Friday, 31 March 2017

Perils of Pear Sex

Bradford pears form dense thickets that take over large areas and crowd out other plants.

These beautiful pear blossoms along your local roadside or in that vacant lot could be the beginning of a very ugly invasion. Wild Bradford pear trees are knocking at Wisconsin’s southern door. The blossoms may be pretty, but these escaped hybrids are a real problem on the landscape.

Flowers are whiter than apple blooms and petals are wider than wild plums.

Because of the mild winter these trees are likely to start blooming any day now. The entire tree is covered in large round clusters of blossoms in the early spring before leafing out.

Learn what to do if you think you might have these problem trees in your neighborhood by clicking here.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Get Fired Up

Crew checking backpack pump cans

Crew members check out backpack pumps before the pre-burn briefing. Crews take care to make sure everything is working right because depend on their equipment to keep them safe.

It’s that time of year again; time to get the burn gear ready to go. An early thaw has brought the spring burn season by several weeks. Though this weekend has been a washout, crews were already in the field last week and will be heading out again as soon as the fields and woodlands dry out.

A number of non-profit organizations conduct controlled burns across Wisconsin. While they typically only work either on public lands or property that they manage, volunteering as a burn crew member with them is a great way to gain the knowledge and skills needed to do controlled burns on your own land.

The Prairie Enthusiasts own or manage several thousand acres across southern and southwestern Wisconsin. Burn crews work many afternoons and weekends throughout the spring until the green up of native plants and bird nesting brings the season to an end. For more information or to get on their burn crew email list contact Rich Henderson.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Yew Killed Our Deer … and Elk

There is a killer shrub lurking in many Wisconsin yards. Japanese yew are, according to the Idaho Statesman, killing mule deer, elk and pronghorn sheep in significant numbers. When heavy snow makes it difficult for deer and elk to find food, they become desperate and venture into people’s yards. The popular landscape shrub resembles native yew species, but contains a toxin called taxine B that causes cardiac arrest.

Matt Miller Cool Green Science blogger for the Nature Conservancy recommends, “If you live in deer or elk range, please don’t plant this shrub. Large mammals have a difficult enough time in the winter without this added threat.”

Many rural western landowners are removing the shrubs to prevent accidental poisonings. Others who are concerned about deer and elk but also love their Japanese yew bushes are wrapping them in burlap for the winter. Not only does it protect browsing wildlife but it also reduces water loss from the bushes which prevents winter kill, a browning of branches that occurs when they dry out in winter wind.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Let’s Get Cutting

Volunteer using chainsaw to cut up a boxelder tree.

Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited volunteer cuts up boxelder as part of Sugar River work day last December.

If you have been waiting for the right time to cut wood invasive trees, shrubs and vines; now is the time. Snow is off the ground so it is easy to find and cut buckthorn, honey suckle and oriental bittersweet.

Stack the cut branches into a tight brush pile. I like to point the branches all in the same direction to get a tighter pack. Try pushing the pile down and even climbing on it to crush the branches. I even use my chainsaw to slice through the pile to compact it even more. A dense brush pile will light easier and burn hotter because the wood is packed closer together, making it easier to get the fuel to its ignition temperature.

Remember to cut close to the ground and immediately treat stumps with herbicide (e.g., Garlon 4 or Roundup). Read and follow label direction for the correct dilution. For those larger trees like boxelder and bigger buckthorn, you only need to treat the outside sap ring because the inner heartwood is not living and will not transport herbicide.

Time is running out, so don’t delay. Once the buds begin to swell and break the sap will be running from he roots up into the leaves. When that happens, the tree will not only stop pulling the herbicide down into the roots, but it may actively push the herbicide back out of the stump. Once the sap starts running, wait several months until the leaves have fully opened. At that point the shrub or tree will again start pulling nutrients down into the roots and along with those nutrients your herbicide.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Make Frog and Toad History

picture of gray green frog on a purple cone flower.

Volunteers will get to know Gray tree frogs (and many other frog and toad species) well through the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey. Photo Credit: J. Rowe

Be part of the longest running citizen science amphibian calling survey in North America. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers to lend their ears for the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey.

The survey was initiated in 1981 as a response to known and suspected declines in the 1960s and 1970s in numerous Wisconsin frog species. The project’s goals are to determine the status, distribution, and long-term trends of Wisconsin’s twelve frog and toad species.

Since 1984, volunteers have contributed over 8,300 survey nights and 83,000 site visits. During this time, citizen scientists have helped DNR conservation biologists define the distribution and population trends of all 12 frog and toad species in the state.

Volunteers sign up to take one of the available Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey routes. Just look for one of the green marked routes at the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey’s website. If the route you want is not available you may ask to be placed on a waiting list for future years as requested routes or counties become available.

If you are interested in volunteering contact the department’s Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey Coordinator for further information.

Friday, 03 March 2017

It’s Your Water; Your Well

Family using water around the home.

Groundwater is the world’s most extracted natural resource. Find out more about protecting the water the flows beneath your property during National Groundwater Awareness Week March 5-11, 2017. The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) has a set of private well owner tools. If you own a private well, you will want to check out these free resources from siting and  maintenance tips to water testing and financing options.

Thursday, 02 March 2017