Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Photo of conjoined trees

Husband and wife trees

October 2011

Readers Write

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Conjoined trees

While deer hunting this past fall near New Lisbon I came across these two maples growing together. I thought it was quite unusual that two trees could actually graft together in this fashion, with two separate tops and two separate root systems. I enjoy your magazine. It is very informative of what we have here in Wisconsin. Our state is unique.

Ted Haschke
New Lisbon

What you observed is called inosculation and the two resulting trees are often referred to as "husband and wife" trees. They occur when the two trees touch, then gradually as the trees move in the wind, the bark on the touching surfaces scrapes away. Once the cambium of the two trees touch, they self-graft and grow together. Thanks for sharing this interesting natural phenomenon!

Wood duck nest redux

I have a wood duck that sets and hatches eggs each year in a hollowed-out branch in a silver maple tree in front of my house not eight feet from the door. The nest is about 12 to 15 feet up and when they hatch she shoves them out and takes them to a pond about 150 yards to the west. It's very seldom you see her fly in and out, but the first I saw her go in was April 8. On Easter (April 24) I saw egg shells on the patio, so I thought they hatched. Then at 11 p.m. I saw an egg with a little duck in it. It was broken and the duck was alive but when I moved the neck straight it seemed to die. I went outside and there were more shells – something or the hen had shoved more out. Today (May 25), I saw a wood duck fly back into the tree and saw that she pushed all the old duck down out, so maybe she's starting over again – Wow!

Jim Koltes

Jim, it's possible that the hen's first nest was raided by a raccoon or other predator. Wood ducks are very productive and will attempt to re-nest once or twice if the first nest fails.

Accipiters prey on Blue Jays

In response to the letter published in your June 2011 issue about the disappearance of blue jays from a reader's bird feeder, I have a biology degree, am a bird lover, wildlife enthusiast, bow hunter and am fairly knowledgeable about birds in general. I am blessed with a huge population and wide variety of birds in our close vicinity and overall area. We have lost all of our blue jays, which I estimate at approximately three different pairs that had frequented our area. I always feed during the winter, but what is unusual is that I have not heard even one in the past two months. The cause of their demise in our area is the Cooper's hawk (accipiter or bird hawk). Its cousin is the sharp-shinned hawk, which is a deep woods hawk. I have discovered the remains of three blue jays since early spring in our yard alone. I have seen the Cooper's hawk hunt on numerous occasions. Over the years, I have observed and I am convinced that, for whatever reason, the blue jay is the favorite prey of the accipiter. Many people don't even realize that they have an accipiter hunting their area due to the hawk's secretive nature, their swooping, very low flight, attack style, and ambush skills. I have had Cooper's hawks hunting my yard and my winter feeding station for several years now. My past bow hunting experiences have also proven to me that the preferred food of the sharp-shinned hawk is the brightly colored, loud and raucous blue jay, which always broadcasts its exact location. The hawks have to eat also and I love all birds, except the starling, a whole other story!

I have another observation about robins. We have a large population of robins in our yard, neighborhood and overall area. Robin males sing at 4 a.m. every day and are constantly at war for territory, nesting sites and feeding grounds. I am always attentive to bird sounds. Approximately 10 years ago I began to hear a bird's whistling sound. I am aware of most robin sounds and songs but it took me three years to identify the bird responsible and determined that it is the robin. If you have good hearing, the whistle is soft, shrill, high-pitched and plaintive. My theory is that these robins are first-year, fully-grown fledglings that know they are in a danger zone and asking for safety and safe passage. I ask anyone with similar observations or knowledge to write the DNR magazine or email me directly at kirchjo@centurytel.net.

Jon Kircher

Trailcam glimpses more than big bucks

Photo of grousePhoto of grouse displayingPhoto of woodcockPhoto of red squirrel
Here are some grouse pictures from my trailcam at our land in Crivitz. I hear this grouse drum at 5 a.m., as it's only 100 yards from the cabin. I had about 300 pictures in the last week, and even thought the red squirrel was a nice touch. I've told my wife I probably won't grouse hunt the cabin this fall as I want this grouse to live a long grouse life and keep giving me pictures. My opinion is too many people dwell on deer and large bucks for trail camera pictures and miss a lot of other wildlife out there. Theres also a picture of a woodcock on the same log used by the grouse earlier.

Gary Kraszewski
Green Bay

Is rain barrel water safe to consume?

I have read the article on Water conservation and efficiency in your June 2011 issue and I have a question regarding rain barrels. It was stated that rain barrel water can be used for outdoor and indoor non-edible plants. Why do you state that this water being used should not be used on edible plants? Is there a potential for rainwater to become a health hazard? Would appreciate your comments.

Gary Schilling

Author Shaili Pfeiffer, specialist in DNR's drinking water and groundwater program, provided this explanation:

Rain barrel water may contain contaminants, depending on the material the roof and gutters are made of; asphalt shingles are of the greatest concern. In addition, birds and animals on the roof may be a bacteria source to the rain barrel. COMMENT ON A STORY? As a precaution, the Department of Natural Resources recommends using water from rain barrels only on non-edible plants. However, there is not uniform agreement on this issue and interested homeowners may wish to further research the issue in the context of the specific materials used for their roof and gutters or investigate installing first flush diverters to dispose of the initial flush of water from your roof.

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