For many years Hunt Hill has had a bluebird trail to help restore bluebirds across Wisconsin. Over 65 bluebird houses once crowded our “Prairie”, but annually only eight to ten baby bluebirds would successfully fledge. We blamed tree swallows for being aggressive and keeping bluebird numbers low.
However, in 2006, with help from Dr. Kent Hall, former Vice President of the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (B.R.A.W.), we made tremendous improvements. We now, 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; installing predator guards; closing vent holes on the sides of the boxes to reduce hypothermia 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.
Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) Grant
Starting in 2009, through the interest and matching funds from the Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association and the Long Lake Preservation Association (LLPA), and with funding assistance from the Wisconsin DNR through the Lake Management Planning Grant, nearly 500 grade school students, over the 3 year project, came on free field trips to Hunt Hill. Students were able to learn all about improving and measuring water quality in northwest Wisconsin. In return, students went back to their hometowns and schools 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, please contact Hunt Hill.
In 2010, Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary was awarded a grant through Wisconsin’s Citizen-Based Monitoring Partnership Program through the WDNR. The grant allowed us 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. It provides 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.
Through a short training on monitoring procedures and equipment use, volunteers can use the equipment to collect valuable data. Learn more about the program through the Wisconsin Bat Program or contact Hunt Hill.
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 counting the bats that exit a roost in the evening.
Long-Range Forestry Study
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.
Boy Scout Eagle Service Projects
Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownie Girl Scouts, 4-H and many other youth groups come to Hunt Hill for various nature or camping programs, and often times carry out a small service project.
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, Birchwood, and other surrounding areas. Projects have included 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 nature playscape, the new posts and rope handrail to the waterfront, the walkway to the bog, and roofing of the Prairie Platform.
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.
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. This project was funded through a National Science Foundation grant to do an updated census of mosquitoes across northern Wisconsin. The last study had been done in 1960.
Hunt Hill was one of four 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 area southwest of the Library along the Red Oak East Trail. 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.
Micro-Greenhouse Project with UW-Madison
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, snow cover 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.
The University of Wisconsin, with funding from the national Science Foundation, has developed micro-greenhouses (8’x8’x10’) 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-greenhouses were deployed in the fall of 2015, ranging from southern WI to the UP of Michigan and across different habitats. Each site has three micro-greenhouses, each mimicking different winter conditions. They will remain on site for two winter seasons (2015/16 and 2016/17). The three Hunt hill micro-greenhouses are located behind our Square Dorm.
The graph shows the difference between subnivium temperature and outside air temperature 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 fluctuatinos 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.
Terrestrial Non-native Invasives Study
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 field trips.
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 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 a herbicide, or selective area spraying of herbicides.