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What’s Happening: Celebrate Red, White, and Blue with Crossroads

Although the Collins Learning Center will be closed on Independence Day, our trails (like always) will still be open all day, every day, so on Thursday, holiday hikers may see red, white and blue birds on each of our three Crossroads preserves.

Then July 5 at 5:30 pm, as is our tradition, Crossroads will sponsor a free First Friday Event and this month, we will be having a fire with smores at our Council Ring. Reservations are not needed to attend. Attendees can socialize, tell stories, and make s’mores.

On Thursday, July 11 at 5:30 pm, as part of Crossroad’s Resources for Landowner Series, Jason Barrack, one of Door County’s NRCS agents, will present “An Introduction to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”  NRCS helps private landowners improve the health of their operations while protecting natural resources for the future.

The natural resources of Door County would have been far different in 1776.  Our nation came into being near the end of the “Little Ice Age”—which was not really an ice age, but rather a 600-year cool period which caused extreme hardship, crop failure, famine and death in both Europe and North America.

So when Europeans first explored the Door Peninsula, they found a shore-to shore northern coniferous forest such as we might now find in Canada. Early explorers and surveyors wrote in their journals about trees and soil, but they rarely, if ever, mentioned birds and wildflowers. So we can only speculate whether we had red, white and blue birds here then.

Blue jays, though much maligned and arguably noisy birds, may be the reason we have deciduous trees in Door County.  Many ecologists credit blue jays (which bury acorns and nuts) with planting our oak and  beech trees.  And until we had mature oak trees, it is unlikely that scarlet tanagers (which my father insisted on calling “black-winged redbirds”) were nesting in the tree canopies.

Indigo buntings (which in sunlight really are as blue as the flag) nest in brushy areas and they apparently moved into this part of Wisconsin only after the forests were logged out and farms and rural development created the edge habitat they prefer.

According the extraordinarily well-researched book, “Wisconsin Birdlife” by Samuel Robbins, northern cardinals did not reach Door County until the 1940s. They too nest in low shrubs and trees in or near open areas (but do move into residential areas in the winter to take advance of bird feeding stations.)

And white? We’ve probably always had gulls, but our stunning white pelicans are recent arrivals to Door County, though for the last decade they have been fairly common.

We can’t really know what birds were here before 1776, but we do know that the climate has changed significantly since then. And knowing how to adapt to current and future conditions is an important part of restoration. So we hope landowners and managers and anyone interested in restoration, will take advantage of the natural resource professionals who will be presenting programs at Crossroads this summer.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Family Summer Fun!

We are thrilled to welcome back our Summer Naturalist Joan Wilkie. Joan will be offering exciting programs throughout the summer for all ages and all backgrounds. Like all Crossroads programming this opportunity is free to all.

Joan’s first program will be “Glaciers.” 🧊 The most recent advance of the Ice Age glaciers indeed did give us the most valuable gift in the universe—an abundant supply of liquid fresh water. It also gave us gorgeous scenery, a moderated climate and our precious peninsula.

But the way this is presented in most text books and on many sites on the Internet, one gets the idea that a glacier came and then it melted and consequently, we now have five beautiful lakes. Our glacial history is far more complicated than that, reaching back some 200 million years.

What geologists know for sure is that there were four major glacial advances, but based on sediment cores from ocean floors, they speculate that there were many glacial and interglacial periods in the past and these all helped create the topography that determined the most recent glacial advance.

When and how the “the Great Thaw” began is not settled science (nor do geologists agree on how Lake Superior was formed), but we do know that the weight of the glacial ice was so great that the Earth’s crust was deformed.

We have evidence in the form of post-glacial lake terraces, that for the past ten thousand years or so, the land has been rising—rebounding. The ancient shorelines also indicate that the shape, water volume and depth of Lake Michigan has changed significantly a number of times. And although advancing ice may have carved out the lake basins, or at least enlarged pre-existing valleys, the melting ice deposited sediment ranging from tiny grains of sand to boulders on what currently is the Door Peninsula.

So although the last glacial advance gave us the gifts of freshwater lakes and spectacular scenery, the retreating ice sheets left us with very little soil, but instead, gave us wetlands and sand dunes and areas with heavy clay and in some places, odd hills called drumlins which are unsorted piles of rocks of varying sizes. The Door Peninsula has acid soils and basic soils… sometimes mere inches apart.

These glaciers and their influence on the landscape gave way to the other topics Joan and Nature Program attendees will experience July 1-3rd. July 1st is glaciers, July 2nd is insect safari, and July 3rd is Great Lakes Fish.

For more information please check out our events page or stop by the Collins Learning Center and pick up a printed calendar.

Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and land restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support. 

As always, our trails are open all day every day, free of charge. Check the Crossroads website calendar for upcoming events and details.


Upcoming Activities

Monday, July 1

10:00 – 11:00 am Summer Nature Programs – Glaciers

Join one of our naturalists for some free family-oriented activities and nature exploration. Suitable for all ages. This time we are talking about glaciers! Glaciers provided Wisconsin with an amazing gift – our Great Lakes! We’ll explore how glacial ice has transformed our landscapes.


Tuesday, July 2

10:00 – 11:00 am Summer Nature Programs – Insect Safari

Join one of our naturalists for some free family-oriented activities and nature exploration. Suitable for all ages. This time we are taking an insect safari! Let’s find the secrets of insects as they transform from egg to adult. Hand lenses and collecting nets provided.


Wednesday, July 3

10:00 – 11:00 am Summer Nature Programs – Great Lakes Fish

Join one of our naturalists for some free family-oriented activities and nature exploration. Suitable for all ages. This time we are talking about fish! Discover the wonders of our Lake Michigan fisheries.


Friday, July 5

5:30 p.m. First Fridays at Crossroads

Join us on the first Fridays of June, July and August for a fun, free, family-friendly outdoor event. This month we are hosting a campfire and smores at the Council Ring.

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