Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

The pelicans have returned.
I saw my first one on April 1. No foolin!
I saw several more in Catgut Slough last weekend. I even tried to get a few quick photos, but they are indeed "spooky."
Trying to get close to pelicans is like trying to get close to a country's president. It's almost, if not, impossible.
Pelicans are beautiful birds that are making a comeback in Wisconsin and Minnesota. As a kid growing up in these parts, the only pelicans I saw was at the movies or in the Encyclopedia. Today, it's not seeing them that's the problem, but getting near enough to enjoy. I don't believe we have any nesting pelicans in the Greater La Crosse Area. The Coulee Region is just a stopover before heading farther north to begin nesting.
However, I gave up trying to get close enough for a photo or video, opting for binoculars instead, after reading what Minnesota DNR regional nongame specialist Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer said in a recent article.
“Pelicans are a very distinct looking bird, and that’s why many people enjoy them – not just birdwatchers,” she said. “However, pelicans are especially sensitive to humans and are easily scared off of their nests, causing them to abandon their nest and eggs.”
Meanwhile, I bought my new fishing license and inland trout stamp, so I'm all set for the Saturday, May 4 opener.
We continue to monitor Ol' Tom's boathouse as the water continues its "yo-yo" rise and fall.
Deer seem to be everywhere at all times of the day. Turkeys are out and about, too.
I talked with two anglers fishing from a boat off the south end of French Island last Sunday. They had a nice bag of crappies and perch. I also produced a video for our website, but some of the dialogue was muffled due to strong wind when I turned the camera in a certain direction.
In other news, Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tyler Ramaker, in La Crescent, reported that many boaters were found to be missing required equipment during a boating safety patrol on the Mississippi River. Boaters are reminded to check for required equipment before they take their boats out for the first trip of the year.
Ramaker also checked anglers on local trout streams and on the Mississippi River.
Minnesota DNR warden Mitch Boyum, stationed in Rushford, reported a busy trout opener despite the cool and snowy weather. Most anglers caught fish and limits were seen. One group checked with a limit forgot about the nine extra they had in the spare tire compartment. Enforcement action was taken.
A trespass complaint was taken with two subjects found to be fishing without permission.Conservation officer Tom Hemker, in Winona, reported a slow trout opener, but good walleye fishing on the river. The number of people targeting trout was down, but the streams were in good shape and trout were caught.
Baby and injured wild animals are showing up, which creates calls from concerned people.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Veteran turkey hunters helped an anxious young crowd and probably learned a thing or two themselves last weekend during Wisconsin's annual spring youth turkey hunt.
The first (A) of six, seven-day regular-season periods opens Wednesday morning, followed by five more periods, wrapping up May 28, the day after Memorial Day.
While most hunters have a single authorization permit, some have and others continue, to purchase leftover permits at $10.
Asher Lubchansky (pictured), 12, of Mazomanie, was mentored by Joe Reeve, a family friend who alerted Asher’s father, Ben, of the opportunity.     
“The adrenalin is just awesome,” Asher explained after the hunt, helping pluck a gobbler, and eating some deep-fried turkey breast nuggets.
Asher, who is home-schooled, didn’t have anyone except his outdoors buddy to tell about the excitement of seeing four gobblers closing in on a blind.  
“I guess it was a small tom, based on the weight (17 pounds, 6 ounces) but winter, not age, can likely be blamed for the skinny bird,” Asher guessed.
Unlike most turkey hunters, the Lubchansky's plucked the bird, chunked out the breast, and “broke bread” that evening with Reeve and Asher’s brother, River, and sister, Tilia. Mom was away on a trip.     
Incidentally, Tilia comes from the genus name for the basswood tree, a source of fishing lure wood and bee’s honey ingredients.
“The wings were frozen, the bones kept for soup stock, the spurs, and tail feathers were mounted, while others became trout fly material,” Ben Lubchansky said.
Asher is a trophy man, even at a young age, but not as one might imagine.  
“I recommend collecting trophies,” he said. “Put a squirrel tail in a drier, or a pheasant wing, too, and you have a nice trophy for your room. And if I get a rabbit next winter, I’ll make a lucky charm. If it works, I’ll be calling you again and tell you of my experience.” Take young Asher’s advice and consider using most parts of the turkey, and enjoy the experiences, too.
Turkeys aren’t the only game animals coming through winter on the slender side. Deer, which seem to be everywhere these days, are beginning to look a bit befuddled, while losing hair, gaining weight and getting pushed out of their home ranges.
Some starved this winter and a portion, many more than last year, likely died of chronic wasting disease. The Department of Natural Resources wildlife health section chief, Tami Ryan, reported 1,060 white-tailed deer tested positive of CWD during 2018 surveillance testing. This compares to 597 in 2017.
More than 17,200 deer were tested in 2018, while 9,841 were evaluated the previous year. In the Southern Farmland Zone, 8,571 deer were sampled with 1,039 testing positive.
The DNR hunter ethics selection committee is wrapping up their deliberations and hopes to announce a winner in early June at the Vortex Optics headquarters, the award’s cooperate sponsor.
The USDA-Wildlife Service confirmed wolves depredated a Myotonic goat in Burnett County. This animal is known, too, as a fainting goat that seizes when panicked.
More and more plants are commemorating “birthdays” this month, with pasque flowers (special at Easter) already finished in some regions. Tree flowers, especially those with catkins, are making pollen.
Gardeners are getting impatient for asparagus and rhubarb picking, and lettuce and onion planting.
Morel gatherers are waiting and listening for rumors in an activity known for secrecy.
A few wild greens are being collected.
Some winter-weathered and deer-browsed trees and shrubs are being eyed with a pruning tool in hand. In many cases, wait until new growth begins to determine what is spent and what is living.    
The inland fishing season opener is not too distant, including trout keeping.
Plan ahead.  

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

West-Central Wisconsin

West-Central Wisconsin

CHIPPEWA RIVER STATE TRAIL - Flood Warnings are posted along the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Dunn and Pepin counties. Expect sections of the Chippewa River State Trail to be flooded and impassible. River forecasts are showing flooding potential through April 24.

BUCKHORN STATE PARK - The lake level has been rising every day but is not high enough to put floating piers out yet.
People have been fishing along the shore by the Buckhorn Bridge.
Sandhill cranes, robins and more have returned to the park! We are slowly seeing signs of spring.
The Work & Play Day is scheduled for 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.
The 60-unit campground is open and non-reservable until May 1. Some of the walk-in sites are open and non-reservable until April 22, said Heather Wolf, park manager.

ROCHE-A-CRI STATE PARK - The main gate and camping remain closed until the beginning of May. Visitors can hike through the woods to the petroglyphs and stairway.
Turkey vultures have returned to the park.
Carter Creek has been high at times with water on the Spring Peeper Trail.
The Work & Play Day is scheduled for May 4, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call the Buckhorn office at 608-565-2789 to sign up for this volunteer park clean up day so activities and lunch can be planned, said Wolf.

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

Spring has sprung!
You can start thinking of getting that humming bird feeder out.  They are getting close. I don’t think you’ll see them until May, but it doesn’t hurt to have the feeder out.  
I will be putting my grape jelly feeder out with a few oranges this Easter weekend as orioles sometime arrive BEFORE hummers, sometimes at the same time.
Have a lovely Easter and let’s enjoy some family time, bird time and spring weather!
We have eastern towhees (pictured) in our yard right now and they are so fun to watch. They have orange, black and white on their bodies. They are not orioles!
Here are some fun facts about eastern towhees:
* Eastern towhees are ground sparrows. At first glance, male and female eastern towhees look very different. The males are black, while the females are brown. But at closer inspection, the males and females share several similar markings. Both male and female eastern towhees have white chests, orange sides and yellowish rumps.
* Eastern towhees are about eight inches (20 centimeters) long with a 10-inch (25-centimeter) wingspan.
* Many times an eastern towhee will be heard before it is seen. They sing with a musical "drink-your-teaeeee." The "tea" part of the song is a rolling trill. Eastern towhees also have a shorter "shewink" call.
* Eastern towhees live year-round in the Southeast and Midwest, and also migrate to the Northeast and the Great Lakes region in the summer. These birds like shrubby woodlands, fields and scrublands. They prefer a lot of ground cover where they can search for food.
* Eastern towhees spend most of their time foraging for seeds, insects and fruit on the ground or on low shrubs. The birds scratch the ground with their feet to uncover food buried under leaves or dirt. The eastern towhee has a thick beak that helps it break open seeds. Spiders, snails and millipedes are also eaten, and rarely the bird may eat small salamanders, lizards or snakes.
* Females usually build nests under bushes or brush piles. The bird gathers twigs, leaves and bark to construct the nest and lines it with animal hair. A female will have between two and six eggs, which incubate for 12 to 13 days. Both parents care for the hatchlings until they fledge 10 to 12 days later.
* Eastern towhees are often victims of brood parasitism from brown-headed cowbirds, who lay their eggs in the towhee's nest. The towhee incubates the eggs and rears the cowbird hatchling as its own.
* Towhees are usually shy sulkers and rush for cover at the slightest disturbance.
* Towhees are members of the sparrow Family.
* Towhees are ground feeders and use a hop-and-scratch foraging method. While jumping forward with its head and tail up, it kicks its strong legs backwards to uncover its food. They use this same technique in the leaf litter on the forest floor or underneath feeders where the seeds are clearly visible.
* Well hidden in thick cover, the nest of a towhee can be hard to find. Female towhees never land directly on it, rather they land away from the nest and walk through the thick brush to reach it.
Happy birding!
Karen Perry, Wild Birds Unlimited, Onalaska, WI, 608-781-5088.

Around the Badger State

Around the Badger State

The snow that fell last week across the north is diminishing and has disappeared where it fell in the southeast.
NOAA satellite images show the rapid loss of snow from April 15 to 16. One on April 15 one shows the southeast snow band well. Then by the 16th it's gone.
Most lakes south of Highway 64 are now ice-free. There are still some flowages and lakes in the north with ice, but temperatures are supposed to be increasing this week.
The ice is off of the North and South Fork of the Flambeau and soon the redhorse will be running. The river level is very high, nearing the flood stage.
Walleye are running up the major Lake Michigan tributaries such as the Oconto, Menominee, Peshtigo and Wolf rivers. There was heavy fishing pressure reported on all rivers this week. This last week was slower for anglers on the Fox River, with the slower bite attributed to cool temperatures and wind.
There was quite a bit of fishing activity on Door County's Whitefish Bay, Hibbards and Heins creeks on Saturday. Steelhead were seen in the streams that were running a little high, but clear. Steelhead fishing on other Lake Michigan tributaries was slower this week. Anglers fishing the Kewaunee River had mixed results. Suckers have begun running and anglers fishing for steelhead were catching upwards of 10 suckers. Fishing pressure on the Root River remained fairly high both above and below the steelhead facility but catches were few and far between.
Windy and cold weather had Lake Michigan waters rough, with significant waves and whitecaps and waves crashing over piers and break walls. The few anglers that were out on the Milwaukee River did not report any fish caught.
Fisheries staff anticipate that the lake sturgeon spawning run on the Winnebago System will commence at some point over the next week. Water temperatures are still a little cold, but warmer temperatures in the forecast later this week and weekend could get the fish more active.
Many areas of the state had a wet day for the spring turkey opener. The first period started Wednesday and hunters reported male turkeys have been seen moving frequently.
Deer are feeding very heavily on new growth right now.
Raccoon, skunks and bears are starting to make appearances. Chorus frogs are calling. Pussy willows are starting to bloom in the swamps.
In spring, sharp-tailed grouse perform an elaborate mating dance on a matted patch of ground called a lek. The Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area is home to Wisconsin's largest population of sharp-tails. The Friends of Namekagon Barrens host sharp-tail viewing opportunities from blinds. There are limited opportunities and spaces fill rapidly. The group recently created additional viewing opportunities. There is a minimum donation of $10 per sharp-tailed grouse blind reservation. Reservations can be made through the group's website at www.fnbwa.org.
Several large raptor flights unfolded, especially on the April 16, when hundreds of red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures and sharp-shinned hawks were on the move.
Loons are starting to shift northward, but some impressive counts continue on southern lakes, including 80-plus on Lake Monona this week.
Earth Day is right around the corner and this Saturday and Monday seven properties are holding Work*Play*Earth Day events. Come out and volunteer with Friends groups and help get parks ready for the busy season ahead. Then stay around and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Wisconsin Birding Report

The north saw some notable migration events this week.
Large numbers of dark-eyed juncos reached the Lake Superior shore on the April 17, accompanied by fox, song, American tree, and the first white-throated sparrows. Over 750 Bohemian waxwings were tallied near Ashland on that date as well.
Hermit thrushes, eastern phoebes, yellow-rumped warblers, winter wrens, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, rusty blackbirds and Eastern towhee have arrived in small numbers, while feeding stations are hosting American goldfinches, purple finches, pine siskins and a few lingering common redpolls.
Readers from the Northern Highland and other portions of north-central Wisconsin may notice a delay in migration timing for some species as snow and ice persist there following the past week's major snow event. Several large raptor flights unfolded, especially on the April 16, when hundreds of red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures and sharp-shinned hawks were on the move, in addition to some rough-legged hawks and others. The first broad-winged hawks reached Wisconsin from wintering areas in central and south America.
Farther south, ospreys continue their march back to nest platforms. Bonaparte's gulls were reported along Lake Michigan and in flooded fields inland, while the first terns are just now arriving, including Forster's, caspian and common.
Mid-April is a good time to look for grebes, including pied-billed, horned, and the rarer red-necked. Loons are starting to shift northward but some impressive counts were made on southern lakes this week, including 80-plus on Lake Monona. Also impressive were 15-20 black-necked stilts counted along Highway 49 at Horicon marsh.
Other shorebirds reported this week were Baird's sandpiper, dunlin, both yellowlegs and the first piping plovers of the season. Purple martins, barn swallows and cliff swallows also have begun their return, while warbler species were limited to yellow-rumped, pine, the first palms and a few Louisiana waterthrushes.
Rare birds spotted this week included western grebe in Ozaukee, varied thrush in Bayfield and northern mockingbird in La Crosse. The week ahead looks good for migration, especially this weekend and then again mid-late next week. We'll start seeing the first of the long-distance neotropical migrants reach some portions of the state, like more warblers, perhaps a hummingbird or oriole in the far south, kettles of broad-winged hawks and upland sandpipers back from Argentina, but the main show won't kick in until late April in the south and early May up north.
Help us track the migration at www.ebird.org/wi.
Good birding!

SOURCE: Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland