Notes from the Field – Late Summer in Wisconsin
Editor’s note: Late summer in Wisconsin. Dew on grass, rolling green hills and a hint of autumn to come with crisp mornings, and migratory birds taking flight. Animal species are out and about, and late-blooming plants are on display, providing ample opportunities for nature lovers to explore and spot beauty around every bend.
American Transmission Co. environmental project managers traverse hills and countryside monitoring construction activities year-round. They are the eyes and ears in the field, working with contractors to ensure that we demonstrate our environmental commitment.
Our new Notes from the Field blog feature will highlight in pictures and words what our environmental project managers see while they work on projects throughout our service area. This first installment features photos and observations from Michael Warwick, ATC senior environmental project manager.
Late summer in Wisconsin along the Wisconsin River
At first arrival, an osprey eating a fish on the structure south of the Wisconsin River flew away as I approached slowly for a better look. Osprey sightings are fewer and farther between as they have begun heading south for the winter. The osprey nest on the island tower near Portage, bustling with activity just a few weeks prior, was empty.
Frogs and turtles
Northern leopard frogs and green frogs were plentiful. Several turtle species, including painted, common map, and Ouachita map turtles, were basking on fallen logs in the river and quick to flee as I approached the river bank.
Butterflies and Bottle Gentian
Pollinators and plants contributing to the impressive late summer color palette of the landscape.
Protecting the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake
Exclusion fencing for the Eastern Massasauga, a state endangered snake, has been placed in areas that have not been flooded out by recent rains. The rain has caused significant issues with meeting Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources snake conservation deadlines. In some areas, the depth of water exceeds the height of the yet-to-be installed snake fencing, making installation impossible. Work will continue as soon as it is practicable.
I walked along some snake exclusion areas with our licensed snake monitor and handler for this transmission line rebuild project from Portage to Prairie du Sac. No snakes observed. A number of snake cover boards had been placed in the snake habitat areas earlier in the day. These boards must lay in place untouched for 2 weeks, then checked for snakes six times over the course of 2 to 3 weeks, with any snakes relocated to non-work areas, prior to placing mats or starting work in the area.
All of these mitigation measures were required after the Eastern Massasauga was spotted by a Wisconsin DNR volunteer earlier this spring, making it the first confirmed sighting of the snake in the project vicinity since 1976.
Michael Warwick is a senior environmental project manager at ATC. Prior to joining ATC he worked as an environmental consultant conducting tree and plant surveys, wetland delineation, GIS, project planning, community planning and permitting. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with a focus on waterway monitoring and studies, and wetland and waterway permit reviews.
Michael earned a Bachelor of Science degree in conservation and environmental sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently certified by Wisconsin DNR as an Endangered Resources Reviewer and is a member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) Outreach Committee. He volunteers his time guiding annual natural resources-based educational field trips for the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin