Quick, Get that Water to the Sea

It’s early spring, and I decided to take a trip down to one of my favorite local wetlands on this Earth Day.  Each time I go  there I stop and contemplate the drainage ditch that runs through it.

Drainage ditch through a wetland

Ditch designed to dry out local farm field and this wetland.

The ditch begins a mile up the road where it takes water from the drainage tiles runny just beneath the lowlying fields.  Without this system of water removal growing corn and soybeans would not be possible.  Early in the spring the young seedlings would be underwater, and the ground too soft for heavy machinery.  The only thing that you could grow here would probably marsh hay.

The ditch appears in a 1916 survey map the War Department did, so it is at least 100 years old.  Two years ago the farmer dug out the ditch to remove sediment and help the move the water along.  I ran into this farmer while visiting the marsh and he seemed doubtful it it was worth the effort.

It is understandable that the farmer continues this practice so he can cultivate the fields, but what about the marsh, what effect does it have there?  Whatever the effect the wetland holds on, but it would probably be a wetter place without it.

The map I spoke of was made as part of a huge plan to channelize the Upper Fox River and drain almost all the wetlands for agriculture.  The plan would be a boon for the economy and food production.  It was even said the channelization of the river would decrease flooding because it would speed the water on its way to the sea, the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the case of the Fox River.   This was a common notion in the past, but removing the flood capacity of wetlands would have been a local disaster.

Luckily the plan never got past the planning phase, and each year the wetlands can absorb the excess water, and not to mention provide habitat for resting ducks, geese and a spawning place for Northern Pike and other fish.


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Light Pollution and Migratory Birds

Tree Swallow Nest Box

Tree Swallow on Wood Duck nest box.

A new article titled  Even Porch Lights can Disorient Migratory Birds appeared in Conservation Magazines’s online “Conservation this Week” It has been known for some time that lights in tall buildings, lighthouses etc. give migrating birds many troubles, but more evidence is gathering for light sources close to the ground such as street lights, headlights, and porchlights.  Anything that adds stress or an increased chance of injury and death is bad for bird populations.

Bird migrations are incredible perilous for our feathered friends.   Whether it is a 200 mile migration, or a 20,000 mile migration there is a lot of trouble a bird can get into.  Most birds will be exhausted from long distance flights and will be more susceptible to predators particularly in areas they are not familiar with.  That is one reason many of the small neotropical migrants fly at night.

Weather is a very important element in bird migration.  A favorable tailwind will make the travel go very well, if a strong headwind develops when a small bird is flying across the Gulf of Mexico it could be a difficult flight, or its last.  Fog setting in over the ocean, or the Great Lakes can disorient birds that use the stars for navigation.  The birds can get lost, fly in circles, become exhausted and eventually drown.  Spring, or fall snowstorms can cover up the birds food source, and the cold can freeze birds that are not built to withstand cold temperatures.

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Snow on the Flowers

April came in with a snow fall of a couple of inches, but there wasn’t much cause for worry because 75% of it was gone before the end of the day.  It was a cold day, but the sun was bright between snow showers and did its job  melting the snow.  That was yesterday, and some of the snow is still around.

Coneflowers and snow

Group of snow-covered Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) stems and seed heads.

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Spring Time

This year spring is arriving early, but of course with the weather, that could all change soon and we could find ourselves with another snowstorm soon.  However, according to the 10 day forecast, both day and night will be above freezing for the next week and a half.  Therefore what little snow we have left will soon be melted and the ice on the lakes will continue to melt and decay into the foreseeable future.  We had a mild winter because of El Nino and I wonder just how mild the spring will be, and if it will be a consistent warming.

Today I saw a few signs of spring, robins, redwing blackbirds and a few other of the early spring migrants.  They were nice to see, and more will be on their way soon.  I went down to Waukau Creek and saw a few of the Northern Pike trying to make their way to Rush Lake to spawn.  The creek is high enough where they might actually be able to make the jump over the carp gate, but the current is very strong.   The landscape is still brown and will be for some time, but I welcome the signs of spring that are here so far.

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New YouTube Channel for Relaxing, Calming Nature Videos

I’ve put together a new YouTube channel, Nature Meditations of my nature videos into a format that facilitates relaxation, meditation, and even sleeping.  One thing I noticed about many of my shorter videos that I make for educational purposes and to increase the appreciation of natural phenomenon is that many were very calming to watch, perhaps too much so.

The idea occurred to me that in a longer format they could be very useful to help people unwind at the end of a busy day, to prepare the mind for sleep or to mediate.  If this seems of interest to you check out the new channel and if it to your liking please give the videos a thumbs up and subscribe!

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All Day Timelapse Video

In June I took a timelapse video at the Rat River marsh from before sunrise to after sundown.  Making an appearance is a swarm of mosquitoes attracted to the heat of the camera and a buck deer with antlers in velvet.  You will have to look closely to see him.

Buck Deer

Deer peaking in on the camera

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Winter Sunrise Time Lapse and Photos

Short trip down to the lake this morning to watch the sunrise over Lake Winnebago.  It was cold, but not bad for this time of year.

Winter Sunrise

Sunrise on a cold winter morning over Lake Winnebago. A set of small clouds in a line, almost like someone drew them in.

Pre-Dawn Footprints

Before dawn, foot prints in the snow curve along a lake-side trail at the park, passing a bench and trees.


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Winter Snowstorm Aftermath Video

On Monday night into Tuesday morning we had a wonderful, small snowstorm with little wind that allowed the snow to pile up on thin branches and everything else.  This left the world white and wondrous.  I took the video below at Wuakau Creek Nature Preserve in Winnebago County, Wisconsin.  To see some photos of this trip visit my Winter Wonderland Photo Gallery.

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Aerial Drone Photography of Lakes and Wetlands

Aerial photography really changes the way you look at the landscape.  You can see so much more through the eyes of a bird.  New patterns emerge, and unseen wonders not visible from the ground.  As a scientist I can see patterns in vegetation, soil moisture, wildlife use and man-made changes.  Bogs, Swamps and marshes all have their unique characteristics that can be viewed from the air.  Wetlands and lakes are amazing natural places whether viewed from up close, or up in the air.

The air photos and videos were filmed using a dji Phantom 2 UAV and GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera.

Aerial Lake Photo

Aerial photo of lake and bog wetland taken with dji Phantom 2 and GoPro Hero 3+ Black camera.

Aerial view of a pond at Wuakau Creek after a snowstorm. Photographed with dji Phantom and GoPro Hero 3+ Black camera.

Aerial view of a pond at Wuakau Creek after a snowstorm.

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Frozen Lake and Shore

Just before Lake Winnebago froze ice and wind and waves drove water up on to rocks, plants and everything where it froze in layers.

Panorama of a frozen Lake Winnebago bay.

Panorama of a frozen Lake Winnebago bay.


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