• The trails are wet and Big Creek is "up."

What’s Happening: Creating Bonds

Red Squirrel – Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS

At Crossroads at Big Creek, the creatures seem to sense Valentine’s Day. A few days ago, we noticed a pair of red fox showing great interest in each other. Love (or at least pair bonding) is in the air, and as the days get increasing longer, courtship behaviors are blooming throughout the preserve.

Fox start to pair up in January and by Valentine’s Day, they are hunting in pairs and traveling together. Coyotes are also getting that loving feeling. Often this time of year, we hear the male and female coyotes howling sweet nothings to each other.

Those grey squirrels you see chasing each other through the trees? They are NOT playing tag. The courtship chase can become quite frenzied with both males and females making funny “chuck” sounds to each other. This behavior is the prelude to mating and the dominant male usually gets the privilege of fathering the next generation.

Little red squirrels come into heat in February. When a female gives off a chemical come-on, males will show up and chase her, sometimes hours at a time. Oddly, males seem to be following the scent trail rather than following the female herself.

In the Air AND in the Water

It may be a little early for the otters in the Cove Preserve to be courting. Researchers think that in Wisconsin, mating takes place in March or April….but they aren’t sure. Otters mate under water, and if there is ice, they mate below Ice and water. And then to complicate things, river otters have “delayed implantation” means the fertilized eggs remain dormant in the female’s uterus for 10–11 months after breeding. Apparently, this is a reproductive strategy which means the mother will not start gestation until conditions are favorable.

Our backyard birds already seem to be responding to hormonal change brought about by lengthening day light. On our precious sunny days, we are hearing the two-note breeding song of male chickadees, and at backyard feeders, male cardinals are beginning to be less aggressive toward the females, meaning courtship will be starting soon.

Up and Coming at Crossroads

This weekend, February 16-19 Crossroads, the Door County Land Trust, and The Ridges Sanctuary are teaming up to encourage Door Peninsula residents to participate in a community science initiative called the Great Backyard Bird County. On February 12, 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm these groups are sponsoring a webinar to help potential participants to prepare. The program will cover the best tools to use, how to think taxonomically, and, if there is time, tips to identify some of our most common birds by sight and sound. Register online with the Door County Land Trust to receive the Zoom Link.

On Tuesday, February 20 at 6:30, The Door County Beekeepers Club will feature Virtual Presentation by the Minnesota Bee Squad.  This is the teaching and outreach arm of the University of Minnesota Bee Research Facility. These people know bees, but honeybee romance?  Not so much. It is true that a virgin queen bee is irresistible to the drones, but it is a fatal attraction. This program is open to the free and open to the public.

If we get adequate snow, watch our website for information, trail conditions and hours for Ski-for-Free.

Love is in the air, and we at Crossroads can’t let the week go by without expressing our love for our donors, our volunteers and our visitors who share our love for a very special piece of land, its plants, its animals and its water.

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

Friday, February 16

5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Fire & Ice Weekend Luminary-lit Hike

Help kick-off Sturgeon Bay’s Fire & Ice Weekend with a candle-lit walk. Join us for a walk on one of our trails marked by the enchanting glow of luminaries. Once the luminaries guide you back to the nature center, take some time to warm up around a campfire with a cup of hot chocolate and the warm company of fellow nature enthusiasts. Free and open the public. Meet at the Collins Learning Center, Crossroads, 2041 Michigan St., Sturgeon Bay.

Saturday, February 17

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Science Saturdays: Ice Harvest

As a part of the Fire & Ice Weekend, Pat Madden, Mike Madden and Dan Hanson will revisit the Sturgeon Bay Ice Harvest using authentic period tools to show how ice was cut and transported. Kids might get a chance to cut ice and to move ice cakes like the ice cutters of yore. Fun and informative for all ages. Dress for the weather. Meet in front of the Collins Learning Center, 2041 Michigan St. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, February 20

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The Door County Beekeepers Club

The Beekeepers club will offer Virtual Presentation by the Minnesota Bee Squad.  This is the teaching and outreach arm of the University of Minnesota Bee Research Facility and it promises to be fascinating.

This program is open to the free and open to the public. Meet in the Collin Learning Center, Crossroads, 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay.

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