Door County Festival of Nature

Every Spring at the end of May the Ridges Santuary organizes the Door County Festival of Nature, celebrating the natural beauty of the Door Penisula.

This year I went to the dinner and three of the 64 nature experiences offered.

Dinner featured organic meats from Waseda Farms and local greens. We ate at the About Thyme Farm with chandeliers hanging from the rafters. After dinner since it was still daylight, we took a leisurely drive to Baileys Harbor Town Hall. There we met our first tour group.

It was cold, so just eight brave souls climbed on the birdie bus to listen to “Spring Voices of the Night”. The bus was warm, but I wished I’d brought my winter coat. Our volunteer leader Paul, drove us to local swamps that vibrated with the spring trills of the frogs. As we walked along the road he differentiated the high pitched spring peepers from the trilling song of eastern gray tree frog.

Dusk on Kangaroo Lake, Door County, WI, USA

Trying to find mudpuppies in the cold water

 

I hadn’t heard anything like this since I was a little girl on my father’s farm.

The next morning we rested because I ‘d signed us up for a “STRENUOUS Bushwhacking Adventure” starting at 1:30 pm. We arrived at 1:20 leaders Jane and Julie stared at my nice hiking boots, ” Do you have anything else? We will be going through mud and water.”

“I have some old tennis shoes in the car.” I ran off to put them on and remove my jacket. It was actually warm out.

We car pooled driving a short way to The Ridges property. We proceeded to hack our way through the bush using just walking sticks.

We walked over and under fallen logs

Up close and personal with a marsh marigold

 

The air was warm so having wet feet wasn’t a problem. People with rubber waders had more trouble because they wanted to stick in the muck.

We stopped for a snack by a gravel pit lake and then slogged back to our cars. We even met a local resident enjoying the sunshine:

A small garter snake

We returned to our cars guided through the woods by our guides gps. I felt invigorated, my feet enjoyed squishing through the soft woodland floor. I showered as soon as I got home and checked for woodticks, but found none.

We got up early the next day for our last adventure of this year’s festival: “Wetlands of the Bayshore Blufflands”. Tracy took us to two spectacular Land Trust properties. First we stopped at Oak Road Nature Preserve. It was just a quick stop and Tracy encouraged us to stop back later. The video is from my return stop. You can hear a pied grebe calling below the other swamp sounds with thunder threatening in the sky above:

 

We then were guided to a private preserve where the owners had built a walkway elevated above a restored swamp. They had been pulling invasive canary reed grass for 20 years and the natural swamp had returned.

The walkway through the swamp from recycled timber

 

The ash trees are dying from emerld ash borer, not sure what will replace them

Native sedges in the swamp

 

Eastern gray tree frog

Giant water bug that eats crustaceans

The last picture shows some of the creatures that live in the ephemeral swamp that does not have fish because it dries up. A little frog tadpole swims in the left hand corner.

If you’re interested in participating in next year’s festival of nature go to the Ridges website early in April to sign up. Places fill up quickly. The guides are knowledgeable volunteers and all proceeds go to preserving nature. Free for children under 18.

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