floors, and in edges.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves. Every year the forest floor receives millions of leaves from all the layers of plants above it. This year’s leaves fall on last year’s leaves, which are sitting on the leaves of the year before that. The layer that is made up of newly fallen and decaying leaves is called the leaf litter. Scavengers like earthworms, sowbugs, millipedes, and a host of insects live and eat in the litter and break it down. Centipedes, spiders, and mites prey on the small scavengers and decomposers of the leaf litter. If you dig through the leaves, you’ll see that as you dig farther down, the pieces of leaves get smaller. In the lower layers of leaves, the stars of the show, the soil bacteria and soil fungi, take over and reduce the pieces even farther, creating a loose, rich material called duff.

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Duff provides a mulch where new plants can start growing and where older plants can get the nutrients they need. When they fall, beech, basswood, and maple leaves return important nutrients to the soil.

Non-flowering plants like ferns are part of the herb layer.

Like wetlands (see “What Is It?” in the chapter on Paul’s Pond) the woodland is divided into a giant jigsaw puzzle of different habitats. Each of these layers and spaces is occupied by its own set of animals. It’s unlikely that an ant on the floor of the woods would ever climb up to the canopy; it will live close to the ground with centipedes, millipedes, sow bugs, snakes, daddy long-legs, and many more animals. But the canopy has plenty of occupants. Some spend their entire lives in the canopy, their feet never touching the ground, and others, like birds and squirrels, move from layer to layer.

8. And looking down Unseen and often unsung is the ground the ant walks on. The woodland is divided into layers to

Life below the leaf litter is complex and fascinating.

The leaf litter and duff layers act as a blanket, insulating the soil, the plant roots, and the soil animals from swings in the air temperature above it. The duff is teeming with life, a place where animals find food and, eventually, build

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more soil. Some scientists say that the greatest numbers and diversity of life can be found at and just below the surface of the soil. The vast majority of insects spend some part of their life cycle underground. Although there are no big swings in the “weather” in the soil, the downside is that soil is difficult to move through. The plants and animals that live in these communities of litter, duff and soil have the same needs as their more familiar counterparts above the ground, and their food webs are as complex. The equation is simple: fungi and bacteria are the major decomposers responsible for breaking down dead plants and animals and for forming soil. Without soil, there would be no green plants, and green plants support all other life. Most of the tiny animals that live in the soil eat bacteria and algae, and the tiny animals themselves are eaten by slightly larger animals and by predaceous fungi. A key ingredient in the recipe for soil is time. There are many different kinds of soil because there are many different places, like ravines, prairies, forests, wetlands, and mountains, where soil is made, and each has its unique set of available ingredients. It may take between 200 and 1,000 years for an inch of soil to form and far less time than that for soil to erode (wash away because of rainstorms or blow away in windstorms). The roots of woodland trees hold soil in place and slow erosion.

The entrance to Farmstead Woods looks cool and inviting

9. How’s the weather in there For the plants and animals of the woodland community, weather is not only calculated in days, it is also measured in seasons. The woods at the Mequon Nature Preserve are temperate woods, which means that they are not too cold, not too hot, and enjoy 30” to 60” of precipitation each year . They experience four seasons each year, with precipitation falling in every season. In winter, the moisture that falls as snow falls on ground that is frozen or snow-covered. It is not usable by woodland plants and animals. Each layer of woodland plants, from the canopy into the soil, has its unique weather. Those “zones” of weather help determine the kinds of plants that will grow below the canopy. Weathermen give us numbers – temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind speed - that are measured by instruments that sit inside a shaded box (a weather station) that is five feet above the ground. Many plants and most small animals - earthworms, ants, millipedes and centipedes, mice, frogs, and salamanders - will never in their lives be 5 feet off the ground. The weather that matters to them is the weather within four inches above and below the soil’s surface. Temperature, wind speed and humidity can be dramatically different at ground level than it is in a weather station nearby or at treetop level.

In Summer…. Sun, wind and rain hit the top of the canopy with their full strength. When you walk into the woods on a hot day, the first thing you notice is the shade, and then you feel the drop in temperature. When the leaves are on the trees, only a small percent of the sunlight that strikes the canopy will get to the herb layer on the floor of the woods. The warmest place in a forest is at the top of the canopy; the coolest is the forest floor, and the temperature below the ground is cooler still.

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conditions. They can’t get the water that is frozen in the soil, and so they can’t make food. The heavy weight of snow on a leafy tree can cause branches to break.

Wild geraniums bloom in the herb layer in woods and edges in early summer.

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Plant leaves give off water vapor during the day. The canopy not only blocks most of the sunlight from reaching the woodland’s floor, it also traps the humidity that forms below it. At night, the air cools and the humidity drops. The canopy changes the way rain falls to the ground. During a light rain, water barely rustles the leaves, and the whole tree acts like a wick. Rainwater runs down the leaves to the branches, and finally down the tree trunk, where it sinks into the ground close to the trunk, guided by the tree’s large roots. Trees may be surrounded by small plants that depend on this flow of water. A heavy, drenching rain bends and moves the leaves, letting more water get directly through the canopy to a greater area of the understory.

In Fall….. Most of the trees at the Mequon Nature Preserve are deciduous trees, trees that drop their leaves in fall. Leaves change color as the green pigment in the leaves fades, showing the colors that have been hidden there during the whole summer. The change of leaf color is a sign that the tree’s food supply is moving from its leaves to its roots. Losing their leaves is a good strategy for trees. When the ground freezes and the soil water turns to ice, trees will be living in desert

Sugar maples make a blaze of color in fall.

As the leaves of the canopy fall, sunlight finally reaches the woodland’s floor. The forest floor absorbs and radiates the sun’s warmth, and on some days the forest’s floor may be its warmest part. Below the leaf litter, the soil temperature is dropping. Some pioneer plants like lichens and mosses may have a quick growth spurt as they are exposed to the sun.

In Winter……. Temperatures are reversed in winter, and it’s colder in the treetops than it is on the ground. Winter is a tough time for animals. With leaves gone from the trees, hiding places are scarce. Those animals that are cold-blooded don’t have many choices when the temperature drops (coldblooded means that the temperature inside an animal’s body is about the same as the temperature of the air around them). Coldblooded animals read the signals of the short day lengths and cool nights, and they find a sheltered place to spend the winter. Some kinds of birds migrate from southeastern Wisconsin, and some northern birds migrate to southeastern Wisconsin. Our winter birds change their behavior and often their diet, gathering in flocks when they used to chase outsiders away, and eating seeds instead of the insects they can no longer find easily. Mammals

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(animals with fur) may stay active all winter; they may sleep throughout the winter or disappear briefly during the worst storms and cold. Animals come out of winter hungry and with their numbers low.

Bloodroot flowers are only open for one or two days.

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The canopy doesn’t offer any protection on a snowy day.

In Spring…… As the spring sun gains warmth, the surface of the leaf litter heats up, but the woodland’s canopy is still cold. A group of wildflowers called Spring Ephemerals bloom in late April and early May. “Ephemeral” means “lasting a short time,” and these flowers - hepatica, violets, bloodroot, spring beauty, and others - take advantage of the full sunlight before the canopy starts to leaf out and shade the forest floor. They appear as the temperatures reach about 55 degrees, and they are pollinated by the earliest insects to emerge. Some spring ephemerals contain bitter or burning chemicals that discourage grazers from bothering them during their brief appearance. By mid-summer it is hard to find any sign of their leaves. As the canopy leafs out in late May, the cycle is complete.

10. Vines Woodland trees are in a race for the sun. If you look at the trees in the woodlands at the Mequon Nature Preserve, especially in Gengler Woods, you will see tall, straight trunks with few side branches. It takes energy to produce side branches and to keep them alive, and the woody tissue that a tree needs in order to stay upright also requires energy to manufacture. If the action is in the canopy, a tree must put its resources into getting there; why grow “out” when the rewards are “up?” Vines have found an easier way to get to the sun. On long, flexible stems that may be woody or non-woody, they piggyback on shrubs and trees. Some species of vine, like Virginia creeper and poison ivy, are content to stay on the woodland’s floor if they are growing in a sunny spot and there is nothing nearby to climb. Vines have developed a number of different ways to gain altitude, and some kinds of vines may use more than one of them. The first and simplest is leaning or sprawling. Sprawling doesn’t require any extra structures; the vine just lays over whatever is close by. The long stems of some roses and raspberries are sprawlers, though their thorns may help to fasten them in one spot.

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tendrils that do the grabbing so that the vine can climb. Some species of grasping vines curl clockwise and others curl counter-clockwise. A grape-relative named Virginia creeper is classified as a sticker. Its tendrils end in pads, and the pads make a sticky glue that fixes the vine to its tree.

Poison ivy grabs the tree’s bark with tiny rootlets

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The Virginia creeper vine hangs on with sticky pads.

Sometimes vines damage or kill their support plants. They may completely cover a shrub, blocking its access to sunlight, or they may twine so tightly around the trunk of their support tree that they become embedded and cut off the flow of food from leaf to trunk. Vines and their leaves are heavy! Their weight makes the trees they climb more likely to fall over in a storm.

A grape tendril catches an early spring snow.

Vines that climb by rooting, grasping, and sticking may have special “tools” that help the vines to hang on. Poison ivy is a “rooter,” its rusty, flaky-looking stem makes tiny rootlets that hold firmly to the cracks in the bark of tree trunks. Wild grape is a “grasper.” Graspers curl around their support plant or produce special

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Harvey’s Woods has a healthy understory.

Vines can cut into the bark of their support trees.

11. Introducing the Mequon Nature Preserve woodlands

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Each of the woods on the Mequon Nature Preserve has its own character.

Harvey’s Woods Along with its trees, shrubs and wildflowers, Harvey’s Woods is the site of several ephemeral ponds (see “What are They?” in the chapter on Ephemeral Ponds). Because the canopy of Harvey’s Woods is fairly open, there are a lot of young trees in its understory, and many plants in its herb layer. Harvey’s Woods has been rated as “moderately rich in diversity” with very few alien (non-native) species. Dogwood, buckthorn, basswood, elm, prickly ash, red oak, quaking aspen, and white oak grow at its edge. It covers about 7 1/2 acres.

Gengler Woods Gengler Woods contains mature beech, maple, basswood, hickory, ash, and oak trees. Because of the shade produced by these trees, there are not as many plants in the understory or herb layers as there are in the other two woods. Gengler Woods covers about 7 acres. Many invasive species of plants are sun-loving. In both Gengler and Farmstead woods, open, sunlit areas are being colonized by an alien shrub named Common Buckthorn.

The understory of Gengler woods has fewer plants than Harvey’s Woods.

Farmstead Woods Farmstead Woods is east of the Hahmann House on the old Bacher farmstead. The section east and south of the house has Norway Spruce and a large population of mature sugar maples, and this area could have been used as a “sugar bush” (a stand of trees tapped for maple sap) by previous residents of the property. Parts of the

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woodland’s floor are thickly carpeted with maple seedlings. There is a small pond with a huge willow growing by its edge, and some very large locust trees. These sun-loving trees grew in the open and were later surrounded by small trees.

shade of their parent trees. In many beechmaple forests, beech and maple function like a tag team. One species will make up most of the canopy while the other dominates the understory. As the older canopy trees die, the other species is poised to replace it.

Sugar maple seedlings wait on the woodland’s floor for a break in the canopy.

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West of the farmhouse are conifers – cedar and Norway spruce. Cedar grew in small patches in the area 400 years ago. Norway spruce was introduced from Europe and was often planted around farmsteads as a windbreak. A mature Norway Spruce has twigs that droop downward from large branches that angle upward.

The twigs of Norway spruce droop from their branches.

12. Important woodland dwellers Beech The climax forests in southeastern Wisconsin are beech-maple forests; beech and maple seedlings can sprout and grow in the dense

Beech leaves have toothed – jagged – edges.

The edges of beech leaves are toothed, and their shiny, dark green leaves and twigs are alternate (see the diagram at the end of the Woodland chapter). The leaves are rich in the chemical potash, and when they fall and decompose, they fertilize the woodland’s floor. Beech trees often keep their leaves through part of the winter, though the leaves get much thinner and whiter by mid-winter. Beech bark is easily scarred, and people have used it for centuries to leave messages. Once carved, the marks stay for the life of the tree, and, unfortunately, beeches are often vandalized by people who carve their initials.

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where branches are attached. Its leaves and twigs are arranged opposite each other, and its leaves have five lobes (see the diagram at the end of the Woodland chapter). When it grows in the open, sugar maple has a “lollipop” shape with lots of twigs and branches. In the forest, sugar maples produce fewer side branches.

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The veins in a maple leaf spread out like fingers spread from your palm.

Beech trees have smooth, gray bark.

Native Americans, and later, settlers prized the pyramid-shaped beech nut for medicine, food, and for an oil that they pressed from the nut. The wood was used to make tool handles, bowls, barrels, and furniture, and the dried leaves were preferred as a mattress stuffing. Beech nuts are also popular with wildlife. Turkey, Wood Ducks, Grouse, and some songbirds feed on beechnuts. They are eaten by squirrels; chipmunks collect them for their winter food stores, and beechnuts were a favorite food of the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon that once flew through Wisconsin in unbelievably huge numbers.

Sugar Maple Sugar maple is beech’s partner in many woodlands in the area. Its gray-brown bark is rough, and older trees are furrowed and have markings that look like an up-side-down “V”

Maple sap, maple syrup, and maple sugar were very important foods for Native Americans who lived in the eastern forests. Each spring, as they tapped the maple trees in their “sugar bush,” the Iroquois gave thanks to their Creator for the promise of another year. Sap was boiled for hours to evaporate much of its water - it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup – and then boiled some more to make the more portable maple sugar. The slightly sweet sap was drunk straight from the tree and was used in cooking. Red squirrels and a number of insects and birds puncture or scratch the sugar maple’s bark and feed on the sap flow. Sugar maples produce huge numbers of seeds, but many are eaten by birds, mice, and chipmunks.

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White oak leaves have rounded edges. Maple seeds spin like helicopters as they fall to the ground.

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Acid precipitation, which is a result of air pollution, is very hard on sugar maples in the northeastern United States.

Oaks in both the red oak and the white oak groups grow in the woodlands of the Mequon Nature Preserve. The red oak group includes red and black oaks, and white oak includes white oak, swamp white oak, and bur oak. With deep root systems topped by tall, sturdy trunks, they may grow for hundreds of years and develop huge canopies. A mature red oak can produce 5,000 acorns in a single year, so oak branches must be strong. The bark of a white oak turns light gray with age, and the bark of a red oak is dark and grooved. Their leaves are easy to tell apart; the lobes of white oak leaves are rounded, and the lobes of red oak leaves are pointed (see the diagram at the end of the Woodland chapter).

Sugar maples put on a spectacular show in fall

Oaks The Pilgrims who came to the shores of North America were amazed by the huge oaks they found in their new land. Most of the large oaks in England had been cut down to build ships, and an enormous number of American oaks were logged and sent to England to supply the English ship-building and furniture industries.

Red oak leaves have pointed lobes.

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Both groups of oak bear acorns, but the small acorns of the white oak ripen in one growing season, and the larger red oak acorns need two. If an oak tree has acorns on it in winter, it’s in the red oak group. Neither kind of oak produces a huge crop of acorns every year. Another name for the year’s crop of acorns and for the seeds of other forest trees is mast; oaks have a big mast year every four to ten years. The populations of acorn-eaters are tied to mast years. Squirrel numbers stay low until a mast year. Then, with acorns everywhere, squirrels raise lots of young, and their populations boom. The next year, there are lots of squirrels but very few acorns, so squirrel numbers start to go down again. Squirrels share the acorn crop with raccoons, chipmunks, mice, and some birds.

nutlet drops, it helicopters to the ground, where it may lie for several years waiting for the right conditions to grow. Basswood sends up sprouts around trunks of living trees and around the stumps of trees that have fallen down or been logged. If you see three or four (or more) trunks growing together, you are probably looking at basswood. Basswood is more tolerant of shade as a young tree than it is as a mature tree, and basswoods often grow in the full sunlight of the woodland’s edge.

Native Americans ground the acorns of both kinds of oak into flour to make breads and to thicken soups. The acorns of white oaks are “sweet” and can be used immediately, while red oak acorns are high in tannin and are bitter. They were boiled along with wood ash before they were used.

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Basswood nutlets float to the ground like helicopters.

American Indians used basswood’s soft, white inner bark as material for the mats, ropes, and cords, and basswood flowers were used as medicine. Its soft wood is ideal for carving.

Basswood’s heart-shaped leaves are toothed.

Basswood is sometimes called the “humming tree” because its flowers attract so many bees; it is a great honey plant. Its leaves are shaped like an uneven heart, and its leaves, twigs and branches are arranged alternately (see the diagram at the end of the Woodland chapter). Basswood’s flowers produce round “nutlets” that are attached to strap-like “wings.” When the

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Moonseed’s leaves look like grape leaves, but its fruit is poisonous.

The bark of Leatherwood is too strong to tear.

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Moonseed is a woody vine that grows in rich woodlands and on woodland edges. Moonseed climbs without the help of special “tools” to help it grip its support. Lacking tendrils, rootlets or suction cups, moonseed simply twines its stem around a tree trunk. The reason for moonseed’s name lies hidden inside its fruit. Each purple fruit holds a single seed that is C-shaped, like a crescent moon. Moonseed is often mistaken for wild grape. Both the leaves and the fruits are grape “lookalikes,” but each grape contains several seeds. Although birds eat them, moonseed fruits taste bad and are poisonous to humans. Only experts should eat plants that they find in the wild.

Leatherwood is a slow-growing shrub that is often found in the understory of damp, rich maple-beech woods. It grows to 10 or 12 feet high. It is famous for its flexible branches, which can be tied in knots; a branch may break, but its bark won’t tear. Native Americans, and later settlers, peeled bark from its branches and used it for bowstrings, fish lines, baskets, ropes, and cords, and it was used to sew canoes together. Its tough bark protects it from being grazed by deer and other herbivores, but leatherwood bark also contains chemicals that may cause people’s skin to blister. It has a bad smell and a bitter taste, and eating its fruit will cause an upset stomach. In spite of that it was used as a frontier medicine.

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People used to think that hepatica’s liver-shaped leaves should be used a medicine for liver problems, but the medicine that was made from it was useless. Its roots provided a dye, and hepatica roots were left by some American Indians as a good luck charm near animal traps.

Mushrooms The mushrooms we see on the ground or on tree trunks are like the apples on an apple tree – they are the “fruit” of a fungus, and they are the tip of what can be a very large iceberg. But, if they are the “apple,” where’s the “tree?”

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Hepatica flowers appear before its new leaves.

Hepatica is an early-blooming spring ephemeral. Its purple, pink, sky blue, or even white flowers appear first, growing from clumps of last year’s leaves. The buds and flower stems are hairy, which discourages plant-eaters. Hepatica flowers are pollinated by the first bees and flies that take to the air in spring. Its seeds, like the seeds of another early-bloomer, bloodroot, are collected and “planted” in their nests by ants. After hepatica blooms, its new leaves will appear; many spring ephemerals disappear from view by summer, the leaves of hepatica can be found year-round.

The leaves of hepatica can be found any time of year. These were photographed in early spring.

These small mushrooms join a group of other decomposers to “digest” a large log.

Mushrooms grow from a network of pale strings called mycelia. Strands of mycelia are woven through soil, dead trees, wet leaves, the floors of ephemeral ponds, and many, many other surfaces. Unlike plants, mushrooms cannot make their own food, but their mycelia absorb food from their surroundings. Fungi are very important decomposers. Mushrooms and their mycelia are eaten by chipmunks, flies, beetles, snails, sowbugs, slugs, mites, and other forest floor dwellers.

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stars. There are no colors or structures or other signs that show whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous (poisonous mushrooms are sometimes called toadstools). The tests of folklore are not true – animals can safely eat mushrooms that people can’t; “toadstools” don’t tarnish silver spoons or make tin cans rust; not all white mushrooms are safe; and toxins can’t be cooked, dried or processed away from most poisonous fungi.

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A woody fungus

Spores are the fungus’s version of seeds, and some kinds of mushrooms produce millions of them. Whether the fungus has “gills” (the underneath of its cap looks like spokes on a wheel) or “pores” (the underside of its cap has many small holes), these openings aim downward so the spores can fall out. Puffballs spores are released when the “skin” of the puffball gets dry enough to crack and split.

The dark mushrooms grew on the birch trunk before it fell, and the light ones grew after it fell.

Some wild mushrooms look like grocery store mushrooms, but others come in an array of colors and shapes, from woody “horses’ hooves” to yellow coral fingers to small, earth-hugging

Small puffball mushrooms on a log in fall.

Earthworm Earthworms live in the dark in U-shaped tunnels in the soil. They stay underground during the day because sunlight’s UV rays dry out their moist skin so they can’t breathe. Eyeless, they sense light with their skin, and earless, they are very aware of vibrations. Their senses of taste and touch are well developed. Under an earthworm’s smooth, moist skin, with its rows of bristles, is an impressive muscle system. An earthworm moves through the dirt by extending its front end, then swelling it up so that it fills the tunnel and its bristles can grip the tunnel’s sides. Then the worm contracts its rear half and pulls it forward. And, yes, if enough of the front half of an earthworm is separated from its rear half by a shovel or a tug-of-war with a robin, the front can re-grow a portion of its “tail.”

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Earthworms help farmers and gardeners, but not woodlands

Earthworms honeycomb the soil with their tunnels, letting in air and rain, and they build new soil with their deposits (worm castings). Earthworms eat organic material as they tunnel. In loose soil, they are picky about what they eat, but in compacted soil, the only way they can move is by eating everything. As it moves through an earthworm, the soil material is broken down into smaller pieces before being deposited on the surface. Worms “mix” soil by bringing up material from underground and depositing it on the surface and by taking surface material underground. Earthworm tunnels are used by many small soil animals as shelters or places to hunt for food. Earthworms are vertical migrants – in the winter they tunnel down below the frost line in the soil. As the frost line goes deeper, so do the earthworms.

on the forest floor decomposes slowly. Bacteria and fungi break down dead plants into smaller pieces and create a soft, deep, organic, nutrientrich layer called “duff.” Duff shelters small animals, insulates the soil, and provides mulch for seedlings and wildflowers to grow in. Worms compete with some important fungi, and they mix the leaf litter with the soil below. Leaf litter is rearranged, compacted and eaten, making it harder for seeds to grow, and while they’re at it, the earthworms also eat the seeds. As the character of the forest floor changes, grounddwelling animals, both tiny and large, lose their homes and their food, and they must leave or die. The stage is set for more alien “generalists” to move in, lowering diversity.


Slugs travel on a trail of slime.

The soils that were frozen, compacted and redeposited by the glacier ended up earthwormfree, and the plant communities that grew in the post-glacial soils evolved free of the impact of earthworms. Alien earthworms (“alien” means they are not in North America when Columbus arrived) were introduced to the Upper Midwest when settlers brought in fruit trees (also alien) whose root-balls were bundled with soil (and soil critters) from the Old Country. Worm reintroduction and spread continues through landscaping projects, and earthworm populations are often dense near lake shores where fishermen empty their bait buckets at the end of the day. Earthworms are important to farmers and gardeners, but alien earthworms damage forests. In a forest without earthworms, organic matter

Slugs, which are related to snails, look like a snail without a shell. The shell is often there, reduced to a small, thin plate on their back. The absence of a big shell allows slugs to squeeze through teeny openings. Slugs are Mollusks, related to land snails and to seashells like the limpets, Moon shells, whelks and conchs. Slugs tend to be nocturnal (active at night), finding their food by smell. They have two pairs of feelers, with eyes located on the tips of the longer pair. If you poke them in the eye, they can retract the eyestalk instantly – literally turn it inside out - to protect it, and they can re-grow eyestalks. Their body is called a “foot.” The slime they produce with glands in the foot smoothes their travel over all surfaces, and they are said to be able to glide over the sharp edge of

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a razor. Land slugs breathe air with lungs. They eat living or dead vegetation, sanding off small pieces of tissue with their “toothed,” rasping tongue. Each species of snail and slug has a characteristic arrangement of teeth and can be identified by the “dental pattern” it leaves on the plants it rasps. Some kinds of slugs are carnivores that may prey on the earthworms they bump into underground. Slugs are eaten by a variety of small animals.


Millipedes curl up when they are alarmed.

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Millipedes are important decomposers.

Millipedes are scavengers; they eat the strands of fungi that grow on dead leaves that they find on the ground. In the process, they break big pieces of dead leaves into smaller ones. They live where they eat, in the leaf litter (the layers of fallen and decaying leaves on the ground) and in the top layer of soil. Like other leaf litter dwellers, millipedes are small, smooth, and drab, and they are at home in places that are dark, cool, moist, and snug. Their tough exoskeleton (outer “skin”) allows them to push their way through the soil by brute force rather than eating their way through like earthworms.

When a millipede is scared, it can coil up to protect its soft underbelly and legs. Millipedes have stink glands along the side of their body and can give off puffs of a bad-smelling chemical to discourage their predators. Do millipedes have a thousand legs? No, but they do have a lot of them. Their bodies are divided into segments. They have two pairs of short legs on most of those segments, one pair on each side, for a total of four legs per segment. About 30 segments of an adult millipede are legbearing. Watch a millipede move. Millipedes raise and lower in order down the length of their bodies, like “The Wave.”


Cold-blooded, they wait for an invitation from the warm spring sun before emerging from their winter shelters. Millipede eggs are laid in damp ground, and the females of some species take care of their eggs until they hatch. Millipede babies have just a few segments and three pairs of legs, and they get more of each as they molt (shed their skin in order to grow).

Centipedes are important predators in the leaf litter.

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Unlike the similar-looking millipedes, centipedes are carnivores. Like other inhabitants of the litter, they are flattened, smooth, and not colorful (color is wasted on the on animals that dwell in the dark). Centipedes spend their daylight hours in the dark and humid world under leaves, logs and soil. They emerge at night to hunt for insects and other small invertebrates (animals without backbones, like spiders, worms, slugs, and sowbugs), and if no other food is available, they will eat other centipedes. Because their world is dark, they locate their prey with their antennae.

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The females of many invertebrate species walk away from their eggs and may even eat their own young if they run into them. The females of some centipede species curl around their eggs to hide, protect and groom them – removing mold spores that would kill the eggs. Centipedes have one pair of legs on each body segment. Typical Wisconsin centipedes have about 15 leg-bearing segments, for a total of 30 legs. But, there are centipedes in other parts of the world that have as many as 191 segments and do have hundred legs. Centipedes wriggle as they walk because they move the legs on one side first, and then the legs on the other side. Their first pair of legs has small, lobster-like claws on it that are sometimes called “fangs.” These claws have poison ducts that centipedes use to grab, stun, handle, and tear their prey. They can deliver a painful bite to humans.

For a small animal, the sowbug has a lot of names. It is called sowbug, pillbug, potato bug, roly-poly, and wood louse, and it is related to lobsters, shrimps, and crayfish. Sowbugs like to live in the dark and damp, and they are found under leaves and logs; they need lots of humidity so they can breathe. If they sense that the humidity is too low, they will move to a spot that is damper. When a young sowbug hatches, it looks like pale, mini-adult, and it simply grows. When its old, stiff skin can’t expand any more, the sowbug molts (sheds its skin) so it can grow. After molting, it puffs up the new, soft skin so that when the skin hardens, there will be a little more room inside. Sowbugs are scavengers, eating dead organic (plant or animal) matter. They turn larger pieces of plants into much smaller pieces, providing food for much smaller animals. Sowbugs have a number of defenses. They can roll up and tuck in their legs and antennae, protected by their armored top shells, and many species can produce a nasty chemical with glands along the sides of their bodies. They are still eaten by spiders and birds.



Walkingsticks are all legs.

Pillbugs roll up tight and sowbugs don’t.

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Wisconsin walkingsticks may reach four inches in length but the largest North American species can grow to 7 inches. Most species are wingless. Shy and nocturnal, they graze on leaves of forest trees, but there are rarely enough walkingsticks to cause damage. There are two reasons for camouflage – to hide and to hunt. Walkingsticks not only look like sticks, they act like sticks. During the day they extend their front and rear legs and remain motionless or even sway slightly in the breeze. Many predators aren’t fooled; walkingsticks are eaten by songbirds, rodents, and praying mantises. In early autumn, the females drop their eggs from the tree-tops, where they are feeding, to the ground. Most of the eggs will hatch in the next spring. There are many dangers on the forest floor for unprotected insect eggs, but a portion of the outside of each egg is edible, so ants find the eggs and carry them below-ground to their nests. The nibbling of ants does not damage the inside of the egg, and when the tiny walkingsticks hatch, they leave the ant hill.

This dramatic ground beetle is an important predator in the forest, edge and field communities. Fiery searchers are big beetles, measuring as long as 1 1/2”. Their hard, oval wing-covers are covered with tiny pits and may be shiny and iridescent. Many ground beetles defend themselves by squirting a nasty-smelling or blistering liquid from the tip of their abdomen. Either their chemicals or their color might explain the “fiery” part of their name. Both the adults and the larvae (young beetles) are active hunters that climb trees to track down their favorite food, caterpillars. They are also named “caterpillar hunters.” Adults are sometimes seen during the day, but the larvae hunt at night. They are such good predators that an alien species of caterpillar hunter was brought to the United States to help control the alien gypsy moths that eat the leaves of forest trees. In fact, a single larva of one kind of fiery searcher ate 50 large gypsy moth caterpillars during a two week period, and an adult may eat a few hundred more during their lives.

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Mourning cloak butterfly Fiery searcher

A mourning cloak butterfly basking in the sun.

Fiery searchers are energetic predators of caterpillars.

Mourning cloaks appear when butterflies are unexpected – during late fall, winter thaws, and early spring. How does one kind of cold-blooded animal manage to be active in the chilly temperatures that cause other cold-blooded animals to be inactive? By exercising certain flight muscles, a mourning cloak can raise the temperature of its thorax by about five degrees.

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The thorax is the middle section of its three body parts and the section that the wings and legs are attached to. Mourning cloaks are also among the hairiest of butterflies, and the hairs’ insulation allows mourning cloaks to fly when the temperature sags below 50 degrees.


Mourning cloaks live as adults for almost a year, much longer than most kinds of butterflies, and they have a complicated life cycle. The Mourning Cloak that is a harbinger of spring emerged as an adult early in summer of the previous year. It fed and then it aestivated (was inactive) during its first summer. It revived again in fall and fed on tree sap and rotten fruit, before it found a sheltered spot to spend the winter. After surviving the winter as an adult aided by an antifreeze-like substance in its blood, it emerged for the last time in spring, fed on more tree sap, mated, and laid eggs.

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An ant “farming” small insects.

Mourning cloak caterpillars are often found on willow leaves.

The caterpillars are black, with lots of white dots, eight larger red spots, and slightly branched, harmless spines. They feed in groups on willow, cottonwood, elm, birch, and hackberry. When they are startled, the caterpillars thrash about on their willow stems, bumping the leaves and producing a rustling racket to discourage a predator.

Ants live in a colony that includes one queen, many workers, and a few males. The queen mates only once and then lays eggs for the rest of her life, which may span up to 15 years. Workers are wingless females who care for the queen, eggs, and larvae, take care of and defend the colony, and forage for food. Males are produced before a colony has a nuptial flight, when new queens go out and start new colonies. Nests are usually made in the ground or in rotting trees. Some ants take advantage of the micro-climate under the sun-warmed rock (a microclimate is a small, very local climate that is found within a larger community). Ant mounds are also created when ants bring in materials from the surrounding area, form a rounded mound and then tunnel through it. The dome shape helps the mound absorb heat, and the temperature inside the mound may be 15 to 20 degrees warmer than outside. Ants are active for much of the year, and in the winter, they can migrate down and live below the frost line. Each nest or colony has an individual scent that allows its members to identify their sisters at home or away. When workers meet, they feel each other with their antennae.

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Garter snakes, sometimes called “garden snakes,” are the most common snake in Wisconsin and may be the most common snake in the United States. They were named after the striped garters that men used to wear around their legs to hold up their socks in the days before Spandex.

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An ant mound

Depending on their species, ants may consume nectar or other plant juices, or honeydew “milked” from herds of aphids. Some ants “farm” aphids and aphid relatives, protecting them from predators and moving them to different places on a plant to feed. In return, the ants can “milk” the aphids for a liquid called “honeydew,” which the ants carry back to their nests. They may gather seeds (ants pollinate and later spread the seeds of many kinds of plants), leaves, or flowers for food, or they may eat dead organic matter or decaying trees. Some ants are predators. Other ants are farmers, growing beds of fungi underground. Ants bite (front end), or sting (rear end), or both. Some species also produce and spray formic acid or other chemicals, which irritate their predators.

Common Garter snake

A garter snake hunts in the leaf litter

Snakes are cold-blooded. As temperatures cool off in fall, garter snakes slow down, finally finding a den for the winter in a rock pile or log pile or underground. Some dens house many snakes, and when the spring sun warms the soil and wakes them, the whole group may emerge to bask on nearby rocks. Garter snakes are found in woods, open areas, lawns, and woodland edges. Garter snakes are only six inches long when they are born in late summer, but a large female garter snake may grow to be 30 inches long. They hunt by day or night for amphibians (frogs, toads, and salamanders), crayfish, small fish, earthworms, insects, and the occasional mouse and bird. Garter snakes are eaten by raccoons, skunks, milk snakes, owls, and Red-tailed Hawks. Garter snakes defend themselves by releasing a musky-smelling material that discourages predators, but hawks and owls have little or no sense of smell, so the musk doesn’t bother them. There are no poisonous snakes at the Mequon Nature Preserve. Other than startling people with their sudden appearance, our snakes are harmless animals that usually sense when people are coming and try to avoid them. Please do not bother them.

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Blue Jay

Black-capped Chickadee

A chickadee’s drab feathers camouflage it.

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Blue Jays make a confusing number of calls.

Many of the odd bird calls heard in woodlands in summer are made by Blue Jays. They have a huge vocabulary of sounds, both loud and soft. Blue Jays are the “lookouts” of the woods, sounding the alarm when invaders arrive. If they see an enemy like a Screech Owl or a small hawk, their screams will attract other Blue Jays, and the flock will “mob” it, screeching and flying at the predator until it leaves. Many of their calls have been named – like the “Jay-Jay,” the “pump handle,” and the Red-shouldered Hawk calls. Henry David Thoreau talked about “the steel-cold scream of the jay …... hard, tense, frozen music, like the winter sky itself.” Some northern Blue Jays may move south for a better food supply in winter, but Blue Jays grace our landscape all year long. They are omnivores that eat acorns, beech nuts, and other plant material, plus insects, snails, frogs, and salamanders. They prey on eggs and young birds from other birds’ nests. Blue Jays pick up acorns in the fall, and they hide them in trees or on the ground. Some of the acorns are eaten by the jays, others are found by squirrels, and some grow into oak trees.

What chickadees lack in size, they make up for in energy. These small (about 5 ½ inches long) birds sport a black cap and bib, gray back and wings, and a white cheek and belly. They are small, but they have big energy demands and must eat often. Black-capped Chickadees can be seen on twigs, hunting for food, sometimes dangling up-side-down from the ends of branches. They eat insects during the warmer months when insects are available. In winter, chickadees eat lots of seeds, and they also search tree bark for the eggs of insects and spiders and for cocoons that are hidden in cracks in the bark. They are familiar guests at bird feeders. When a chickadee finds a seed, it may cache (hide) the seed and come back for it later. Their nests are made in cavities in hollow tree trunks. If they can’t find an old nest hole made by a woodpecker, chickadees will dig one out themselves. In summer, chickadees live in pairs and defend their territory. In winter, they abandon their nests and join other chickadees in flocks. Together they stand a better chance of finding food, spotting predators, and staying warm. On very cold nights, a chickadee can let its body temperature drop below freezing in order to save energy.

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Gray squirrel

Gray squirrels spend much of their time looking for food.

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One of the most visible members of the woodland community, and of parks and suburbs, is the gray squirrel. It is often heard chattering to other squirrels or warning other woodland dwellers about intruders. Gray squirrels are seen foraging for food on the woodland floor, running through the treetops, or frozen on a tree trunk trying to avoid a predator. Squirrels are most active early and late in the day. Gray squirrels measure about 18 inches from tip to tip, and their impressive tails account for half of that. Squirrels use their tails for balance when they climb, run, and leap. They can run as fast as 15 miles-per-hour and can jump five feet upwards and six feet from branch to branch. Their tails shade them from the sun and serve as a blanket in the cold. Squirrels don’t hibernate, but in very cold weather they stay in a den tree for a few days, curled up and covered by that wonderful tail. A squirrel’s diet depends on the season and includes the bark, buds, flowers, and seeds of oaks, hickory, walnut, and elm trees, plus many fruits like mulberries and grapes, and even sap. It also eats some insects and other small animals. Foraging activity increases in fall, and squirrels are famous for burying acorns and other nuts for use later in the winter. Nuts are an ideal winter food – “pre-packaged” and high in nutrients. A squirrel may accidentally a few plant trees, but its good memory and sharp sense of smell helps it find most of the nuts it

hides. A cache of nuts (a hidden supply) is not private property, and any squirrel or mouse that finds it will use it. squirrels are messy eaters that leave partly-chewed twigs, shells and fruit on the ground or on logs and rocks. Gray squirrels were probably much more abundant 150 years ago when the Midwest was being settled and huge forests covered the land. As forests were cleared for farms – and as squirrels developed a taste for farm crops squirrel numbers went down. With more land returning to woodlands, their numbers are rising again.


Chipmunks appear in spring when the ground warms — or when they run out of food.

Chipmunks are ground-nesting squirrels. Like gray squirrels, chipmunks are very vocal. They may “chirp” loudly for hours, and they can make noise even with their mouths full. A gray squirrel’s solid gray coat camouflages it on tree trunks, but a chipmunk’s striped coat blends in on the ground. Chipmunks are edge dwellers, but they are as “at home” in a lawn as they are in a woodland. Chipmunks’ lives revolve around food; a huge number of their waking hours are spent finding it, gathering it, carrying it and storing it. They eat the nuts, fruits, and seeds of trees like maple, basswood, oak, cherry and elm, which they collect by stuffing it into special cheek pouches. Always on the lookout for predators, chipmunks keep their feeding time in the open short. About

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15% of what chipmunks eat is animal material. They prey on insects, millipedes, snakes, small birds, birds’ eggs, and mammals. Chipmunks are a major predator of the young salamanders and frogs that leave an ephemeral pond in summer, ready for life on land (see “Ephemeral Pond VIPs in the chapter on Ephemeral Ponds). Chipmunks are small animals that dig big tunnels - their tunnels may be thirty feet long or longer. There is one main entrance, and there may be a few “side doors.” Chipmunks can use their cheek pouches to cart dirt around within the tunnel or to carry it away from the entrance of a hole so there is no tell-tale pile of dirt. Tunnels have a main room about 12 inches wide and 10 inches high. It is a nest chamber for raising young in summer and a storeroom and sleeping chamber in winter. Chipmunks use a separate room in the tunnel system as a toilet. During the winter, chipmunks sleep soundly in a soft bed of grasses on top of their store of food. They wake up from time to time to eat, and by the end of winter their bed may be on the floor of the chamber.

back of itself. When it is alarmed, it raises (flags) its tail to show its white underside and to signal other deer. It can run as fast as 35 milesper-hour and can jump over an eight foot high fence or a 30 foot wide stream. It’s rust-colored summer coat is replaced in fall with a more camouflaged, gray winter coat of hollow hairs that act as insulators. Even its eating habits are geared toward staying hidden. In the open, it eats fast, and then it finds a sheltered place where it can quietly bring food up from its stomach and chew it more completely.

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White-tailed Deer

A spotted fawn flags its tail as it flees.

A buck and two does warm themselves in the sun on a winter day.

A white-tailed deer is amazingly adapted to discover and avoid predators. Always alert, it can swivel its ears to pick up sound from any direction, and its nose is 100 times more sensitive than a human’s. With eyes that are located on the sides of its head, a deer can see in

Deer live where the most deer-food is - in the edge between woods and field. From the edge, they can get to plants of the woods and plants of the field. In the woods, deer browse on the leaves, bark, and twigs of the shrub layer, vines, and plants of the herb layer. They eat acorns, apples, sumac berries, and many other fruits of trees and shrubs. When there are too many deer in an area, they may stand on their hind legs to eat all the leaves off of trees up to a height of seven or eight feet, creating a browse line. The lower branches of the trees look like they have been trimmed. Deer also eat some fish, snails, mice, and ground-nesting birds and their eggs. They have few predators in southeastern Wisconsin.

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increased logging and burning. The growing human population of America needed open land to farm, somewhere to live, and lumber to build with. Today, trees are still cut down to make room for homes and businesses, and forests are still logged for the products their wood provides. Trees are a renewable resource – cut one down and you can plant another – although forests that are grown as a crop are temporary and are not very diverse.

The browse line on a group of cedars

Deer are most active during the time around sunrise and sunset, and will move around all night on moonlit nights. In winter, they often feed in farm fields during the daytime.

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A dense stand of Common Buckthorn crowds out native plants.

A spotted fawn waits for its mother to return.

Bucks (adult males) have antlers that they shed and re-grow each year. Antlers start growing in spring, are full-grown by the end of August, and are shed by late winter. Bucks seldom duel each other with their antlers; first they try to bluff the other buck into giving up. Spotted fawns are born in early summer. Their spots look like dappled sunlight, and they have no scent that would lead a predator to them.

13. Human impact Four centuries ago, when settlers began arriving from Europe, forests faced the threats of

As soon as Columbus landed, people started bringing new plants and animals to America. Some plants were brought on purpose by people who wanted to have their favorite garden flowers, food plants, and medicine herbs in their new land. Other alien plants arrived by accident in bags of seeds or in the root balls of trees. New plants are still arriving today. A number of these alien plants have become invasive - they spread quickly without the animals or diseases that keep them in check in their homelands, and they damage native communities here. Some invasive plants are a problem in grasslands and farm fields (see “Clearing the Land” and “The most Unwanted” in the chapter on Farmland and Grassland) and others threaten forests. Garlic mustard, common buckthorn and Asian bittersweet are big threats to forests in southeastern Wisconsin, and only the constant efforts of volunteers can control these plants at the Mequon Nature Preserve. Contact the Mequon Nature Preserve if you would like to help.

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cities and suburbs. The ash trees at the Mequon Nature Preserve will need to be monitored for signs of the ash borer.

14. Tree stories There are stories, large and small, to be read in the woodlands of the Mequon Nature Preserve. Many are stories of interactions between plants and animals. As you walk the trails, try to find what is written there.

Den trees

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Attacking a buckthorn thicket

Turning buckthorn into wood chips

The emerald ash borer, an alien beetle from Asia, was first seen in Wisconsin in 2008. Emerald ash borers probably arrived in this country hidden in wooden packing materials. The larvae (immature form) of these ½” long, bullet-shaped, green beetles feed under the bark of ash trees, eventually killing them. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are 700 million ash trees in forests in Wisconsin and another 5 million in

A cavity that was formed when a branch dropped of the trunk will house many animals.

Cavities in trees can happen naturally when a limb breaks off, they can be the result of animal work, or they can happen when an animal enlarges a small hole. Woodpeckers make nests for summer use but don’t stay in them in the winter. Holes in trees are winter shelters for insects, raccoons, squirrels, and even skunks.

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Rough bark

Buck rubs

The “potato chip bark of Black Cherry is a good hiding place for small insects and spiders.

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Birds that eat insects and spiders have a tough time in winter, but they are rewarded if they look hard enough. Chickadees, nuthatches and other winter birds creep along the trunks of roughbarked forest trees like cherry and shag-bark hickory. The eggs of insects and spiders have been hidden there, and the immature stages of insects can also be found in the crevices of the bark.

Bucks can take the bark off of small trees and shrubs.

In the summer, a buck’s antlers are covered with living tissue that is called “velvet” because it is soft. In fall, the blood supply to the velvet dies and it starts to shred off of the antlers. To remove the velvet a buck rubs his antlers against shrubs and small trees. Rubbing also polishes the new antlers, and the tree is left as a sign post for other bucks.

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Wolf trees

Bucks shed their antlers in winter. Fallen antlers are often chewed on by mice that need minerals in their diet.

Dead trees

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The woods catches up with a sun-loving tree.

A tree that grows side branches in a woodland is wasting energy because mostof sunlight is at the top of the canopy. When you find a tree in the middle of the woods that has lots of big side branches on it, you’ve found a “wolf tree.” Notice that the trees around it are much smaller than the wolf tree. The wolf tree grew in the open and didn’t have to compete with other trees. The young trees surrounded it later.

Woodpeckers dig into the wood of a dead tree.

A dead tree, whether it is lying on the ground or standing upright, is an apartment complex and is a community within a community. Like any community it has plants, herbivores, carnivores, scavengers and decomposers, all packed into a small space. An ecologist might call it a microhabitat.

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Tree Buds

When shagbark hickory buds open, they reveal the leaves hidden inside.

Sapsucker holes

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The long, slim leaf buds of a beech start to open in spring

Trees form their buds for next year’s leaves in late summer or early fall. Each bud is covered with bud scales that help keep it from drying out during the cold, winter season. Notice the different sizes, shapes and colors of buds, from the sleek, caramel-colored beech buds to the red, chunky basswood buds. Touch some buds to see if they feel firm, fuzzy, or even sticky.

A horizontal line of holes is a sign of a woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers that migrate through the Mequon Nature Preserve in spring and fall. Using their strong bills, Sapsuckers peck a horizontal row of holes in the bark of a soft-wooded tree like basswood. As the sap oozes out of the hole, it attracts insects. The Sapsuckers return to eat both the sap and the insects.

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Squirrel nests

that are produced in fall stay on the shrub until the next fall, and then they disburse by exploding. They can be “shot” as far as 20 to 30 feet from their “parent” shrub.

Witch hazel leaves have wavy edges The summer, leaf nest of a squirrel

Woodland tracks During the cold winter season, squirrels spend the night in tree trunk den holes that are lined with leaves. But, during the summer, they build leaf nests high in the trees, where it’s cooler. They raise their young in the larger leaf nests, but they also make small, flat, leafy platforms to lie on when it’s hot.

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Fall flowers

When you see a track in the mud or snow, asking yourself a checklist of questions will help you identify it. Was the animal walking, hopping, trotting or bounding? Are the tracks paired/symmetrical or staggered? Are they “pigeon-toed?” How big are the tracks? Which are the front feet and which are the back feet? Are all four feet the same size? How many toes are on each foot? Are the back feet in front of the front feet? Is there a mark where the tail or belly is dragging? What habitat is this track in?

Witch hazel blooms as the leaves are falling.

It’s very unusual for a tree or shrub to bloom in fall, but the witch Hazel does just that, producing small, spidery, yellow flowers close to its twigs. And then this small shrub of woods and edges does something even odder. Seeds

Squirrel tracks and mouse tracks have a similar pattern, but mouse tracks are much smaller.

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BOOKS A Guide to Animal Tracking and Behavior. Donald and Lillian Stokes. 1986. Little Brown and Co. Amphibians of Wisconsin. Rebecca Christoffel, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2001. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Field Guide to the Mammals. William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider. 1976. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton-Mifflin. An opossum’s front foot looks star-shaped, and its back foot looks like a hand with its thumb spread wide.

15. For more information ON-LINE Article about Wisconsin surveyors:

Vegetation map based on witness trees:

Wisconsin vegetation in 1850: Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

natl geog - w/lesson plans -action/habitats.html eSubHomePage/kidspagesplaceholder/kidsforesthabi tat/tabid/6029/Default.aspx

Project Worm Watch The Wisconsin DNR’s excellent kid’s website,

Field Guide to Animal Tracks. Olas Murie. 1954. Peterson Field Guide series. Houghton-Mifflin Keepers of Life. Michael J. Caduto, and Joseph Bruhac 1998. Fulcrum Publishing Co Life in a Bucket of Soil. Alvin and Virginia Silverstein. 1972. Dover Press Nature in Winter. Donald W. Stokes. 1976. Stokes Nature Guides. Little Brown and Co. Non-Flowering Plants, a Golden Nature Guide. Floyd S. Shuttlewort and Herbert Zim. 1967. Golden Press Snakes of Wisconsin. Rebecca Christoffel, Robert Hay, and Lisa Ramirez. 2000. . Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Book of Forest and Thicket. John Eastman. 1995. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA Trees of North America. C. Frank Brochman. 1968. A Golden Guide. Golden Press Winter Tree Finder. Watts, May Theilgard and Tom Watts. 1970. Nature Study Guild Publishers, New York.

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Cultural History

Native Americans

7. On the path to statehood

1. When?

8. The settlers arrive

2. A quick walk through a great deal of time

9. Where to find it

3. Everyday Life

10. Old plants in the new world

4. Useful plants

11. A very long-term goal

5. Name dropping

12. For more information

European Americans 6. First contact

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Cultural History The Native Americans 1. When? There is some disagreement over how long North America has been inhabited by humans and about what paths they took to get here, but they have been here for thousands of years. Their lifestyles were based on the places they settled. Many of the Indians on the Great Plains, the giant grasslands in the center of North America, were nomads (people who move from one area to another). They followed the herds of bison that provided for so many of their needs. Plains tribes used the bison’s hooves, horns, hump, hide, and everything in between. They traveled on foot until the Spaniards brought horses to the Americas in the early 1500’s. Native Americans who lived in the vast forests that lay east of the Mississippi could find what they needed close to home. Many were farmers who lived in villages that were semi-permanent; then as now, farmers were tied to the land until the harvest. Wisconsin is a place where the eastern forests met the western prairies.

sheets. Deciduous trees, less tolerant of cold, were pushed even farther south. Thousands of years later, the glaciers retreated, leaving a bizarre landscape. With the glaciers melting as they retreated north, there was water everywhere - streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. The pre-glacial soil had been bulldozed by the giant ice sheets that came from the north. The gravel and rock that dropped out of the melting ice would wear down and form soil over the next few thousands years. Wisconsin was a garden, waiting to be planted. As the rock broke down, as the water level went down and the temperature went up, plants slowly returned to the land. Some were descendents of former residents, like maple and beech, which moved north slowly. Others were eastern or western plants whose seeds arrived on the prevailing winds. The forests crept back north toward their original ranges (a plant or animal’s range is the geographical area it lives in). Bands of spruce and fir trees appeared first, then pine and hemlock, and finally, as the climate warmed, deciduous trees like hickory and maple. Wisconsin was re-forested.

2. A quick walk through a great deal of time As the most recent glacier advanced slowly across Wisconsin 20,000 years ago, it covered all of Wisconsin except the south-west corner (please see “The Bigger Picture” in the Woodlands chapter). Before the glacier’s advance, Wisconsin’s northern forests were made up of evergreen trees like pine, fir, and spruce (evergreen trees keep green leaves – needles – all year). South of the evergreen forests were deciduous forests (deciduous trees lose their leaves in fall). Evergreens, which are adapted to cold weather, moved south ahead of the cold climate that was created by the giant ice

Wooly Mammoth. © 2008 Public Library of Science.

And the animals? They followed the plants north. In the early days, as the glacier retreated and the climate was still cold, northern forests of fir and spruce were the first forests to grow on what is now the Mequon Nature Preserve.

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Caribou and musk oxen and other animals that lived in those northern forests were found here. If the landscape was mind-boggling, so were some of the animals. Super-sized prehistoric mammals wandered the landscape. There were mastodons and wooly mammoths, giant beaver, and huge bison. Lake Michigan held whales and walruses. It was onto this landscape that Wisconsin’s first people came. The glaciers had to uncover the land before the people could move in, but there have been people in Wisconsin for more than 12,000 years. These early inhabitants were not members of today’s familiar tribes or even their direct ancestors. Archaeologists (scientists who study the peoples of the past) have given these first Americans names – Paleo-Indians, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian – depending on when and how they lived. P a l e o - I n d i a n s , the earliest groups of Native Americans, arrived 10,500 to 14,000 years ago, between 12,000 to 8,500 BC. The climate was slowly warming, and the glaciers were melting and retreating. Paleo-Indian groups appeared at the end of the Ice Age on a cold, tundra landscape (in the tundra, frozen ground and long periods of cold keep trees from growing). Some, in fact, lived right at the edge of the glaciers. They had tools and weapons made of stone and bone, which they used to spear game, cut it up, and scrape the hides. Clothing was made from animal hides. The people moved around in small groups on the bare landscape, eating wild plants and following the caribou, giant peccary, mammoths and musk oxen that lived in Wisconsin at the time. The hunting activity of these early groups probably put some of the prehistoric mammals on the road to extinction. After the mammoths and mastodons became extinct, populations of smaller hoofed animals, like deer, increased. Deer provided meat, and hides for clothing and shelter. Their sinew (sinew is the tough tissue that connects muscle to bone) was used for bowstrings, fish lines, and sewing. Antlers and bones were used for scrapers, awls, needles.

White-tailed deer were not plentiful until settlers started cutting trees for large farm fields. Deer like the place (edge) where field and forest meet.

The A r c h a i c P e r i o d came next, lasting from 8500 BC to 1000 BC. During the Archaic period the landscape became less watery and more forested and the lifestyles of the people changed along with the land. As the cold-loving, evergreen forests returned to their old ranges in northern Wisconsin, the cold-loving animals moved north, too. Some of the groups of people who hunted these animals followed them north. Others changed their ways of life, began hunting the smaller animals that lived in the southern, deciduous forests, and stayed in the same areas for longer periods of time. People ate a wider variety of plant foods, hunted, and fished. Bows and arrows were inventions of the future, but the Archaic Indians had atlatls (spear throwers) that made their spears fly farther and stronger. About halfway through the Archaic period, the climate became warm and dry, and prairies developed (please see “Grasslands” in the Grasslands chapter). During the W o o d l a n d P e r i o d , 1000 BC to AD 1100, farming developed and became very important. People became more skilled at making pottery during this period. Because of farming, there was more food, and the villages became larger. During the Late Woodland Period, some groups of Indians built mounds of earth in the shapes of animals. The bow and arrow appeared in the Late Woodland Period. People who lived in Wisconsin during the Woodland Period explored and traded widely with groups in other parts of the country. The

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main food crops that were grown here were developed elsewhere.

Until the European Americans arrived with metal pots, food was cooked in bark cooking pots.

Native peoples lived near wetlands so they could hunt waterfowl like the mallard duck. Small game like cottontail rabbits provided meat for food and skins for clothes.

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The final period before the Europeans arrived was called the Mississippian Period, which overlapped the Woodland Period, lasting from AD 900 to the first contact in AD 1600. Pottery advanced, farming advanced, and some people lived in larger groups, with population centers surrounded by farmlands. They were influenced by people who moved to central Wisconsin from a very organized culture in western Illinois.

3. Everyday life Four hundred years ago, when the first Europeans arrived in Wisconsin, the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) occupied what would become Ozaukee County. Wisconsin Indians had trading routes that reached to the desert Southwest, to the Gulf Coast, and to the mid-Atlantic coast. Most native peoples in the southern half of Wisconsin lived in small villages. Their homes were portable - framed by saplings (young, bend-able trees) and covered by skins, slabs of bark, or mats made of woven cattails or bulrushes. Native peoples picked wild plants, including wild rice, and hunted for squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl (ducks and geese), deer, elk and bison. Bison (also called buffalo) were found in the southern half of Wisconsin, and their range extended to the Atlantic Ocean.

Each season had its own activities. During the maple sugaring time in early spring, sap was collected from sugar maple trees and boiled down into maple syrup and maple sugar. Bark cooking pots were filled with sap, and then heated rocks were dropped in. It took a lot of boiling – forty gallons of sap are needed to make a single gallon of syrup. Survival depended on maple sugaring in spring, farming in summer, a good harvest in fall, and fishing and hunting year ‘round. Men cleared the fields and made canoes and tools; they hunted and went to war. Women farmed, cooked, took care of children, and made mats, clothing and baskets. Children learned the jobs of their parents. The people often moved to a different location, a winter camp, after the harvest was in.

A shelter, or wigwam, made of cattails, similar to one that might be used during maple sugaring. It would have been covered with sheets of tree bark in the winter and cattails in the summer.

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Native Americans had been farming in southeastern Wisconsin since about 300 BC. Farming started when people watched over wild plants that were already growing. Eventually, they began to collect seeds and pick where their plants would grow. They used stone axes and fire to create sunny openings in the great forests, and in those openings they planted their crops. They had no large domestic animals that could pull a plow, so many Native farmers used a mound system that conserved water. A hole was poked in the ground with a planting stick, seeds were dropped in, and dirt was mounded around the seeds. Some of the harvest was stored underground in birch bark containers. Due to the very short growing season in northern Wisconsin, farming was less important there and most food came from hunting, fishing, and gathering plants.

Europeans, and some, like potatoes, became very important foods in the Old World. About 2000 years ago, native peoples in different parts of America were developing kinds of corn that could mature in the hot, dry desert southwest and others that could grow in the short, cool, northern summer. Corn joined beans and squash as staples of Native American diets. A family needed to store about five bushels of corn and five bushels of wild rice to get through the winter.

Native Americans invented corn.

Food was stored in a birch bark container called a makuk.

Beans and squash were staples. Corn was invented by Native American farmers in the warm climate of Central America between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. Using plant breeding methods, they patiently changed a plant that started with an inch-long seed head, each kernel wrapped in its own husk, into a plant that looks like the corn we know today. In fact, by the time Columbus landed in the Caribbean in 1492, the peoples of the Americas were farming more than 300 crops. Most of them were unknown to the

The Iroquois in eastern North America planted the seeds of corn, beans and squash in the same mound and told stories of the “Three Sisters.” Corn was the tallest sister. The middle sister, Beans, twined around the stalk of her sister, Corn, and Squash, the youngest sister, played at their feet. It makes a pretty story, but it is ontarget scientifically, too. Corn gives needed support to beans, which can’t stand up alone. The roots of beans put nitrogen in the soil, which the corn needs, and the large leaves of squash shade the ground, keeping soil water from evaporating and making it hard for weeds to grow. Although some of the Native Americans that inhabited Wisconsin four hundred years ago had ancient roots in the area, other groups had already migrated through the state and no

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longer lived there. During the 1700’s and 1800’s, a number of tribes – the Sauk, Mesquakie (Fox), Ottawa, Miami, Kickapoo, and the Ojibwa - arrived in southern Wisconsin, pushed from their Eastern territories by tribal power struggles or by the European settlers. Some groups stayed and formed mixed settlements with Wisconsin tribes, and others continued their journeys beyond the state. As Wisconsin moved toward statehood in the 1830’s and 1840’s, the lives of the Native Americans and European Americans merged and then split again. For the most part, Wisconsin natives were not warlike, but the pioneers still didn’t want them around. In 1831, the tribes were convinced to sell their lands and move. As Wisconsin approached statehood in 1848, only a few small groups of Native peoples remained in the southeastern part of the state.

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4. Useful plants The peoples who moved in and out of Wisconsin during the past 12,000 years survived in a world without hardware stores, drugstores or grocery stores. Their foods, medicines, building materials, fiber, diapers, utensils, and dyes came from the land. Twenty-first century humans may look out over a prairie, a pond or a forest and admire its beauty. Early “Wisconsinites” looked at those landscapes and saw, along with beauty, leaves and roots to treat bruises, colds, and stomach aches, and acorns to grind into flour for food. They found fiber for fish nets and twine, and tree bark to make cooking vessels, roofs, walls, and sleds for winter travel. Most plants had several uses, and almost all of the plants that grew on their landscape were used by the Native Americans in some way. How did they know what plants to use and how to use them? A lot of trial and error. As Asians walked across the top of the world to enter North America through the western tip of Alaska, they traveled slowly, learning about the plants and animals of each area that they moved through. They were already familiar with some of the

plants, because many North American plants have close relatives in Asia. When the Europeans came to North America, they brought the familiar food, medicine, and garden plants from their homelands. Even though some of those plants have been in North America for more than 300 years, they are called “aliens” because they came from another continent. The settlers learned about the uses of native plants, and the Indians learned the uses of the European plants. Could you survive using the plants and animals that grow at the Mequon Nature Preserve today? The Preserve is rich with resources. Here are some of the native plants that were used by Native Americans and European Americans on the frontier. PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, NOT A “HOW-TO.” PLEASE DO NOT GATHER WILD PLANTS AT THE MEQUON NATURE PRESERVE. NEVER PUT ANY WILD PLANT IN YOUR MOUTH UNLESS YOU KNOW A LOT ABOUT PLANT IDENTIFICATION AND EVEN MORE ABOUT EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL PLANTS.

Acorns were dried and ground into a meal to make flat breads.

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Rose hips (the rose fruit) are edible even though they are sour, bristly and have large seeds. The bristles can irritate your throat and stomach. Three hips have as much Vitamin C as an orange.

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Native Americans trimmed back branches so berries like the strawberry would have the sun they needed. They ate the berries, made a tea from the leaves, and also used them for medicines.

Both the leaves and the fruit of wild grapes were eaten. Grapes were eaten fresh or were dried for winter use. Large, old grape vines contain lots of drinkable sap.

Fern fiddleheads (the young curled-up plant), were an important spring green, but not all fern species have edible fiddleheads.

The sour fruits of the choke cherry were one of the most important foods on the prairie. They were pounded into pemmican – the sheets of dried meat and fat that were used as a travel food.

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Staghorn sumac berries were soaked for hours to make a lemonade-like liquid, and the berries were also dried and used in winter in a hot drink sweetened with maple sugar.

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Choke cherry fruit.

Sugar maple sap was drunk straight from the tree or was mixed with water and used for cooking. Sap was boiled for many hours to make syrup. Salt is scarce on the landscape, and sugar was an important seasoning.

Staghorn sumac berries and the dried, red, autumn leaves of sumac were smoked in pipes in combination with other plant material. The plant was used in many medicines - for fever, asthma, burns, sore throat, warts, bed-wetting and much more. It was also a dye plant, and it was used in tanning leather, making flutes, and tapping sugar maple trees.

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Wild rose flowers have long been used in eye medicines, especially for watery eyes due to hay fever.

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Dried daisy fleabane flowers were inhaled as a snuff to break up head colds, and they were smoked to cure colds and fevers.

Wild ginger root was cooked with any meat that might be a little old. We now know that wild ginger contains chemicals that kill some germs.

The juice in the jewelweed stem relieved the itch of poison ivy, nettles, athlete’s foot, and insect bites and made an orange-yellow dye.

The Mesquakie (Fox) Indians used swamp milkweed to make a medicine that got rid of people’s tape worms and round worms – in one hour.

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Purple coneflower was one of the most important plants on the prairie. It was used to boost the immune system, treat toothache, and cure colds and flu. It was also used in religious ceremonies. The dried flower head was made into a hair brush.

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The bitter bark and leaves of willows contain an aspirinlike chemical, and they were taken to relieve pain. The dried bark was smoked with native tobacco; the branches were used for building and for weaving snowshoes and making baskets. The roots of some species make a red dye.

Wild bergamot, a member of the mint family, treated colds, fevers, coughs, and upset stomachs. Its leaves were made into a tea by both the Indians and the settlers.

Some part of the cattail is edible all year. Cattail leaves and stalks were woven into mats to cover wigwams, and the cattail fluff was used for padding in cradle boards (the Native baby carrier) and as diapers. Some tribes welcomed a newborn baby by putting it into a basket filled with cattail fluff. The settlers stuffed quilts with the seeds and caned chair seats with the leaves.

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The inner bark of basswood trees provided a fiber that was used to make fish nets, twine, baskets, cords and mats. Its inner bark, leaves, and flowers were made into medicine to treat many sicknesses. Parts of the tree were eaten, and bowls were made from the soft wood.

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Paper birch roots were used for flavoring, the sap was drunk, and tea was made from its twigs. Parts of the tree were used for utensils, bows, arrow shafts, snowshoes, torches, decay-proof containers, mats, drawing “paper,� tinder, threads, twine, splints for broken bones, coffins for above-ground burials, masks to protect the eyes from snow blindness. Canoes were covered by large pieces of birch bark stretched over a frame of cedar, sewn together with rootlets of spruce or tamarack, and caulked with spruce pitch.

The stems of common milkweed were soaked to remove the fibers, which were made into cords, nets, straps, and belts.

White cedar was used as a medicine to prevent scurvy, as an emergency food, as splints for broken bones, as a smoking material, to make baskets, as a frame for birch bark canoes, to make soft beds while on the trail, to make fire, and to mark tattoos. Its smoke was used to disinfect the insides of a dwelling after smallpox.

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Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Fibers in the stems of stinging nettles were woven into a linen-like cloth. Many of the covered wagons that traveled across America had covers made of nettle cloth. The fibers were also made into bow strings, twine and fishing lines. Young nettle plants can be eaten, and the roots make a yellow dye.

The red juice in the root of bloodroot made a dye for baskets. It was also used as a “war paint” although it gives some people a rash. The Ojibwe (Chippewa) word for bloodroot, “meskojiibikak” means “red root.” The red root was used as a dye and a medicine, but it is poisonous.

The Potawatomi used the Joe Pye weed flower as a good luck charm, especially when gambling. The Mesquakie (Fox) used the root for a love charm. It tasted terrible, but it was an important medicine for many serious fevers.

Men from some tribes crushed the seeds of wild columbine and spread the paste on their clothes as a perfume and a love charm. A similar paste rubbed on the legs of men and horses before a race encouraged stamina. Root and leaf teas were believed to give the powers of persuasion.

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The European Americans 6. First contact

The dried bark of red-osier dogwood was one of the ingredients in a smoking material called kinnikinnick. Its branches were woven into baskets; its stems were made into toothbrushes; and its inner bark gave a red dye.

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5. Name dropping Although the majority of American Indians left the area as Wisconsin approached statehood, their words remained. Many place names were taken from the Indian words for the landscape that surrounded them. “Wisconsin” comes from the Menominee Indian word “Wiscooseh” which means “a good place in which to live.” Lake Michigan’s name is from an Ojibwe word “mishigama,” which means “large water.” The Algonquian word “Millioke” (“good or pleasant land” or “gathering place by the water”) is probably the origin of “Milwaukee.” Ozaukee County was named after the Sauk Indians, who called themselves the “Asa-ki-wa-ki” (shortened to “Ousaki” by the French) which means “the people of the outlet,” a reference to a place in Michigan where they once lived. And, because the river curves like a spoon as it goes through the Mequon area, Native Americans called it “Miguan” or “Emikwaan” which means “ladle.” First the French, then the English, and then the Americans mangled the Indian pronunciations.

In 1634, Jean Nicolet was probably the first European to enter the area we now call Wisconsin. French explorers, missionaries and traders soon crisscrossed the land, claiming it as part of New France. They brought European diseases like smallpox and measles that killed many Native Americans. Sickness claimed so many lives that within 30 years of Nicolet’s arrival, the Ho-Chunk had almost disappeared from their ancestral lands in southeast Wisconsin. The Potawatomi moved into the land between Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River, and the Menominee lived on the west side of the river. The French controlled the fur trade in Wisconsin until the French and Indian War of 1763. Even though they had been defeated in the Revolutionary War, the British claimed the area until the War of 1812. Indians traded furs, corn, and maple sugar to the French and the British for metal cook pots, firearms, ammunition, steel-bladed knives, cloth, beads, bottles of peppermint oil, and other material goods. Because of Native American trade with far-away tribes, iron kettles probably got to Wisconsin before the Europeans themselves. Trading shifted the Indians away from the isolated and self-sufficient life styles they had known. The Indians of the western Great Lakes were far away from the political struggles between the French, the English, the Colonists, and the Indians on the East Coast of America. But Native Americans worked to drive the British from Wisconsin in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War because they liked the French trading practices better. The British changed the way they traded, and Wisconsin’s Indians fought with the British in the War of 1812.

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7. On the path to statehood “Wisconsin” became a territorial possession in 1783, but Americans didn’t take over control of the land from the British after the War of 1812. With the war settled, more and more pioneers moved west. Some traveled overland slowly on rough trails in wagons drawn by teams of oxen. Others arrived from the East by ship, a journey that took several weeks. New York State’s Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, allowed settlers to get on a boat on the Hudson River, travel across New York State, and continue their trip through the Great Lakes. Many European immigrants (people who come to live in a different country) landed in Quebec in French Canada and then moved west through the Great Lakes. Milwaukee was an important port of entry, and it took several days for people to get to Mequon after they landed in Milwaukee. Their only roads through the forests were the rivers and the Indians trails. One of those trails, the Green Bay Road (Highway 57), ran from Green Bay through Mequon to the southern tip of Lake Michigan, but “improvements” on it didn’t start until 1838. Immigrants streamed to Wisconsin, first from America’s East Coast, England, and Ireland, and then from Germany, the Scandinavian countries, and Central Europe. As the pioneers journeyed west, a number of Indian tribes were pushed west ahead of them.

The Michigan Territory

From 1783 to 1836, Wisconsin’s borders (and its name) shifted and changed. It was part of the Northwest Territory from 1783 until 1800, and during that time, Massachusetts claimed the

southern third of the area, and Virginia claimed the northern two-thirds! It was part of the Indiana Territory from 1800 until 1809, of the Illinois Territory until 1818, and of the Michigan Territory (which stretched all the way to the Dakotas) until 1836. When it was part of the Michigan Territory, Wisconsin was divided up into just three huge counties. It was finally recognized as the Wisconsin Territory from 1836 to 1848. When there was a big enough population, the settlers applied for statehood, and Wisconsin became a state in 1848.

The Wisconsin Territory in the years before statehood.

Mequon was founded in the mid-1830’s, as southeast Wisconsin was being surveyed. The main reasons for the survey were to describe the territory and to mark township borders so the land could be sold and settled (please see “How do we know that?” in the chapter on Woodlands). The present-day Mequon Nature Preserve, Section 33, was surveyed on March 1113, 1836, and a few years later, the land went on sale for $1.25 per acre. At that time, Mequon was part of a giant Milwaukee County that covered much of southeastern Wisconsin. Later, a Washington Country was recognized, but its boundaries stretched east to Lake Michigan and included the land that is now Ozaukee County. At that time, most of the Washington County residents lived in Mequon. In 1853, after years of quarreling about the location of the County Seat (the place in the county that holds the county offices and courts), the Territorial Legislature allowed Washington County’s eastern townships to split off and become Ozaukee County.

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Although some of the original houses and outbuildings are no longer standing, ten structures and one burial site on the property have been included in the Wisconsin Architectural History Inventory. Several of those, like the Hahmann House on the old Bacher farmstead, are considered Local Landmarks. The long-range plans call for the Hahmann House to be renovated and used for meeting, volunteer, storage, and project space.

Early Ozaukee County settlers built with the resources at hand – rocks deposited by the glaciers and with trees from the endless forests.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

8. The settlers arrive At about this time the present-day Mequon Nature Preserve property was being settled. These are the highlights of the early ownership of Section 33, today bounded by Donges Bay Road on the north, Wauwatosa Road on the east, County Line Road on the south, and Swan Road on the west. For more details, please refer to section 5.3 of the “Mequon Nature Preserve Master Plan” at There are 640 acres in a square-mile section and it took only two years for the whole section to be purchased. The first landowner was Benjamin Bettys, who bought 80 acres in the southeast quarter in early 1839. Later in 1839, Robert Eastman bought 80 acres along what is now County Line Road, next to Bettys’ land. Eastman’s home became the seat of Washington County government for a while. Patrick Pentony bought 160 acres, the southwest quarter of the section, in 1840. In 1841, part of the northeast quarter of the section was sold to Henry Bleyer, and Patrick Delaney bought the 80 acres west of Bleyer’s. Gottfried Zuengler bought the final lot in the section in 1841 and sold it to Philip Stauss a year later for $100. In 1854, Philip Stauss bought an additional 20 acres from the Pentony farm for $315.

The Hahmann house – the old Bacher farmstead.

Philip Stauss built a small, stone house on the northwest corner of the present-day Mequon Nature Preserve in the early 1840’s. It stood for 60 years and then was replaced with a larger home. The long-range plans for the Mequon Nature Preserve include preserving the Stauss farmstead as a working example of Mequon’s agricultural and cultural heritage. Eventually, its parking lot will be a trailhead, with access to the rest of the Preserve’s trail system, but at this time there are no trail connections or public access to the Stauss farmstead.

9. Where to find it To reach the Hahmann House on the Bacher Farmstead, walk south from the temporary parking lot off of West Donges Bay Road on the Cross Connector Trail and turn right (west) at the Farmstead Link. The Hahmann House can be reached from the trailhead at the Swan Road parking located at 10000 Swan Road. Take the Swan Road Loop to

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

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Harvey’s Woods and walk around or through Harvey’s Woods on the Swan Road Loop and then north on the Farmstead Link. It can also be reached from the PieperPower Education Center at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI. Hike the Cross Connector Trail north to the Farmstead Link and then left (west) to the farmstead.

10. Old world plants in the new world When Christopher Columbus “promoted” his voyages to the New World, he said he would be looking for gold and spices. He brought New World plants and animals back to the Old World, and Old World plants to the New, planting sugar cane in the Caribbean in 1493. The European settlers who arrived on American shores a hundred years later brought with them the plants they would need to make a living in their new land - their familiar garden flowers, medicine plants and food crops. Still other plants (“weeds”) arrived by accident in bags of grain seeds. The newcomers also brought pigs, cattle, sheep and horses (for more information on the impact of domestic grazing animals please see “Clearing the Land” in the Farmlands and Grasslands chapter).

Europeans introduced grain crops to the New World. Oats arrived in America in 1602, and wheat in 1611. In the mid1800’s Wisconsin was a big wheat-producing state. Indians used many of the native grasses, but other than wild rice, they didn’t grow grasses as crops.

Early settlers from Europe brought seeds of fruit trees, including apples, from the Old World to the New. There were no apple trees in America other than small crab apples. The story of Johnny Appleseed is true.

Native Americans observed and adopted the uses of many of these new plants, just as the Settlers learned some of the Indian plant lore. The plants shown below arrived from Europe and Asia with the early groups of settlers, and they can be found at the Mequon Nature Preserve. PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, NOT A “HOW-TO.” PLEASE DO NOT GATHER WILD PLANTS AT THE MEQUON NATURE PRESERVE. NEVER PUT ANY WILD PLANT IN YOUR MOUTH UNLESS YOU KNOW A LOT ABOUT PLANT IDENTIFICATION AND EVEN MORE ABOUT EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL PLANTS.

Wild parsnip was imported to Virginia as a food plant in 1609 and was growing in Massachusetts 20 years later. The first-year roots can be eaten. Native Americans quickly adopted it and stored its roots as winter survival food.

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Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Honeybees were brought to America by English settlers in 1622, to provide a “sweet.” Native Americans called them “white man’s flies.” There are many native insects that pollinate flowers, but honeybees have become important pollinators of many farm crops.

Mullein came to America sometime in the 1600’s as a garden flower and as a medicine to treat coughs, asthma, frostbite, skin irritations, and deafness. In winter, its thick leaves were stuffed into leggings and moccasins for insulation. Its seeds were used to kill fish. The flowers made a yellow dye and the leaves were made into lamp wicks. There were many superstitions about its powers by and against witches.

Dandelions did not grow in America until the Europeans arrived; they were brought here in 1620 as a medicine plant. Dandelion was used to cure a wide variety of symptoms, from heartburn to warts. Its vitamin-rich leaves have been an important food for thousands of years. It is still raised commercially for its roots, which are made into a coffee-like drink.

Like dandelion roots, the roots of chicory were dried and used as a caffeine-free “coffee.” Chicory was imported to America as a salad green in 1785, and Thomas Jefferson grew it on his plantation. In Europe, chicory plants are grown as livestock food.

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Round-leaved plantain, a common lawn plant, was called “White man’s foot” by Natives because wherever the White man went, the plant followed. It was used as medicine for earaches, toothaches, stomach and lung problems, bruises, cuts, poison ivy, and rashes. Its leaves were fastened to people’s feet during a long march. Bouncing Bet is the name of this plant and is also an old English nickname for a washerwoman. When the stem and root of the plant are pounded in water, the water gets soapy (Bouncing Bet also called soapwort). The early settlers who brought it from Europe also used it as a medicine, though the plant is somewhat toxic and causes digestive upset.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

11. A very long-term goal One long-term goal of the Mequon Nature Preserve Restoration Plan is to restore to the landscape the native plants that were growing on the property before the European Americans arrived in Mequon.

Queen Anne’s lace is the parent plant of the carrot, which was developed from the wildflower by French plant breeders in the early 1600’s. Carrots instantly became popular plants in kitchen gardens. They spread to England in and then came to America with the early Colonists. The flowers, seeds and roots of Queen Anne’s lace were used as medicines, and the leaves made a yellow dye.

Tree planting – large forests start with small trees.

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12. For More Information On-line onsin/index.htm html mer/pre/index.html ion.html /

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097 ts/subtopic.asp?tid=3 MNP Master plan: 61

Print: The Book of Field and Roadside. John Eastman. 2003. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA “Browsing the Bog.” Kate Redmond. 2007. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Field Station Bulletin, Vol. 32. Cedarburg, A History Set in Stone. Ryan Gierach. 2003. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC. Indian Life in the Upper Great Lakes, 11,000 B.C. to A.D. 1800. George Irving Quimby. 1960. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

The Indians of the Western Great Lakes, 1615 1760. W. Vernon Kinietz. 2002. University of Michigan Press,Ann Arbor, MI “Mequon Nature Preserve Master Plan” Native People of Wisconsin. Patty Loew. 2003. State Historical Society Press, Madison, WI Saukville John Boatman


PieperPower Education center

1. Where to find it 2. Setting goals 3. Sprucing up the building 4. Volunteers at the Mequon Nature Preserve 5. The old is new 6. For more information

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PieperPower Education Center 2. Setting goals

The PieperPower Education Center

1. Where to find it

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

The PieperPower Education Building is located at 8200 West County Line Road, Mequon, WI. It can also be reached from the parking lot at 10000 Swan Road. Take the Swan Road Loop to Harvey’s Woods. From there, go southeast on the Observation Tower Loop/Lower Link trails or east on the Middle Link Trail. These trails lead to the north-south Cross Connector Trail. Turn right (south). The Cross Connector Trail ends in the PieperPower Parking Lot on the south edge of the Mequon Nature Preserve.

The entrance to the PieperPower Education Center parking lot.

The Mequon Nature Preserve was a joint dream, one that was realized because of the efforts of many individuals and organizations. It started in 2000 with a partnership of the City of Mequon, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Land purchases began in 2003, with funds coming through a generous grant from Dick Paddock from his fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Additional funding came from individuals, corporations, foundations, the City of Mequon, three Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Stewardship grants, and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. The goal was to purchase Section 33 - the square-mile of land enclosed by Swan Road on the west, Donges Bay Road on the north, Wauwatosa Road on the east, and County Line Road on the south. The property is a piece of a green corridor of natural areas just minutes from the Milwaukee Metropolitan area. Parks, parkways, and preserves stretch west on both sides of County Line Road from the Milwaukee River on the east, past Swan Road to Granville Road, and the area is served by several bike paths. The long-term goal is to restore the Mequon Nature Preserve to the deciduous hardwood forests and wetlands that existed prior to European settlement. (Please see “How do we know that?” in the chapter on Woodlands). Land purchases started early in 2003, and over the next few years, five important properties were acquired. The Batzler land was first, followed by the Stauss, Fox, and Bacher farms and farmsteads (please see “The Settlers Arrive” in the chapter on Cultural History), and then the Spirit Life Church property. The land was secured. Now the project needed a nerve center, and the Spirit Life Church became that center. The building definitely was a “fixer-

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upper.” But, just as scores of volunteers are putting their time and sweat into the restoration of the land, volunteers lent their efforts to renovating the building, now called the PieperPower Education Center (PPEC). The goal was to make it a “green” building (environmentally friendly and energy efficient) and to renovate it according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.

Indoor “air pollution?” Many paints, wood coatings, and glues used in particle board give off vapors that are unhealthy for a building’s occupants to breathe. LEED codes result in buildings that reduce harmful chemicals and are safer for the people who live or work there.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Poor drainage off of the old roof caused staining.

When we said we wanted a “green building,” this is not what we had in mind.

LEED certification was developed by the United States Green Buildings Council. Participation is voluntary, and here are four levels of certification ranging from the lowest (“certified”) to the highest (“platinum”). LEED standards address a building’s water efficiency, internal environment including air quality, energy use, types of materials used, temperature and lighting control, and sustainability. The use of recycled materials is also stressed. Some of the materials that were removed during the PPEC overhaul were re-used as the building was remodeled, and other kinds of recycled materials were used throughout.

LEED certification is given to buildings that have been designed or remodeled so as to “reduce their negative environmental impacts (like high water and energy use) and improve occupant well-being” (use healthy building materials and minimize recycled air). Building or renovating a structure to meet LEED specifications is more expensive than traditional construction, but the savings start when the building is finished. About two-thirds of the electricity consumed in the United States is used in buildings; LEED buildings are 25-30% more energy efficient than traditional buildings. More and more tax breaks and incentives are being offered to encourage LEED building. Another program that encourages “green” building and consumer practices is the Energy Star Program. In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started the national Energy Star Program. It was seen as a way to rate the energy efficiency of a variety of home and office products so that consumers could save energy – and money. Today, Energy Star is a voluntary program operated by the EPA and the U. S. Department of Energy, and it has spread to Canada, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. By using energy-efficient products, we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced. Records show that in

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2009, not only did Energy Star efforts save $17 billion in utility bills, they prevented greenhouse gasses equivalent to those produced by 30 million cars from being released. By 1995, Energy Star ratings expanded to include businesses and new homes, and some of the Energy Star standards were adopted by the LEED program. In 2010 the PieperPower Education Center’s energy efficiency was measured using the Energy Star rating system. The PPEC scored a 93 on the 100 point scale, qualifying it for an Energy Star and positioning the Mequon Nature Preserve to pursue the higher Energy Star Certification for the building.

3. Sprucing up the building

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

The PieperPower Education Center is a square building with an auditorium in the center of the square. Offices, classrooms, a conference room, and support space (bathrooms, kitchen, copy room, resource room) are arranged along the outside walls. For a while, “sprucing up the building” looked a lot like “gutting the building.” A great effort has been made to make the PPEC “friendly” both to the environment and to the people who spend time in it. An equally important effort was made to build (and plant) “local.” Products used in remodeling, such as lumber; lighting and plumbing fixtures; stone counters; and windows were produced within a 500 mile radius of the site. The plants in our landscaping are native Wisconsin plants that can grow here without special care. By using products produced closer to the site, we reduced the amount of gasoline burned in transportation and thus our carbon footprint.

An old roof gets a new life.

We wanted a “green roof,” with plants growing on it (please see “Green Roof,” below). After a structural engineer evaluated the building, weight-bearing supports were added to the walls and roof, and the old roof was entirely rebuilt. Inside, the old insulation was removed and recycled. The new insulation is 8” thick and rated R50. R-value refers to how well the insulation can resist heat flow. Higher numbers like 50 are more efficient. The result is a building that uses less energy to heat and cool.

The ceiling tiles were removed and reused in the PPEC offices.

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Old insulation that was removed from the ceiling of the Pat and Harvey Wilmeth Auditorium was donated for reuse by other organizations.

Both the floor and the window sills in the Thomas and Yvonne McCollow Conference Room are made of bamboo, a fast-growing, readily renewable resource.

The auditorium is reborn. The ceiling was painted white to reflect light, which is directed up by the high efficiency fluorescent tubes.

Natural light from offices and classrooms helps to light the hallways so electric lights aren’t needed as much.

Paying attention to the details pays off.

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4. Volunteers at the Mequon Nature Preserve Volunteers at the PieperPower Education Center tore down and rebuilt 12,000 square feet of ceiling. And they removed wallpaper, patched drywall, and painted walls. And they stained and varnished window frames and doors, installed insulation, and sorted all the materials for recycling. Volunteers have more than 2,500 hours invested in the project, and in a very real sense, this is their building. If you are interested in volunteering at the Mequon Nature Preserve, please contact us at 262-242-8055. We will send you a packet of materials which will help you to match your skills and interests with our needs.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

A classroom in the rough….

Let there be (energy-efficient) light! Electricity from the wind turbine enters the building via the panels on the wall.

….turns into a functional workspace. The many windows of the former Spirit Life Church have all been replaced with energy efficient windows.

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The floors in the hallways, classrooms and kitchen area are covered with Marmoleum, a linoleum-like material that is made from renewable materials and has no toxic components.

Copyright Š2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Taking it down, piecing it back together, putting it back up – better than before.

All scraps from fruit, vegetables and eggshells go into the compost bin. Caterers are required to put their non-meat, organic refuse in the bin.

Carpeting in the Terrance Michael Murphy Resource area and in the Pat and Harvey Wilmeth Auditorium is made of 40% recycled plastic bottles.

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The translucent entry roof

The creation of mural reflecting the culture of the area reminds us of our roots.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

5. The old is new

At the PieperPower Education Center, sunlight coming through the translucent roof outside the double doorway illuminates the inside of the entry (translucent refers to a frosted or cloudy surface that light can pass through). The roof filters sunlight, allowing light to enter, but not allowing the direct rays of the sun to heat the entryway.

The green features on the outside of the Pieper Power Education Center are old ideas made new. Wind and solar are renewable resources that are being tapped using 21st century technology. A renewable resource is a natural resource that can be used without being used up and that is replaced reasonably quickly. Though the technology to harness them may be costly at first, wind and solar energy are free, and the energy they produce is “clean” – non-polluting. One way to adapt to the weather lies in the design of buildings themselves. Pergolas, like the open wooden framework along the west and south sides of the Education Center, provide shade for the side of a building. The beams are placed so that in summer when the sun is high, they shade the windows by deflecting the sun. When the sun’s path is closer to the horizon in winter, the sun’s rays can enter the windows and warm the rooms.

The plants around the building were replaced with native plants that are more disease resistant and more tolerant of extreme weather conditions.

Green Roof Today, the term “Green” often refers to things or practices that are ecologically friendly. When some people refer to a “green roof” they are talking about a roof that is fitted with solar collectors, photovoltaic cells, or wind turbines, or that have light-colored, reflective shingles that absorb less heat. In the case of the roof of the Pieper Power Education Center, “green” also means the color green.

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The Mequon Nature Preserve’s “green” (and pink and yellow) roof.

Parts of the roof are green (and red and yellow and pink) because they have plants growing on them! Green roofs are also called living roofs and eco-roofs. They can be elaborate and require high maintenance, like a roof-top garden or a mini-park, with large plants and lots of soil. Or, like this one, they can be very simple.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Preparing the roof

Getting ready for a green roof (note the shadows of the pergola on the side of the building).

The roof of the PieperPower Education Center was prepared with a waterproof liner and a “lip” at the bottom edge of the roof. Then “Green Paks,” bags of soil, were laid side by side on the roof and then planted with sedum. The “lip” prevents the Green-Pak bags from sliding off. Sedum is an easy plant to grow. It can put up with dry spells, doesn’t need mowing, and rarely needs weeding or fertilizing.

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The shingles on the upper roof are light-colored and reflective and are made from recycled plastic. They are also Energy Star rated.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

There are many pluses to having a green roof. The most important direct benefit is that it insulates the building. Less energy – up to 25% less - is needed to heat the building in winter and to cool it in summer. A green roof also reduces noise from the outside and extends the life of a roof by reducing the degree to which it expands and contracts throughout the seasons. Another huge advantage of a green roof is that it controls the amount, the rate, and the purity of the water that runs off the roof (for more information on runoff, see “Rain Garden” below). Instead of flowing unchecked off the roof and overwhelming a city’s drainage or storm sewer system, the rainwater (and snow melt) soak into the soil and nurture the plants. The roots of plants on a green roof take up water, just as they do in woodlands, grasslands and stream edges. A green roof can hold up to an inch of rainfall and will release it slowly. As a bonus, the soil filters pollutants from the rain, cleaning the water that does drain off. The benefits of green roofs don’t stop with the building itself. Larger, more intensive green roofs give people a place to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers or a green space where they can relax. Large or small, the plants will filter pollutants from the air and use carbon dioxide.

The waterproof membrane of the green roof.

It’s been understood for 200 years that some cities are warmer than the suburbs and rural areas around them. The bigger the city, the more it affects its own temperature. Heatabsorbing building materials, and street surfaces like concrete and blacktop collect heat during the day. The machines that make cities go throw off heat of their own. At night, tall buildings trap heat instead of allowing it to escape into the sky. Two ways to lower the temperature in cities are to install lighter-colored, reflective roofs and to install green or living roofs. Green roofs also increase habitat for plants and animals. As they mature, the diversity of plants on the roof attracts birds, especially in migration. Green roofs in cities add natural habitat in areas that lack it. The modern-day push for green roofs started in Germany in the mid-1960’s, but the green roof is the direct descendent of roofs built in the Scandinavian countries for thousands of years. The Swedes used the materials at hand, covering the sloped roofs of their log houses with thick layers of birch bark, which is very waterproof. They laid sod on top of the bark to weigh it down (sod is a section of grass-covered surface soil, held together by matted roots). Sod was cut in one-foot squares, about three inches deep. The first layer of sod was laid grass-side-down, and a second layer was laid on top of it, grass-side-up. This design kept water out of the building below and kept heat in. The weight of the sod pushed the logs together, making the spaces between the logs smaller so the house was less drafty. A sod

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roof lasted longer than 30 years, often much longer. Today’s green roofs may last twice as long as standard roofs.

A grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Department provided funds for our Green Paks roof system.

Laying Green-Paks.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

temperature on the green roof of Chicago’s City Hall can measure as much as 50 degrees cooler than the temperature on nearby standard roofs.

Is there a “down side” to green roofs? Green roofs cost between $5 and $15 per square foot; the cost varies depending on the kinds of plants chosen and the need for maintenance and fertilizer. Not all roofs or buildings can be retrofitted to bear the weight load, and local governments have different regulations and fees. Green roofs may be flat or sloped, but sloped roofs work better because water runs off instead of pooling and causing a leak. Particular attention has to be paid to waterproofing before the plants are installed, and to selecting plants with a shallow root structure so the roots do not grow through the waterproof membrane.

Rain Garden Bio-Retention Cell and Cistern Roofs, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots don’t absorb rainwater or snowmelt. The water that lands on them has to go somewhere, so it runs across these man-made surfaces. A little of the runoff may find some soil and sink in; but it is more likely to flood storm sewer systems and basements; or it may flood and erode ditches and other waterways like streams and ponds. Called “surface runoff,” this water washes pollutants like gasoline, motor oil, road salts, heavy metals, and garbage off the pavement and into natural areas. It picks up fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and farms. The rainwater itself often brings pollutants like acids down from the sky. Surface runoff can move across the landscape too fast to sink in and refresh the ground water system (For information about ground water and the water table, please see “Three Communities – Artesian Springs” in the chapter on the Streich Family Wetlands). Green roofs are one way to tame surface runoff. Rain gardens (also known as bio-retention cells) and cisterns are additional methods. The term “bio-retention” refers to using a biological system (in this case, plants) to filter pollutants out of water. The area that receives the water and filters it is the bio-retention cell.

Planting more sedum.

Green roofs can be huge projects. The River Rouge Assembly Plant operated by the Ford Motor Company has a sedum-planted green roof that covers 450,000 square feet! The

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Mequon Nature Preserve Field Guide

plants; the plants take up some of the water’s minerals through their roots; and the water is further purified by the soil. Since the water is moving slowly, it does get a chance to soak in and enter the underground water system. Bioretention cells filter out pollutants that would otherwise get into waterways, and the plants they water provide habitat for wildlife.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

A rain barrel placed where it can water a native plant garden.

People, especially those living in dry climates, have used cisterns for thousands of years. Containers were put on rooftops or upslope from a house so water could flow down to where it was needed. The water was used to cook, wash, irrigate gardens, water livestock, and even to drink. As people started living in organized villages, their traffic compacted the soil in common areas and increased surface runoff. Ancient villages in the Mediterranean developed storm water runoff systems that were used to divert floodwater around population centers. A home cistern is usually an above-ground 55 or 80 gallon barrel, and there are four rain barrels around the PieperPower Education Center. Larger home systems or industrial systems might use underground tanks as large as 10,000 gallons. A 200 gallon cistern may capture and redirect, on average, 8,200 gallons of precipitation per year. Stored water is usually used for irrigation. With the right kind of roofing material, water collected in a cistern might be used indoors, but water that runs off asphalt shingles is not used for drinking. In a rain garden, water that lands on a roof or parking lot is captured, stored temporarily in a cistern, and released to water to a lawn, garden, or landscaped area. The runoff waters the

Water that drains off the roof of the PieperPower Education Center feeds both a cistern and a rain garden. A gutter system carries run-off from the roof into a rain garden planted with native prairie grasses and flowers located on the east side of the building. Water percolates through the roots and soil to a perforated drain pipe four feet below the surface. From there, the purified water enters a 1000 gallon cistern. In times of drought, water in the cistern is used to irrigate native vegetation planted at the Preserve.

The parking lot is designed with three bio-filtration islands – notches in the curbing that surrounds the islands allow runoff to enter the island and sink in.

The parking lot is designed with three biofiltration islands – places where runoff can stop and sink in. A rain garden located on the south side of the parking lot at the Pieper Power Education Center helps to slow the water before it runs into Trinity Creek. In the event of a big storm, excess water flows into a nearby wetland (For information about how the chain of ponds works, please see “Three Communities – Ponds” in the chapter on the Streich Family Wetlands). The Education Center parking lot includes yet another green feature. As a result of using

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

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coarser materials in the asphalt mix, the asphalt on the east side of the parking lot near the Streich Family Wetlands is porous. Rain water and snow melt disappear through the small holes and channels that now exist in the pavement. The water will sink into the ground below where it will be filtered and will recharge the water table instead of running off the surface to flood surrounding areas.

Solar Power Anyone who has ever curled up in a sunny spot knows the value of solar power! Insects and other cold-blooded animals that bask in the sun on a cool day use solar heating in order to get moving. In fact, solar power “jump-starts” all of us. Plants, the only living things that make their own food, do so only in the presence of sunlight. Directly (herbivores) or indirectly (carnivores that eat herbivores), animals depend on plants. Humans have taken advantage of the sun’s light and heat since the days of the cave men, and this new-old technology is gaining popularity today for both small scale and large scale projects.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans built greenhouses so they could grow exotic foods. Two hundred years before that, according to legend, Greek mathematician-scientist-engineer Archimedes bounced sunlight off of soldiers’ shields or polished mirrors or toward enemy soldiers to blind them in battle. Passive solar energy was also used to heat water (one of its most common uses today), purify water, distill fresh water from salt water, cook, and dry clothes. European farmers trying to grow food during the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cool summers, very cold winters, and violent storms between AD 1300 and 1850, learned to plant fruit trees against south-facing walls so the sun would warm the wall and the wall would warm the trees.

The solar cells at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

The problem is that the sun isn’t “on” all the time; it’s called an “intermittent” or “variable” (not continuous) energy source. Intermittent energy must be used when it’s available, or it must be stored. Photovoltaic (PV) cells were invented in the 1880’s. They allow us to capture the sun’s energy and convert it to electrical energy that can be used to heat water and buildings; to power calculators and fans; to run appliances and telecommunications systems; and even to charge batteries on missions in outer space. Solar power is also being explored for use in transportation. Engineers are working to perfect solar-powered cars, boats, and airplanes. Solar “sails” have been suggested for space travel. This collection, storage and conversion of solar power is called “active” instead of passive.

Ancient peoples used passive solar energy, making use of the direct light and heat of the sun. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks and the Chinese built compact homes facing south so that the sun could light the inside of the building while it was warming the brick, mud, or stone walls. Heat collected by the building materials during the day was released slowly at night, warming the building. In summer, roof overhangs and deciduous trees (trees that drop their leaves in fall) shaded the walls and windows.

Solar power works best in the summer, because there are more hours of sunlight and the sun travels a higher path through the sky, striking the PV cells more directly. The solar panels at the Mequon Nature Preserve face directly south, and they were placed away from buildings or trees that might shade them. Intermittent energy sources like solar and wind power generally need a “back-up” from a more traditional system of electrical generation like natural gas, coal or nuclear. When the Pieper Power Education Center needs more electricity

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than its PV cells are producing, the Center can get power from the commercial power grid.

annually. Solar and wind energy combined are expected to produce a quarter of the energy needed by the PPEC.

Solar power has tremendous potential for providing electricity without creating pollution. Only half of the solar energy that streams toward the earth daily actually gets here. The energy that does get here is enough to supply the electricity needs of the world, but only a small fraction of the incoming solar energy is being converted to electricity. Just as wind farms are being built to “harness” the power of wind, solar farms are also being developed.

The wind turbine at the Mequon Nature Preserve.

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

A live display on the Mequon Nature Preserve website shows electricity generated from solar and wind at the Preserve. Click on “Renewable Energy at MNP.”

The photovoltaic system at the PieperPower Education Center can generate 9.8 kW. If the PV installation generates more energy than the Education Center needs, the excess electricity goes into the WE Energies electric grid and the Center’s bill gets credited for that electricity. This system is called “Net Metering.” Funding programs from WE Energies and Focus on Energy made the installation of this photovoltaic system possible.

Wind Energy When you visit the PieperPower Education Center, one of the first things you notice is its small wind turbine. The Murphy, Scanlon and Sullivan Mellowes Wind Turbine has blades that are 24 feet across. Winds atop its 120 foot high monopole average about 12 miles per hour, and at its peak, it generates 10 kilowatts (kW). It is expected to supply 17,100 kilowatt hours

The earth is surrounded by an ocean of air, miles high, but the sun doesn’t warm it evenly. Warm air rises, and cold air sinks. When air heated along the equator rises, cool air from the north and south flows in to replace it. Differences in temperature and pressure between two areas cause wind, and that wind gets slanted by the spinning of the earth. Like the rays of the sun, wind is an intermittent source of energy. The speed and direction of winds in the world, in Wisconsin, and at the Mequon Nature Preserve change by the season and by the hour, and the wind may not even be blowing at the times that electricity is needed. Solar power is sometimes used as a backup energy source for wind. The world’s most easily available winds (surface winds) could generate several times more electrical energy than we actually use today. Solar energy and wind energy are free, and the technology that converts them into electricity is non-polluting. Increasing our use of wind and solar power will decrease our dependence of foreign energy sources. The state of Wisconsin is committed to increasing its production of electricity from renewable sources to a total of 10% by 2015 and there is a proposal to increase it to 25% by 2025. European nations are ahead of us in developing wind power; nearly 20% of

Copyright ©2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

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electricity in Denmark is generated by wind farms.

When the Mequon Nature Preserve wind turbine produces extra energy, it gets fed into the WE Energies transmission system in the background and WE Energies credits the Education Center’s bill in a process called “Net Metering.”

Like the other green technologies at the PieperPower Education Center, wind has been used for a very long time. It was probably first used to move sailboats and cool the inside of buildings. In ancient times, wind power drove irrigation projects and was aimed at furnaces to make them burn hotter. Windmills, invented almost 2000 years ago, powered grindstones and drew water from wells for drinking, livestock, and irrigation. Early Wisconsin farmers, like farmers all over the Great Plains, relied on water-pumping windmills. These windmills also made water available to the steam locomotives that opened up the West in the 1800’s. Generating electricity is the main use of wind power today. What makes a wind turbine work? Large or small, they all operate by the same rules.

The stronger the breeze the better. Twice the wind speed gives eight times the power generation. Winds higher above the ground are stronger than winds near the ground. Cold air is denser than hot air, so wind turbines can generate about 13% more power on a winter day than they can on a hot summer day at the same wind speed. Doubling the length of the turbine blades quadruples their ability to generate power. Wind turbines partner well with solar power systems. Winds are stronger in the winter, while solar PV systems work better in the sunnier summer season. The three most common objections to wind turbines concern their cost, their visual impact, and their effect on wildlife. Wind farms are costly to start up, but they do not produce air, water, or surface pollution, including greenhouse gases, like some of the traditional generating methods do. Greenhouse gases form a layer that blocks solar energy that has bounced off of the earth and is trying to pass back through the atmosphere. Trapped by the greenhouse gases, this solar radiation makes the lower atmosphere even warmer. Once built, the raw material to run wind turbines – the wind - is free, and wind turbines don’t degrade the landscape or require clean-up. By some figuring, when the environmental costs of traditional electrical generation are weighed, wind power and other green technologies are more competitive. Individual wind turbines like the one at the Mequon Nature Preserve have little impact on scenery. Large wind farms are certainly noticeable, but some of their impact is lessened because traditional land use below the turbines, like farming, can continue. The blades of large windmills do kill some birds and bats. The numbers of birds that are killed at wind farms is small compared to the number of birds that fly into windows or are killed by cats. Bats are killed by the change in air pressure as the blades pass them, not by being hit by the blades.

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The funding programs of We Energies and Focus on Energy made the installation of this wind turbine possible.

6. For more information Wind Power een-science/wind-power.htm

Solar Power

Green Roof een-science/green-rooftop.htm

Copyright Š2010 Mequon Nature Preserve 8200 W. County Line Road Mequon, WI 53097

Bio-retention Cell/Rain Garden re/documents/rgmanual.pdf pdf f/rain_harvesting.pdf

LEED Certification _and_Environmental_Design

Energy Star

The Mequon Nature Preserve lies in the midst of a metropolitan area

Mequon Nature Preserve’s PieperPower Education Center, a structure

with over 1.6 million people. Once there, you will find yourself

renovated to sustainable standards, is located at 8200 West County

entering a peaceful refuge and surprisingly removed from the city’s

Line Road, Mequon WI. The Center, when not in use for education

hustle and bustle. You will walk through nearly one square mile of

programs, may be rented by outside groups.

hardwood forests, wetlands, and open fields. This close-in location enables students enrolled in K-12 programs, technical colleges, and universities to use this space as their outdoor classroom. Youth groups come to carry out service projects.

Trailhead Parking Lots PieperPower Education Center 8200 West County Line Road Mequon WI 53097 262-242-8055 10000 North Swan Road Mequon WI 53097 8275 West Donges Bay Road Mequon WI 53097

To learn more about the Nature Preserve and the Center or to print a trail map, please visit our website:

Field Guide  

This field guide is only part of the story. The rest or the story canbe found on the trails of the Mequon Nature Preserve. Take a hikehere....

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