Those who are over the age of 60, and were nature lovers as children, probably have sweet recollections of discovering tree branches coated with Monarch Butterflies in the early fall. Just like the changing leaf color, and the flocks of geese headed south, this phenomenon was a common harbinger of the change of seasons.
This once common sight is now a distant memory. The plight of the Monarchs, and their dwindling population, has been highly publicized. Loss of habitat is, once again, at the heart of the problem, and it is exciting that the City of Port Washington has taken the “Monarch Pledge.” Read more about it HERE.
By Freda van den Broeck
The first tangible evidence of the successful breeding of a rare-to-Wisconsin dragonfly, Anax longipes (Comet Darner) was discovered last summer at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in Ozaukee County in the form of a single exuvia (the cast off exoskeleton from which the adult dragonfly emerges). Although adult Anax longipes have been reported at a few sites in Wisconsin over the past fifty years, no breeding populations have previously been observed.
The Comet Darner, a large dragonfly with a bright green thorax and red abdomen, is more commonly encountered in southern and eastern United States. Its presence in small numbers in Wisconsin raises the question of whether this dragonfly is an occasional migrant or vagrant in Wisconsin, or if small breeding populations might eventually be discovered. This question is addressed in an article that was recently published in Argia, the quarterly news journal of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas, entitled “What is the Incomparable Anax longipes (Comet Darner) Doing in Wisconsin?” by Robert DuBois and Freda van den Broek. After considering the observational data, known behavioral patterns and the theory of metapopulations, Robert DuBois concludes that the existence of small but persistent, interacting subpopulations is the most likely explanation for the presence of Anax longipes in Wisconsin. A small breeding population of Anax longipes at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve would represent the most northwesterly range of this species in North America to date.
Located along Lake Michigan in Ozaukee County north of Port Washington, Forest Beach Migratory Preserve covers 116 acres. This preserve contains a hardwood forest with seasonal ponds, areas of open grassland and restored prairie, several areas of conifers, and more than 20 constructed wetland ponds. From the 1940s until 2008, Forest Beach was Squires Country Club – an 18-hole golf course. The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust purchased the land, and through restoration, control of exotic plants and a lot of hard work, established a migratory bird preserve.
This project supports migratory birds during both spring and fall along the Lake Michigan Flyway. The partners who designed this preserve, including WGLBBO’s Founder, Dr. Noel Cutright, created a "patchwork quilt" design of habitats that support many species of migratory birds, plus a wide variety of invertebrates including many butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, a number of reptile and amphibian species, plus several mammal species.
The FBMP Management Plan calls for:
“Enhanc(ing) the diversity and abundance of feeding and resting areas (i.e., stopover habitat) used by a myriad of migratory bird species, with an emphasis on those that are threatened, endangered, or species of concern.
Create and enhance landforms and vegetative characteristics that facilitate groundwater recharge and help protect water quality in Lake Michigan.Plant vegetation types that will enhance carbon sequestration.Provide education and outdoor recreation opportunities to increase awareness and appreciation for migratory birds and natural resource conservation.”
When you visit FBMP today, you’ll find an interpretive trail system. You can visit this preserve to hike, observe the birds (252 species as of late 2016), or cross country ski.
Learn about the restoration efforts and each of the habitats at: https://owlt.org/visit-our-preserves/forest-beach-migratory-preserve#project-goals
By Jill Kunsmann
As a committed backyard birder and avid gardener, I have gloried in the multitude of feathered visitors to my home. My annual landscaping projects are always dominated by one question: “What would the birds like?” Berry producing trees and shrubs, plenty of evergreens, and tangles of bushes for protection and nesting opportunities were obvious choices, but I could have done more. The fact is—aliens seduced me!
Although there were numerous native plants to choose from, I couldn’t resist the allure of the Ginkgo biloba, the Katsura japonica or the Parrotia persica. I have now vowed to make an earnest attempt to answer Douglas Tallamy’s “call to action.”[i] I am looking for every opportunity to restore natives to my property.
As defined by Tallamy, native species are distinguished as plants, which have co-evolved over thousands of years alongside a select group of insects, and on up the food chain. These natives have been edged out over time as we became increasingly enamored of the exotic nursery stock, which promised bigger and better blooms and disease and insect resistance. Believe it or not, many of the alien plants in our gardens will not attract our native insects, or worse...may actually be toxic to them. In addition, along with the alien plant species, we have introduced a growing population of dangerous alien insects, which have no natural predators, and are wrecking havoc in our forests and prairies.
Although we may be jubilant at the promise of perfect blooms with “no bugs,” we must pause for a moment and think it through to the next step. No native plants = no native bugs = no food for our native insectivore bird species! This is part of the story behind the decline of the insectivore bird population.
When we hear about a species in decline due to “loss of habitat” many of us assume this refers to the ravages of the logging industry on our virgin forests, or the expansion of industry and residential construction gobbling up the rural land. Walk through just about any residential area, and we can witness the pervasive “food deserts” our gardening habits have created.
Tallamy suggests some logical, non-radical steps we can take as conscientious stewards of our resources. We begin by creating islands of habitat planted with native species in our own yards, and yes, they can co-mingle with those showy aliens. As the islands increase in number and proximity, they provide the steppingstones of habitat that provide migratory birds with the food and nesting sites they require to survive and thrive. Visit the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve and you will see the beginning restoration of the kind of trees, shrubs and native plants that is so important for the health of our eco-system.
 Tallamy, Douglas W. Bringing Nature Home. Portland: Timber Press, 2013. Print.