Category: Door to Nature

  • DOOR TO NATURE: Tundra Swans

    Many years ago, March was the month when my late husband, Roy, and I would anticipate the return of flocks of whistling swans as they migrated back north from their wintering sites along the Chesapeake Bay.  You may remember that the name “whistling swan” was changed to “tundra swan” sometime during the early 1980s. I […]

  • DOOR TO NATURE: My Winter Bird Feeders

    I have six feeding stations in the front yard that are getting lots of activity now that the land is snow covered and the air is cold. The feeders offer black-oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, dried cracked corn, millet seeds, shelled peanuts, suet cakes and marvel meal. The view from my second floor allows […]

  • DOOR TO NATURE: Hare and Rabbits

    Each day, a little after sunset, a large cottontail scampers across the front of my house and down the brick path to the bird feeders. It eats the fallen seeds and scattered cracked corn after all the squirrels and birds have gone to their nighttime roosts. We are familiar with the cottontail, which is very […]

  • Door to Nature: Icy Winter Affects Wildlife

    This strange winter weather of the past month has made finding food difficult for the local squirrel population. December brought 20 inches of snow to my upland hardwood area. The first 16 inches melted back to bare ground, and then the last few inches were covered by freezing rain. The ice-covered ground makes it hard […]

  • Door to Nature: Christmas Bird Counts

    Every year, the National Audubon Society runs Christmas bird counts: citizen-science events that take place throughout the North American continent. Each is a 24-hour effort on one chosen day from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The two counts that I organize are for the Sturgeon Bay circle and the Southern Door circle, which is called […]

  • Door to Nature: The Holly and Mistletoe Season

    Now is the time for Christmas decorations and traditions. Holiday songs express the joys of seeing holly berries and their dark-green leaves, and kissing under the mistletoe.  The popularity of these two plants goes way back to olden days in northern Europe. The green leaves and red berries of holly offered a reminder of living […]

  • Door to Nature: Seagulls Are Really Shore Gulls

    All summer, we see two regular species of gulls: the herring gull and the slightly smaller ring-billed gull. Occasionally a few Bonaparte’s gulls are seen, too, because as a mainly migrant species, a few immature birds may hang around Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Greater and lesser black-backed gulls also make an occasional appearance. This column will […]

  • Door to Nature: Christmas Bird Counts

    Interested in helping with the two upcoming bird counts? Email [email protected] and use the subject line, “Connect with Charlotte Lukes.”            This is the time of year when we begin organizing the annual Christmas bird counts. The Sturgeon Bay count will take place all day Saturday, Dec. 18, and the Southern Door count will follow […]

  • DOOR TO NATURE: Mushrooms with Teeth

    Did you know that some mushrooms have teeth? Door County has five genera of fungi whose spore-bearing surface on the underside exists in the form of teeth that look like spines or small icicles. Several of these interesting growths are quite tough and woody – not something you would even think of chomping on – but two […]

  • Trees and Mushrooms Need Each Other

    Did you know that a healthy forest can survive only when it has the proper mushroom components?  Mushrooms – in the fungus family – can be saprophytes, parasites or mycorrhizas. Many are in the saprophyte group, whose job it is to break down dead plant material and return it to the soil for use by chlorophyll-containing […]

  • Door to Nature: The Praying Mantis

    A recent walk with a good friend revealed a surprise that we nearly stepped on. It was a green praying mantis feasting on a grasshopper. These fascinating creatures – avid insect predators – can blend in with their surroundings very well.  We saw more mantids years ago when we had a vegetable garden, and the […]

  • Door to Nature: Autumn Hummingbirds

    It is late September as I write this, and there is one female ruby-throated hummingbird still coming to my feeder – the latest in the year when I have seen one here. I reviewed the autumn-season Door County records and found that during the past 12 years, a hummingbird was reported as late as mid-October. Perhaps […]

  • Door to Nature: Wild Mushroom Toxins

    I remember the day when I photographed my first wild mushroom. It was 50 years ago, in early October at Toft Point, when we found a very unusual tan growth called the white elfin saddle, whose scientific name is Helvella crispa. Having enjoyed horseback riding a few years earlier, the saddle shape of the cap […]

  • Door to Nature: Secretive Mammals

    Two friends were enjoying a morning at home when something very unusual happened. They noticed an animal walk onto their deck, and they realized it was a cat – but no ordinary house cat. They took a few photos through two panes of glass. Then when my friend opened the inner glass door, the cat […]

  • Door to Nature: The Motile Third Kingdom

    After several rain-filled weeks, we walked in a nearby woodland and saw strange growths on a dead, soggy, barkless, fallen log. Some people might walk right by and not even notice the small, spongy coating on parts of the bare wood. The unusual growths were slime molds. They used to be classed with fungi and […]

  • Door to Nature: Fascinating Moths and Caterpillars

    It was late August 2002 when my late husband, Roy, was using his first digital camera while photographing an unusual caterpillar. The creature was feasting on wild grape leaves, which are abundant here in Door County. After doing some research, we learned that the caterpillar was the pandorus sphinx, a very large, strange-looking creature. Most […]

  • Door to Nature: Molting Stress on Birds

    A few weeks ago, my bird feeders were like O’Hare Airport. Well, not exactly, but there were so many rose-breasted grosbeaks, woodpeckers and blue jays landing and taking off that it was difficult to supply enough food for all the hungry adults and newly fledged youngsters. Now, with most of the breeding season over, the […]

  • Door to Nature: Morel Mushrooms

    I remember seeing a brochure once that proclaimed, “May is Morel Month in Michigan,” but that’s true for most places where these fungi grow. It really depends more on weather, soil moisture and the preferred habitat of these sought-after gems. Someone we knew years ago hunted wild turkeys in southwestern Wisconsin each spring and found […]

  • Door to Nature: Spiders Do Much More Good Than Harm

    Discovering an unusual spider on a perennial plant in my front yard led me to send a photo of it to Mike Draney, a UW-Green Bay professor of entomology and a spider expert. He replied that it was a nursery web spider, and seeing its swollen body, he said it was loaded with eggs. He […]

  • Door to Nature: Bugs and Beetles

    More than a million kinds of insects have been identified in the world – more than all other animals combined. These creatures’ vast array includes some of the more common types, such as beetles, butterflies, moths, bugs, flies, bees, wasps and dragonflies. Anyone who refers to all insects as bugs will be surprised to learn that, […]