The Importance (& Fun) of Sturgeon Fest

I could start this short editorial about how amazing it feels to be part of a project that is restoring a breeding population of Lake Sturgeon to the Milwaukee River for the first time since the late 1800’s.  That would be a good beginning.

Or, I could easily speak about the good feelings we all get when we help the environment through positive activities, such as repairing the damage mistakenly, and unintentional, done by generations long passed.  That would be honest.

Perhaps, I could tell the story about the hopes that go into the season of sturgeon rearing which begins in the spring, continues through hours of love and dedication by the sturgeon rearing volunteers at Riveredge, and finishes with a bittersweet release the last Saturday in September.  That couldn’t be more true.

But for me, and my family, the “Return the Sturgeon” restoration project at Riveredge Nature Center IS all those things and so much more.  There’s just something about these ‘so ugly they’re ridiculously cute’ fish.  There’s something about the way that baby fish wiggles its nose at you from its personal ice cream bucket; just something about the way it swishes its tail before it disappears into the depths of Lake Michigan that just touches me in the depth of my gut.  There’s just something about knowing you are part of releasing a prehistoric fish that has a good chance of continuing to live and thrive in Lake Michigan when your great-great grandchildren play on its shores decades from now.

For those that have been to Sturgeon Fest, the celebration of the release of over 1,000 of this year’s baby Lake Sturgeon, you can relate.  For those of you who haven’t take the chance yet, I encourage you to find the time to come.

Sturgeon Fest is arriving quickly on Saturday, September 27th from 11 am – 3 pm at Lakeshore State Park.  It’s a free community festival (with free parking) – including lots of hands-on activities for adults and kids alike, kayaking, food, and, of course, the sturgeon release.  It’s an experience for all ages and all stages of life.  And, certainly, one that you are unlikely to forget.

To learn more about Sturgeon Fest this year, just visit the website.  You can even pre-reserve a sturgeon to release online.  The $10 donation helps support Riveredge Nature Center’s contribution to this 25-year restoration project.

P.S. – the baby sturgeon will be tagged by the DNR at Riveredge this coming Monday or Tuesday.  These tags (similar to the microchips we put in our pets) help researchers track the fish.  It’s quite a site.  If you are interested in watching, give Riveredge a call at 262-375-2715 for more information.

I hope to see you at Sturgeon Fest!  I’ll be there with my family, releasing those prehistoric fish, and enjoying every minute of it.

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

Changing Habits for Habitats

This year, the Coyotes homeshool high schoolers, age 13-17, studied environmental science here at Riveredge Nature Center. As part of their yearly curriculum they are required to do a community project. The 2014 class started a blog as part of their project. The title of their project for 2014 is Changing Habits for Habitats. The goal is to decrease your carbon footprint for the month of May.  They have put together a calendar of habits for  May and will be posting a new blog post each day corresponding with the calendar.

Visit the Changing Habits for Habitats blog here.

Also, visit the projects Facebook page here

Earth Week @ Riveredge

Happy Earth Week!  There’s lots going on at Riveredge this week, and we’d love to have you join us.

Come for a walk, listen to the sounds, and enjoy nature – that alone is a great way to celebrate the earth this week.

If you’d like to do something a bit more, we  have wonderful events coming up this week (follow the links for more information about each one)…

  • A naturalist led walk on Friday at 1 pm, “Gone Hiking” – FREE for members and only $5 for non members
  • A showing of “Extreme Ice” on Friday night (a spectacular film about the melting of the glaciers) – FREE
  • And our ever popular “Work and Learn” earth day morning on Saturday – pick from all kinds of projects to help out nature and Riveredge during the morning (we have projects for all ages) and it’s followed up by a wonderful spaghetti lunch and bat program for all! FREE!

Join us for Earth Week – give time to nature and you will receive more than you can imagine!


Collaboration for the Greater Good

In honor of Earth Day, we, the executive directors of four local nature & ecology centers, have come together to host a talk with Gordon Hempton, Emmy-award winning acoustic ecologist and author. Having circled the globe in pursuit of the Earth’s rarest natural sounds, Mr. Hempton offers a new take on conservation: preserving the quiet places in the world.

Mr. Hempton will speak at Mequon Nature Preserve on April 22 at 7:00 p.m. and will provide a private ‘Sound Tour’ of the lands managed by Milwaukee’s four non-profit nature centers in the days following for donors to the newly launched Collaborative Fund.

The April 22nd talk is open to the public.  For more information, visit our calendar of events.

We are excited about this opportunity to communicate our shared interests. With unique geography, flora, and fauna, each nature center in Greater Milwaukee contributes to an understanding of the larger ecosystem of southeastern Wisconsin. Where Schlitz Audubon Nature Center has Lake Michigan, Urban Ecology Center has the Milwaukee River. Where Mequon Nature Preserve has the start of a restored prairie and pristine wetlands, Riveredge has a mature native Wisconsin prairie and forest. Our differences are our strengths; each of us represents a unique slice of wild Wisconsin. And, yet, as unique as we are, we are unified by a common goal to connect people to the natural world.

There is more to come on this collaboration and its goals for making a difference throughout southeast Wisconsin.

If you have ideas you’d like to share, feel free to contact one of the Executive Directors at any of the participating nature centers.   I, for one, would love to hear your ideas on how our joint efforts can be best used to promote positive change in our communities.

– Jessica Jens, Riveredge Nature Center Executive Director, 262-416-1068

Bird Photography Tips

Hey Birders & Photographers (or wanna-be’s of any type) – we have a special treat for you Tuesday, offered by the Photo Club at Riveredge:

Photographers Anonymous Bird Photography (mini seminar)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the Riveredge barn

Birds are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures in the world yet they’re among the hardest to capture well on film.  Join bird photographer Greg Yahr as he shares some helpful tips on how to improve your bird photography.  Greg is the president of the Photo Club and has given this seminar to both the Camera Clinque in West Bend and the Menomonee Falls Camera Club where it was well received.

No fee & no registration necessary.

This meeting is all about taking pictures of birds! Lots of great tips and tricks will be shared along with some fantastic bird pictures. The Photo Club brings together those who enjoy photography and wish to take better pictures through practice. Meetings are free and open to the public, and you’ll be welcomed as a photographer, regardless of your skill level. They are informal and include time for “shop talk” and networking with other members. Bring any pictures you want to share (prints, album, or digital files on a USB flash drive). You do not need to bring your camera equipment or a computer.

It’s a High Flyer Bird City

On behalf of the Steering Committee for Bird City Wisconsin, our congratulations on successfully renewing your recognition as a Bird City for 2014 at the High Flyer level. It is an accomplishment that puts the Village of Newburg, with the help of the Riveredge Nature Center, at the absolute forefront of efforts to forge a statewide coalition of citizens and public officials who know that birds are more than beautiful — they are significant.

Congratulations to the Village of Newburg for achieving this great accomplishment! Riveredge Nature Center has partnered with the village to annually apply for this recognition.  This year is special, as the village is one of only 10 municipalities (out of 75 awards) who received the High Flyer recognition.

The Bird City Steering Committee wants to make special mention of the five steps taken to meet its High Flyer criteria:

  • The Ozaukee County Fish Passage Project has been working with a contractor to restore habitat in the area damaged by the removal of the Newburg dam in the summer of 2012. Numerous trees and other plants were added to the area over the last two years to help restore the shoreline.
  • The Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg is offering a cavity nester workshop for the public (including Scout groups) in March 2014.
  • To incorporate native hardwood trees in public landscaping, some 25 small oaks and tamaracks were planted in Francis Fritz Falkner Park. They’ve added biodiversity, bank stability and color to the park.
  • As part of Newburg’s registration as a bird-safe community on the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center website, Riveredge minimizes or extinguishes night lighting between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. during migration periods (mid-August through October, and mid-March through May). It also reduces perimeter lighting, uses solar reflective curtains and applies window clings and CollidEscape to windows to reduce daytime collisions.
  • To raise awareness of its bird assets, an osprey platform has been erected in the Francis “Fritz” Falkner Park at the site of the former Newburg dam. Several adult bald eagles have frequently been observed in this area including on the Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 21, 2013.
Carpathian walnut with grapevine

Plant a Tree for a Great Price!

The Ozaukee County Land and Water Management Department is holding their annual tree sale! The title is a little misleading as they you can also purchase shrubs, prairie grass, wildflower seeds, bluebird houses, and rain barrels too! Have you ever purchased trees from the county before?  They are a great buy – a wonderful, and economical, way to increase habitat and beauty on your property.   The deadline to order is February 28th – but order early to get the best selection.

Here’s the PDF order form with all the details.  Spring is coming!

Discovering Snowflakes

Our featured finding this month is….snow!  With all the snow in our area this year, its a great time to get outside and explore.  Our education staff put together a fun activity for members of any age.

Make Your Own Snowflake ID Book

Have you ever looked at snowflakes up close?  Are there really no two alike?  Create a snowflake ID key and find out more about the snow all around you.  This is a great activity for everyone in the family.

There are seven common snowflake shapes: Hexagonal Plates, Stellar Crystals, Hexagonal Columns, Needles, Spatial Dendrites, Capped Columns and Irregular Crystals.  You can use the chart below or do some research on the internet to easily create your own key.  You’ll find different snowflake shapes as the temperature and humidity levels change – so go outside with each snowfall to see if you can eventually find all seven shapes!

After you have created  your key, attach black felt to the left side of the paper with glue.  This will allow you to “catch” your snowflakes right next to your key for easy identification.  Make sure to put your key outside or in the freezer before catching snowflakes – that way they won’t melt right away!  How many different snowflakes can you catch?

snowflake chart