Savage Beauty

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MTT News Desk's picture
Falconer David Zilker with “Miss Genoa," a red-tailed hawk.

Falconer David Zilker, accompanied by a female red-tailed hawk named “Miss Genoa,” gave an educational presentation to the Friends of Pheasant Branch on Thursday, March 21.

Middletonians packed into Clark Street Community School, where Zilker spoke about the ancient art of hunting with birds of prey, as well as explaining the important environmental role these stunning predators play. Zilker is director of the Wisconsin Falconers Association-Southwest Region.

Citizens can join the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy for free Conservancy Day programs on the third Thursday of every month. RSVPs are appreciated by organizers, and should be sent to Colleen at 608-767-2394 or

All programs are family friendly, unless otherwise noted below:


“Birds, Birds and more Birds – and American Woodcocks!”

April 18 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Guide: Mike McDowell

Meet at parking lot 1.2 miles north of Century Avenue on Pheasant Branch Road (fire number 4864). Please RSVP if you need to borrow binoculars at the event.

Back again, this spring Conservancy Day Program is sure to be a treat for anyone who enjoys seeing birds usher in the warm seasons. The group will walk about one mile. Young children will need an adult to help them find birds and use binoculars.


“Wisconsin Frog & Toad Survey”

May 16 from 8-9 p.m.

Guide: Andrew Badje, Wis. DNR

Meet at the Orchid Heights Park Shelter, 4198 Park Trail, Middleton. The Wisconsin Frog & Toad Survey (WFTS) is a citizen-based monitoring technique used to detect the health of Wisconsin’s frog and toad species. Volunteers visit 10 sites along a route and listen for five minutes at each one, recording all the species they hear. Each route is monitored three times per year.

Come and learn the brief history of the WFTS and how to complete a route. The guide will also help identify all 12 frog and toad species in Wisconsin, both by sight and by their breeding calls. The group will walk to one or a few nearby wetlands and ponds.


“Fireflies and other beetles”

June 20 from 8-9:30 p.m.

Guide: Colleen Feist, naturalist

Meet at the Orchid Heights Park Shelter, 4198 Park Trail, Middleton. When is a bug not a bug? What message does a firefly send to other fireflies with it’s blinking light? What is the Lost Ladybug Project? Learn answers to all of these questions and more. This program is packed with educational activities for adults and children.


“A better home for Northern Pike”

July 18 from 1-3 p.m.

Guide: Jens Jensen and Aaron Steber of Cardno JFNew

Meet where Pheasant Branch creek crosses Century Avenue in Middleton, between Dewey Court and Tomahawk Court. This program is geared toward an adult audience

Enjoy a field trip to learn more about wildlife habitat management. In 2011, restoration experts from Cardno JFNew assisted the City of Middleton to create Northern Pike spawning habitat in the Conservancy. The goal was to create shallow, seasonally flooded spawning habitat in the floodplain of Pheasant Branch Creek, which eventually drains into Lake Mendota. Northern Pike from Lake Mendota can migrate to these spawning areas during the spring to lay eggs. Then, the areas provide a safe haven for small fry to grow before re-entering the lake. Cardno JFNew worked to improve the stream habitat for Northern Pike. Eroding stream banks were leaving few places for fish to hide, eat and rest in the stream. Our guides will show us how habitat was re-built in the stream, why it is important for the fish, and the difference it has made so far.

Dress for the weather. There may be up to two miles of walking.


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