Fourmile Island Rookery (331/693)

Fourmile Island Rookery State Natural Area protects a forested isle in the of bottomland hardwoods historically used by nesting birds. Though nesting habitat availability has suffered in recent years due to a variety of factors (Dutch elm disease, a 1984 windstorm, and the effects of accumulated guano), the island remains a protected bird sanctuary that is now supplemented with artificial nesting platforms. The SNA is only accessible by water and please note that is is CLOSED to to the public from 01 April through 24 August every year, per NR 15.03(5)(a)). Please check with the DNR to be sure on access as regulations change over time.

Continuing the kayak-accessible SNAs, my brother and I set out to visit Fourmile Island Rookery within the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area in Dodge County. Limiting factors on this trip were the restricted access dates, which meant that this trip had to wait until late August or beyond, as well as our collective lack of water vessel ownership. Luckily, paddling Horicon is a popular activity and we were able to rent kayaks right on the Rock River in downtown Horicon from Blue Heron Boat Tours and Canoe Rental, which now appears to be known as Horicon Marsh Boat Tours.

I recall the paddle being non-eventful, with nothing notable concerning the current, obstacles, or the like. We followed the canoe trail path, only in reverse. A closer examination of the island via satellite imagery revealed a potentially complicating factor: cattails rimming the island, which could make it rather difficult to reach terra firma. Zooming in to the satellite photos reveals what appeared to be small channel to get most of the way to the island and this point became our destination. In the left photo below, note the channel from the northwest. While reviewing the satellite imagery, I also got a good look at the artificial nesting platforms, just off the opposite side of the island (below, right). These modified telephone poles are meant to provide nesting options for birds in place of the damaged and diseased natural trees that have been increasing in number on the island.

As expected, this was not an SNA to seek out for its rich, botanical inventory. This was a visit all about the journey and to see a piece of land in transition. Many downed trees, whether it by disease or storm damage crisscrossed the landscape. Additionally, it was mid-October at the time of our visit, post-interesting plants blooming and pre-fall colors and thus, there was generally little of note to observe. With entry to the site prohibited from early April to late summer, it would be difficult to catch the site with a moderate bird population. On this visit, no birds were observed on the nesting platforms and just a few songbirds were scattered amongst the island trees. In terms of revisiting, I would rate this as a 4/10.

Additional photos can be found on Flickr.

SNA #41
Natural Communities / GeologyBottomland Hardwood Forest
Size (Acres)15
ParkingBoat Launch
Easy to FindYes
Best Seen ByKayak
Recommended FootwearRubber boots
Marked BoundariesNo
OwnershipWisconsin DNR
Located WithinHoricon State Wildlife Area
Date(s) Visited10.10.13

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