Category Archives: Ecology

Life beneath the Snow

About 15 people joined Master Naturalist Paul Noeldner in February to learn about “life beneath the snow” as part of a FUN Bird & Nature Outing. 

The crisp winter walk from Goodman Community Center along the bike path to Starkweather Creek revealed a variety of winter birds, squirrels, tracks and tunnels in the snow where critters take shelter and find their animal ‘grocery stores’ of plant seeds, tree buds, bark, buried nuts and other food caches to survive the winter. 

Taking a route through Olbrich Gardens provided an opportunity to enjoy a campfire and look for willow buds and other winter phenology in the trees and bushes. The group very much appreciated the indoor space provided by outing co-sponsor Goodman Community Center to meet, look at the insulating properties of fur and feathers, and warm up before and after the outing.

Current health crisis advisories are keeping us indoors a lot. One thing that health officials are advising for improving both mental and physical health is spending time outdoors in nature!

By keeping a recommended 6 foot safe social distance you can enjoy some nature and sunshine and enjoy contacts with friends on a walk. The birds are singing and soon the frogs will be calling and leaves will be budding on trees. A walk in nature is great for physical health. Seeing nature do its thing is great for lifting spirits and a sense of well being!

This health crisis is helping us understand just how important little things like time in nature are for all of us. Especially in urban areas we need nearby nature to enjoy! The birds and animals and pollinators all need these natural areas too.

– Paul Noedler, Friends of Starkweather Creek board member

February Nature Walk

What happens when you get a sunny 50 degree day in February, with half
of the FSC board and 14 people total and a few dogs??? A tree
crawl…no beer needed. Don’t let Sean Gere fool you with his Clark Kent
glasses…he is a super hero for the trees!….he has over 26 years
experience, teaching, learning and sharing his knowledge with people
from all around the world. Sean Gere explaing about the trees he loves

Sean helped us identify about 25 to 30 different species of trees;
he shared in showing us the different characteristics of the buds, how to
identify them…and just some good ol’ tree rules of thumb! Carl, Dave &
Deborah rounded out the remaining board members…the usual suspects as of late. Who wants to eat some seeds!

Since Dave is easily distracted on a warm day…he decided to join the
kids in throwing sticks as far as they could in Worth Park’s open
field, next to the bike path. The kids and Deborah worked on daring each other into eating some of the tree seeds that they found on the ground, from the previous two seasons. When it became time to move, the kids felt like helping mother nature melt the snow by, making sure the ice made its way down the storm drain….jamming as much ice as they could in there!…this left mother nature to share the gift of calming winds & bright warm rays on our faces.

The walk ended before we hit Milwaukee street! As everyone else went
back to Goodman, Carl, Deborah and the kids started a new adventure;
they went seeking out one tree…this one tree is visited every time
Carl takes you on a tour…it’s a very special tree in the watershed This tree has many stories, which these kids can tell you about!

January nature walk

Monthly nature outings at Starkweather Creek are a great way to explore this local, urban gem! Outings each month vary, but thus far have included canoeing, biking, sledding, and hiking. A handful of us stepped out into the Starkweather Watershed last Saturday for what seemed like a spring-like walk…it was nearing 50 degrees and melting snow created puddles that were knee-deep…the kids who joined us had a blast splashing in them.

We meandered through the little trails near the Milwaukee Street area; this particular area is great because it is the perfect blend of an urban environment and nature — housing in the visible distance leads to tree lined trails and the creek. On one of the trails, we came across had vine-like branches that hang down, 50 feet tall & strong enough for adults to swing on! Continuing on, the trails takes us near Fair Oaks, which made for an adventurous crossing as we slid our way haphazardly in rubber boots and shoes across a natural ice skating rink that Mother Nature had created for us.

Join us on a future outing, which occurs the third Saturday of every month from 10-11:30 AM, meeting at the Goodman Community Center. Check out our events calendar for upcoming events!

FreshWater Engineering Report on Starkweather Creek

Friends of Starkweather Creek is proud to have worked with the City of Madison Engineering and FreshWater Engineering to produce an updated report on sampling for toxicities on the creek.

Here is a link to the draft report. Draft Final Semipermeable Membrane
Device (SPMD) Water Quality Sampling Study of Starkweather Creek

The original sampling for the Water Resources Management report, Starkweather Creek Watershed: Current Conditions and Improvement Strategies in an Urban Context, showed the worst water quality in a golf course ditch and a site immediately downstream of the airport. The third most toxic location after the ditch and airport was a site near Milwaukee Street.

The updated sampling compared the 2005 study to the current 2016 study and found that “water quality has improved in all sampling site locations except for the “East Towne Mall” location. Considering toxicity, the primary area of concern is the “Golf Course Ditch” location. This is by far the area where the water quality is the worst. This water within the creek throughout this reach is standing water during base conditions with little to no flow. The airport is also a concern for pollution as the results show that between the above and below airport testing sites, there is a 55% light reduction over approximately 3.5 miles of creek length. The land adjacent to this length of creek is owned and operated by the Dane County Regional Airport and though it’s still in poor condition compared to the rest of the creek, this reach has shown improvement since the 2005 study.

Interest in the Kipp Corporation’s effluent discharging into Starkweather Creek was brought up as a potential source of contamination to the creek…. However, from the background research that was reviewed and the results of the SPMD analysis, there is no noticeable increase in (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) PAHs downstream of the Kipp Corporation. Sample analysis indicates, the Kipp Corporation effluent does not decrease the water quality in Starkweather Creek or contribute additional PAHs to the waterbody.”

We will post the final report when it is ready.