Want to comment on a story? Email Readers Write and include the name of the community from which you are writing.
SHOWY SNOWY OWL
I’m sending a picture of a snowy owl I took about 11 years ago in early November on Allequash Lake. I thought maybe you could use it for the DNR magazine.
The article on "Sense of Time" ("Adapting to Wisconsin’s changing climate," February 2013 insert) might have noted that many robins do not leave Wisconsin at all. Hunting grouse these past 10 years has allowed me to see flocks of robins in the same location all through the hunting season – until Jan 31. They have food and water and seem to care little about leaving their valleys south of Eleva off highway 93.
ROBINS, LOONS AND EAGLES ON GREEN LAKE
Double checking your information about the expanding/declining habitat of the common loon. Let me say your magazine is fantastic. I look forward to having it in our home every month. The February issue was no exception. The cover was beautiful. A lot of my family live in Minnesota and they are quite proud of their loons. We live on Green Lake and have enjoyed the loons for years. They show up here in late winter/early spring and are present during the summer when there is a lull in boat traffic. When the kids go back to school in the fall, the loons spend more time here as well. It seems they have increased their presence yearly since we moved here permanently in 2005.
Pages 4 through 9 of the February issue support what we have noticed, a yearly increase in the presence of common loons. The center of the issue includes another publication entitled, "Adapting to Wisconsin’s Changing Climate." Page 4 of that section contains an article called "Sense of Time." In it we are told that since 2010, we can expect to see fewer loon sightings. We are only going into our third year since that bench mark, but I can tell you that from 2010 through 2012 we have enjoyed seeing more loons during the day and hearing their haunting calls at night. I am hoping we are the exception to the warning of fewer loons.
The "Sense of Time" article also spoke of the earlier arrival of robins to our area each spring. In 2008 I saw a robin fly through our neighborhood on Jan. 26. I was all puffed up thinking I saw the first robin of spring. When I passed this good news on to our neighbor who also lives on the lake but in a more wooded area two long blocks to our east, she said, " Oh they live here all winter long." Apparently, they enjoy the comparable shelter of her woods to the open winds of our peninsula! Both of us live on property that borders a marsh. Keep up the great work with your publication. I consider it to be easily on a par with The Smithsonian and Arizona Highways.
Editor’s note: In a subsequent correspondence with Mr. Ogren, he shared more observations about bird life near his home: They must feel comfortable with the shelter and food supply during the winter months. I know that here several of us have seed feeders going. We also have a heated bird bath. Of course, all of this is coming from a guy who until a year or so ago never realized that those beautiful yellow finches stay here as well, but with a darker plumage. And then there are the bald eagles. We live here year around, but most of the homes are seasonal. As the people leave and the weather chills, the eagles appear. They like to perch in a tree not 60 feet from our windows. They will swoop low over the lake and perch in a tree just down the point from us. One sighting was of a mature eagle flying with an adolescent eagle. They would climb, dive, approach each other in the air and then veer away at the last instant. Once the mature bird had a fish and after playing with the younger eagle, climbed and dropped the fish. The adolescent simply rolled out of the climb without drawing in his/her wings, and streaked toward the water. Before the fish could impact the lake, the eagle had it in its talons. We like to think we were witnessing a training session but we humans are always ascribing reason to things we see. The eagles are a special treat just up until the lake freezes which this year was about Jan. 21-22.
With camera and tripod, I perched myself next to the Rock River in Watertown just below the dam on Feb. 4. Mallards were in the dozens, but one caught my eye. It is white. Upon looking it up, mallards and domestic ducks do interbreed. This is likely the identification for this bird. The icy waters did not stop these ducks, which had to preen and rub the ice off of their beaks from time to time. They hang out near an area where a kingfisher and a bald eagle are perched regularly.
Andy Paulios, Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator, replies:
It’s hard to say from just one picture but mallards do often interbreed with domesticated "white" varieties leading to some interesting plumages in the offspring. Alternatively, this could be a leucistic mallard. Leucistic birds have a pigmentation issue within the feathers or skin leading to blond or white looking birds or white patches of feathers.
COMMENTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The [Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts] eight page insert on Wisconsin’s changing climate left no credible evidence that the short term research of the WICCI organization is a predictor of a climate warming and severe weather trend. Right away I was skeptical of the message of WICCI when I read the comments of associate professor, Dan Vimont, "The process of extracting local scale climate data from global models and ‘downscaling’ it to Wisconsin was ground–breaking and is now being used across the country…"
What global models was he referring to? There are many models being circulated by academia. Hope it was not the data that gave us Climategate. Most likely it was not the data of not so long ago, that suggested the climate was cooling (circa 1970s). Hot and cold climate is an ebb and flow that has occurred for millions of years. Natural variability is the only constant that I have confidence in. Everything else is a "Chicken Little — the sky is falling" syndrome. Us humans are naive to think we can control climatic events.
These inserts in your February 2013 issue bring up some key questions. A number of current UW–Madison staff is quoted. These comments, and the production overall, present warming as if it’s a definite shift in climate. As one who worked for three decades in an agency that planned habitat burning, etc., I also saw spring phenology starting about 12 days earlier — since maybe the mid– 1980s. However, as I recall it, the 1970s in southern Wisconsin were considered even colder than normal. A key question has to be: “How many years’ data does it take to represent climate?” Another is: “Just how much can we really attribute to man’s effect?”
As one studying prairies, I had the privilege of meeting world–class UW meteorologist Dr. Reid Bryson, circa 1970. He seemed to feel that if man had any notable effect, it would be more like cooling [see his Climates of Hunger book]. I contacted him early in 2007 about the issue; he sent me a two–page response entitled “HISTORY!! (Getting back to what it sort of used to be).” In it, he described a Greenland with Viking settlements much warmer in 900 A.D., than in 2007. He also described the "observable volcanic record” as a main driver of hemispheric temperature while CO2 as only "a very minor dependent variable."
John Curtis was a UW–Madison world–class plant ecologist. In his (1959) Vegetation of Wisconsin (p. 450), a "Xerothermic" period in about 1600 B.C. was so much warmer than in 1959 that it even shifted the “tension zone" line between southern and northern vegetation types to the north — as is shown on the map (p. 451) [c.f., the 1959 map, on p. 20]. As I recall, even UW’s Aldo Leopold put much credence in the theory of sunspot cycles causing cycles of drought and heat. Wouldn’t really good science have to be open to the work of such people, for the proper interplay of the “sifting and winnowing" of the UW motto?
GRAZING NOT AS SELECTIVE AS HUMANS
I have spilled sweat and blood on restoration sites from the shores of Lake Superior to the beaches of the gulf coast and have yet to meet an individual whose boots have touched more ground. I recently heard about and read the article on page 20 of the February issue (“Let’s do brunch — or is it brush?”). I respect the great work being done by grazing and use it as another tool in my arsenal. However evidence-based learning has shown that too many rare native species are lost while waiting for this gradual process and goats are not as selective as human workers. The article gave the impression grazers destroy less good vegetation than they do in reality. Environmentally minded operators and applicators can more quickly and completely restore an area to a state that can be maintained with fire, shovels and gloves. The difference can be understood when one sees the diversity and habitat bring back some critically endangered species that would become extinct while waiting for grazing to have a similar effect. There is a drastic difference in the quality of habitat as well. Often times people choose this more gradual process to avoid public complaints. I refer these complainers to already established restorations and often times end up with recruits for volunteer projects. Besides, the future complainers will be more focused on yesterday’s lack of action. I hope my words don’t come across as critical. I believe the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is ahead of the curve when it comes to restoration and management. I have a lot invested in restoration and just wanted to throw in my 2 cents after being referred to this article. Keep up the good work.
KUDOS FOR FEBRUARY ISSUE
I am a long-time, loyal subscriber and look forward to every issue but this time I am compelled to write and thank you for the most interesting, informative and enjoyable issue (February 2013), from cover to cover, in memory. Thank you to all involved. You set a high standard for all environmental publications.
I happen to be a very “looney” guy! Your last issue featuring loons was a real treat. I learned a lot. In my living room I have a life–size, limited edition replica carving of a loon on display. On the walls are two large limited edition pictures of loons. They are a constant reminder of many great fishing trips to northern Wisconsin. They like to be alone on a remote lake – so do I!
TRIO OF REDHEADS
Caught this picture of redheads in the Wolf River in Winneconne and thought you and your readers might enjoy.