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Photo reminder! Don't forget, our two reader photo contests. We're looking for photos of your hunting shacks, unique shack features and descriptions. Send them by May 1st to: Cabin Photos, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. Photos of Wisconsin's wild symbols (badger, white-tailed deer, robin, muskellunge, honey bee, mourning dove,trilobite, sugar maple and wood violet) should be sent by August 1st to: State Symbol Photos, Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707
I'm a new subscriber and I like that the magazine devotes itself to Wisconsin wildlife. However, I have a suggestion to improve the educational value of the publication – label the photos with the specific name of the subject pictured.
For instance the December issue has a picture of a pine tree on the front cover and a plant leaf on the back. What plants are they? Likewise p.11 has a beautiful photo of a male mallard, but it isn't identified.
I'm trying to teach myself to identify native plants and animals and the magazine could help me toward that end.
We usually provide common names and Latin genus and species where a species has several common names. Many of our captions describe a resource or environmental issue that species face. In those cases, we are more likely to describe the issue than expend the space to identify species. Your point is well taken. Many readers similarly enjoy identifying species. By the way, our December cover showed a balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and our back cover was a closeup shot of Virginia creeper, also called woodbine, (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) fringed in frost.
Thanks for using my book, "Walking Trails of Southern Wisconsin," as a resource in Wisconsin Traveler.
I'd like to update readers about Parfrey's Glen. An unusual flash flood in the summer of 1993 pretty much flushed out portions of the glen including some trees, other vegetation and the trail. During the following year, DNR trail builders rebuilt and somewhat rerouted the trail. They constructed wooden bridges and long boardwalks over the stream near the bottomland. Extra pairs of socks and dry shoes are no longer needed as the new trail neatly carries the hiker over the top of any mud or running water. It's a great improvement!
Where Agates Formed
The second sentence of your attractive article "Rainbows in rock" (December 1995) states that Lake Superior agates were formed "in the lava of ancient volcanoes in northern Canada..." In fact, they were formed in lava floes of the Midcontinent Rift System, exposed in the Lake Superior basin and dispersed southward by the glaciers. That's why they are called Lake Superior agates. Rocks formed in northern Canada could not have been transported to Wisconsin since the glaciers flowed the other way there.
One of the references you cited, "The Lake Superior Agate" by Scott Wolter, explains their origin.
Professor John C. Green
Trail in Trust
The caption on p.18 of your article "In land we trust" should have read "Nucy" Meech Trail rather than "Nancy." "Nucy" is the abbreviated nickname for "nuisance," a name her brother gave her at an early age. I have heard people call her Lucy, but never Nancy. She was a remarkable mother, extraordinary art collector, first woman Trustee of the Minneapolis art Institute and an avid nature enthusiast. She was killed at the age of 76 when a tree felled by a beaver hit her kayak on the Brule River.
As a long-time summer resident of Madeline Island, she was a major sponsor of the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve, and we are flattered that you chose this picture for your article.
Charles E. Meech for the Meech Family
I have enjoyed reading the magazine for more years than I can remember. Several issues in the last few years brought back memories of trout fishing on the Tomorrow River from the time my father took me fishing there starting in 1927.
We started fishing with double spinners and worms, then we "graduated" into fishing with make believe flies. We spent 60 years fishing the river downstream of Nelsonville from the old gristmill and slaughterhouse.
Over the years I got to know every hole and its sticks, stones and snags like a book. Ah, how many good memories I have with my Dad and his buddies, later on with my son and daughter.
I'm a Junior at Marshfield High School and I'm faced with a chemistry assignment to develop an original solution to an environmental problem. The December articles called "Vital Signs" gave me an idea. If the Department of Natural Resources is looking for partners to continue the work of monitoring the environment, is there any role for students in public schools? Could science teachers and students provide some of the field collection work in the future?
Drew D. Baldauf
Fabulous idea, Drew. In fact, we have many partners who are helping provide the environmental monitoring you suggest. There is always room for more volunteers! Currently volunteers collect information about lake clarity, water quality and water chemistry every two weeks from spring to fall. The information becomes part of a data base we are building to keep track of lake conditions over time. A second group of volunteers participates in a school program called Testing the Waters. These students visit streams and rivers near their school to sample water chemistry and aquatic insect life several times a year. The data they collect is fed into a worldwide computer base so school on the same river, across the country or around the globe can share information about rivers and streams. A third program is training school teachers how to monitor milkweed plants for signs of ozone damage.
It makes sense to forge such partnerships with schools, communities and individuals to get interested in tracking environmental progress. We can spread our monitoring network more widely with help from volunteers. Second, the labor these folks donate stretches each monitoring dollar much further. Third, getting people involved creates a commitment to understand and protect resources. A public that on a regular basis examines the environment generally supports efforts to sustain clean air, clean water and public spaces. So on many levels, you idea has merit.
I recently read your article "Magnificent merlins" (April 1994) as I believe I saw one just before Christmas. About 2:30 p.m. on December 20th I was watching three mourning doves feeding on the ground under our bird feeder. All of a sudden I heard a ruffling of feather and a bird shot past the window. It startled me! At that moment, the bird nailed one of the doves. That dove never had a chance.
I ran up the stairs to tell me wife so she could witness the experience. We were too late. The falcon disappeared.
I got my binoculars and started scanning the trees and bushes. I noticed a flurry of feathers raining down through the bushes and knew I had found the bird. I never got a good, full frontal view, but I did see the right side of its back and a side view. It had a prominent wide band of white at the end of the tail and two distinct white bands above that. The back and wings were dusty gray to black and the side of the breast was tan to rusty color. The bird had no leg feathers nor could I see any leg bands.
I watched it eat for a full 20 minutes, got my field guide and determined that the falcon was a merlin.
Author Dave Crehore responds: If you really had a merlin in your back yard in southern Wisconsin, it is a pretty special yard! Merlins have been known to winter over in Wisconsin; one spent the winter at the Manitowoc County fairgrounds a few years ago, but it's a rare sight. If the bird was jay-sized, it might have been a merlin or a sharp-shinned hawk. If the bird was crow-sized, it could have been a peregrine falcon or a Cooper's hawk. Sharpies and Cooper's definitely winter here and are known to nest in suburban areas.
All four of these birds have more-or-less distinct white tips on their tails, but only the sharpie and Cooper's have distinct white bands farther up the tail. The banding on the merlin and peregrine is grayer. The diagnostic characteristic is the facial coloring. The merlin and peregrine have distinct "moustaches" descending vertically from the eye; the other two birds do not. Also, merlins tend to take sparrow and warbler-sized birds as prey.
Good Work, Great Value
I'm a former Wisconsin resident, now a snowbird in San Diego and a summer resident in Door County. I've been a regular subscriber to Wisconsin Natural Resources and I've seen the publication evolve from a mimeographed quarterly publication to the excellent magazine produced today. It's worth much more than the subscription price.
Your article about pileated woodpeckers (August 1995) brought back some memories of a few years ago. There was a pileated who persisted in pecking at trees at a very busy intersection in Wausau. It would make a three-inch-wide, seven-inch-long, half-inch-deep opening in the side of the tree quite a way up. It was there so frequently that I would just look up when I spotted the chips at the bottom of one of the trees at that corner. The parks Department later removed the trees to prevent damage that might fall near traffic. I was just amazed that the woodpecker would choose such a busy street for its activities.
Market Hunting Photo
One of the photos used to illustrate "Toward an outdoor ethic" in the December issue shows market hunters posing with over a hundred waterfowl (p.10). The Oshkosh Public Museum has that same image in its collection identified as "Dunkel's boathouse on Lake Poygan." The museum has a fairly large collection of photographs related to waterfowling in the Lake Winnebago Region, including images from the market hunting era. This photo is one of the more unique images, capturing the essence of the market hunting era.
Bradley G. Larson, Director
A photograph in your August issue sparked a deep memory. The photo on p.5 of your "Down to the Shoreline" supplement showed a black fence-like structure, which I call a runoff containment barrier, along side a highway. The barrier was placed there for a good cause, but some of these barriers are left and abandoned.
The sight of these barriers, weathered and dilapidated is rather disgusting. In the fall of 1993 I used to pass a stretch of Highway 32 near the north branch of the Pensaukee River where both sides of the road were littered with old barriers. Part of that ugly barrier is still visible poking through the snow two years later. To me, it is just as disgusting as discarded diapers, tires, bottles or other trash randomly and inconsiderately tossed along our roadways. Who is responsible?
We contacted the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to get an answer. On state highway projects, engineers and crews from DOT are responsible for maintaining silt fences and removing them after vegetation is well-established. This usually takes a year. Sometimes maintenance work, including the subsequent removal of silt fences is contracted to county work crews.
Silt fences are also installed by utility companies after they complete roadside repairs, replace phone poles or bury cables. Construction companies use them also to control runoff from landscaping, so every silt fence you see is not necessarily installed by a highway worker. In fact, DOT has largely switched to using hay bales, erosion mats and sprayed seed mixtures to establish vegetation more quickly and control runoff more effectively, so you should see fewer of these silt fences on roadsides in the future.
We agree that erosion controls need to be maintained, like all tools, to perform an intended function without becoming a problem or an eyesore.