The Wild Season

Trumpeter Swans 2014To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering. – aldo leopold

It’s migration season according to the sun. According to the foul Wisconsin weather we’ve been having, it feels more like January. This cold weather means that a lot of birds are coming to or through Wisconsin and finding no open water in which to land or feed. Although it’s not great for them, most will do just fine until warmer weather arrives. In fact, it looks to start really warming up in just a few days. Now, the one upside of the cold, is that it’s a lot easier for camera crazy folks like me to find the birds. Practically all you need to do is find some open water. If you can do that, you’re likely to find ducks, geese, swans and a whole menagerie of other animals out there!   

Our 2014 animal adventure kicked off here in Wisconsin in mid-February when we were lucky enough to find a Snowy Owl sitting on a silo just about 30 minutes south of home. From the beginning of March it has felt like we have fallen inside a National Geographic Special! I can’t recall ever seeing so many animals at one time so close to home. So far we’ve seen many, many sandhill cranes just about a mile from our house. Since we live in the hometown of the International Crane Foundation, we would certainly hope to see some cranes, but this year has been ridiculous!

There have been hordes, not herds, but hordes, of whitetail deer filling nearly every bit of open fields.  I’ve never seen so many deer in my life as I’m seeing each day I venture outside.

A few days ago we went over to Mirror Lake State Park which is about a 20 minute drive from our house. There we saw a variety of ducks, geese, mute swans, and even more sandhill cranes.  We had a great opportunity to take a million photographs in the warm glow of the evening sun.  What a great night!  Then, when we were just about to turn away from the shoreline and go home, a muskrat popped it’s head out of the water and posed for a couple shots.  Sweet!

Sandhill Cranes & Canada Geese

Now yesterday we took the hour or so drive up to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.  Of course, the downside was that the water is pretty much still frozen.  So much so, that we thought figured we’d get no reward for our trip.  Well, we were happily mistaken.  While out testing our Jeep’s traction on the rough, icy & muddy roads of the refuge we happened upon a pair of Trumpeter swans!  (See the above image).  At one time Trumpters were rare in Wisconsin.  These days it’s estimated that there are from 80 to 100 mating pairs in the state.   This pair was taking advantage of a small whole in the ice and seemed rather unconcerned about the voyeurs in the jeep. On the way home from this excursion we also caught a bit of time with a Bald Eagle who had perched alongside the road.  It seems we spend a lot of time parked along side roads recently!!

So far though, the coolest “birdy” experiences I’ve had this spring involve our local Great Blue Heron.  It was about a week ago when I saw the first heron standing along side the road in a small bit of open water by a small stream.  Knowing that at least one heron had returned, we took a drive over to the rookery at Devil’s Lake State Park.  When we arrived we found the very first two heron scoping out the forest, looking for a place to nest.  They had to be the first two heron of the 2014 season to arrive at the Devil’s Lake rookery.  How cool is that?

Great Blue Heron

Now just this morning, while driving near Merrimac, Wisconsin I saw two more Great Blue Heron sitting on a log.  I pulled over to take a few pictures.  I watched another heron flay off into the distance from the other side of the pond.  As I followed him back I saw something totally amazing.  There had to be 50 or more heron standing at the far bank of the small pond!!  I’d never seen so many on the ground at one time!

And did I mention that the turkey vultures are back at Devil’s Lake State Park?!!

Now, I’m not a birder or a bird nut myself.  I find my love of nature is more “big picture”.  I love weather, clouds, forests, landscapes, sunsets, thunderstorms, wet winds.. .you name it.  Animals, birds and insects I love because they are part of this big, sensual world. Still, I have to say I’m enjoying the bird-centric way this spring has rolled out.  I’m enjoying being more in touch with the annual migration here in Wisconsin.  I can’t wait until I can get out on the water in my kayak!!

If you’d like to see more pictures from this year’s animal adventures, have a look at my  “Critters” Pinterest collection or follow my Skillet Creek Media Facebook page for daily pics and posts from right here in central Wisconsin.

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