Monday, July 22, 2013

Southwestern Wisconsin

One of the most unique areas in Wisconsin is the Spring Green Prairie Natural Area.  This is the first time we have visited when the prairie was in full bloom.  Some of the flowering plants were Butterfly Weed (pictured), Common Milkweed, Lead Plant and Prickly Pear Cacti.

The Prairie habitat is home to some very unique birds and animals too.  We have found it to be very reliable for these birds:  Lark Sparrow (on right), Orchard Oriole and Grasshopper Sparrows.  Last year we even had a rare Blue Grosbeak here.

We spent three days at Governor Dodge State Park birding its many habitats.  This is one of the last nesting areas for Bell's Vireos in the state and we found two active nests.

Down the Stephen Falls trail we found a singing Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatchers.  The Falls pictured to the left is very beautiful and because of all the rain this summer is flowing nicely.

Eastern Towhees were singing over the vast acreage of the state park.

We had a nice visit with our son Troy and his wife Carmen who drove over from Madison on Saturday afternoon.  What a wonderful surprise!

Many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds hover around several feeders at the entrance station at Wyalusing State Park.  This Park is the best place to find Kentucky, Prothonotary, Cerulean, and Yellow-throated Warblers, the Tufted Titmouse and Yellow-billed Cuckoo of which we were successful on all counts.

From our campsite on the "Ridge" we looked down on the Turkey Vultures flying over the Wisconsin River and the town of Prairie du Chien.  The bluffs are 500 feet above the river where it converges into the Mississippi.  This summer the area was deluged with 10 inches of rain in one day causing flooding and much road damage.

Birds aren't the only beautiful fauna we found - this Great Spangled Fritillary stopped for a photo before flitting away.

Some of the other insects in the park weren't so pleasant.  Millions of gnats clouded the sky, mosquitoes and biting flies were more than annoying in the hot, humid weather.

The female Giant Wolf Spider with a body length of over 2 inches was in one of the CCC shelters on the fireplace.

We traveled east along the Wisconsin/Illinois border through the croplands of towering corn golden hay fields and grazing cattle.  All along the many miles were singing Dickcissels that were nesting in the fencerows and fallow fields.

We settled into Crazy Horse Campground west of Brodhead on the hottest day of the year.  Thankful for the cooling waters of the swimming pool that day and the next.

These Black Saddlebags Dragonflies were gobbling up the gnats but just couldn't keep up with the hoards.

This House Finch was nesting in our friend's Bill & Glenda Berger's yard in Janesville where we stayed for the weekend.  Glenda and Ida went to Edgerton High School together oh so many years ago and have enjoyed an enduring friendship.  We toured some of the old stomping grounds, walking down memory lane together.  It was a great time!

Now unto some more of Wisconsin's best birding areas!
Best regards & prayers,
Ty & Ida Baumann

Friday, July 12, 2013

North Central Wisconsin

We entered Wisconsin on the north central border where the two states join Lake Superior.  We started our state bird list a few feet from the border with a female Ruffed Grouse - we interrupted her dust bath.

Our first nights in the state were spent at Copper Falls State Park.  We walked the two mile trail along the gorge of the Bad River.  The spectacular falls along the loop were Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and the Cascades (pictured).

We took a round-about tour of the Clam Lake area before a parallel journey along the border to the Land of Lakes area, seeing a black bear and coyote.  We camped at Lac Vieux Desert (use the French pronunciation) for two nights listening to the neighbors fire crackers.

Early on the 4th of July we went to Fire Lane Road north of Conover hoping to see a Spruce Grouse.  This handsome male stepped out on the road for grit right in front of us.  Because it was too dark, Ty had left the camera in the RV which meant a half mile jog back to get it.  Fortunately, the bird stayed and he was able to get this great photo.

Our next destination was the Forest County roads east of Three Lakes.  Slowly driving the dusty Pine River, Giant Pine, Sheltered Valley, Divide and Scott's Lake Roads listening and pishing for birds.  Be careful what you pish for: because you could get bombarded by a fast flying Northern Goshawk, or a Yellow-rumped Warbler could come in the open window, landing on the dash board, leaving a calling card before being safely escorted back outside.

At noon we stopped back on Pine  River Road near the Giant Pine intersection and walked west along the tamarack bog.  This hen Spruce Grouse and 3 chicks flushed along the roadside.  The hen posed for pictures but the chicks quickly dispersed into the ferns.  If only we could have gotten a photo of the chicks.

As we continued our walk on the road, we were blessed with three singing Boreal Chickadees, a rare summer find indeed.

Our boreal journey would not be complete without stopping at County A Bog west of Three Lakes.  Do not count your chicks before they hatch, however on this day we had a second opportunity to see Spruce Grouse chicks.  This chick and a hen flushed literally at our feet.

We zig-zagged our way from Three Lakes to Merrill adding birds and this large Porcupine along the way.  We settled into Council Grounds State Park on the Wisconsin River.

We spent some hours driving the many roads around the George W. Mead Wildlife Area.  Many Black Terns were feeding over the flowerage.  We stopped at the attractive and educational Visitor's Center landscaped with beautiful blooming  prairie flowers.  It was also fun to find Yellow-headed Blackbirds for our year list.

The sweet & melodious song of the Western Meadowlark greeted us along the roads of the Buena Vista Grasslands.  Then there were the loud Dickcissels, gurgling Bobolinks, 8 species of sparrows, Brewer's Blackbirds, the wolf whistle of the Upland Sandpiper, the winnowing Wilson's Snipe and finding an Am. Woodcock sitting on the road.  Our best surprise was a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes nesting in a "wind break planting" on Taft Road.

At Sandhill Wildlife Area, here's what you would expect to see - Sandhill Cranes.  These two colts were with Mom & Dad, one colt getting a treat from Mom.  We spent the night at Arbutus Lake in Hatfield.

This fawn is forced to endure the plague of insects: gnats, deer flies (check forehead), mosquitoes, black flies, and wood ticks of the Necehah Wildlife Refuge.  Unlike us, who  escaped from the bugs inside the vehicle.  From the observation tower we saw 5 Whooping Cranes and a flock of Solitary Sandpipers.

What a day!  Not all travel routes are super highways, and not all vehicles (a 6 ton motorhome) are designed for ATV roads. But God is good!   Getting us out of a sand trap (yes, stuck, but free at last after considerable digging), and through a deep mud hole.  He blessed us with a beautiful sunset and His promise for a better tomorrow.

What an adventure!
Ty & Ida Baumann