Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

My better half and I had a nice drive to Milwaukee and back last weekend before heading to Cloquet, MN, on Wednesday.
We expected to see peak fall color the farther we drove north. However, we were a little disappointed. The Eau Claire area was faded shades of green similar to the Coulee Region.
Color didn't really become apparent until we reached Rice Lake. Yet, there was no brillliant color show, only faded shades of red, yellows and browns.
Color waned farther north, but plenty of leaves were dropping from a strong southern breeze. Suprisingly, the best color show was right in Cloquet where our oldest son and family live.
Meanwhile, closer to home, rivers are dropping in the Greater La Crosse Area, although not fast enough for the Wisconsin-Minnesota waterfowl hunting re-opener on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Mary Stefanski, Winona District Manager of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, urges waterfowl hunters to be extremely cautious.
Stefanski said hunters should be vigilant as flood waters have significantly changed conditions at traditional hunting locations. Excessive current, turbid water and submerged and floating hazards should be expected.
The unseasonably high water will also alter the appearance of backwater areas and could make Closed Area boundaries difficult to locate as signs may be submerged or missing. Hunters should verify the general location of Closed Areas by reviewing maps available at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Upper_Mississippi_River/map.html.
Waterfowl hunters should also be prepared to locate alternative boat ramps to access the Mississippi River between Wabasha, MN and Trempealeau, WI as traditional ramps may be closed due to flooding. The following boat ramps are currently closed and not expected to open for the Saturday re-opener: Halfmoon Landing located near Kellogg, MN; Verchota and McNally Landings on the Prairie Island Dike near Minnesota City, MN; Beef Slough and Pontoon Slough Landings on the Nelson Dike (MN Hwy 60/WI Hwy 25) between Nelson, WI and Wabasha, MN.
For more questions about the availability of boat ramps, Stefanski said to call the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge at 507-454-7351.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Ruffed grouse hunters have charged woodward, maybe earlier than when they normally get serious.
West Nile Virus test results from 2018 are still uncertain and cutting off January’s pursuits have not dimmed enthusiasm, but lingering summer vegetation has. Still, flushes and woodcock twitters have kept interest.
Wisconsin’s ring-necked pheasant was initially introduced in Waukesha County in 1916 and spread to Jefferson County, with hunting allowed in 1927. Then came stocking throughout the state.     
Several bright spots will excite hunters when the pheasant season opens Oct. 19, at 9 a.m., and continues through Jan. 5, 2020 (not Jan. 31).
There was an eight percent increase in pheasant survey results compared to 2018. The highest numbers of birds seen per 100 miles driven were in Polk, St. Croix, Dunn, Pierce, Pepin and Eau Claire counties.
Kelly Maguire, manager at the Poynette Game Farm, highlighted several bright spots, too, including having a few thousand more pheasants to stock than the usual 75,000. Another 2,000 birds also will be released during a holiday stocking the week before Christmas.
Those holiday birds will be stocked on the same eight state properties that were part of the Holiday Hunt last year, which include Mud Lake (Columbia), Mazomanie (Dane), Brooklyn (Green), Waterloo (Jefferson), Richard Bong (Kenosha), Avon Bottoms (Rock), Sauk Prairie (Sauk) and Vernon (Waukesha).
Each of these eight sites will receive about 250 birds.
Backing up, Maguire’s wildlife biologists will stock state public hunting grounds the week before the October opener, then biweekly for three weeks before cutting back to once-weekly stocking.
“For safety (stockers), we will not be out during gun deer season, but pheasant hunters will still be out (in blaze orange),” she said.  “Stocking will resume after deer season, ending the second week of December.”
Jason Cotter, DNR wildlife biologist in Green County, said wood ducks seem to be the most common bird in his area, but expects cooler temperatures will push more mallards in.
The acorn crop is hit and miss, he said, and common pin oak fruits are not as tasty to deer. Blue jays seem to have no displeasure with them, revisiting trees dozens of times while building a cache of nuts deeper in forests. Avid hickory nut gatherers have seen the same, some excellent picking, but other trees not so much or with tiny fruits.
There seems to be a slurry of hunters heading west for large game and some upland birds, too, according to Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe.
Wayne Whitemarsh, in Sauk City, has heard talk of some dove hunting, squirrel hunting and nut picking, but said fishing, even for the last few days of trout season, has been hampered by high water.
Nancy Frost, DNR wildlife biologist at Tower Hill, reported more deer movement throughout the day and at dawn and dusk.
Prairie seed collecting is waning, but small birds continue to “seed” cone flowers and wild carrot. Most hummingbirds have departed, and are being replaced by common feeder birds.
Road kills have spiked with deer, raccoon, gray squirrels, groundhogs and opossums making up the bulk of scavenger foods.
Notice a pulse of autumn color now that the weather has normalized and while the early leaf drop continues to show the deciduous nature of most hardwoods. White pines are changing and then losing a set of needles, while witch hazel is just beginning to flower.

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

Wisconsin Birding Report

A mild week allowed some warm-weather birds to linger longer than usual and provided enjoyable conditions for birding.
Southern Wisconsin birders reported continuing hummingbirds, vireos, house wrens, tanagers, grosbeaks and more than a dozen warbler species, albeit most in small numbers now. Sapsuckers, robins, kinglets, waxwings, and thrushes were more commonly found.
The north saw a great influx of birds on Oct. 7, including robins, rusty blackbirds, both kinglets and good numbers of sparrows, especially dark-eyed juncos and fox sparrows. Yellow-rumped and palm warblers delighted in the warmth by actively plucking cluster flies around sunlit homesteads. Much less obvious was a great migration of northern saw-whet owls and the first long-eared owls, both detected by researchers netting and banding the birds at night. Most migrant owls are silent this time of year so your best bet of finding one is to listen in daylight for agitated groups of chickadees, blue jays, and other songbirds as they scold owls roosting in nearby dense cover.
Diving ducks have begun to trickle in, including both scaup, redheads and canvasbacks, while most notable was a report of over 1,000 ring-necked ducks in Oneida County. On the Great Lakes, also look for building numbers of horned grebes, red-breasted mergansers and all three scoter species, as well as Bonaparte’s gulls among a few lingering common and Forster’s terns.  Common loons are also beginning to stage in small flocks, while sightings of trumpeter swans have become regular statewide. The first tundra swans should arrive anytime now so check them carefullyfor proper identification.
It was a good week for hawk migration, particularly sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, merlins, peregrine falcons and turkey vultures. Preliminary results of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas suggest populations of many raptor species are doing well compared to decades ago.
Rarities were few this week, best being an early varied thrush in Sheboygan. A drastic change in weather will likely paint a much different birding scene in the week ahead, as temperatures struggle to get out of the 40s statewide. Expect those warm weather birds to largely move on, feeders to get slightly more active with sparrows and other residents, hawk migration to continue strong if conditions are dry enough, and a better influx of waterfowl.
Help us track the migration and report your finds to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding!

SOURCE: Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

First thing, keep that hummingbird  feeder out until the first freeze! You may have some young or late migratory looking for nectar to keep them going on their journey.
While cleaning up your yard this fall, think about making a brush pile somewhere in your yard. Place it about 10 feet from your feeders. Birds will use it as a safe haven during cold days and while waiting a turn at your feeder.
Get those high energy  foods out. Fresh is best and Wild Birds Unlimited  has their seed sale going this month. Stop in and we'll  make sure you have the right food for your birds.
Also, get those heated baths out for the chilly days ahead!
Happy birding!
Karen  Perry, Wild  Birds  Unlimited, Onalaska, 608-781-5088 

Around the Badger State

Around the Badger State

More and more leaves are changing across Wisconsin as the fall color begins to peak across the northern half of the state. Those living further south are in for a treat as the leaves are just starting to turn.
The state continued to receive its share of rain last week, leaving Lake Michigan tributaries running high and clarity low. Between the rainstorms, anglers were still fishing fall salmon runs, especially at Oak Creek, where anglers were standing shoulder to shoulder.
Deer activity is picking up with plenty of scraping, so bucks can make their presence known.
High water levels continue to make it challenging for waterfowl hunters, who are finding birds spread out. Ducks, geese and cranes are slowly moving in with a big push of birds are expected this weekend.

ADAMS COUNTY - The main gate and camping at Roche-A-Cri State Park are now closed. Parking is in the winter lot on Czech Avenue, and park stickers are required. Trails are in good shape for hiking and only a small amount of fall colors.

JUNEAU COUNTY - Shorter hike-in campsites at Buckhorn State Park are still open and non-reservable. Far campsites are now closed.
Cooler weather is coming, and winterizing has started. RVs can use the frost-free spigot at the park office or fill water in a campground as the dump station is shut down.
Hunting maps are available for park and wildlife areas. Boat piers will be removed Oct. 23.