• Door to Nature: Ruby Throats

    By Charlotte Lukes How can anyone not be excited about a native songbird that weighs only one-tenth of an ounce, is about three and three-quarters inches long, and can eat up to half its own body weight in sugar each day? Obviously the bird I refer to is that tiny, needle-billed dynamo, the ruby-throated hummingbird. […]

  • Door to Nature: May is Morel Month

    Door County has had good years and bad years for finding the true morel mushrooms. If we have a snowy winter with lots of spring rain – which replenishes soil moisture – it will usually be a good season for finding morels. However, spring must also have warm weather to help the process. Last year […]

  • Door to Nature: Plants in the Arum Family

    We’re looking forward to the spring flowers that will soon carpet the woods – first in the upland hardwoods – with delicate petals of many colors. One plant that my late husband, Roy, and I always thought of as the native harbinger of spring is the skunk cabbage, which grows in cold, low, wet areas. I found […]

  • Door to Nature: Fox Sparrows

    As a subscriber to the Wisconsin birders’ network, I have fun reading posts about the migrating birds seen in southern Wisconsin at this time of year. My late husband, Roy, and I often said that spring moves north at about 125 miles a week. During the last week of March, the posts shared good news: […]

  • Door to Nature: The Pheasant and Quail Family

    We visited my parents in March 1996 when they lived in the Phoenix suburb of Sun City, Arizona. My father was fascinated with the Gambel’s quail in their neighborhood. The black, curved topknot on their heads made them look a bit comical. They are native to the deserts of California, Arizona and New Mexico. Quail […]

  • Door to Nature: Bugling Sandhill Cranes

    My late husband, Roy, and I had always wanted to see the huge, migrating flocks of sandhill cranes that gathered in the spring along Nebraska’s Platte River, and we finally made the journey in March of 1995. The weather was great, with warmer-than-normal temperatures. We observed several hundred thousand cranes and 300,000 snow geese in […]

  • Door to Nature: Eastern Phoebe

    Late March is the time when we usually would see the first eastern phoebe returning to our yard if it was a mild, early spring. This year it may not show up until April. The phoebe is a flycatcher that migrates south to spend the winter in warmer climates – often only as far as […]

  • The Horned Lark Is Our Skylark

    I keep looking along the country roadsides, hoping to see my first horned lark of the spring. A friend living in Sturgeon Bay said he saw his first one on February 28. That is a very late first date; however, the heavy snow cover of this winter is making it difficult for most birds and […]

  • Door to Nature: A Tough Time for Wild Turkeys

    The very deep snow that has been with us since the middle of January is covering the ground in my woods to a depth of 26 inches. The food that countless wild creatures seek is buried in white and may stay that way for many weeks to come. My friend Beth, who lives in far […]

  • Door to Nature: Ready for Spring

    A report came in on Feb. 17 from a birder in Brown County that the first horned larks and an eastern meadowlark were seen along a rural road east of Bellevue. He also said that the horned larks were seen mostly near the shoulders of the country roads. I keep daily weather records of temperature, […]

  • Door to Nature: Ash Trees and the Emerald Ash Borer

    It was during the last Sturgeon Bay Christmas bird count when I noticed that several trees in the Logan Creek wetland along Sunny Slope Road had much of their bark missing. They appeared to be infected with the emerald ash borer, an aggressive insect from Asia. The dreaded invasion was first seen in 2002 near […]

  • Door to Nature: Eastern Screech Owl

    It was five years ago when we had our last polar vortex – during that winter when most of the Great Lakes were nearly totally frozen. I remember how cold it was from January on, and the wind and blowing snow made driving quite hazardous at times. In January 2014, precipitation was 28 inches of […]

  • Door to Nature: The Valentine Bird

    A recent inquiry came from a friend who lives just north of Sturgeon Bay saying that she’d heard the song of a cardinal and wondered whether it was a sign of spring. I answered telling her that it certainly could be – but remember what happened last year when winter returned in April. The male […]

  • Door to Nature: Buteos of Door County

    I occasionally see a red-tailed hawk sitting on a power pole or on the electric wires along Highway 42 about a mile north of Carlsville. These birds used to be more plentiful, as were other large hawks, but their numbers have decreased during the past few decades. The red-tail is the most common open-country hawk, […]

  • Door to Nature: The Dogwood Family

    Few native shrubs in northeastern Wisconsin are as easy to identify in a winter landscape, even from a distance, as the red dogwood. The crimson-red stems visually announce their beauty along practically every lakeshore, in moist thickets, in marshes and along the margins of swamps. The name “red osier dogwood” is what many people call […]

  • Door to Nature: The Rare American Elm Trees

    I grew up in Milwaukee and remember our shaded residential street lined with tall, graceful American elms. Their wide crowns met and arched high above the avenue, giving it the look of a gothic cathedral ceiling. Then the dreaded Dutch elm disease struck, and the trees were cut down, leaving stark, bare, bright, sunny pavement […]

  • Door to Nature: Predators of Feeder Birds

    I fill the front-yard bird feeders about an hour before sunset each day so the birds will have “supper,” and I know there will be enough food left in the morning for the early risers. How would you like to spend a cold, windy, snowy night sleeping outdoors? Granted, there are some winter campers who […]

  • Door to Nature: Great Horned Owl

    Which species of bird lives and nests in more counties in the continental United States than any other? The answer is the great horned owl, and that may come as a surprise to many people. It is a bird that is most active at night and does not visit feeders like some other species, except […]

  • Door to Nature: Christmas Bird Counts

    This year was my 47th consecutive year of organizing Door County Christmas bird counts. My first one was in 1972: the year Roy and I were married. Roy worked at The Ridges Sanctuary as well as teaching full time in several schools. I had a part-time job working as a dental hygienist in Sister Bay. […]

  • Door to Nature: Snow, Ice and Jack Frost

    Photography by Roy Lukes One of the great joys of living in the North Country is watching a “mega-flake” snowfall. It was in mid-February 1985 when such an event began. The flakes were huge, flat and fell with very little wind, making them drift down like chicken feathers, as our good friend Ted Kubicz described […]