By Coggin Heeringa, Program Director/Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek
Saturday, May 8 promises to be a big day at Crossroads. In the morning, Crossroads Habitat Healers will participate in the Climate Change Coalition of Door County’s BIG PLANT. In the evening, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold a BIG SCOPE VIEWING NIGHT to introduce the community to the amazing telescope housed in the Leif Everson Observatory.
And if those events are not big enough, Crossroads will also be participating in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s GLOBAL BIG DAY during which people watch birds from midnight until midnight Saturday, May 8. Last year, 50,000 people from 175 countries participated. This really is big.
At Crossroads, we ask that folks who participate in eBird spend some of their GLOBAL BIG DAY either at The Cove or Big Creek Preserve, or at our Ida Bay Preserve. We anticipate, based on last year’s records, that there will be migrants of many species at Crossroads this weekend and we would like to document them as a part of our restoration project.
Because we have received grants from the Fund for Lake Michigan, Sustain Our Great Lakes, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we are obligated not only to do restoration work to improve habitat, but also to monitor the results. Our somewhat audacious goal is to earn designation as a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention sometime within the next two decades.
Why is restoring a wetland such a big deal? We suspect that our preserve already is of international importance as a stopover spot for migrating birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds that have been flying from South and Central America need a place to rest, recuperate and to feed before finishing the final leg of their journey north to the tundra.
Crossroads and other shoreline and wetland sites along the Door Peninsula may provide the last stopover for some birds, because as they fly over the expansive evergreen forests of Canada, waterfowl will not find fish and aquatic plants; shorebirds will not find the insect-rich mudflats they need to fuel their flight and to build up the fat reserves they need to ensure breeding success. Our shorelines, wetlands and associated forests are extremely important for migrating birds.
We will offer several GLOBAL BIG DAY guided hikes for those who want to join this community science activity.
In a very real way, the Crossroads BIG PLANT is for the birds … and for pollinating insects and other wildlife. On May 8, we plan to plant 50 black cherry, 60 aspen, 50 sugar maples and 50 balsam fir.
The flowers of black cherry are a great source of pollen for wild bees, and the fleshy fruit is relished by thrushes, woodpeckers, sparrows, bluebirds, tanagers, orioles and cedar waxwings.
A surprising number of birds feed on aspen leaf buds in the spring and 324 species of butterflies and moths use aspen as a caterpillar host plant, which means songbirds will find food to feed their young.
Purple finch, goldfinch and nuthatches feed on the seeds, buds and flowers of sugar maples. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers tap the maples, and hummingbirds sip from the sapsucker sap wells.
Small mammals eat the seeds from balsam fir, but the firs’ greatest contribution to wildlife is that they provide dense cover for birds during migration and inclement weather.
Anyone is welcome to join us to help plant trees. Habitat Healers meets every Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Big Scope Night is the monthly Viewing Night of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society. DPAS members will be outside, using green laser pointers to help visitors find constellations. But spring is “Galaxy Season,” so, weather permitting, the observatory dome will be open and the Big Telescope will be aimed at deep sky objects. Images will be projected on the large screen of the Stonecipher Astronomy Center. Following COVID precautions, small groups will be invited inside to view the amazing images from the Big Scope.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing your support to P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, or donate online at www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org.
Saturday, May 8 BIG DAY AT CROSSROADS
7:00 a.m. GLOBAL BIG DAY: Bird Hike at Ida Bay
Crossroads Ida Bay Preserve is currently not listed as a “Hot Spot” and it probably will never be high on the Door County list, but we suspect that with more eyes (and binoculars) out in that gem of a preserve, we will find far more species than we currently have listed. Bring binoculars if you have them Meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Canal Road and Buffalo Ridge Trail, Sturgeon Bay Easy walking.
9:30-11:30 THE BIG PLANT: Habitat Healers
Volunteers (of any age, background or ability) are invited to help plant 200 trees, help pot shrubs or participate in invasive species mitigation as a part of the county wide Big Plant. Instruction will be given. Equipment and gloves provided. Please wear clothes which can be soiled and appropriate footwear. Refreshments and fellowship following the tree planting. Meet at the Workshop/Nursery just beyond the Main Campus parking lot. 2041 Michigan, Sturgeon Bay
4:00 GLOBAL BIG DAY: Bird Hike at The Cove Preserve
The Cove attracts large numbers of birds in May….but they come and go. Join in this effort to document the birds which are in the water and the wetlands on Global Big Day.Bring binoculars if you have them Meet at the Parking Lot Kiosk of the Cove Preserve, just off Utah Street beyond the Big Creek Bridge. Trails can be very muddy.
6:30 p.m. GLOBAL BIG Day: Evening Bird Hike at the Big Creek Preserve
Birds sometimes become active in the evenings so on this gentle evening walk, participants may hear and see birds (and frogs) as the sun gets low in the sky. Bring binoculars if you have them Meet at the Main Campus Parking Lot, 2041 Michigan. Sturgeon Bay. Easy walking.
9:00 pm. BIG SCOPE NIGHT: Door Peninsula Astronomical Society Viewing Night
During their monthly Viewing Night, DPAS members will be outside, using green laser pointers to help visitors find constellations. But spring is “Galaxy Season, so weather permitting, the observatory dome will be open and the Big Telescope will be aimed at deep sky objects. Images will be projected on the big screen of the Stonecipher Astronomy Center. Following COVID precautions, small groups will be invited inside to view the amazing images from the Big Scope on the big screen. Please wear masks. Meet at the Astronomy Campus, 2011 Utah Street, Sturgeon Bay.
Tuesday, May 11, 4:30-6:30 Habitat Healers
Volunteers of all ages are invited to meet at the Workshop/Nursery. Tasks will be determined by weather and need. Instruction will be given, Equipment and gloves provided. Please wear clothes which can be soiled and appropriate footwear. Refreshments and fellowship following the tree planting. Meet at the Workshop/Nursery just beyond the Main Campus parking lot. 2041 Michigan, Sturgeon Bay