Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Welcome to “A Wealth of Nature”

Not long ago, while walking along the Menomonee River in Milwaukee's Three Bridges Park, I experienced the magic of urban nature. Late afternoon sun lit the undulating hills with a golden glow when, suddenly, four great blue herons bolted from cover on the near shore. They flew several hundred yards downstream to land in the upper branches of tall cottonwoods on the far shore. To see so many of these normally solitary creatures at one time seemed miraculous.

Then, close behind me, a fifth heron stirred. With a loud, guttural squawk, it unfolded immense, angular wings and rose with ungainly haste. Once aloft, it glided gracefully up and over the thin band of riparian trees and circled slowly on slender, widespread wings that, in the distance, looked prehistoric. Skimming low over the water, it vanished behind tall grasses lining the riverbank. Farther on, it reappeared, swooped upward, stalled over the outstretched limb of a dead tree, and came to rest. The magnificent wings collapsed onto a suddenly svelte body, as if deflated. Mesmerized, I watched the heron stand warily on its perch where it had a commanding and enviable view of the river—and the glistening skyline of downtown Milwaukee.

There is powerful magic here. 

Southeastern Wisconsin is the most urbanized region of the state and yet those who live here are blessed with an abundance of opportunities to experience this kind of magic. Our wealth of nature makes it possible. When Preserve Our Parks initiated this project, we called it “A Wealth of Nature” in order to express not only the abundance but also the quality and value of the parks, preserves, wildlife areas and other open space that exist near at hand. Preserve Our Parks has long been a watchdog organization advocating for these places. 

This story was posted June 22 in The Natural Realm, a new blog on the new A Wealth of Nature website. Please click here to go to continue reading.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Treasures of OZ 2018 focuses on the Milwaukee River

Milwaukee River at Bike Path Island, Grafton
Seven Ozaukee County parks and preserves rolled out the red carpet on Saturday for the annual Treasures of OZ Eco-Tour. This year the event featured places on the banks of—and one in the middle of—the Milwaukee River, billed as Ozaukee’s Other Coast. Experts and volunteers at each site provided visitors with information about the park, the river and the fish and wildlife that can be found there. I made it to most of the sites, some of which were familiar. The two that I hadn’t seen before—Hawthorne Hills County Park and an island in the river—were special treats. 

This story was posted June 22 in The Natural Realm. Please click here to continue and read about Hawthorne Hills, Riveredge Nature Center, Bratt Woods, Bike Path Island and more.

Crayfish, Riveredge Nature Center