On many spring days during my formative years in Manitowoc, a shift of the afternoon wind turned a sunny, warm, pleasant time to a cool, damp one. At that time of year, “cooler near the Lake” was not thought of as a benefit, and we sometimes envied those living farther west as Bobby Nelson recounted the days temperatures on the evening news. In July, however, we relished those same breezes that often kept us out of the 90’s felt elsewhere. Now, it seems that my comfort range has shifted downward slightly, and I’m more and more grateful for the moderation of the air the Lake provides. Likewise, I think many of us naturally take Lake Michigan for granted, not thinking about it’s amazing effects on our landscape and our lives.
As our preserve, and those of Point Beach and others, lie adjacent to the Lake, it’s affects on our wildlife are profound. The shoreline is a hub of wildlife activity, giving us the opportunity to encounter wildlife species which travel long distances using the shore as a guide. Gulls and sandpipers from the arctic visit here, as do ducks and loons and hawks and eagles. Snowy owls venture down around the Great Lakes (33 have been reported in Wisconsin so far this fall). Songbirds from Canada hug the shore as they journey perilously between summer and winter residences. Each year about 250 or more species of birds are seen in our county, thanks in large part to the shoreline. Most of us don’t realize it, but this is a very special place for birds.
And it’s the same for other kinds of wildlife. Plants usually found in the far north can survive near the Lake, so we have a very diverse mix of plant species. That gives rise to a similar diversity of kinds of other animals- from spiders that originally came here when our coast was more closely associated with the ocean to our east and are now isolated here, to bears that wander along the Lake in search of new homes, and all other manner of creatures. Combined with the varying, glacially-carved geology of Manitowoc County, there are no end to interesting places, from the many natural areas along the Shore to the dozens of kettle-lakes inland, Collins and Killsnake marshes, and the bedrock outcrops of Cato Falls and Maribel Caves. Each holds something special for us to experience, and that is multiplied fourfold by the change of seasons. One could never run out of interesting things to see and wonder about in a place like ours.
We are thankful that the people of this County have thought enough of such places to designate them as areas managed for the benefit of all things human and wild. I was tempted to use the words “set aside”, but really they shouldn’t be thought of that way. They are critically important to keep alive a diversity of living things, and for our own health and well-being.
We have many things to be thankful for in this county and country, and it never hurts to remind ourselves of that. Spending a moment in appreciation for the nature that sustains us is only fitting.