JACKSONPORT – The wood and wire bird feeder covering landed on the frozen ground with a resonating thunk. The sound brought a bevy of chickadees to the canopy of the trees surrounding the bird feeder where Charlotte Lukes used a putty knife to slather a pasty concoction of grains mixed with peanut butter and lard into large holes drilled into a slab of wood.
“The birds love this food,” Lukes said as the eager little birds, balls of white, black and grey feathers, hopped along the branches near her.
She smiled as the chickadees chattered and said, “of all the birds, the chickadees are my favorite.” Their gregarious nature and penchant to interact with people gives them an endearing quality, Lukes said.
Lukes knows a thing or two about birds. She was married to one of the Door County’s foremost birders, Roy Lukes, who died from cancer in 2016.
“Roy is with me every day,” she said and she points to a large platform bird feeder her husband built. “It also has a shelf under it that is a protected place to feed the small birds, like chickadees.” Roy Lukes was 86 years old when he died.
While Charlotte Lukes reattached the protective wire covering over the feeder — it prevents squirrels and large birds from decimating the food supply — pileated woodpeckers joined the growing ruckus impatient for their evening snack.
Often, the avian gathering doesn’t wait for Lukes to finish before they flutter to the feeders. But the clicking of a camera shutter and chatter of people kept the birds at bay last week when Charlotte Luke’s spoke with USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin about her and her late husband being honored by the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in April.
The couple “spent their lifetimes protecting the natural beauty of the peninsula and sharing its magic through their teachings, writings and personal charm,” according to the Wisconsin Conversation Hall of Fame.
“As a renowned nature writer, naturalist, photographer, teacher and newspaper columnist, Roy inspired millions,” according to a news release.
Lukes is regarded as the county’s authority on mushrooms — she identified and cataloged about 575 species.
“Roy and Charlotte saw scientific research and the study of the natural world as a cornerstone to their work in conservation-related education, policy and public leadership,” the news release said.
It’s an honor to be inducted into an organization which includes John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson, Lukes said. The duo amassed about 30 awards recognizing their work in Door County.
The couple shared a mutual love and respect for nature which formed the basis for 44 years of happy marriage, she said.
“Roy and I were partners in nature, we were partners in everything,” Lukes said. She described a marriage grounded in admiration for each other’s work, insights and ideas.
After the couple married in 1972, she continued her career as a dental hygienist and he taught for 20 years as a school teacher and an environmental education specialist in Door County. Their spare time was consumed with natural pursuits often done in tandem as he focused on ornithology and she studied Door County mushrooms.
“I loved flowers too but they blow around and are hard to photograph. Mushrooms don’t move,” Lukes said.
Of the mushrooms she’s found in Door County, her favorite was finding the indigo lactarius, a blue mushroom that is rare in the region.
“It’s beautiful,” Lukes said. “When it’s bruised or cut it produces a dark blue milk.”
Although Lukes is 73, her grace and agility defy her age, which she attributes to an active lifestyle hiking the woods in her search for more mushroom species. She also continues to teach nature classes, which often involves research, including studying many of the articles her husband wrote for multiple publications.
“I married my teacher,” Lukes said as she chuckled. “Roy loved to teach and never stopped. I’m still learning things from him every day.”
If interested in a class
Classes with Charlotte Lukes begin at 10 a.m. to noon March 17 for a bluebird program at Ridges Cook-Fuller Center in Bailey’s Harbor.
Upcoming classes featuring Charlotte Lukes are at Newport State Park, Crossroads Learning Center, Whitefish Dune State Park, The Clearing, and Bjorklunden, Baileys Harbor.
Read or Share this story: http://gbpg.net/2pjCKQf