What’s New?

What's New?

May 24, 2022

Pizza Ranch Fundraiser!

The District is hosting a Pizza Ranch fundraiser, partnering with Watertown’s Pizza Ranch! We are selling pizzas starting Sunday, May 29th and going through Saturday, June 11th! There are SIX different kinds of pizza you can get. Stock your freezer for the summer with Pizza Ranch’s declious pizzas! You will be able to pick up your pizzas at the Oakland Town Hall on June 25th from 10-11am.

We are hosting this fundraiser so we can replace our 130′ elevated boardwalk that runs through our Preserve. What’s even cooler? Pizza Ranch is going to donate $3 for every pizza sold!! How awesome!

April 25, 2022

Help Count and Track Declining Chimney Swifts in Wisconsin

The chittering sounds of the Chimney Swift will return to Wisconsin in mid-April to early May as they return from their winter homes in South America. While migrating through the state, large numbers can be found in the early evenings – ready to roost in brick chimneys. Some will stay in the area to breed and others will go farther north.

“Springtime is an excellent opportunity to gauge their population numbers and help assess trends for this species,” said Barbara Duerksen, member of the Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group, a statewide volunteer effort to keep swifts common in Wisconsin. “Counting swifts is important, because their numbers are declining. We’ve been doing this for years in the fall, but we’re now encouraging folks to be watching and counting in the spring as well.”

Unfortunately, according to the latest North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Chimney Swift population has declined by 72% in the past 50 years. By continuing to monitor these populations, we hope to learn more about them and identify important roost sites so we can find ways to help protect them.

“Everyday people like you and me can count Chimney Swifts as they enter chimneys in the early evening. It’s a simple process; you don’t need to be a bird expert to do this. All you need to do is count.”

If you want to help with the count, here’s how:

  1. Watch and listen for Chimney Swifts during the daytime as they hunt for insects to determine when to begin counting. The lower half of the state may see them in late April to early May. The upper half of the state may be a little later.
  2. Look for tall brick chimneys that are uncapped. If you find more than one chimney, do some scouting in the evenings to determine where the swifts will roost. Watch for swifts swooping over the chimney for a while before they enter. Be aware that the roost site choice can change from night to night, especially during migration.
  3. Pick one or more nights to monitor in May. Larger numbers show up two or three weeks after the first swifts arrive.
  4. Observe the roost starting about 20 minutes before sunset until 10 minutes after the last swift enters the chimney. Please stay in one location, even if you do not see swifts right away. They may come to your site later and you do not want to miss them. To be sure, stay 30 minutes after sunset to know if it was active or not. If you have zero swifts in your chimney, please record this. This is still valuable information.
  5. Count (or estimate) the number of swifts as they enter the chimney. It’s useful to count in groups of five or 10 when they enter quickly in large numbers. A hand-held clicker counter can be helpful.
  6. Counts could continue at the large chimneys throughout the breeding season, if large numbers of individuals continue to use these roost sites.

You can help us better access and utilize your data by entering it on eBird. (www.ebird.org). When prompted for location, map your roost site to an exact address or point. After you enter the number of Chimney Swifts, please use the hash tag #swiftwi in the Chimney Swift details section. This step helps us access your information quickly.

You can also take it a step further by adding additional information in the Chimney Swift details section, in this exact order, with semicolons separating the data: #swiftwi; the type of building (residence, school, church, business, hospital, apartment, swift tower/structure, etc.); the condition of the chimney (in good shape; in need of repair); any other notes. (Example: #swiftwi; residence; chimney in need of repair; any other notes.)

“It’s pretty easy for anyone to identify a Chimney Swift, they have slender bodies, with long, curved wings and a short, tapered tail – they look like a flying cigar,” said Duerksen. They fly rapidly often twisting from side to side and banking erratically. They also give a distinctive, high chittering call while in flight. Chimney Swifts are the only bird that will roost in a chimney, dropping inside at dusk and emerging the next morning.

For more information about Chimney Swifts and how to help protect them locally, go to: https://www.wiswifts.org/

 

Chimney Swift - eBird

Photo courtesy of: https://ebird.org/species/chiswi

 

April 5, 2022

Working Together to Manage Invasive Plants in Wisconsin

By: Melinda Myers

Spring is a favorite time in the garden. Everyday something new sprouts through the ground, blooms appear, and leaves begin filling empty branches. As you enjoy spring and summer unfolding, keep a lookout for unwelcome plants in gardens, waterways, and natural areas. The more people watching for and helping to manage invasive plants the better chance we have for controlling these invasive plants.

As active gardeners and influencers in the gardening world, we need your help not only monitoring and controlling invasive species but also informing others about this problem. The Wisconsin Invasive Species Calendar from the University of Wisconsin-Madison First Detector Network is a helpful tool alerting us to the appearance of various unwanted plants.  Just click on the calendar to enlarge. This timely reminder can help us watch for, manage, and report invasive plants earlier in the season. Knowing when these plants emerge also narrows down the list of possible plants, helping with identification. Use this calendar, the links to Invasive Plant factsheets and videos on the right-hand column of the webpage and the invasive plant profiles on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website for more information on identification and control of aquatic and terrestrial invasive plants.

Expand your efforts and be a part of the Citizen Science based Wisconsin First Detector program. You’ll find helpful information in the Wisconsin First Detector and Dane County Parks Handbook on Monitoring Invasive Plants in Wisconsin.

Here are a few of the top aquatic invasive plants to watch for and remove on your property. Please watch for and report infestations of these and other invasive species in your landscape and other spaces.

Lesser Celandine

This plant’s bright yellow flowers in April and May are often mistaken for our native marsh marigold. The plant spreads rapidly, crowding out nearby native plants but the leaves die back mid-season, resulting in soil erosion.

Yellow Iris

A beautiful, but invasive plant that easily spreads by seeds floating in water, rhizomes, and floating mats, infesting areas beyond the garden where they were planted. Watch for yellow flowers in May and June and strappy leaves throughout the growing season.

Yellow Floating Heart

This plant has yellow waterlily-like flowers held above heart-shaped leaves in May through October. This water plant forms dense patches that exclude native species and creates stagnant areas with low oxygen levels.

Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth forms a dense mat of leaves over the water surface, making boating, fishing, and other water activities difficult. Its presence also degrades water quality. Watch for circular leaves to begin appearing in May and lavender blue flowers from June to September.

Purple Loosestrife

This plant seemed to have a banner year in 2021. It invades wetlands, disrupting the habitat and crowding out native plants that birds, insects, and waterfowl depend upon for food and shelter. Many homeowners spraying for mosquitoes may be inadvertently killing the beetles that are being used to manage this plant. Watch for the spikes of purplish pink flowers that open from the bottom up in July through September.

Japanese Knotweed

Look for the bamboo-like stems and plumes of creamy flowers that appear in September. It quickly spreads, creating an impenetrable thicket in gardens, natural spaces, and shorelines.

Water Lettuce

As its name implies, this plant resembles lettuce. The leaves appear from June through October and can form a dense covering, degrading water quality and reducing habitat diversity

These plants and other aquatic invasive plants are covered in the Top Invasive Plants to Avoid video.  You’ll find recommendations on good plants to include and those to avoid in the “Top Plants for Rain Gardens, Water Gardens & Shoreline Plantings and Those to Avoid” webinar available on demand. To watch it, click here & enter passcode: &xe9hPU^

You can also download the webinar handout.

 

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is an invasive plant that forms a dense mat of leaves over the water surface, making boating, fishing, and other water activities difficult.

Photo credit: Paul Skawinski

March 23, 2022

Best Management Practices for Invasive Plants in Rights-of-Way

Do you want to learn how to control invasive species that you see in rights-of-ways? Below you will find a document designed by the Wisconsin DNR. Inside this document you will find selected best management practices for preventing invasions, ID and control recommendations for five species of concern in south central Wisconsin, and a list of resources for further information.

Best Management Practices for Invasive Plants in Rights-of-Way

Invasive plants are taking a toll on Wisconsin's roadsides and nearby natural areas. Jefferson county is working with citizens and partners to slow the spread of invasive species. Through educational outreach, strategic planning, and active management we are protecting our environment and economy from invasives.

March 15, 2022

The Jefferson County Soil Builders Group

The Jefferson County Soil Builders (JCSB) is one of 36 farmer groups in the state that received a 2022 Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. This group is made up of farmers throughout Jefferson County. Their mission is to enhance water quality and natural resources through education, collaboration, and improved farming practices. Dean Weichmann, the leader of the JCSB, is excited about the work they plan to accomplish this year. “The grant is going to help us implement field days, shop talks for farmer-to-farmer conversations, research plots, and educational workshops. We welcome producers throughout Jefferson County to join us.”

The first event that the Jefferson County Soil Builders is hosting is a field day on April 12th at a farm that has several plots of mixed species cover crops. This location (N5636 Gordy Lane, Jefferson) is ideal for the field day which will include speakers that will talk about cover crops and soil health. Gregg Sanford, Associate Scientist in the Agronomy Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will provide his insights on soil health after three decades of the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial. Adam Lasch and Tom Burlingham, farmers from Walworth and Jefferson Counties, will demonstrate the infiltration at the site as well as talk about the benefits of no-till and using a variety of species in cover crops. Jamie Patton, Senior Outreach Specialist with the Nutrient and Pest Management Program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Michelle Probst, Natural Resource Educator with Dane County Extension, will be displaying soil health indicators in a soil pit. Theresa Pedretti, Cover Crop Agronomist with Albert Lea Seed, will explain the cover crop mixtures, and the role of different species in enhancing soil health. She will also discuss cover crop seed mixtures for grazing.  Mike Gehl, Grazing Specialist with Glacierland RC&D, will demonstrate the ease of putting up temporary but secure fencing around cover crop fields for grazing from the seat of a UTV.

The Rock River Regenerative Graziers is co-hosting the field day. They also received a grant for 2022 from the Department of Agriculture and are working throughout Jefferson County. Their mission is to enhance the ecosystem services for current and future residents of the Rock River Basin by improving soil and water health through implementation of best regenerative agricultural practices. The two producer-led groups plan to work together on programs and education.


June 22, 2021

Flagged Trees

Have you walked through the Preserve lately? If so, you’ve probably noticed a bunch of small trees have been marked with neon flagging tape in the portion of the prairie that was burned this spring. The tape is marking small trees that need to be removed from this area so that prairie species continue to thrive in this area.

Part of the reason why we burn our prairies is to be able to detect these saplings early enough to prevent them from causing any damage to the ecosystem. These saplings are species that do not normally grow in a prairie, but their seeds have been brought here by birds, wind, or other animals! The saplings get burnt to the ground during a prescribed burn, but their root system can survive the fire and can send up new growth after every burn.

The prairie species that currently grow here rely on open grassland habitats to flourish. Removing the trees will increase the amount of optimal habitat for birds that utilize prairies for nesting such as grouse, pheasants, and various songbirds.


June 11, 2021

What’s the Green Stuff?

You may have been wondering what the green floating mats around the shorelines of our lake are – it’s algae! Algae is a simple, nonflowering aquatic plant that get its nutrients directly from the water, meaning their growth and reproduction are entirely dependent on the amount of nutrients that are in the water. Usually, algae forms small mats on the water’s surface and they can provide cover for small animals such as aquatic insects, snails, and scuds – all of which are important fish food!

Only a small percentage of algal species can cause harm to humans and the environment through toxin production or excessive growth. Most algae begin growing in response to nutrients that have washed into a lake. Algal growth serves as nature’s way of capturing these nutrients and contaminants that otherwise would be carried downstream to impair other streams or lakes! The mats may be unsightly, but they are doing what they evolved to do! Algae growth is not related to our weed harvesting program.

Nuisance growth of algae occurs when a lake has excessive nutrients – usually phosphorus. When mats of algae grow to cover large areas, they limit the amount of sunlight and oxygen that is normally is exchanged. This prevents the plants below from photosynthesizing and producing the necessary oxygen needed in the water! Due to the lack of oxygen, these conditions usually result in fish kills and noxious odors.

One of the really great ways to help limit the number of algae growing in our lake is to have a shoreline buffer!! This cannot be stressed enough. With so many well-kept, green lawns around the lake, it is inevitable for some of those nutrients (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) that have been put on those lawns to make their way to the lake. Natural shoreline buffers are essential when it comes to keeping our lake clean.

If you are interested in installing a shoreline buffer, please contact the office at [email protected] or 608-423-4537.

 

 


June 4, 2021

Fish Kills caused by Natural Bacteria

With water temperatures rising in area lakes, a naturally occurring bacteria may cause local fish kills.  The bacteria is commonly known as columnaris (Flavobacterium columnare).  Columnaris outbreaks typically occur when water temperatures reach 65° to 70° F and rain events cause organic material to run into lakes and streams causing the bacteria to thrive and multiply.  These conditions, combined with increases in spawning hormones (or other stressors such as low dissolved oxygen) which suppress fishes' immune systems make columnaris outbreaks more likely.

The most commonly affected fish in Wisconsin are bluegills, crappies, yellow perch and bullheads.  Columnaris is aggressive and can rapidly spread and kill fish in a short (24 hour) time frame.  Disease characteristics include yellowish mucus on part of the fins or gills, usually surrounded by an area with a reddish tinge, and associated sloughing skin.  “In most cases, columnaris bacteria destroy gill tissue, causing the fish to become listless.  Sick fish may be observed at the water surface and may have difficulty swimming and maintaining their balance,” according to Sue Marcquenski, a DNR fish health specialist.

Columnaris outbreaks are typically seasonal, and pose no threat to humans.  However, you should not eat fish you find dead, decomposing, or that appear sick, regardless of cause. Decomposing fish may attract other bacteria harmful to people, so you should always wash your hands after handling fish especially if the fish is dead or appears diseased.  Dead fish and fish with sores may be contaminated with bacteria and it is a good idea to wear protective gloves when handling dead fish.

Although it can appear to produce large scale fish losses in a matter of several days, columnaris usually does not have a catastrophic impact on overall fish populations in the bigger picture of a lake ecosystem, according to fishery biologists.

If you catch a diseased fish or observe a fish kill take the following steps:

  • Note the waterbody, date, fish species, and approximate number of dead/dying fish.
  • Anglers should retain suspicious looking fish as part of their daily bag limit for examination by the local fisheries biologist. Place the fish in a plastic bag and then in a cooler on ice.  Do not transport the fish to a DNR office or hatchery.
  • Do not collect fish samples from a fish kill.
  • Contact the DNR TIP line (800-TIP-WDNR or 800-847-9367) or your local fish biologist (Travis Motl at 920-387-7873).

The local fisheries biologist will contact you as soon as they are available and will make the determination about whether the fish should be examined or not.  DNR staff will not have time to visit every occurrence of dead fish or examine every potentially diseased caught fish.