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Bay Area Blooms: It’s peak wildflower season

By Charlie Frisk

Trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, marsh marigolds, trout lilies and a host of others are blooming as May is the peak season for Wisconsin wildflowers.

Blooming is timed for the brief period when there is ample sunlight, but before deciduous trees are fully leafed out.

In another few weeks the best of the wildflower show will be over, so get out now to take advantage.

As president of the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation (I’m probably a little biased), I can’t think of a better place to view spring wildflowers than the Baird Creek Greenway.

If you hike the brown trail at Christa McAuliffe Park you will find locations where the entire forest floor is covered with wildflowers.

The two most common species are trout lilies and spring beauty, but there are many others.

Soil type and moisture are major factors in determining the quantity and variety of species of wildflowers.

Areas extensively grazed by either deer or domestic livestock will typically have few wildflowers.

The Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve on the west shore of the Bay of Green Bay was managed as a fenced deer preserve decades ago, and as a result, still has few wildflowers.

Some families of wildflowers, such as orchids, seem to have very specific soil requirements.

I’ve never seen wild orchids in Brown County, but they are common in some locations in Door County.

The best place to view orchids is the Ridges Sanctuary in Door County.

Most species bloom from late May through June.

The Ridges has more than 25 species of orchids, thought to be the highest concentration of orchid species in the nation.

While some people are content to look at flowers, I want to know what species they are and a little about them.

A great book for people just starting to learn their wildflowers is “Wildflowers of Wisconsin” by Stan Tekiela.

Migration heats up

While checking out the wildflowers, be sure to bring binoculars.

The spring bird migration is also at its peak, with birds returning to this area to nest, or passing through to more northerly areas.

Your best chance to view many species of warblers is to attend a hike at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.

Jim Johnson, a local bird expert, will be leading a bird hike May 19.

Meet at 6:30 a.m. in the first parking lot by the director’s log cabin at the sanctuary.

No registration is required.

Nancy Nabak, president of the Bay Area Bird Club, is also organizing a birding trip to the Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve Sunday, May 30.

Woodland Dunes is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline between Two Rivers and Manitowoc.

The trip will depart at 3 p.m. from 410 Stonehedge Road, Green Bay (east side, near Edison Middle School).

Arrive early to organize car-pooling.

Migrating birds funnel along the lakeshore, so expect lots of marsh and woodland birds, as well as assistance in identification from expert birders.

Phenology 101

One way to take your appreciation for nature to another level is to become a phenologist.

Phenology is the study of nature’s calendar.

Examples are when the tundra swans migrate through Northeast Wisconsin, when the trilliums begin to bloom and when the robins return.

Keep a notebook, or use a calendar with ample space for notes.

I record my first-of-year (FOY) observations, as well as when a species is at its peak in this area.

FOY, as well as peak, observations will vary from year to year depending on the weather, but over time you will develop a database that will make your observations of natural events more reliable.

As a phenologist, you will join the ranks of famed environmentalists Aldo Leopold and Henry David Thoreau, both of whom kept phenology notebooks throughout their lives.

The notebooks of Leopold and Thoreau are valuable today for studying how nature’s seasonal patterns are being altered by climate change.

The Door County Land Trust and the Aldo Leopold Foundation both produce excellent phenology calendars.

You can order them by going to their websites.

Editor’s note: To read another recent article by Charlie Frisk, CLICK HERE.

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