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Bird Nests and Other Surprises on Skemp 2!

We often see bird nests on the oaks and other trees growing on the Skemp 2 property on the corner of F and FA on the way to Upper Hixon. Red-winged blackbirds are one of the birds that regularly nest there. As we work on the trees, these birds often dive bomb us if we get too close to their nests! The cages around these young trees seem to offer extra protection and attract these and other birds as good nest building sites. Here is a photo of a red-winged blackbird nest in a young bur oak with a growing brood:

Here is a photo of a the nest of a red-winged blackbird starting a second brood in a young shagbark hickory:

It is interesting to ponder the choices of birds and where they build their nests. And it's nice to see the birds finding homes in this new habitat.

But wait, did anyone notice anything else in the second photo? Yes, what are those little blue bugs scattered around on the leaves and stems of the hickory?

They are leafhoppers! Leafhoppers are very common- there are an estimated 20,000 species of leafhoppers worldwide and 3,000 in North America. They feed on the sap of many plants, some being generalists attracted to many plants, others being more host specific. Sometimes they can be a pest in gardens and on agricultural plants, but in general they are an important part of the web of life providing food for many species of birds, reptiles, and other insects. Some are drab but others are quite vivid showing off beautiful colors like the blue one in the photo. If they are disturbed, they quickly jump forwards, backwards, or sideways to get away and fly off. Hence the name. This one is probably the blue leafhopper, Chlorotettix melanotus. There is a list of rare leafhoppers in Wisconsin and we hope to find some of these on the prairies and forests being restored: . Here is a fun YouTube about leafhoppers:

From bacteria and fungi in the soil, to all of the invertebrates like leafhoppers, to the birds and all the other critters that live on the bluffs, many are finding new places to call home as restoration efforts continue. Please consider joining us in the effort as a volunteer or with a contribution.

As an aside, maybe I can relate to leafhoppers more than the average person because I’m also a “sapper”! Each March, I tap a bunch of sugar maples and make maple syrup. So hurray for sappers and delights of sap!

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