The Gifts of the Blogosphere: Enjoy a Slice of Blogging Pie

Happy Christmas and Winter Holiday Season to readers and fellow bloggers! This gift-giving time of the year is the perfect time for me to contemplate the gifts of the wordpress blogging community.

If I’d known about the community when launching The Badger & the Whooping Crane – I had no clue – I think it would have been last on my list of priorities, That would have been a mistake. Other bloggers give the blog crucial support and expand its reach. And their own blogging projects are rich and fascinating.

Grateful now for the great gift of blog follows, I’d like to share today a small sample of my own tiny slice of the enormous WordPress blogging pie. From my very first follower, Jeremy Sell at The Life of Your Times, a natural science blog, to my newest, Joshua Mayer who is blogging his long and detailed photographic journey through Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas, the news of each new follower arrived in my email as a complete, but happy surprise!

Among the blogs I’ve followed, that have returned the favor are science blogs, as well as citizen scientists blogs, and master gardener blogs; writer blogs and photo blogs, birder blogs, and walker blogs; they include travel blogs, and full-time RV-er blogs, mom blogs and homebody blogs. Each is a window into another world.

There’s Ingrid’s at Live, Laugh, RV, who is at home in Phoenix and On the Road as a full time RV-er blogging about new and beautiful sights, and routes and campgrounds and other on-the-road issues. But the day I first encountered her, Ingrid was in Texas near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and blogging her delightful impressions of a new discovery – the big, white birds (they were whoopers!) that she was repeatedly seeing and photographing! And there’s Sheila at Wolfsong Blog, one half of an RV couple, a birder, a nature and animal lover, and a passionate amateur photographer. Check out the list of equipment this amateur is working with now!

And Jolynn Powers who writes West Virginia Mountain Mama, and who says on her front page “I love to forage, hunt, homestead, garden, and cook. I take photos . . . and try in my own way to show the wonder of what I see in my woods.” Jolynn has what I think of as the ultimate homebody blog (pies, crafts, some West Virginia rambles). Her blog gives these rambles and recipes and life stories another dimension, while leading her down new blog paths; well described here, in a post about the blogging addiction. “You are in deep now. . .” writes Jolynn, and like her, we know it.

For a different blogging ramble I visit Forest Garden where its creator, Woodland Gnome blends garden photography with words, reflections, and also, sometimes, perfect quotes from other authors. The Gnome blends all these with all the skill of a Monet or Renoir.

Sometimes I leap over to South Africa where “the call of the wild beckons here at the edge of the south-western tip of Africa,” and Liz Hardman is busy photographing and blogging it, reflecting it back through Nature on the Edge to the rest of the world.

There are more, of course that I could share; would love to share. But this is already a long post, and as a WordPress writer or reader, you’ve made some fortunate discoveries of your own like these. And you know there are so many more worlds to be discovered right here within the blogging universe. Again, Merry Christmas Season, to you.

Creating State Parks for Wisconsin

A month or more ago, I wrote a Monday Morning blogpost about a lovely late fall day in Peninsula State Park, and I knew then I’d be writing again about that wonderful Wisconsin resource before long. I wanted to share some of the facts and figures about this park – Wisconsinites’ favorite place to camp – and some of its history.

Thousands of words can be found online celebrating the Door Peninsula, and in particular the peninsula-shaped park which balloons out to the west and north from the larger peninsula. I think the very best description of the area, the one that is the most fun to read, was written more than a century ago by John Nolen, landscape architect and city planner from the East. Nolen’s description is in his 1909 report, State Parks for Wisconsin, published by Wisconsin’s first State Park Board. (The quotes that follow here are from an online facsimile of that report, at The Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Turning Points in Wisconsin HIstory; I quote from Section IV, pp 32-3.)

Looking at Peninsula State Park to the north; from the water. In Door County, WI, Sept. 5, 2015. On Lake Michigan: Near Peninsula State Park, Door County, WI, Septe

Looking at Peninsula State Park to the north; from the water. In Door County, WI, Sept. 5, 2015.

Nolen could hardly contain himself as he recommended this site: “. . the finely situated peninsula between Ephraim and Fish Creek. . . including some 3,000 acres, more than eight miles of shoreline with a number of deep water harbors . . .” as a future state park for Wisconsin.

“Would it not be worthwhile for Wisconsin to have such a park?”

Nolen said this site was “wild and as yet unspoiled;” that with nearly every step new vistas opened, alternating between woodland, cliff, land, and water. He also said this: “Reminding one constantly of the coast of Maine, the shore is a never-ending delight. It sweeps from point to point, here a beach of fine sand, there of gravel, then, in contrast, precipitous limestone bluffs. . . the purest of air laden with the fragrance of balsam and pine, with unexcelled facilities for sailing, boating, fishing . . .”

At the Eagle Panorama in Peninsula State Park. (Photo taken in November, 2015)

At the Eagle Panorama in Peninsula State Park. (Photo taken in November, 2015)

This was a place, he continued, that “might easily become a famous pleasure resort of the highest order,” comparing it to Mackinac Island State Park in Michigan, which, he asserted, was “not one whit more attractive than the proposed Door County park might easily be.” He further noted that the Michigan park contained only 1,000 acres, yet was valued at two million dollars and was visited annually by 200,000 persons. “Would it not be worthwhile for Wisconsin to have a state park with such a record and to secure such a tangible return?”

As we know, the Wisconsin lawmakers of the day said “yes!” The rest, as they say, “is history.” Today a million visitors a year enjoy the use of the same deep harbors that Nolen talked of. They enjoy those same vistas he hoped the state would protect. In other words, John Nolen’s proposal for creating that state park, has worked out perfectly for us, the citizens of the future he envisioned.

John Nolen’s Good Idea

In addition to fishing, boating, and sailing, as Nolen suggested we might do, we also go hiking and birding in the park, and kayak off its shore line. Many have family traditions involving an annual ride on the Sunset Bike Trail (“Whatever you do, don’t miss the sunset,” advises the Travel Wisconsin website.) And we fill its five campgrounds: Weborg Point, Welker’s Point, Tennison Bay, and Nicolet Bay South and North.

Other things we might do there? Work on our game at the park’s 18-hole golf course. Enjoy performances under the stars by the professional actors of the Northern Sky Theater; or revisit the past at the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and Museum. Until recently, a large percentage of visitors – on at least one of their park visits – climbed it’s 75 foot observation tower, (now closed; see more information about this below the tower picture). In the winter the park is a top destination for cross-country skiing within the state; sledding and snowshoeing are other options.

The observation tower at Peninsula State Park: closed in May 2015 because of disrepair. Hopes are high for its repair or speedy replacement. (Photo taken in November 2015)

The observation tower at Peninsula State Park: closed in May 2015 because of disrepair. There seems to be  strong sentiment for its speedy repair or replacement. (Photo taken in November 2015)

It All Started with Madison’s Park and Pleasure Drive Association

Here is just a little more history about “noted landscape architect John Nolen.” Who was he? What brought this city planner from Massachusetts to our north woods in the early 20th century?

In 1908 the leaders of Madison’s Park and Pleasure Drive Association (the forerunner of today’s City of Madison Parks Division) contacted Nolan for help with their vision for improvements in their city. Nolan would eventually become known as “the eminent city planner.” But this was early in his career, and his most notable commissions were all in the future. Nolan had recently graduated from Harvard’s new School of Landscape Architecture (in 1905), where he studied with Frederick Law Olmsted. Nolan had returned to school for this opportunity, having earlier earned a degree the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

An information board on the Eagle Terrace includes a picture of John Nolen and the story of the origins of this park. (Photo taken in November 2015)

An information board on the Eagle Terrace includes a picture of John Nolen (on the right) and the story of the origins of this park, and some of its history that followed. (Photo taken in November 2015)

With the help of the Madison civic visionaries who had recruited him, Nolen received at least 3 commissions in the state, including one to draw up a plan for Madison as a Model City. According to this 2011 article in Madison Magazine, this Nolen plan has been “pretty much followed for the last 100 years.”

He also received a commission from the University of Wisconsin, and from the State of Wisconsin – the one which resulted in Nolen’s recommendation for a state park system. Among the four new parks that Nolen suggested, three were established by 1917. Peninsula State Park was established in 1909 , the same year Nolen’s State Parks for Wisconsin was published.

Devil’s Lake State Park was established in 1911. Wyalusing State Park was established in 1917 (originally as Nelson Dewey State Park and renamed in 1937, after a second park was established in honor of Dewey, Wisconsin’s first governor).

Looking across at Horsehoe Island, from the top of the bluff on the Eagle Panorama. (Photo, November 2015)

Looking across at Horsehoe Island, from the top of the bluff on the Eagle Panorama. (Photo, November 2015)

Walking through Leopold’s Vision

The headline above is from the blog Walking through Sonoma County . . . mostly; more about that in a minute.

I’ve always wanted to write about Aldo Leopold, as a genuine Wisconsin conservation hero, but have felt intimidated by the task. How do you write about someone whose legacy is a mile wide, and deep too, throughout America, not just Wisconsin? Someone whose already been the subject, surely, of hundreds of thousands of written words?

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Aldo Leopold (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Then I discovered a “walking blog,” kept by California walker and blogger Lynn Millar, whose travels brought her to Wisconsin last summer for a couple of walks, one of them at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. So today I’m re-blogging her post about it. [That means this post you’re reading will transition into the beginning of Lynn’s post – “Walking Through Leopold’s Vision.” If you click on “view original post,” you’ll be transported directly to her blog, for the rest of it.]

But first, I’d like to share just a few highlights from Leopold’s deep, wide legacy to bolster the claims I’ve made above.

Learning about Leopold’s Legacy

In 1924 the Gila Wilderness in northern New Mexico became the first designated wilderness area on the planet. This happened, according to, because of the vision and persistence of Leopold, then a relatively young man working for the U.S. Forest Service in the Southwest.

In 1935 The Wilderness Society was established, Aldo Leopold among the founders. By that time he was already working in Wisconsin, where in 1933 he had published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. That same year, the University of Wisconsin had created the nation’s first chair in game management for its new teacher, Professor Aldo Leopold.

A California Walker Blogs about the Legacy

There’s a lot more, but that’s enough for now. Here’s a word about Lynn Millar’s blog.  Her title says it best:  she takes walks and writes about them. She makes the point that these are not ‘hikes,’ but short, flat ‘walks.’ Most of them are in Sonoma County; overwhelmingly they seem to be in California. I found some in Oregon, and this past summer she posted about walking in Chicago and southern Wisconsin.

If you’re a true walker, you’ll enjoy a look at this blog even if you never set foot on any of the particular paths described. Of course, if you’re in Wisconsin, wouldn’t you want to follow Lynn as she went — Walking Through Leopold’s Vision . . . ?        

 . . . . from Lynn Millar:

Walking in Sonoma County...mostly

On our way out of town and out of Wisconsin, we stopped at the Leopold Center in Baraboo. (Yes, that Leopold – to those of you who remember reading the Sand County Almanac back in the 70s.)

Leopold entrance

Aldo Leopold generated ideas in the 1920s-40s for what would become the environmental movement. While in Arizona and New Mexico working for the Forest Service in the 1920s, he began to think that man’s role is not just to dominate wildlife. (He has a wilderness area named after him in New Mexico – in the Gila National Forest)

In 1933, he accepted a professorship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This professorship in wildlife was one of the first.

While living in Madison with his family and teaching, he purchased 80 acres of logged out and overgrazed farmland. He proceeded to put his ideas in practice and restored the property that was in sand country along…

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Quick Links to Whooping Crane News & Updates

[Edited: 12.6.15]

Beginning with an update:  here is a partial report on the whereabouts of the EMP (the Eastern Migratory Population) whooping cranes, published at Operation Migration’s Field Journal. It includes an especially good accounting of the Class of 2014 ultralight-led chicks. This is really welcome news to everyone involved with the EMP since the six birds involved did not have the opportunity to learn the full migration route when it was their turn, a year ago.

Although the Class of 2014 missed many migration miles, they did have an early and successful arrival in Florida. Photographer Karen Willes, watching the arrival from the town of St. Marks,  caught this beautiful moment.  (Photo used with permission)

Although the Class of 2014 missed many migration miles, they did have a successful, early arrival in Florida, in mid-December a year ago. Photographer Karen Willes, watching the arrival from the town of St. Marks, caught this beautiful moment. (Photo used with permission)

Due to severe weather – winds that kept them grounded for six weeks after migration began, followed up by the threat of blizzard conditions in the north – the birds were finally driven 500 miles to Tennessee. In the spring this year, five migrated north on their own (one migrated with older cranes). Once they reached southern Illinois, it became obvious they no longer knew which way to go, and a “rescue mission” was launched to bring them back – a long ride to Wisconsin in an air-conditioned van.

WCEP was full of assurances that these cranes would have no trouble migrating on their own this fall, but you can tell in the written reports that everyone is breathing a sigh of relief, now that southern locations have been confirmed for all. Here’s where they are, the Class of 2014: cranes 3 & 10-14 (and most likely 4-14 with them) are safely in Georgia; 8-14 was reported in Tennessee in late November, and 7 & 9-14 are very close to the winter pensite at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in northern Florida.

At the Journey North website I found an even newer update about 8-14; a PTT signal for this female crane has now been reported that places her in Highlands County, right in the middle of South Florida. “This is way south of St. Marks NWR,” the website reported, “but the good news is she definitely knows the way to Florida . . .”

A New Fall Migration, A New Ultralight Class of Young Whoopers

The Class of 2015 has reached their scheduled stop in Carroll County, TN; 574 miles are now completed of the 1100 mile migration from Wisconsin to northern Florida. Deemed excellent as a class for their eagerness to fly in training, they’ve been – at times – not quite so wonderfully cooperative, and not always so eager to follow the ultralight aircraft through headwinds that have a tendency to slow things down. In spite of such issues, the migration is proceeding well, and as the birds gain real experience on long distance flights perhaps they are regaining some of their early cooperative spirit.

This older file photo depicts an ultralight training flight at Necedah National Wildife Refuge. (Photo courtesy of WCEP)

This older file photo depicts an ultralight training flight at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo courtesy of WCEP)

Here is Heather Ray’s account of an important flight this week, and an earlier Lead Pilot Report from Joe Duff. Follow Operation Migration at their Field Journal; register and watch the flights live on their crane cam.

Operation Migration Earns Support of The Southern Company

For eight years now, Operation Migration has earned the respect and financial support of The Southern Company, which in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, makes a contribution that helps support OM’s EarlyBird e-bulletin newsletter, the live crane cam, and other features of OM’s website. The company was quoted recently in MarketWatch, noting, “Southern Company remains committed to the important work Operation Migration is doing every day,”

The Southern Company is a large, Atlanta-based energy company serving the southeastern United States. Operation Migration’s work is one of 85 projects that the company sponsors through its Power of Flight program. This program is the largest public-private funding effort for bird conservation in the southern U.S.

Whooping Cranes are Documented for Wisconsin’s Breeding Bird Atlas II

This is a story mainly about the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II, a comprehensive field survey that documents the distribution and abundance of birds that are breeding here in the state. And it’s a neat story – the process of conducting a field survey of birds over the course of four years, the participation by over 700 volunteer observers, or ‘atlasers’ as they’re officially known, and the 1.7 million birds that have been documented thus far. But for my purposes here, at The Badger & the Whooping Crane, the best part of the story is the fact that the Whooping Crane species has now been confirmed as breeding in Wisconsin and added to the atlas.

Two eggs on the whooper nest in this photo from the archives of International Crane Foundation.

Two eggs on the whooper nest in this photo from the archives of International Crane Foundation.

The fact that whooping cranes have now been recognized as breeding here in Wisconsin, is one more little sign that this iconic endangered species is ever-so-slowly re-establishing its rightful presence in North America, including right here in our state.

A total of eight new species have been confirmed for the new atlas. The others are: the Bufflehead, Eurasian Collard-Dove, White-eyed Vireo, Great Tit, Kirtland’s Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler,  and the European Goldfinch.

The survey to compile Wisconsin’s second Breeding Bird Atlas began this year, 2015, and will continue through 2019. The first Breeding Bird Atlas survey was conducted from 1995 to 2000. Here is a little more about the survey, and the birders and organizations who are leading it.

George Archibald Honored by the Chicago Zoological Society

Last, but never least, here is news of another conservation honor for George Archibald , co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. Anything with George Archibald’s name is sure to be both conservation news and crane news, too.

George Archibald, after a speaking engagement at The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County in July 2012.

George Archibald, after a speaking engagement at The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County in July 2012.

He is, to quote a Baraboo News Republic writer about George, “known globally as the world’s leading scientific authority on cranes.” And in preserving crane species and their wetland habitats world-wide, he has also done so much for the cause of conservation for all species, including the human ones. In recognition of his many achievements he has been awarded his native Canada’s highest honor, The Order of Canada. A few of his other awards include: the Lilly Medal presented by the Indianapolis Zoo, the Gold Medal from the World Wildlife Fund, and the inaugural Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership from the National Audubon Society.

And just this past September George Archibald was presented with the George B. Rabb Conservation Medal by the Chicago Zoological Society. Stuart D. Strahl, President and CEO of the Society, said of George and two other prize recipients: “This yea’r winners deserve all the credit we can give them. They continue to make important inroads . . . They truly embody our mission of making connections among people and wildlife.”

If you’d like to learn more about George Archibald, the man, and his love for Wisconsin, his adopted home, here is a very good place to start: the beginning of a 3-part series in the Baraboo News Republic.