On the Twelfth Day in Nature, the UEC Gave to Me

Written by Michelle Milford
    Monday, 18 December 2023
On the Twelfth Day in Nature, the UEC Gave to Me

The widely popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” highlights the numerous gifts given to the singer’s “true love.”

At the UEC,  our true love is nature… so here’s a song celebrating 12 specific ways your support has impacted urban nature at the Urban Ecology Center’s three Milwaukee branches.

On the first day in nature, the UEC gave to me….a monarch on a milkweed

Over the summer, the UEC team and volunteers investigated roughly 100 plants per week, carefully turning over each leaf and looking for eggs, caterpillars, and pupa.

The data we collect during these surveys is shared publicly through a long-term, community-based partnership between the Monarch Joint Venture and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.

410780990 754070963413063 4899908273539762526 nOn the second day in nature, the UEC gave to me….two mourning doves

Each week, the UEC hosts early morning bird walks - an opportunity to kick-start your day with fresh air and bird song. 

Those who attend contribute to community science as we identify species within UEC green spaces.

Bird watchers of all ability levels are welcome. Make it your New Year's resolution to join us on a walk in 2024!

On the third day in nature, the UEC gave to me….three striped skunks 410260657 754679753352184 8347353120796976978 n

As members of Wisconsin DNR's Snapshot Wisconsin program, the UEC manages 3 cameras whose data is shared to help understand species distribution patterns across the state.

American beavers, woodchucks, coyotes, striped skunks, deer, opossums, red foxes, and raccoons have all had their photos taken in our parks.

Say cheese, mammal friends! 

411115064 755314273288732 2417767373893645552 nOn the fourth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….four clicking beetles

In 2022, our volunteer beetle expert, Heidi, found 5 new-to-Wisconsin species and 28 new-to-UEC species within our parks.

Beetles act as pest controllers, decomposers, nitrogen recyclers, pollinators, and more! And they are a great indicator of ecosystem health!

More beetles = more biodiversity so, bring on the beetles in 2024!

On the fifth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….five goldenrods 411193571 755919069894919 8790564465533558614 n

Prairies once covered two million acres of Wisconsin. Today, less than 0.5% of native prairie remains in the state.

With adaptive management plans in place, our community can experience the beauty of prairie diversity at all three branches.

And, through events like our Native Plant Sale and educational programs like our Native Landscaping series - we are encouraging everyone to plant a prairie!

412330513 756526653167494 7291101776713902009 nOn the sixth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….six snakes a-slithering

Snake board monitoring in Three Bridges Park looked for the two most common species of snakes: Butler’s Garter snake and Dekay’s Brown snake.

It’s called board monitoring because we lay a series of plywood boards throughout the park. Since snakes are cold-blooded, they slither under the board to soak up the warmth that the boards retain.

Butler's Garter snakes are a Species of Special Concern in Wisconsin with an isolated population that only covers a few south-eastern counties, like Milwaukee.

9d771c12 91fe 43c7 a595 b248fc6a6b71On the seventh day in nature, the UEC gave to me….seven salmon swimming

When the ice thaws and the snow melts, the fish will swim again! Join us for Fishing Club in Washington Park next year.

Fishing Club teaches kids (and adults!) a new outdoor skill while stressing the importance of encouraging one another, believing in your abilities and understanding our interconnectedness to waterways.

One member of the fishing club said, “My son would never have fished, or learned how to this year, without this program.” 

92e45c57 0b87 47e0 98b6 7e6b9d23dfafOn the eighth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….eight bees a-buzzing

Did you know hole size is specific to each bee species? Mason bees prefer 8mm holes while leafcutter bees create 6mm nesting holes.

Much like the bees, we know that giving is not one size fits all. It’s one reason we love The Hive so much. No matter the size ($5 or $50), a recurring gift will have a BIG impact!

Thank you to The Hive, UEC’s sustaining members!  Your combined commitments keep the UEC buzzing along!

On the ninth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….nine flowers blooming 2d8bcd19 a2b5 4ea5 a7eb a92ca675ce5b
The UEC manages 70+ acres of urban parkland. More than 5,500 hours of volunteer support helped our land stewardship team manage these acres.

Each year, we plant thousands of native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. These beautiful blooms cost approximately $15,000 per branch in plant costs alone. 

We certainly think our parks are worth the investment, though!

On the tenth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….ten frogs a-leaping 6a6ef427 e874 4cef b314 309b427288fa

Catching frogs is a favorite pastime of kiddos visiting the UEC.

This past year, 582 summer campers and 707 nature club kids were jumping around Riverside Park, Menomonee Valley and Washington Park.  Plus, we partnered with 63 neighboring schools equalling 28,461 hops off the UEC buses and into our parks.

Please note: No evidence kissing frogs will lead you to Prince Charming so please, no frog catching at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  They are hibernating anyways… 

bfb4d614 d55f 4a79 9576 dd453cf5b317On the eleventh day in nature, the UEC gave to me….eleven turtles basking

Wisconsin is home to 11 species of turtles: 

  1. Blanding’s turtle 
  2. Common map turtle** 
  3. Common musk turtle**
  4. Common snapping turtle** 
  5. Eastern spiny softshell turtle 
  6. False map turtle 
  7. Ornate box turtle**
  8. Ouachita map turtle 
  9. Painted turtle** 
  10. Smooth softshell turtle 
  11. Wood turtle 

The UEC, with your backing, aspires to be like turtles - long-lived, resilient, and awe-inspiring!

**You can visit these turtles in our animal rooms at the UEC branches!

4a1092dd f041 47b1 a651 46af5f58a55bOn the twelfth day in nature, the UEC gave to me….

Twelve ducklings hatching
Eleven turtles basking,
Ten frogs a-leaping,
Nine flowers blooming,
Eight bees a-buzzing,
Seven salmon swimming,
Six snakes a-slithering,
Five goldenrods,
Four clicking beetles,
Three-striped skunks,
Two mourning doves and
A monarch on a milkweed.

Your end-of-year support gives SO MUCH LIFE to the Urban Ecology Center. Thank you for being a part of our nature-loving community. Together, we have a BIG impact - a whole song’s worth! 


Michelle Milford

Michelle Milford

Michelle is UEC's Development Communications Manager. With a degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies, she began her career as a zookeeper. An American badger remains her favorite animal - having raised one from a cub. After making some difficult professional decisions, Michelle ended up in the nonprofit sector where she’s happily stayed for 8+ years.  Having started in January 2022, she still feels incredibly lucky to be part of the UEC team - a team who, like her, cares deeply about the environment and those, both human and not, that depend on it. When she’s not at the UEC, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband, two young children and their deaf English setter. 


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