Bluff Creek West

Thanks again for coming to visit me at The Springs!

The Sand Hill Cranes are back and I’m wondering if we have opened up enough new habitat for a second family to take up residence in the area.  It has been an exceptional winter season for cutting buckthorn and, thanks to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association funding the efforts of Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, LLC, we have opened up many acres of wetlands.

Prime real estate is available for ducks as well and on April 2, Brian Glenzinski, former DNR Wildlife Biologist now working with Ducks Unlimited, will be joining me to tour The Spings. You might recall that Brian is the artist who carved The Acorn given out by the Oak Savanna Alliance for their Land Steward of the Year award.  We plan to list with Brian and he was very positive about building some new “upscale” duck homes in the neighborhood.

By the way, don’t miss the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop on May 16th.  Contact Eric Tarman-Ramcheck (TR Natural Enterprises, LLC) for details and be sure to let him know who you think deserves The Acorn this time.

The highlight of the last two weeks was the morning I spent with the Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers at the Bluff Creek West State Natural Area, just south and east of Whitewater, WI.

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For sanity’s sake though, I’m going to recollect the events of the past few weeks in chronological order.

After weeks of cramming to prepare my defense against the band of thieves and robbers known as government, for my “day in court”, I needed a day in the woods with my chainsaw to settle my nerves.  I returned to the marl factory on March 12th to attack the last stand of buckthorn on the wedge of land between the Tibby Line railroad tracks (signpost #2) and Marl Pit Bridge (signpost #4).  Below, the area as seen from signpost #4.

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Now, imagine you just stepped forward to the treeline shown above and looked right, straight ahead and left.

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We carved a hole in the middle of this buckthorn thicket and now was the time to finish the perimeter.  I had a fine day cutting and stopped early to help my friend Scott, and his buddy Mr. Schnuddles, collect some firewood.

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The view from signpost #4.

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I love to take a walk around The Springs at the end of a hard day’s work!

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Hmmmm, why is that monster parked in the DNR lot above the Hotel Springs?

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The bubbler at the Emerald Springs was especially active.

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Ben, dude, we need to build a bridge here man!

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On Saturday, March 14th I joined Zach Kastern, Ginny Coburn, Jared Urban, and a great crew of SNA volunteers clearing buckthorn from the transition zone between the calcareous fen and the oak uplands at Bluff Creek West.  The area we worked is at the base of the forested ridge shown in the upper right hand corner of the Bluff Creek Prescribed Burn plan shown below.

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Zach and Jared introduced the agenda for the day…

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… and we got after it!

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We made tremendous progress thanks to volunteers like this team from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Ecology Club.

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I got a chance to talk to Zach Kastern about the project.

I really enjoy these events and you might like it too!

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I spent the afternoon at The Springs finishing the last patch of buckthorn near the marl factory that I described above.

Ben, dude, we gotta fix this boardwalk!

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Sunset at the Sand Prairie.

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On St. Patrick’s day I found evidence that leprecons had visited the springs the night before!

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I had NO IDEA they could operate heavy equipment!

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Abe Wittenwyler, heavy equipment operator with the DNR, wasn’t looking for a pot of gold under the Hotel Spring bridge; he had come to excavate the riverbed to address the hydrology issues that Ben Heussner identified as a result of the elevation survey the DNR conducted last year.  I called Ben for an update, left a message, and got to work cutting buckthorn in the wetlands just down the trail — to the left — from the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Here is how it looked before I got started.

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When I broke for lunch, I got Ben’s message and headed over to the Hotel Springs to meet him.  We walked along the river and reviewed the results of our efforts last year while Ben waited for Michelle Hase, DNR Water Regulations and Zoning Engineer, to review the project.

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Ben Heussner, Steve Gospodarek and Abe Wittenwyler.IMG_5318

Michelle recommended they distribute the “spoils” excavated from the river slightly differently than Ben had in mind.   They regraded the slope on the east side of the river, sowed a crop of annual grass, and then covered the area with straw.  Ben was genuinely proud of the bridge he built there back in 1992 and he’s looking forward to building the replacement this summer.  Me? I’m going to watch the river make a head cut.

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I returned to my work site and cut buckthorn, like a mischievious leprecon, for the rest of the day.

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And later visited my favorite haunts.

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Yesterday I returned to the area and continued to open up dramatic views into, and out of, the very interior of the Scuppernong River Nature Preserve.  I completed clearing the area shown below to totally open the views into the interior wetlands.

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Then I moved much closer to the parking lot to take on this wall of buckthorn.

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It was a flawless day and I cut down a hell of a lot of buckthorn.  Views into the interior wetlands are now revealed.

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And, looking back towards the parking lot, that wall of buckthorn is not so formidable anymore.

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I’m going to cut as much buckthorn as I can before the garlic mustard and other weeds start to emerge.

I got my first call of the season from DNR Burn Boss, Don Dane.  Let’s get it on!

See you at The Springs!

p.s. I did not prevail against the agents of the state in court on Friday the 13th.  It ain’t over yet!

5 thoughts on “Bluff Creek West

  1. My hibernation is over. Give me a “heads up” when you’re ready to build a bridge and/or repair a boardwalk and I’ll try to juggel my schedule to help out.

  2. Pingback: It’s time to go for a walk | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

  3. Pingback: Oakological Succession | Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail

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