From Southern Wisconsin

We cannot talk to bald eagles. No one claims to be an eagle whisperer, either.
But now that mated pairs of the U.S. National Emblem are going about the business all wild things do in preparation for reproduction and repopulating, they rarely hide what has and is transpiring.
Two-ton, perennial nests seem to look larger than they did in late fall, and they are. The pair has added sticks, branches and bedding for February’s egg laying. We’ll know exactly when the first of up to three eggs has been dropped because a bird is sitting low in the nest, with only its softball-like, white head showing.  
This incubating bird never leaves the nest unless the mate is there to take over the duty of being the blanket and keeping the eggs from freezing.
Hatching, too, is chronicled by those incubating birds standing to feed the first chick that hatched, but not standing for long because there may be more eggs to hatch and brood. The ball of yellow fluff that just hatched is necessary, too.
Preceding and during some of these events, mating occurs, often atop the nest, in nearby trees, on limbs seeming to be too frail to hold one eagle, let alone one perched on the other.
To us, the only difference between male and female adults is a subtle size, with the female always the winner.
Nearly anything functions as food, with male and female sharing the shopping duties for carrion, fresh squirrel, duck, rabbit, muskrat and a few large birds fattened at our feeders.
Meanwhile, suet is not only woodpecker food, in case one hasn’t noticed. Blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees and even a junco on the ground feeds readily on meat and fat left on bones and commercial suet cakes. Try a few cakes, usually costing less than a dollar, to begin bringing in rafts of birds without the feeding and feeder cost and most of the mess.  
Pork chop bones, prime rib racks and turkey carcasses are all the same to a feeder bird.
Few hunters have a ruffed grouse carcass to hang, but an enlightening grouse hunting book by Mark Parman, of Seeley, WI, his second such work, can be pre-ordered for April delivery.  
Those of us who regularly returned empty from last autumn’s hunts, would have been agape listening to Mark’s excitement last week telling of having a covey of grouse erupt from northern Wisconsin snow, one at a time from their warm roost, while he stood in amazement. He had a good season in new habitat, hunting regularly.
The University of Wisconsin Press will release this book during spring drumming season.
Another bird will grab our attention soon after we receive our turkey permits this week. Quaker Boy, Inc., a game call company in Orchard Park, NY, is bringing back Dick Kirby’s original Grand Old Master box call, and at a reasonable price of about $20.  
Dick’s son, Chris, said of the call our fathers and mothers probably used: “Sometimes things done the first time are best. It’s easy to use, is super, super consistent with a combination of a poplar wood box and a cherry lid. It stood the test of time.”
Trout anglers have had limited success, except for a few who know the streams really well and fish in areas where they have always found fish, spring and fall, even though it’s winter.
Extremely warm spells have put some fear, and wetness, into some ice anglers, so stay away from spring areas in ponds and lakes.
A few signs of spring are beginning to appear, including early flowering skunk cabbage and bobcats looking for new territories.  One adult treed a house cat here in eastern Iowa County last weekend.
Be observant. Read the clues and signs nature is beginning to provide.
 
Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112