Making a Habit of Adventure Throughout the Seasons

If I learned anything this spring, it’s that our lives are an accumulation of habits sprinkled with a few deviations and vacations throughout the years. The contents of these habits, and what orients our pursuits, becomes our days and years and lifetimes.

Exploring outdoors during a Pandemic

The autumn leaves are starting to turn along the Milwaukee River

When this Coronavirus came calling in March, our field trips and programs were cancelled and Riveredge (aside from trails remaining open) overall closed down. Like many of us, I performed the bulk of my work from home. For months, I was removed from my conventions of stepping outside to take a video for our Instagram account, walking the trails to photograph blooms and landscapes, running into students on field trips delighted to explore the sanctuary.

As Covid research progressed, scientists published that the overall safest place to be is outdoors in nature. I rejoiced, and gradually returned to my regular jaunts throughout the 379 acres of Riveredge, gradually reacquainting my habit of walking out the door to discover what next wild creature or flower or unexpected insect was around the next trail bend. I reclaimed my habit of instilling my days with adventure and discovery.

Making a plan to flourish during the cold winter months

Plenty of wonder and awe to experience throughout winter at Riveredge.

As we go into another potential season of relative radio silence (whether due to pandemic or our cold weather conventions), I find myself considering which habits to keep and which to shed. We Midwesterners tend to turn inwardly home and hibernate for the cold months. Throughout the snowy season, many of us leave for work in the morning and it’s dark and when we return home the sky is again dark, save for eventual star reflections twinkling against the snow.

In this autumn season that transitions from flannels and warming palms by rubbing hands together into coats and hats and gloves, habits strike me as especially important. I invite you to join me in finding ways to inject a sense of cold weather adventure into your days. The trails at Riveredge are open to you, as they have been for 50 years. Think of these autumn brass-patina prairies and flowing kettle rising moraine forests as your restorative playground to breathe in. A Riveredge membership provides both motivation and opportunity to get outdoors year-round.

Sure, it takes a little extra planning to put on the socks and boots and ear coverings. But the reward – the sounds of rustling leaves, treetop owl echoes, and creaking oaks and maples singing through your soul – will be worth it your time. Think of it as an investment. The investment of your lifetime.

By Ed Makowski, Riveredge Marketing & Communications Manager

 

 

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Wild Bergamot at Riveredge Nature Center

In Bloom

Bullhead Lily
Fragrant White Water Lily
Yarrow
Heal All
Pretty Bedstraw
Bergamot
Cowbane
Marsh Hedge Nettle
Hoary Vervain
Blue Giant Hyssop
Culver’s Root
Grey Headed Coneflower
Purple Prairie Clover
Prairie Dock
Canada Tick Trefoil
Flowering Spurge
Compass Plant
Orange Jewelweed
Wood Nettle
White Prairie Clover
Purple Coneflower
Agrimony
Dotted Mint
Rosinweed
Mad Dog Skullcap
Virginia Mountain Mint
Evening Primrose
Cup Plant
Whorled Milkweed
Gayfeather
Nodding Wild Onion
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Rattlesnake Master
Carpenter’s Square Figwort
Canada Goldenrod
Small Purple Fringed Orchid
Clustered Poppy Mallow
Sawtooth Sunflower
Purple Joe Pye Weed
Wild Cucumber
Large leaved Aster
Stinging Nettle
White Snakeroot
Hog Peanut
Great Blue Lobelia
Ironweed
Common Boneset
White Wood Aster
Showy Blazing Star
Rough Blazing Star
Guara
Wild Senna
Round Headed Bush Clover
Canada Milk Vetch
Virgin’s Bower
Indian Pipe
Swamp Lousewort
Swamp Thistle
Green Headed Coneflower
Branched Coneflower
Obedience

Flowers In Bud

Grass of Parnassus
False Boneset

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Black-eyed Susan at Riveredge Nature Center

In Bloom

Lyre leaved Rock Cress
Wild Columbine
Bullhead Lily
Bladderwort
Prairie Phlox
Canada Anemone
Angelica
Tall Meadow Rue
Fragrant White Water Lily
Spiderwort
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Hairy Beardtongue
Blue Wild Indigo
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Prairie Golden Aster
Bluets
Alumroot
Black Snakeroot
Cow Parsnip
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Beardtongue
Poke Milkweed
Harebell
Healall
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
Wild Four O’Clock
False Sunflower
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Wild Leek
Fringed Loosestrife
Marsh Phlox
Butterfly Weed
Pretty Bedstraw
Indian Hemp
Common Milkweed
Downy Wood Mint

Purple Coneflowers at Riveredge Nature Center

Flowers In Bud

Prairie Dock
Rattlesnake Master
Purple Coneflower
Sweet Joe Pye Weed

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Spiderwort can be seen throughout Riveredge prairies.

In Bloom

Stoneseed
Bullhead Lily
Blue Flag Iris
Bladderwort
Canada Anemone
Angelica
Tall Meadow Rue
Fragrant White Water Lily
Spiderwort
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Hairy Beardtongue
Blue Wild Indigo
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Yarrow
Prairie Golden Aster
Bluets
Alumroot
Common Cinquefoil
Cow Parsnip
Large Flowered Beardtongue
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Northern Bedstraw
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Avens
Poke Milkweed
Harebell
Heal All
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
Wild Four O’Clock

Pale Purple Coneflower

Flower in Bud

Wild Leek

Nesting Birds Lay New “Riveredge Kids” Across the 379 Acres of Riveredge

Have you noticed the robin nesting on the Riveredge sign (pictured above)?

Mother Nature seems to be blissfully unaware of Covid-19. Robins and Bluebirds have built their nests and laid their eggs right on schedule. Both species are in the thrush family but have different nesting strategies.

Pictures taken of Bluebird eggs inside a Bluebird nest box earlier this week.

 

Bluebirds are cavity nesters (live in a box or hole in a tree).

 

Robins tend to tuck nests somewhere underneath cover, such as building eaves or other building structures, or beneath dense tree branch cover.

Robins and bluebirds both lay 4-5 blue eggs and begin incubating them when they have a full clutch. The females will sit on the eggs for roughly 14 days before the young hatch. Once they do, both parents will be very busy feeding the young for about two weeks. By the time the young fledge they will have received 6,000 – 9,000 insects (per clutch). Both species can have 2 – 3 clutches per season. Just think of how many insects they will have consumed by the end of the summer!

We owe them a big THANK YOU for that!

Celebrate Earth Week 2020 Every Day with Riveredge!

50 Years of a Wisconsin Legacy

Cassie Bauer

Did you know that Earth Day was established with the help of a Wisconsin State Senator, Gaylord Nelson, back in 1970? Fifty years ago his vision and commitment to conservation in the state set an example for the nation, as he encouraged peers and inspired generations to act on behalf of our planet. He was instrumental in shifting power to the people to organize grassroots efforts across the nation for the betterment of our natural world. I would have loved to meet Nelson in person, and I still glean wisdom from his words, one of his favorite quotes that I strive to live by is below.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”- Gaylord Nelson

Happy Earth Day. Pay it forward. Commit to Conservation.

 

Make an Earth Week Pledge to Take Action

Rachel Feerick

Kick off this week with making a pledge of one activity, a few, or one per day in celebration for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary! These activities can be in your neighborhood or in your home. Share a sidewalk chalk message to inspire others for Earth Day. Check out the ideas we have gathered and shared with you.  Here are a few ideas: Eat more fruits and veggies this week and learn how to compost the scraps. Plant some native seeds or trees. When it comes to cleaning- use washable rags instead of paper towels. Taking shorter showers- try to reduce by 2, 3, or even 5 minutes! Try reading more than streaming or screen time this week.

 

Make a pledge and plan to take action

Writing down a commitment and making a plan are two actions that increase the likelihood there will be follow through and continued action. You can write it down on on paper, make a pretty sign, and/or post photos of your plan and actions on social media. If you want these Earth Day lessons to stick with any age, try this easy activity, it can incorporate a writing prompt and art project.

 

Earth Day Bingo

Julie Dickson

Games are a great way to pass the time during quarantine. Continue the fun playing Earth Week BINGO with the whole family! Get to know the outdoor spaces in your neighborhood, up-cycle something from the recycling, and observe nature from your own yard or patio. You could even win a basket of Riveredge goodies! Play Earth Week BINGO with your family. Get 4 in a row or aim to black out the whole card! Get outside, learn something new, use your senses, and have fun! Please remember to practice social distancing and Leave No Trace principles while exploring outside.

 

Resources:

 

Prep Your yard for Wildlife

Mary Holleback

Spring migrants are winging their way back and looking for safe places to live. Earth Day is a great time to prepare your yard for them. This is an activity the entire family can do. If you have already naturalized your yard you’re off to a good start. The native trees and flowers you’ve planted will provide wildlife with plenty of food and cover. The leaves and dead grass in your compost pile will give wildlife a lot of high quality nesting material. If you have feeders this is a good time to rake up the discarded seeds and sanitize the feeder with a diluted bleach solution. Now is also the time to remove the old nesting material from your bird houses and sanitize them as well. Orioles and hummingbirds will be back around May 1st so haul out your nectar and orange/jelly feeders but be sure to clean them thoroughly before hanging them too.

Try making your own bird bath!

Besides food and shelter, another thing that all living things need is water. If you don’t have a bird bath here’s a simple way to make one. All you need is a water-tight flower-pot tray or old flat cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep. Choose a safe place to put the bath where the ground is flat and there are shrubs (shelter) nearby. Fill the tray with water and place a few pebbles or a larger flat stone inside. The rocks will help the birds judge how deep the water is and give them confidence to get in and take a bath. Now find a good spot inside your house to enjoy watching wildlife playing the water in your new bird bath.

 

Include Older Adults in Your Earth Day Celebrations

Amy LB Dedow

Earth Day is celebrating its 50th year. That means that many older adults can remember when this celebration of environmental stewardship began. What are some ways that we can keep the older adults in our lives connected to stewardship during this time of social distancing? Here is a list of ten ways to connect with older adults for Earth Day.

  1. Drop off a seed starter tray and some seeds for an older neighbor or family member. They are easily available from online sources or your local garden center. Check for curbside pickup options.
  2. Stop by with a potted flower that is pollinator friendly. Leave a Bleeding Heart on the doorstep or a lovely potted Lilac bush for planting.
  3. Video chat with an older adult and take them on a garden tour of your own yard. Ask for their advice about planting and pruning.
  4. Choose a research project together, like creating a shade garden and then meet up virtually to discuss what tip and tricks you find out about.
  5. Volunteer to drop off birdseed or refill the bird feeders outside senior housing so residents can continue to watch the migrating birds.
  6. Create a family contract that states, moving forward, everyone will use reusable gift bags or recycled gift wrap to reduce the use of these unessential paper items. Purchase some gift bags and send them to your favorite older adult.
  7. Have your children make educational videos for their grandparents on subjects like plastic straws, styrofoam, and composting. This is a fabulous way to create intergenerational interactions.
  8. You or your family can create a slideshow of your favorite natural area to share with a skilled nursing facility. Add nature’s soundtrack with bird songs, frogs and other natural sounds like running river water. Check with the facility first to determine the best format to complete your slideshow.
  9. Ask the older adults in your life to write down some advice for planting, pruning and harvesting. This is the perfect time to connect and learn from our elders.
  10. Drop off or send an older adult a pair of binoculars and start a bird log. Together you could meet on the phone once a morning and catalog the birds you are seeing in your own yards. This is a great activity for older grandchildren to share with their grandparents too.

 

 Invasive Mustard Removal

Matt Smith

Most yards and natural areas in the Midwest now have invasive mustards such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). They are less of a threat and more a symbol of historic disturbance and imbalanced plant communities. To correct this imbalance, we encourage you to seed other species after removal. More native diversity means fewer invasive species and greater wildlife opportunity.

Native Seed Nurseries: Agrecol (http://www.agrecol.com/), Prairie Moon (https://www.prairiemoon.com/), Prairie Nursery (https://www.prairienursery.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsaWD47jr6AIVkv3jBx1zrA2BEAAYASAAEgIKtPD_BwE), Two Ferns (http://www.twofernsmadison.com/)

 

Support Our Pollinators

Thelma Heidel-Baker

As plants wake up in spring, so too do our pollinators as they emerge and begin the cycle of finding flowers, collecting pollen and nectar, and pollinating plants in the process. Did you know pollinators help pollinate a third of the food we eat, and we have over 300 species of native bees here in Wisconsin alone? To help our important pollinators, they need lots of different kinds of flowers, so what better way to support them by creating habitat and providing lots of blooms by your home. And bonus is, it’s beautiful!

Lots of small steps can be done right now around your home and yard to help support our pollinators. Pick one (or several) of the following actions to help create a pollinator haven in your own backyard:

 

* Leave the dandelions. We know it’s hard, but welcome the weeds in your yard in early spring, especially dandelions. These early-blooming yellow flowers are some of the first food sources available to native bees.

* Plant some native wildflowers around your home. Not only are they beautiful, but native plants provide the best quality flowers for many of our native pollinators, and there are many to choose from. For a list of some of the best pollinator-friendly plants, check out:

Want a recap? Here are simple steps to help pollinators from the Wisconsin DNR: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/documents/pollinatorSF.pdf

 

Neighborhood Trash Clean Up

Patricia Gerber

Spring is officially here and that means our winter litter is too! The litter we are now finding in our streets, yards, parks, and other public places is being washed into our streams and rivers with each spring rain. To help slow the spread of pollution, take some time today to go help clean up your neighborhood and our environment. Not only does cleaning up your neighborhood make it a safer and cleaner place for you and your neighbors, but by each of us working together, it makes a difference for our community as a whole.

Grab a bag or a bucket and some safe gloves to help pick up trash. Please make sure to maintain social distancing around others, wash your hands often, be safe and have fun!

After your neighborhood clean up mission is complete, tally the trash you collect and share a picture of your clean up efforts! Post a picture of your most interesting trash or the biggest piece you found with Riveredge Nature Center on Social Media with the hashtag #SharewithRiveredge.

Trash Tally Sheet (4th grade- Adults)

Trash Scavenger Hunt sheet (younger children)

 

Seed Starting at Home

Todd Kraemer-Curtiss

As winter is put to rest, plant life is itching to begin! A great way to kick off the growing season is to seed start. Seed starting puts you ahead of the game for when the weather is warm enough for young plant life to flourish. It’s easy, fun, and a wonderful activity to get people excited about food, flowers, and a more beautiful home. Ready to get started? Here’s what you need:

  • You can use a multitude of containers to start seeds. Options include clean plastic containers, cardboard egg cartons, plant pots, and even toilet paper rolls. Be sure that all of your chosen containers have a form of drainage in them. You can alter containers with scissors to make holes and slits to provide an access route for excess water to leak out of.
  • In a separate container, mix your soil with water just enough so that when you squeeze it, no water runs out of your soil, but it is clearly damp. Fill your containers with your mixed soil and pack it down so that the seed will have good contact and a healthy balance of air and water.
  • Proceed to make a divot on your packed down soil to make a resting place for your seed. Depending on when the seed was bought, it is a safe bet to place more than one seed in each resting place so as to insure that at least one will germinate. Cover your seed(s) with soil and pack them down.
  • Water your planted seeds gently so as to not upset the soil resulting in the seeds uncovering.
  • Place in a sunny spot and keep an eye on your plants. Water them every couple days to once a week and watch as they grow bigger!
  • Once they are ready and the weather is warm enough, plant your little sprout friends in your garden space. It is a very fulfilling activity that is perfect for all ages. Enjoy!

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Flowers Blooming

Pasqueflower

Pasqueflower blooming on the prairie. Interestingly, the plant is named for the Passover, as it generally blooms at about the same time as the celebration.

Skunk Cabbage
Pasque Flower
Penn Sedge
Bloodroot (1 plant)
Hepatica (1 plant – pictured first in this post)

Flower Buds Present

Marsh Marigold when flowering…not quite there yet!

Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Dutchman’s Breeches
Spring Cress
Marsh Marigold

Sprouting/Leaves Present

The Blue Flag Iris aren’t this showy at this point, but keep an eye out for them near water sources.

Wild Geranium
Cut-leaved Toothwort
Angelica
Stinging Nettle
Shooting Star
Blue Flag Iris

Light Cascading From the Sky in the Darkness of Winter

The moon playing a game of peek-a-boo during a morning ski jaunt on Riveredge trails.

For many of us, winter can be a challenge. Not just slippery surfaces or shoveling snow or driving with greater care, but the lack of sunlight can make these the most trying months. Like any of the seasons, paradoxes abound in winter. Despite being the season of the longest darknesses, snow falling from the sky reflects light, effectively brightening those very twilights.

Personally, I used to have a hard time with winter. Fall reminded me that the long darkness would soon approach, signaling me to dread the lack of light and my mood would plummet until sometime in April. But then I discovered ways to not only survive the winter, but to look forward to them and flourish. I found that getting outside is the first step.

Cross Country skiing after a morning snow in the winter-only section at Riveredge Nature Center.

A few years ago someone gave me an old pair of cross country skis. I’d grown up skiing cross country with my dad, so the movement was familiar. I went skiing and realized that, even though it was a slog the first few tries, I started feeling better afterward. It was a different, better than being on a treadmill or lifting weights. I’d wake up the next day calmer, feeling more refreshed, and with a head full of ideas.

Scientists are publishing research behind the reasons why we feel better during and after being outdoors. In a recent study by Stanford University, researchers found that spending time walking in a forested environment positively affected participants brains in ways that taking a walk around the block did not. Myriad studies abound praising the effects nature has on the developing brains of children. If children learn to seek nature for rest and relaxation, they will be better equipped to deal with the stresses of each following day.

Students of The Riveredge School learning to cross country ski.

But it doesn’t have to necessarily be about athletic activity in the outdoors (although that generally makes life more comfortable when it’s cold out). Just being outside and breathing forest air has been shown to lower blood pressure, feelings of hostility, and symptoms of depression. It’s no accident that we associate the scent of pine forests with cleanliness and renewal.

Riveredge Members preparing to head out in search of the Yule Log.

At Riveredge, we host a number of programs throughout wintertime designed to get you outside, or at least get you out of the house in the direction of being outside (You’re already dressed for the weather…might as well go for a hike). A great start your weekend by getting outdoors during our Friday Night Candle-lit Hikes. But beyond that, these 10 miles of trails are here waiting for whenever you’re able to fit a little nature into your schedule. Even though winter may be the season of long nights, it’s also the only season when the trail twinkles alongside your steps.

 

– Ed Makowski, Riveredge Marketing & Communications Manager

Member Guide to Winter at Riveredge

Trail Update January 30, 2020

With Sunday night snow our trails are in fantastic shape! Come visit for an adventure with your skis or snowshoes – we also have snowshoes for rent. All Access Riveredge members are able to check out snowshoes for free! Join us for our Friday Night Candle-lit Hike.

Winter Trails

Winter provides exciting exploration opportunities, as some of the vulnerable trail areas that are otherwise off-limits to foot trafffic are able to be explored once the ground is frozen (see trail map below). We ask that anyone wearing boots or snowshoes walk on either side of identified ski trails in wintertime. Our trails are plenty wide, offering space for everyone to explore in their preferred manner. Trail conditions  are checked by Riveredge staff on a regular basis. Consult the Visitor’s Center for suggested trails and current snow conditions.

Checking out Snowshoes

At Riveredge, snowshoes are free for All Access Members to checkout for use on the Riveredge property and are able to be checked out when we have in excess of 6 inches of new fluffy snow or 4 inches of packed snow. Without sufficient snow, snowshoes will be damaged by digging into the gravel beneath the snow (plus it would probably be easier in boots anyway). Snowshoes are checked out on a first come, first served basis, and can be reserved ahead of time for events. Please affix snowshoes to your boots outside at the head of the trail; do not walk in snowshoes indoors or on brick, gravel, or wooden structures such as the back deck as this damages both the surface and the snowshoes. Snowshoes are available for checkout and must be returned before the building closes and for special events when the building is open (such as Friday Night Candle-lit Hikes).

Pop Up Hours

The Riveredge Visitor Center is generally closed on Saturdays and Sundays in winter, however if we have a decent snowfall and anticipate people having interest in checking out snowshoes, we will have weekend pop-up hours in the Visitor Center.

Winter Trail Map