Turkeys are sure in a loving mood. I watched a gobbler with a harem of hens for a couple of weeks near our condo in the valley. Slowly, but surely, the harem dwindled from about a dozen hens down to only three. A couple of days ago, I heard a gobble from the woods where the tom and his harem often came out from every morning. It was the first gobble I heard since I began watching them. Apparently, the gobbler was willing and able to breed another hen, but none were available. Meanwhile, deer also are frequenting the huge alfalfa and cut cornfield near our condo. They prefer early morning and evening feeding hours, but one or two whitetails make their way into the field to forage on alfalfa shoots during daylight hours, too. The Mississippi River was at 14.23 feet early Thursday morning and is expected to hover around the 14-foot mark for the next several days. I saw one very large snapping turtle while golfing on Wednesday. Check out the short video we produced about the proper and safe way to pick up and remove a turtle across a road. Fishing is pretty much at a standstill in the Coulee Region as most boat landings are flooded. The weather forecast doesn't look promising for this weekend either along with the dreaded word "S-N-O-W" possibly on Saturday. Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.
From Southern Wisconsin
Preston Cole, Department of Natural Resources nominee, leans scientifically in approaching chronic wasting disease, possible water shortage and contamination problems, and communications with public. Speaking to a group of outdoors writers/reporters last week at a DNR building in Madison, Cole encouraged contacts with DNR officials for answers and information. In the recent past, many DNR employees were discouraged from talking directly to the public or in front of hearing committees. Even DNR field and specific responsibility experts were held back to voicing opinions. Regarding CWD, Cole’s approach is to first find out what is known and what can be shared among states and agencies dealing with this form of lethal transmissible spongiform encephalopathy impacting white-tailed deer, elk, moose and reindeer. “For example, Michigan State has a fast test for CWD they’ve been working on so why should we develop one of our own,” Cole said. “We’re trying to avoid duplication and have a strategy to go forward.” The advantage would be hunters knowing test results sooner. One concern is determining the best way to continue to get more samples from deer hunters, using incentives, self-serve kiosks, and in-person stations. Expect to see the baiting and feeding issue surface soon, too. The question is already being asked, "Why still allow baiting and feeding?" The DNR has begun by filling five science positions. Meanwhile, votes from the recent WDNR and Wisconsin Conservation Congress Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings are posted for viewing on the DNR web site. More than 10,700 people participated and voiced their opinions on 88 questions. Interestingly, Question 80 asked to designate the shagbark hickory nut as the state nut. Instead of a campaign from school children, often 5th grade, this question went first to the Conservation Congress. If this is to become law, it would require legislative action. Several other state symbol suggestions, some from school groups, have been denied including ruffed grouse as a state game bird while the state herb, ginseng, flew through coming from several legislators. Trout anglers are waiting for warmer days. So are gardeners. Catkin-forming trees are in full flower, but little color is associated with these blooms. Farmers have planted some oats, alfalfa and a few other grains, while deer are feeding heavily on new alfalfa shoots. Turkey mating is in full swing and in the wide open. Ground squirrels, opossums, raccoon and skunks are active. Turkey hunters are likely, while walking into their locations, to encounter a late-feeding pole-cat. This black and white critter is known by more than 300 slang names. Some of Wisconsin’s prime outdoors activities - fishing, spring food gathering, hiking, biking and camping - are on the horizon.
LAKE WISSOTA STATE PARK - Recent warm temperatures have gotten people out and about. Unfortunately, cooler weather is on its way for the weekend and into next week. Fishing for panfish has been productive on area lakes. Many people are awaiting the opening of the game fish season. Our trails system is fairly dry with an occasional wet patch here and there. The horse trailhead is open for use. Camping is available on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations start May 13. Species of birds we have been seeing or hearing include goldfinches, ravens, turkeys, crows, phoebes, northern juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, red headed and pileated woodpeckers, great horned and barred owls, mourning doves and blue jays, said Nathan Fries, ranger.
BUCKHORN STATE PARK - Boat boarding and the fishing pier will be put in May 1. People have been fishing along the shore by the Buckhorn Bridge. The Work-Play-Earth Day is Saturday April 27, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call the office at 608-565-2789 to sign up for this volunteer park clean-up day so activities and lunch can be planned, said Heather Wolf, park manager.
ROCHE-A-CRI STATE PARK - The main gate and campground remain closed until the beginning of May. The Work-Play-Earth Day is Saturday May 4, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call the office at 608-565-2789 to sign up for this volunteer park clean-up day so activities and lunch can be planned, according to Wolf.
Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited
Wild Birds Unlimited has had a few customers state that they have had Baltimore oriole sightings! This is exciting. I have not seen or heard any yet, Stephanie, our manager, has heard them. I say, if you haven't already, get those oranges out and perhaps some grape jelly. If you do nectar, it can be the same as hummingbird nectar. Please stay away from any nectar with additional additives and/or dyes. You will have other birds come to these foods as well. I find that house finches enjoy oranges and I get catbirds (haven't seen or heard them yet) at the jelly along with robins, cardinals and a woodpecker or two. You can also put out our Wild Birds Bark Butter Bits and/or bark butter that now comes in small disposable containers. A lot of migration birds enjoy suet, but sometimes are unable to manage clinging from a suet feeder. Hummingbirds are close, so it wouldn't hurt to put that feeder out as well. Same rules apply to their nectar. Keep it simple. One part sugar to 4 parts water - nothing additional necessary. I typically have never seen a hummer in my yard before Mother's Day. Stop in and see us at Wild Birds Unlimited in Onalaska for ALL your backyard birding needs. Our phone number is 608-781-5088. Happy spring migration! Karen Perry
Around the Badger State
Spring finally has the upper hand across much of the state this past week with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and even a day with some 80s in the south. Only the most persistent snowbanks remain in the north. Lakes are now open in most areas except in the far north where some of the larger lakes still have ice cover. Snowmelt combined with rain this week have rivers across the state running high. On April 22, the Bois Brule was flowing at 877 cubic feet per second. This topped a previous daily record for this date of 791cfs in 2001. The Wisconsin River in Columbia County remains very high with some areas and roads still flooded. All the water has made for some spectacular waterfall viewing at Copper Falls, Pattison and Amnicon Falls state parks, with even the "Now and Then Falls," that disappears in the summer, now running in full glory. Despite the moisture, last week 72 wildfires burned 177 acres in DNR Protection Areas, half of which were caused by debris burning. Fire danger can vary greatly from one day to the next this time of the year, depending on weather and dryness of the vegetation. The Lake Michigan tributaries walleye fish run is slowing down but high numbers of walleye anglers were seen this week with many full boat launches and many shore anglers. Fish were still being caught on the Menominee, Peshtigo, Oconto and Fox. The majority of walleyes being caught now are post spawn. A few whitefish were being caught by the boaters as well. Steelhead were still being caught in some Door County creeks that had high fishing pressure throughout the week but steelhead runs on southern tributaries are tapering off and suckers and redhorses are now being caught. The Root River was still getting some steelhead fishing pressure with success both above and below the steelhead facility picking up slightly. Fishing pressure remained fairly low on Lake Michigan piers and shores as well as at boat ramps due to the windy conditions most of the days with waves crashing over the tops of the piers as well as on the shores. Fisheries crews have been busy tagging lake sturgeon on the Wolf River this week with the sturgeon spawning run going very strong. On April 23, crews handled a number of very large fish including a 77-inch female that was captured at the Sturgeon Trail. First season turkey hunters were met with some fairly quiet turkeys. Even so, there was good success reported locally of bagging birds. Second period hunters should have the bug spray handy as mosquitoes were already buzzing around earlier this week. Tom turkeys are still being seen fanned out and responding to decoys well. Some early spring bloomers like hepatica, bloodroot, wood violets and marsh marigold are blooming in the south. Snakes and turtles have been seen crossing roads with the warm temperatures. This Saturday, April 27, will offer the greatest opportunities to help out at state properties with 18 Work*Play*Earth Day and related events being held around the state. Come out and help Friends Group spruce up parks and trails for the busy season and then stick around and have some fun. Many offer refreshments as well.
Wisconsin Birding Report
Perhaps the single best month for birding is underway. Warblers are arriving in earnest with reports from southern Wisconsin of prothonotary, yellow, Nashville, orange-crowned, palm, parula, black-throated green and others. Pine warblers were reported at many suet feeders, especially in colder temperatures, while yellow-rumps have infiltrated the north, including reports of several hundred birds at several locations. A few hummingbirds, orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks have trickled into southern counties - expect more significant numbers in the week ahead. Other long-distance migrants that have begun to arrive include whip-poor-will, chimney swift, blue-gray gnatcatcher and house wren. Sparrow diversity is impressive now as grasshopper, Henslow's, Lincoln's and clay-colored arrive, joining building numbers of chipping and white-throated. As usual, the phenology is later across northern Wisconsin. Waterfowl migration its near peak there, while several big land bird flights took place this past week featuring good numbers of American robins, various blackbirds, purple finches, both kinglets, brown creepers and more. In Bayfield County, nearly 3,000 rusty blackbirds were tallied on April 20, and over 700 northern flickers on April 24. Dark-eyed juncos, American tree sparrows and fox sparrows remain in decent numbers. Broad-winged and sharp-shinned hawks, turkey vultures, ospreys and sub-adult bald eagles dominate the skies, while lingering winter birds include snowy owl, Bohemian waxwing and snow bunting. Night activity has been great with drumming ruffed grouse, displaying American woodcock, winnowing Wilson's snipe, barred owls and the best showing of northern saw-whet owls in years. Shorebird action is picking up in flooded fields and wetlands, including the first semi-palmated plovers and spotted, solitary and least sandpipers. Hudsonian godwit and American avocet in Chippewa were good finds, as were 22 avocets in Milwaukee. Look for godwits, avocets and willets, especially along the Lake Michigan shore, in the week ahead. Rarity season is well underway now as the week featured a ruff in Fond du lac County, laughing gull in Dane, Eurasian wigeon in Douglas, scissor-tailed flycatcher in Racine, white-faced ibis in Dodge, summer tanagers in Green and Waukesha, eared grebes in Winnebago and Sheboygan, northern mockingbird in Kewaunee, loggerhead shrikes in Dunn and Chippewa and white-eyed vireo in Grant. The week ahead doesn't look ideal weather-wise, but birds will push north regardless. Dust off your binocs, brush up on your bird songs, and get those feeders ready! Help us track the migration by submitting your finds to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding!
SOURCE: Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland