Wisconsin


Spring has arrived in the northwoods of Wisconsin.  Driving along a county road we saw (and avoided) many turtles in the road and beside it.   We also saw the lupine blooming in certain areas.  It’s low to the ground and the light needs to be from the right angle to see it’s lovely colors, otherwise it blends in with the grass, dirt and sand.  We rounded a corner and I admired a large patch of lupines, noting that I needed to return to photograph it.  As I was studying the flowers I looked beyond them and saw something looking back at me.  On the edge of the woods, blending in with the shadows, was a black bear.  He looked at me and then ambled back into the woods.  Needless to say, when I returned the next day to photograph the lovely flowers I was very aware of my surroundings.  A slight rustle in the woods and I stopped to see who or what it was.  This time it wasn’t my friend the bear, but it was only a squirrel.

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It had been a windy and cloudy day, but as the evening wore on the wind began to die down.  We were fishing as the air became still.  Eagles were flying overhead and the crappies were biting.  The dark clouds were still above but the sun moved below them lighting up the opposite shore.  The leaves were full on some of the trees and yet others had only begun to leaf out, filtering the sunlight as it came through the trees.  The low light and the calmness created a beautiful reflection of the end of a spring (finally!) day.

It was a cold and wintry day last Sunday that even included a snowfall.  We were inside looking out and not enjoying this winter weather in mid-May.  But it seemed to invigorate all the birds in the area as they were coming in and out of the yard, looking for food on the ground and in the feeders.  We put some orange slices in a hanging feeder and realized they were a magnet for the birds.  This Baltimore oriole became very vigilant in guarding what he saw as “his” oranges.  There were a number of Rose-breasted grosbeaks that challenged him, and only occasionally won the challenge.  All these birds were a welcome colorful sight on the cold drab day, and a delight to watch.

As we were exploring the Namekagon Wildlife Barrens in northwestern Wisconsin we saw many bluebird houses distributed throughout the area.  Numerous agencies and individuals have worked hard to be sure the birds have access to good nesting areas.  At one road junction we stopped and watched this tree swallow as it flitted in and out of the house, flying to the trees nearby, then coming back to the house.  He was accompanied by a female which came and went many times too.  What a delight to let time stand still and watch their activities and absorb this little bit of spring!

We were exploring at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area this past weekend.  Located in Burnett County in northwestern Wisconsin, this is a globally rare landscape of pine and oak with a very sandy soil.  It’s quite startling to see the Barrens after driving miles through forested land; all of a sudden the sky opens up and the vista is wide with rolling hills and a prairie-like view.  The ground near the road was black where there had been a prescribed burn the day before, and the air had a pronounced smell of smoke.  After about 20 minutes, we saw smoke to the east and found they were doing some spot fires to finish what had been started the day before.  I’m excited to return to the area in the next week or so — the grass will be turning green with our recent rains, and soon the wildflowers will sprout and bloom.

Last weekend we made a quick trip to Milwaukee.  Although it is further south than the Twin Cities, the temperatures were still cool and there was a brisk wind blowing.  We spent a few hours at the Milwaukee Art Museum and then drove north along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.  It was a wonderful drive close by the lake, then through some neighborhoods of large historic mansions and many public parks.  The lake was a beautiful almost-turquoise color that contrasted nicely with the clouds.  As cool as it was, people were out enjoying the day with its promise of spring.

We are experiencing our transition season as winter slowly gives way to spring.  In northern Minnesota and Wisconsin it means give and take –  warmer temps one day and snow the next.  But our waters are starting to thaw, allowing open water for the birds that are beginning to migrate into the area.  The oak trees are holding onto their rust-colored leaves, and the air has been heavy with moisture creating some foggy conditions.  It almost seems like fall but this time we know there will be green in the landscape and ice-free lakes and ponds soon.

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