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Category: Door to Nature

  • Door to Nature: Winter Seed Pods

    The thin covering of snow so far this winter is allowing some plants to show their seed structures above the surface. Often they go unnoticed prior to winter because they blend in with the other plants and woodland debris on the ground. The conspicuous remains of many plants are a pleasant reminder of the forthcoming […]

  • Door to Nature: The Well-known Mallard

    Which duck would you say is the most common – and perhaps the first one you learned to identify as a youngster? I remember, as a child, our family trips to the Milwaukee lakefront to see the wildlife (the birds, not the people), and the mallards were the most numerous of any waterfowl there. At the […]

  • Door to Nature: Rare Winter Bird Visitors

    I subscribe to several local and statewide bird-observation networks through which members report unusual bird sightings by email. During two days in the middle of December, a very rare bird was reported visiting feeders and a heated bird bath on the south side of Sturgeon Bay. It was a Bullock’s oriole! This species breeds in […]

  • Door to Nature: Bird Beaks

    How would you survive if you had to pick up everything you wanted to eat by grabbing it with your mouth? For most birds, that’s their way of getting nourishment, so their beak is a vital part of their existence. The size and shape of a beak varies dramatically with each species, depending on what […]

  • Door to Nature: Winter Greenery

    A friend asked about some low-growing green plants that we saw on a recent walk with our hiking group. This time of year, most of the landscape is brown and seemingly dead, but there’s still a family of small, interesting evergreen plants to watch for: the clubmosses. Most people connect the word “evergreen” with the […]

  • Door to Nature: Spring Comes to the Upland Hardwoods

    During the past two years, April and May have not been very springlike, with more snow than we expected and very wet, cold weather. In fact, the cherry orchards didn’t bloom until Memorial Day last year — nearly two weeks late. I’ve been living in an upland maple-beech-hemlock climax forest for the past 37 years […]

  • DOOR TO NATURE: Shrikes, The Butcherbirds

    How would you like to live outside, alone, in all types of weather, and be responsible for finding all of your food without any help? That’s what wild birds must deal with as we enjoy the comforts of our heated homes. Some bird species such as pine siskins and American goldfinches are communal. They dine […]

  • Door to Nature: The Mystery of Migration

    The total story of migration is complicated, fascinating and frequently quite unbelievable, and it includes many mysteries that scientists and students of ornithology are continually researching. Perhaps a third of all species migrate, amounting to tens of billions of birds. Why would a bird that has spent the winter in the vicinity of the equator […]

  • Door to Nature: Bittersweet Vines with Colorful Fruit

    The drab landscape colors – now that strong winds have blown most of the colorful leaves off the deciduous trees – might have a few bright spots where bittersweet berries remain on clinging vines. There are two species of these colorful, fruiting vines that grow along fencerows, woodland edges and river banks. American or climbing bittersweet, native […]

  • Door to Nature: Invaders from the North

    Every autumn, I watch for the winter finch prediction that’s sent to the subscribers of Wisconsin’s email birders’ group. The forecast this year was rather bleak, with not many of the sought-after migrants expected to arrive here this winter. When natural food supplies such as conifer cones and deciduous tree seeds are in short supply […]

  • Door to Nature: Tiny, Colorful Fungi

    While enjoying a hike with some friends recently, I photographed a seldom-seen mushroom. It’s commonly called the blue-stainer, or Chlorociboria (klor-o-sy-BOR-ee-a) aeruginascens (a-roo-jin-ESS-ens). Most often, all that’s visible is well-decayed pieces of wood with the blue stain in them, but not the actual mushroom. This group of fungi in the Peziza family is usually cup […]

  • Door to Nature: Cavity-Nesting Birds

    Photography by Roy Lukes Many who enjoy the natural beauty of Door County are birdwatchers, or “birders.” We look for native species and know which territories each bird prefers, but we’re also excited to find unusual migrants.  Having a bluebird trail with 21 nest boxes set in habitats that attract these beautiful creatures causes me […]

  • Door to Nature: Autumn Color and the Virginia Creeper

    Autumn is the time to enjoy nature’s transition from the greens of summer to the glorious colors of changing leaves on trees and many plants. Sunny days help to increase the vibrant hues. Ash trees are being attacked by the emerald ash borer and may not be on the landscape for too many more years. […]

  • Door to Nature: Poisonous Mushrooms

    Autumn is the best time to hike the woodland trails in pursuit of wild mushrooms. Once the growing season winds down, that’s when fungi can take advantage of their many sources of food. Mushrooms are like the apples on trees in that they are the “fruit” of the actual plant, whose generic name is mycelium […]

  • Door to Nature: Wild Grape: Kudzu of the North

    While driving around the county on quiet back roads, I often notice shrubs or trees covered with a dense mat of wild grape leaves. If you’ve ever driven through Tennessee and points south, you would have seen thick vines covering structures, trees and power poles. That vine is kudzu, which was introduced to this country […]

  • Door to Nature: Hairy Cats

    People enjoying the outdoors, and especially gardeners, may notice a number of hairy cats on the move these days – but many are not hairy, and none are cats. What I’m referring to are caterpillars. The word comes from the Old North French word “catepelose,” meaning “hairy cat.” When we had a large vegetable garden, the […]

  • Door to Nature: The Flashy Red-headed Woodpecker

    I’ve noticed reports of more red-headed woodpeckers being seen this year in Door County, and that makes me happy. This flashy bird – with its entirely red head extending down its neck, forming a cape – has suffered serious habitat loss during the last 50 years. My friend Deb has a pair that spent the entire […]

  • Door to Nature: A Season of Butterflies

    July is one of the best months to learn about butterflies in our area. The numbers so far have not been as high as during other summers because of the colder-than-normal spring weather, but now with July’s heat wave, the numbers are increasing. Monarchs showed up along the Lake Michigan shores sooner than inland, where […]

  • Door to Nature: American White Pelicans

    Door County has a wonderful variety of bird-watching habitats. It’s always a treat to find a new species in our area, and that happened Oct. 24, 1978, when one white pelican landed near the dock at Gordon Lodge along North Bay. It seems that the quiet bay is a good spot for other unusual migrant […]

  • Door to Nature: Look for Thimbleberries in Bloom

    I remember the very dry summer of 1976. One August morning, I ventured out to pick some thimbleberries. I had an old ice cream bucket with me in which to collect them and carefully stepped over fallen trees to reach some of the fruit.  After about an hour of picking, with only one layer of […]