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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Carpenter Nature Center’s $4 million expansion begins near Hudson soon. The nesting birds are already at home there.

It seems staff and volunteers aren’t just eager to make use of the beautiful new Carpenter Nature Center on its 300-acre campus just south of Hudson, Wis.

This spring a pair of belted kingfishers moved into a 15-foot pile of top soil that construction crews were saving for the center’s gardens. Short-legged birds use their front paws and strong beaks to excavate nesting sites in soil edges, usually avoiding those with vegetation.

A pile of dirt from a year near the new parking lot – less than a half-mile from the St. Croix River – fits the bill.

“In May the birds were scolding and making all kinds of sounds, but at the end of June, I didn’t see or hear them,” said Jennifer Veith, executive director of the Nature Center. Campus near Afton.

Still, Wyeth, an avid birder, did not want to allow the center’s excavation contractor to move the top soil “until we know for sure that the birds have vacated the premises.”

Wyeth invited an ornithologist friend to come over with his borescope in early June. Using a camera on the end of the device’s long arm, they were able to confirm that “Mrs. Kingfisher” was still at the site, she said.

“She’s adorable,” said Wyeth during a recent tour of the site. “He’s got these spiky blue feathers. Can you hear that chatter? He’s Mr. Kingfisher. He doesn’t like us getting too close.”

A Belted Kingfisher Returns To Its Home In A Mound Of Mud At The New $4 Million Carpenter Nature Center In Hudson, Wis.
A belted kingfisher has made its home in a pile of top soil at the new $4 million Carpenter Nature Center in Hudson, Wis. (courtesy of Brian Collins)

Keegan McIntosh, the general contractor’s principal supervisor, said no one on the construction team blinked when they received news that their plans were changing to accommodate the birds.

“It’s a nature center, so nature comes first,” said Mackintosh, who works for Stutco Speedling Construction in Hastings. “If they say, ‘Don’t touch it, we want the birds to nest,’ that’s what we’re going to do. … Luckily, we found out that day that we were going to move it. A day later, It doesn’t bode well for the Kingfisher family.”

decades of planning

The $4 million new interpretive center, which opens to the public on July 9, is the result of decades of planning.

Laurie and Al Hein were once part of the site. In the 1980s, Haynes was looking for an organization to be the stewards of his land when a neighbor, Dan Greenwald, suggested they reach out to the Carpenter Nature Center in Minnesota. The couple’s 98-acre donation in 1989 marked the beginning of Carpenter’s Wisconsin campus, which is just north of the Troy Byrne Golf Club.

More parcels were bought as they came up for sale, and the Wisconsin campus now boasts 300 acres permanently preserved for public use. Like the Minnesota campus, the center is free and open to the public.

The New $4 Million Visitor Center On Monday, June 20, 2022 At The Carpenter Nature Center'S 300-Acre Campus South Of Hudson, Wis.  (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)
The new $4 million visitor center on Monday, June 20, 2022 at the Carpenter Nature Center’s 300-acre campus south of Hudson, Wis. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Carpenter wants to protect habitat and teach people about nature, and the new Interpretation Center will do just that, Wyeth said. It has accessible classrooms, restrooms, meeting spaces, nature exhibits and outdoor learning spaces.

Carpenter’s staff gathered tips through more than 300 surveys given to people at events such as the Cove Art Festival and the River Falls Bird Festival. “We stationed people outside the County Market grocery store[in Hudson]to see what people wanted,” she said. “You make what people want to use. It turned out perfect.”

Surveys showed that people wanted a room that could be used by multi-generational families, she said. “You can come out and enjoy nature and watch the birds at bird feeders even if you can’t get out on the trails,” she said. “You can relax here and have a cup of coffee. It is accessible to all.”

World Nation News Desk
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