Squirrel in backyard is unintentially helping winter birds

This the second time I have seen a gray squirrel find his way around my squirrel trap feeder. A few day ago I caught him on the feeder and I tapped loudly on a window and he scattered off. Unfortunately, I scared two pigeons that were also feeding on dropped bird seeds exposed on frozen ground. We only have about a dozen pigeons in Minong, a  village of  521 people.  I have often wondered where they came from. Minong is  located in a valley in Northwest Wisconsin.

The squirrel was at it again this morning. No, I don’t really know if the squirrel was male; but I think of squirrels as male because they are such aggressive feeders. This morning when I saw the new snow fall, I knew that the birds would not be able to feed on the  now buried seed. This is where the squirrel came into play. By digging into the snow, he was able to expose seed and also able to feast on a nice breakfast himself.  

Without realizing it before, I now see the winter squirrel in a symbiotic relationship with winter birds. He gives a little and helps a lot when there is snow on bird seed. The birds are now able to land on the seed tray that the squirrel prepared for them.


Butterflies make partial comeback in Mexico

“Monarch butterflies, with their striking black-and-orange coloring, have made a partial recovery in numbers of butterflies migrating from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico this year, after historic lows last year.

Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group World Wildlife Fund Mexico, says the increase this year — 9.9 acres of colonies of butterflies, more than double of the 4.7 acres of last year — is positive news,” reports the Associated Press.

“These figures are encouraging, compared to last year, because they show a trend toward recovery,” Vidal said.

Lincoln Brower, an expert on monarch butterflies and a zoology professor at the University of Florida, says while this year’s recovery is good news, each time the butterflies “recover,” they still are lower than in the past.

“What is ominous is that all of the last seven years have been below average,” he said.

Rosendo Caro, director of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, says the number of tourists has fallen as much as 50% in recent years, down from as many as 110,000. Drug gangs in Michoacan, where the reserve is located, have prompted travel warnings about the area, though no violence has occurred within the 193,000-acre reserve.

Read the full article from Associated Press http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/L/LT_MEXICO_MONARCH_BUTTERFLIES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-02-14-14-54-42

American society as a whole is lossing interest in the natural world

New Mexico 2009
Native squash bloom and bumblebee

For the past two years (2009-2010), Happy Tonics, Inc. has exhibited at the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico’s Annual Xeriscape Landscaping and Water Conservation Conference.  We are proud to be connected with the Council and their work. The following article was sent by Scott Varmer, Executive Director, Xeriscape Council of New Mexico. 

by George Radnovich

Americans are staying inside in record numbers; they are playing on computers, watching television, eating perhaps too often and generally leading a very sedentary lifestyle. This has at least in part caused skyrocketing healthcare costs and obesity, especially in our children. Collateral disadvantages to this situation are that we are paying less and less attention to our outside environments as a society. This situation also does very little to educate our society about the way the natural world works and how important water is to us in arid lands. The Xeriscape Council of New Mexico sees this as an epic problem; we need to get people out into their landscapes and those of our public lands, we need to instill the wonder of looking at a flower into our children and we need to re-energize our connection to the environment and water use. Re-Connect to the Environment is the Theme of the Water Conservation Conference presented by the Council this year and I would like to be the first to Welcome you to our conference and this interesting topic!

We at the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico work very hard to deliver the most relevant topics and issues concerning our environment, water conservation and water management along with green technologies and water appropriate landscaping; these are among the most important issues of this century, and we will discuss them. However, our conference this year will concentrate on the nexus of getting people outside to learn, learn about watersheds, landscapes and yes water use.

Our speakers this year will be led by our keynote for the first day of the conference Pat Mulroy. Her leadership at the Southern Nevada Water Authority has brought water and drought issues to the forefront in Las Vegas and her strong leadership style has catapulted Las Vegas to the front of the debate. On the second day of the conference I think you’ll enjoy hearing from Mitchell Joachim (pronounced Jo-ak-um) an architect with decidedly different ideas about architecture and the natural world. He will discuss the nexus of architecture and biology and some very interesting ideas in architecture and urban design. Other speakers will talk about the importance of wild places, how to treat them and particularly how to get people out into them! We hope this year’s conference will give you the tools to understand these differences and treat them with healthy environmentally appropriate regard. Last year’s conference was much better attended than our expectations for this year – the economy is at play here. However, that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm and we are proud that we are one of the largest national conferences devoted to outdoor water conservation in the country. We will continue to provide one of the best venues for new ideas and concepts for water conservation, policy, and methodologies for design.

Thank You and Best Regards,

George Radnovich, President
Xeriscape Council of New Mexico

Terraceview Living Center residents see monarch butterfly film

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011

Residents at TLC enjoy butterfly film
Residents at TLC enjoy butterfly film

 Happy Tonics, Inc. hosted the film “The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies” by NOVA.  Residents at Terraceview Living Center in Shell Lake enjoyed being connected to beauty and butterflies in the film. Some remembered earlier years when they would see monarch butterflies near their lakefront homes in Shell Lake.

As we age, we need to stay connected to nature. Nature has a way of reconnecting brain cells. Happy Tonics loves to get nursing home and assisted living residents involved in environmental stimulating conversations after seeing an environemtal film about butterflies. Elders remember  to tell us about their own butterfly experiences.

We are hoping to host a few planned trips for elders  to the Monarch Butterfly Habitat this summer. We’ll keep you posted.

Be well insectamonarch friends where ever you are.


by Amber Marlow

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
James “Pipe” Mustache Auditorium
Wednesday, February 23, 2011


12 pm Potluck
(please bring a dish to pass and your own plate/utensils)

12:15 pm Guest Speaker: Alison Kilday
Mobility Manager, Namekagon Transit
12:3o pm – Film: “Fuel”
2.15 pm Advocacy to Action! How do we make a difference in our community?

FUEL is an entertaining and comprehensive look at energy in America: a history of where we have been, our present predicament and a solution to our dependence on foreign oil. Josh Tickell’s stirring, radical and multi-award winning FUEL may be known by some as the ‘little energy documentary,’ but in truth, it’s a powerful portrait of America’s overwhelming addiction to, and reliance on, oil. Rousing and reactionary, this film will leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.” (111 minutes)

Sponsored by Happy Tonics, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Web of Learning Sustainable Living Institute and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Treaty Rights

by Tabitha Wolf
Former intern of Happy Tonics, Inc. Presenty a student at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Communityy College, Hayward, WI

During the film festival at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community college in Wisconsin we viewed a film on treaty rights. Before and after the film began we heard from tribal council members, members of the tribe, and other members of the community about this issue.

It is an ongoing fight for rights in the treaties that many people who are not Native American and many who are, do not know about. It is something that tribes across the United States continue to work towards to better their communities. Gaining the promises provided by the treaties would be a huge help to Native communities and reservations. Learning the legal aspects of these treaties is important to all tribal members and society as a whole.

Why is this you may ask? If you are not even a tribal member it is important to know so that you may better understand the world from a Native person’s standpoint. Before the lands, and hunting grounds of Natives peoples were secured and conquered by the government, the government promised to provide for the tribes to end warfare, and/or prevent it amongst other hardships. When a people’s lands and way of life are ruined a responsible government is required to provide for them and these treaties were allegedly a way to do so. If not for the treaties warfare and chaos would be ongoing occurrence. Without the treaties these problems would continue to occur and it is through these treaties that a peaceful solution was encouraged. But, the treaties were not kept, or changed without proper authority, and/or in some cases the tribal leaders or council were tricked into signing things that were not what they were promised. This is easy to do when the treaties are not in your language.

It still even happens today you need only to see the case of the Tribble brothers. Back in early March 1974, two Wisconsin game wardens busted Mike and Fred Tribble from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation for illegally spear fishing through the ice on Chief Lake in the ceded territory of Wisconsin. Land and lakes that once belonged to the Ojibwe.

The Tribbles’ had taken a treaty history course from attorney Larry Leventhal at St. Scholastica College in Minnesota earlier that year; the Tribbles’ showed the wardens a copy of the 1837 Treaty. They were given citations any way. The Tribbles’ took their attorneys from the LCO tribe and argued in federal court that they had the right to hunt, fish, and gather in the territory ceded to the United States in treaties signed in 1837, 1842, and 1854. That territory included lands in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. The tribe’s rights were eventually upheld by the federal court system in 1983 with the US Supreme Court affirming their rights in Mille Lacs v. Minnesota in 1999. Why did they even have to go through all of this? A treaty should have been viewed and upheld without question! If you see the happenings during the Voight decision you can see how the ignorance of others concerning treaty rights had a huge affect on the public.

Twenty-five years ago, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago affirmed that Chippewa Indian tribes retained off-reservation fishing and hunting rights in 1837 and 1842 treaties that ceded millions of acres of what is now the northern third of Wisconsin to the U.S. government. Why did it need to even be affirmed? A treaty is a treaty and should be upheld by the law, right? But still the government opted to appease the public by using a formula for sharing the fishery with hook-and-line anglers and by having the tribe annually request a total of walleyes to spear and that figure is used to set daily bag limits for anglers of two or three on those lakes. “The resumption of spear fishing prompted demonstrations by treaty-rights opponents at boat landings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The protests sometimes escalated into incidents of racial taunts and rock-throwing. No one was seriously hurt but tensions forced dozens of law enforcement officers to guard the lakes. The protests died down after the Lac du Flambeau band filed lawsuits in federal courts against several protest leaders, alleging the demonstrations were racially motivated and violated the Indians’ civil rights (Wisconsin State Journal).”

Through all of this tribal councils today continue their struggle for the truth and the fight for rights that they were given in these legal documents and tribes struggle to receive the  promises made to them by our government. Treaties are definitely an important issue that everyone whether Native or not should be interested in learning about.

Foxes Visit my Backyard in Minong, WI

Tonight two foxes came into my backyard. They both blended into the tree shadows and at first I didn’t know they were foxes until I saw their long tails. Late afternoon I had put out stale bread and dried fruit. It appears fox like these kind of treats. The treats were meant for tomorrow morning and the bird.

I wouldn’t take anything for the joy of having wild animals on my 1/2 acre property.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Update on Monarch Butterfly Tourists in Mexico

According to Wisconsin Public Radio on February 9, tourism is down at and near the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico. The drug wars led by La Familia and beheading of opponent drug gang members is keeping tourists away. Even though the Sanctuary is some distance from the drug wars, tourists do not want to go to a country in the middle of a drug war. 

Millions of monarch butterflies are now at the Sanctuary hanging from the Oyamel fir trees. Towards March they will begin their journey back to the United States on their way to Canada.

Winter 2010 destroyed El Roserio a town near the Sanctuary.  Roads and bridges were wiped out and homes were lost to floods and mudslides. The people are dependent upon tourism who come to see the monarch butterfly at the Mexican Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. A resident interviewed said that the people could depend on working five months a year because of tourism. 13,000 people used to live there but many residents are leaving to try to find work in other parts. The population in 2011 is down to 10,000. The people were already poor and a setback from a weakened tourist trade is unraveling into further hardship on the people. 

Mexican President Calderon wants to make 2011 the Year of Tourism. Between the mudslides and floods at the Sanctuary, that killed at least 50 percent of the wintering monarchs, in 2010 and the continuing drug wars in 2011, tourists are backing off and the nearby towns, that support the tourist industry, are being impacted economically by lack of tourists.


Hello insectamonarca friends,

I am normally not a football fan but when it comes to the Super Bowl I shouted and clapped with the best of fans. We were at the Minong, WI, Senior Center and absolutely had a ball. Seniors wanted to be together for the game.

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I have sporadic Wi-Fi from my home and I am busying writing text for a coloring book. More on that later. I thought I would get back to writing and filling in the Monitoring of Species at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat this winter but this writing project took priority.

We will be on Discover Wisconsin starting on March 12 and two more times within a two-year period. I feel it is important enough to get some publishing done at least by our IV Annual Earth Day Event in Shell Lake, WI, on April 23 and so I am focusing on writing this winter.

A wildlife update. Two deer where standing as still as a tree trunk when I walked home for the center this evening. What a thrill they were to see on the 1/2 acre property standing deep in the snow. I just stopped dead in my tracks and watched them until they decided to leap away.

Be well insectamonarca friends where ever you are.