Learn more about the various activities Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary is involved in below:
Micro-Greenhouse Project with UW-Madison
Project Overview: To escape the harsh winter weather, many plants and animals survive within a warmer and more stable environment below the snowpack known as the subnivium. The climate of the subnivium is dependent on the insulation of the snowpack. With changing winter conditions, snowcover is becoming shallower and denser, the snow season is shorter, and changing the subnivium. For species that are adapted to survive winter in the subnivium, these changes could have important effects on their biology.
How the Project Works: The University of Wisconsin, with funding from the National Science Foundation, has developed microgreenhouses (8’ x 8’, 10’ tall) to mimic changes in winter conditions. Each will be equipped with a heater to control temperatures within the greenhouse, and automated roof panels which open to allow snow to enter. The greenhouses are equipped with a number of sensors to record weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. Altogether, 27 micro-greenhouse were deployed in the fall of 2015, ranging from southern Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and across different habitats. Each site has three microgreenhouses, each mimicking different winter conditions. They will remain on site for two winter seasons (2015/16 and 2016/17). The three Hunt Hill greenhouses are located behind our square dorm.
September 2016 Update: The graph shows the difference between subnivium temperatures and outside air temperatures at Hunt Hill during the 2015-16 winter season. According to Kimberly Thompson, Research Assistant, “the graph demonstrates a proof of concept in that we can clearly see that temperatures under the snow are much warmer, and the information will serve as a baseline to which we can compare fluctuations in subnivium temperature stability in the warmer greenhouses.” The research team is currently working on analyses of how long it takes the subnivium to establish for each site, and this should be wrapping up around December 2016.
May 2018 Update: Phenology of the Subnivium publication.
In 2010, Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary was awarded a grant through Wisconsin’s Citizen-Based Monitoring Partnership Program through the WDNR. The grant allowed Hunt Hill to purchase specialized equipment that detects the ultrasonic echolocation calls of bat species. This equipment, called an Anabat bat detector, is the only detector that makes it possible to view real-time, in-the-hand sonograms of bat calls, providing the fastest, most effective way to identify bats in the field.
This equipment, although highly specialized, is user friendly. The basic procedure involves taking a night hike, canoe or bike ride with the Anabat. The Anabat collects data in the ultrasonic spectrum and not only shows it on a PDA by frequency, but also ‘translates’ it into sounds the volunteer can hear.
Interested in helping? Through a short training on monitoring procedures and equipment use, anyone can use this equipment to collect valuable data on bat species distribution. You can learn more about the program through the Wisconsin Bat Program or contact Hunt Hill to learn more.
If you know of a summer bat roosting location and would be interested in providing important data to the WDNR, consider conducting a Bat Roost survey. This survey involves hanging out near a roost close to civil twilight and simply counting the bats that exit. You do not need to be able to identify the bats, simply count – sometimes quickly!
For many years Hunt Hill has had a bluebird trail to help restore bluebirds across Wisconsin. Over 65 bluebird houses once crowded our “Prairie” bluebird trail, but annually only eight to ten baby bluebirds would successfully fledge. We used to blame tree swallows for being aggressive and keeping bluebird numbers low.
However, with help from Dr. Kent Hall, former Vice President of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (B.R.A.W.), in 2006, we made tremendous improvements and now we annually have 70 – 80 baby bluebirds survive and fledge.
The main improvements included reducing the number of nest boxes to 25; spacing them further apart to keep down competition between bluebird pairs (tree swallows had nothing to do with low bluebird numbers!); installing predator guards; closing vent holes on the sides of the boxes to reduce hypothermia problems for chicks; installing perch/hunting poles to help parents collect food for their chicks; and mowing more short grass along the trail system to make more of their preferred food hunting habitat.
Volunteer nest box monitors are vital! Weekly monitoring by volunteers helps to spot developing problems which are quickly fixed – like biting ants, wasps, and house sparrows. We report our results to BRAW in their effort to continue as the top bluebird producing state in the nation. Would you like to help us and learn more about bluebirds?
YES (Youth Education Stewardship) Grant
Starting in 2009, through the interest and matching funds from the Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association (WCLRA) and the Long Lake Preservation Association (LLPA); and with funding assistance through a Lake Management Planning Grant from the Wisconsin DNR almost 500 grade school students, over the 3 year project, came on free field trips to Hunt Hill to learn all about improving and measuring water quality in northwest Wisconsin. In return, students went back to their hometowns, schools and homes to carry out water stewardship projects of their choosing to improve water quality for the future.
Thanks to continued financial support with our lake associations, the YES program continues to invite school children from around Washburn County to discover the importance of protecting our water resources. If you are interested in learning more about this program or making a donation, contact Hunt Hill.
In 2009, Hunt Hill worked with UW-Stevens Point’s Treehaven Environmental Learning Center and biology professor Dr. Jamee Hubbard on a multi-year research project funded through a National Science Foundation grant to do an updated census of mosquitoes across northern Wisconsin (the last study had been done fifty years ago in 1960). This project was also designed to involve middle or high school age students in experiential education.
Hunt Hill was one of four different nature center locations selected across northern Wisconsin. Four different habitats were studied to get the widest diversity of types of mosquitoes. At Hunt Hill these habitats included our sphagnum bog, the prairie frost pocket area, the beaver pond shore and our oldest most mature deep woods southwest of the Library along the Red Oak East Trail. Then, at each habitat, different species of mosquitoes were collected at three different elevations, since different mosquitoes populate and prey on different blood sources at different elevations (at ground level for frogs, rodents and small mammals; chest height for larger mammals – including man; tree top canopy for birds).
Fifteen species were found at Hunt Hill! All were native – there were no invasive species trapped. Full details on the trapping techniques and the results of the study’s first collection year are available at Hunt Hill. Mosquitoes were collected again in 2012 and those results are being tabulated now.
Nature Trails at Hunt Hill
The Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB) has helped to fund the development of our year-round nature trail signs at Hunt Hill. Pedestal signs are found along much of the Prairie trail system and along the Bog and Barred Owl Trails. Hunt Hill summer staff members have contributed seasonal nature stories about interesting sights along the trails. Eventually more and more stories with photographs throughout all the seasons will be developed. Come back throughout the year to help us develop our trail even further.
Long- Range Forestry Study
Back in the 1930’s a Minnesota graduate student, Willis Eggler, contacted Aldo Leopold at the University of Wisconsin for his help in finding a location to begin studying the long-term changes in forests. Leopold directed Eggler to contact Frances Andrews to use the property which would eventually become Hunt Hill.
His hypothesis was that undisturbed forests would evolve over time into primarily basswood/maple trees; because their seedlings and saplings survived in deep forest shade, while other species which required sunlight to develop would not survive.
That study is ongoing to this day through the dedicated efforts of a former Hunt Hill college student summer staff member and current Denali National Park and Preserve Research Administrator, Dr. Lucy Tyrell. The study plats can be found, marked by four corner steel fence posts for each of the thirty-five 10 meter square study plots, randomly scattered in the woods at Hunt Hill. Dr. Tyrell returns every 3 – 5 years to census the trees growing in each study plot.
If you would like to help Dr. Tyrell, or want to learn more, contact Hunt Hill.
Terrestrial Non-native Invasives Study At Hunt Hill
In 2010, Tobin Clark of Cumberland, WI contacted Hunt Hill and volunteered to conduct a thorough study for invasive plants that might be found at Hunt Hill. Mr. Clark is a former Educator at Hunt Hill having worked with various school and youth group nature programs and fieldtrips.
Using a GPS and aerial photos for the entire Hunt Hill property, including the separate State Natural Area at Dory’s Bog, he ran gridlines, or transects, and hiked over each foot of our property recording the location of invasives he found.
Thanks to Mr. Clark, several “hotspots” were located which will require remediation efforts to remove the invasive, non-native plants causing problems. The worst areas, far and away, were the restored “prairie” and ditches along roads. The most common invasive, non-native plants found were spotted knapweed, tansy, field daisies, buckthorn, reed canary grass and certain noxious thistles. A few others have already been removed – like a single purple loosestrife plant near Dory’s Bog and a few Japanese barberry plants. Removal efforts in the near future for the remainder may include physically pulling up the plants, cutting and treating stump tops with an herbicide, or selective area spraying of herbicides.
Boy Scout Eagle Service Projects
Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownie Girl Scouts, 4-H and various other youth groups come to Hunt Hill for various nature or camping programs. Many times they ask about and then carry out small service projects to help our camp.
Notably, however, the most work has been done by various Eagle Scout candidates performing major service projects. Boy Scouts come from as far away as Chippewa Falls, Saint Paul, Chetek and Birchwood; as well as the Rice Lake/Sarona/Spooner area. These projects include the canoe rack and launching walkway at our Borell Beach waterfront, the Birch Point teambuilding cooperation course, the sandbox and “Eagles’ Nest” treehouse in the little kids’ nature area, the new posts and rope handrail to the waterfront, the walkway to the bog and the newly-roofed Prairie Platform.
Many other projects are waiting to be carried out. We welcome Eagle candidates and their community service project teams, as well as all other interested youth or community groups who want to help improve nature experiences for kids, families and other visitors to Hunt Hill.
Marsh Bird Survey
Every spring for the last four years Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI) volunteers have fanned out across randomly selected top quality marsh land routes to check on the numbers of secretive marsh birds in Wisconsin. Hunt Hill completed a survey in 2011. The surveys focus on rails, bitterns, coots, and grebes. Routes are not necessarily roadside, most involve some off-road hiking, and a few are water-based , using canoes or kayaks. Volunteer surveyors conduct three surveys of their same route during early mornings or late evenings in May and June. Volunteers should be physically fit with good hearing, possess knee or hip boots, and have access to a GPS unit for locating survey points. Details on the survey can be found at Wisconsin’s Bird Monitoring site. Click on the map found there to see general locations of all the routes and then click on green balloon markers of unassigned routes to get additional info such as level of difficulty.
Perennial Flower Gardens at Hunt Hill
We’re often asked about the beautiful flower gardens at Hunt Hill. Most of the hard work and loving restoration of our gardens was done under the direction of past Assistant Maintenance Staff Colette Piskie, with help from several volunteers off and on over the years. There’s no end to the soil preparation, planting, weeding, watering, more weeding, dividing and more weeding.
Many of the plants themselves have been donated by staff, neighbors and visitors. The rain garden plants were all the result of a grant secured from the DNR through the LLPA. Most of the other perennials, however, were donated by a wonderful neighbor who many locals may remember – Theresa Sigmund. As she aged and was unable to take care of her gardens any longer, she asked any and all of her friends to take her plants, give them a good home and keep them going in her memory.
Dozens and dozens of Theresa’s plants are now thriving along the front of the Barn Dining Hall, in back of the redwood sign by the Showerhouse, around the Farmhouse Office and in front of each of the Dorms. Take a moment to enjoy these plants – and to remember Theresa. Her love for her gardens continues at Hunt Hill. PS – remember the weeding and watering?? We can use all the volunteer help we can get!