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Environmental Education

  • Sullivan's Woods
  • History of Sullivan's Woods
  • Monarch Butterflies Roost north of Oshkosh 9-5-10
  • Oshkosh-Larsen Trail Prairies
  • Salamander Survey



     During fall of 2016 close to 650 5th grade students from the Oshkosh Area School District experienced an environmental education day at Sullivan’s Woods.  For the past 30+ years Winnebago Audubon members have volunteered to guide the students and assist with their assignments.  Thanks to all the following people who donated their time and experience: Coordinator - Zaiga Freivalds, Carolyn Blassingame, Rebecca Eyer, Pam and Larry Lang, Linda Loker, Lisa Minew, Jaci Mueller, Dave Moon, Jerry Schaefer, Jean Snowhook, Barb Urbrock.

     More volunteers are urgently needed, for both the spring and fall, as many of our older “Friends” are no longer able to walk the trails.  Teaching experience is not necessary as you can learn by shadowing a veteran guide.  For more info call Zaiga Freivalds at 233-5914.

HISTORY OF SULLIVAN'S WOODS                                          

         By Katherine D. Rill,

         August 12, 2002

     In pre-settlement times, native prairies and oak openings were present in the part of Winnebago County where Sullivan’s Woods is now located. The idea to plant a prairie was conceived by Winnebago Audubon Society and The Friends of Sullivan’s Woods in 1988 with the encouragement of Ray Wachholz, Environmental Coordinator of the Oshkosh Area School District.

     An open area of approximately one acre of mostly reed canary grass was selected to establish a prairie. The goal was to plant prairie grasses and forbs to give students some idea of what a prairie looked like in the early days and acquaint them with some of the plants that may have been present.

     To oversee the project, The Don Vorpahl Landscape/Environmental Planners was hired. Audubon members were told the first challenge would be to get rid of the reed canary grass and other weedy species before preparing the soil for planting. Using the herbicide Roundup was the recommended approach, but there were concerns about its use. Consultant Don Vorpahl said that the job could be done without an herbicide but that hand pulling weeds and a regime of plowing and waiting for weed seeds to sprout between plowings would be necessary. Members were willing to take this approach even though it involved more work. He suggested a three till, multiple-harrow plan, supplemented by hand raking and weed removal at each stage with a final goal on planting day of having a firm seed bed with fine textured soil as free of weeds and weed seeds as possible. This plan was implemented and willing volunteers spent many hours removing weeds. On the day of the actual planting, July 8, 1989, a group of volunteers hand planted forbs and grass seedlings and broadcast other seeds. Then all that was necessary was to wait for nature to do its work.

     In order for a prairie to continue to grow in Wisconsin on the prairie/forest border, shrubs and trees that will encroach must be eliminated. Prairies remained open in pre-settlement times because of fires caused by lightning or fires set by Indians to aid their hunting and agriculture. What this meant, was that periodically, the prairie must be burned. This was done initially in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and later burns were carried out by The Friends of Sullivan’s Woods.

     Since 1988, the Sullivan’s Woods prairie has matured into a creditable example of the original prairies and is a valuable teaching tool for Oshkosh Area School District students.




Carla Hansen, who witnessed this spectacular event, took these two great photos.  From all accounts, the monarch migration peaked Labor Day weekend 2010.  We tagged 26 monarchs during our Audubon tagging. Over a three period, Janet Wissink tagged 44 monarchs at home in her small prairie.  Anita Carpenter reported counting over 300 monarchs flying southward over her home in just one hour. Despite the loss of over 50% of the monarch population in Mexico last winter (2010) because of severe weather, they have experienced ideal weather conditions this spring and summer and their population seems to have rebounded.


Oshkosh-Larson Trail Prairies are found on the Wiouwash Recreation Trail and designated as a State Natural Area.

  • These prairies are located in a series of 4 separate remnants within a 4 mile segment of a former railroad right-of-way.  The trail has become popular for walking, running and biking.  But, not many of the users know the important prairie plants that reside in these protected areas.
  • Winnebago Audubon is playing a role in the education, maintanance and management of this State Natural Area.  As with most prairies, fires and brush control are necessary to limit succession to encourage the noteworthy grasses and forbs. 
  • Notable Grasses:  Little blue-stem,  Indian grass,  Prairie drop-seed,  Cord grass
  • Notable Forbs:  Shooting star,  Blazing star,  Downy phlox,  White-lettuce,  Mountain mint,  Compass plant,  Prairie-dock,  Valerian
  • Colorful Autumn Plants:  Riddell's goldenrod,  Heath aster,  Sunflowers,  Stiff goldenrod,  Downy gentian
  • Winnebago Audubon will continue to schedule work parties for shrub cutting and stump treating to control non-native and invasive species to encourage prairie plants.
  • Winnebago Audubon will conduct field trips throughout the seasons to identify prairie plants and help educate the public as to the value of this State Natural Area.
  • Work day on the Oshkosh-Larson Prairie on the Wiouwash Recreation Trail near County Road GG in November 2008.

  • Field trip to educate and appreciate what the Oshkosh-Larson Trail Prairie has to offer the public.


      2008: Winnebago Audubon participates in

    Wisconsin’s First Salamander Survey

   The Wisconsin Audubon Council, Inc. (WAC,) a coalition of the state’s 14 independent chapters and two National Audubon centers, received a grant from the Citizen-Based Monitoring Network of Wisconsin in August 2007 to coordinate a statewide survey of salamanders. Herpetology experts with the WDNR and state universities are guiding this effort. Members of Wisconsin Audubon chapters will serve as citizen monitors. Four Winnebago Audubon families have volunteered to participate.

   Each volunteer family will be advised when to place their five live traps in a local breeding pond based on criteria provided. Volunteers will check the traps daily over a one-week period, probably in early April, and enter their catch results on a data sheet. There will be a second period in early July when they will be asked to place their traps again for 6 consecutive days. 

   Wisconsin has seven salamander species. The survey focuses on four species that breed in shallow woodland pools: the tiger, spotted and blue-spotted salamanders and the central newt. This survey brings attention to these secretive creatures, gives wildlife managers’ much-needed distribution data, and promotes the value of wetlands and woodland pools.

   According to Randy Korb, WAC president and project director, monitors will receive web-based training, receive data sheets and materials to build their traps before the survey begins in early April 2008.