Posted by Rick Remington, Conservation Director
I've been observing woodcocks every spring for over 30 years. Lucky for me, I've always lived somewhere where their arrival and evening courtship ritual were easily observed. I watched them with my wife back when we were dating. I watched them with my daughter when she was just a baby. And so each spring, its one of the bright spots on my long to-do list.
Watching woodcocks doesn't take a tremendous amount of skill, but the birds require a particular type of habitat for this part of their life cycle. An old field or marsh where the grasses are flattened from winter snow, a meadow with sparse tree growth, or even an early successional forest with enough openings for the birds to feel safe on the ground and have easy access to the sky. It helps that I have a south-facing seeping slope that attracts the birds during the day for feeding, the ground moist, muddy and snow-free to accommodate their long beaks.
I listen at dusk for their nasal-sounding "peent" indicating they are on the ground, or the trilling sound during their aerial flight display. While they are in flight, I have 30-40 seconds to relocate myself closer to their point of take-off. If I am lucky, and still, the male woodcock will land near me and begin to call. They tend to return to good display areas unless alarmed or scared away. So I am quiet, still and respectful in sharing their space for awhile, until it is their time to fly again in their serpentine course into the sky. And so goes our dance until it is too dark for me to see. After dark, their calls and display continue into the night.
The American Woodcock is considered a Special Concern Species in Wisconsin, and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). These designations highlight species which are rare, declining or at risk because of threats to their habitat or other life cycle needs. And so I hope my work with Landmark and throughout my career has made a difference - is making a difference - for birds like these, and other at risk species. They need our help, and during these stressful and uncertain times, I believe they can help us as well. Get outside and enjoy spring everyone!
Landmark Conservancy has closed our public offices out of concern for the health of our communities and staff through Friday, April 24 in accordance with Governor Evers' Safer at Home order. During this time our staff will be working remotely and may be contacted as usual by phone or email. In-person meetings will be held via phone or video conference, and in-person gatherings will be postponed in accordance with CDC restrictions.
This period of quarantine and social distancing is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We want to remind you to seek time outdoors to help sustain your health! Enjoying fresh air, sunshine, and time in nature has remarkable power to boost our mental and physical well-being.
Lindsey Ketchel, Executive Director
Traveling from the City of Bayfield to Port Superior, the Brownstone Trail is a popular trail among Bayfield residents and visitors. Landmark Conservancy helped establish the trail in 1996 in cooperation with private landowners who own sections of the trail. Landmark has enjoyed working with local community members for many years to maintain the trail and the natural habitat along the lakeshore.
Many people are aware that a small section of the Brownstone Trail has been closed for over a year. A large landslide has been active since 2017, and the trail has slumped away. The site remains very unstable and was closed to protect public safety and to minimize further human-caused erosion. A reroute has been established along Highway 13 and Lakeshore Drive.
Landmark is working with a coastal engineering firm to understand the natural and man-made causes of the erosion, and to determine what can be done. It is a complex site, and anything that is done will require cooperation of the adjacent landowners, permits, funding, and consideration of future storms and conditions. We will have final recommendations from the engineering study by June 30 or sooner.
“Landmark is exploring solutions and committed to engaging community partners as part of that process. Because the Brownstone Trail is a community asset and funding for any restoration of the site will need to come from community donations and grants, Landmark staff and board will be engaging the community in the decision-making process. We anticipate holding a community meeting in early summer.” -- Executive Director Lindsey Ketchel
In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions by calling 715-235-8850 or emailing Erika Lang in the Bayfield office.
Just over ten years ago, John and JoAnn Henningsen gave a heartfelt letter and a key to each of their three adult children. The letter begins, “Use this key to escape to the great outdoors,” and continues on, urging each of them to embrace nature’s gifts on the approximately 400 acres in Barron County where they have a family cabin. At the end of 2019, they placed a conservation easement on the property with Landmark Conservancy. The conservation easement ensures protection of the land and its conservation values by prohibiting future subdivision, commercial and industrial use.
Over the years, John has implemented a variety of land management practices including sustainable timber harvest and almost complete control of European buckthorn, an invasive exotic species. He accessed state and federal grants, including a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to plant a 4.5-acre pollinator field with 25 different flowers and pollinator plants, and funds through the State of Wisconsin to support invasive species control.
JoAnn said they feel fortunate that their children and grandchildren have developed an affinity for the land and are involved in its caretaking, through annual spring planting and clean-up, a fall pre-hunting weekend, and annual holiday gatherings at the cabin, which they lovingly call their ‘cottage.’ In the letter to their children, they put forth that “the task is to be diligent in our care of the land and to each other.”
“The Henningsen’s sound stewardship of their land and the thoughtful manner in which they explored its permanent protection serves as an example for all landowners”, said Rick Remington, Landmark’s Conservation Director. “Their protected property contains significant forested and wetland ecological communities and provides resilient habitat for species to shift and adapt in order to meet the challenges of climate change.”
100+ acres in the orchard district becomes a public recreation area
Written by Dennis McCann
Bayfield County’s newest recreation area could have turned into something very different.
When developer Bob Davidson approached the Town of Bayfield planning commission in spring of 2017 he laid out his vision for the 104-acre property he owned high atop Fire Tower Road in Bayfield’s orchard district. He was attracted to the property for its steep topography, stunning views, and beautiful forests especially in the fall. Davidson, who had previously developed the low-density, low-impact Brickyard Creek community, proposed a similar conservation sub-division for the property, one of the highest points in the county.
But the plan commission, along with some neighboring property owners, didn’t support a development on the site, desiring instead to keep the property in its natural wooded state. Davidson wasn’t pleased by the rejection, but as the meeting ended he was approached by plan commission member Demaris Brinton with a question. Would he consider working with Landmark Conservancy to instead find a way to convert the property to a place for public recreation?
As it turned out, he would. It took more than two years working with Landmark’s staff to iron out the details, obtain funding and complete the paperwork but in December the property was acquired by Bayfield County for use by hikers, skiers, birders and other outdoor enthusiasts. Funding for the $171,840 purchase came from the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
Davidson, credits “a group affair” for turning his original vision into something that will benefit both the Bayfield community and visitors to the region.
“There are a lot of components, a lot of parts that went into it,” he said. “It wasn’t just me, but I did own the land.”
Brinton praised Davidson for being open to considering a public recreation area over a conservation sub-division.
“At the end of the meeting it was just sad. Bob was so disappointed; he was so sad because he wanted to do something meaningful with the land. (A sub-division) just wasn’t a good idea for that land. I just said to him, why don’t you talk to Landmark Conservancy. It’s a beautiful property and I know you want to do something good. This could both meet your goal of doing something meaningful and getting some return on your investment.”
Tom Gordon, chairman of the Town of Bayfield, and other Town Board members were supportive of the project as the region has been emphasizing outdoor recreation in its tourism efforts for some time and needs to make sure there are ample opportunities for it. “The Board does not oppose all development but just felt the property was better suited for public use, especially in the middle of apple country,” he said.
As he thought more about it, Davidson agreed.
“Kind of in the twilight of my life I thought it would be the right thing,” said Davidson, who is 86. “It’s such a beautiful piece of land. In the end, I’m really pleased with the whole thing.”
Erika Lang, Landmark Conservancy’s Conservation Manager in its Bayfield office, was encouraged by Bob’s actions. “Land protection is only achieved by working together as a community. Conservation of this land provides important protection for wildlife as well as the water quality of the Pikes Creek watershed and downstream Lake Superior. Keeping the property in its forested condition will provide multiple benefits including flood mitigation and increased resiliency of the landscape to changes in climate. Recreation is an important driver for this region, and Landmark is also excited about helping to improve visitors’ recreational experiences on the Bayfield Peninsula.”
Jason Bodine, Administrator of Bayfield County’s Forestry and Parks Department, said no firm plans have been made for the site but it is likely that trails for hiking, skiing and other non-motorized uses will be developed, along with a small parking area. The name of the site is yet to be determined, he said, though it may be along the lines of Fire Hill Forest Preserve. Yurts available for rent by campers have proven popular in other county parks and might be added at the Fire Tower property as well.
“There’s a lot of recreational potential,” he said. “The potential is almost endless. With that terrain and that contiguous block of forest…it’s a beautiful property. It’s really rugged, there’s not a whole lot of flat areas on that property.”
Bodine credited the collaborative efforts of the Town of Bayfield, Landmark Conservancy and others for helping advance the project but especially singled out Davidson for embracing the idea when his own initial plan was rejected.
“It takes people like Bob to have the vision and willingness to see this through, and the persistence of Landmark Conservancy,” he said.
Does Davidson think the final product is something of a legacy?
“Yes, I do,” he said. “I do. It just makes me feel very good that I was at this age financially able to pull this off. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that it’s preserved.”
Landmark Conservancy Acquires Nearly 600 Acres Adjacent to Copper Falls State Park