Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

It's that time of the winter.
Commonly referred to as cabin fever by younger generations, we older outdoors folks call it boredom.
Oh, there's plenty of outdoors recreation available such as ice fishing, antler shed hunting, hiking, snow-shoeing, ice skating, birdwatching, snowmobiling, rabbit hunting and downhill and cross-country skiing. There's more I'm sure, but age, health and physical limitations prevent me from doing all those things I enjoyed so many decades.
I now live for my daily winter drives through the Coulee Region. For example, it's very apparent ice fishing has slowed considerably. Bald eagles are active by a couple of nests I monitor. Small and big critters continue to move about day and night depending upon the weather.
I'm spending time indoors getting my fishing rods, reels and tackle box ready for another open water fishing season. Gosh, I hope fishing is much better than it was last year when the river was so high throughout spring, summer and fall.
Meanwhile, across the Mississippi River, Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tom Hemker, stationed in Winona, reports checking anglers and snowmobile riders. There were many people out fishing, but success was spotty. He followed up on a complaint of a person feeding deer. Hemker also continues to receive many calls related to CWD in the area.Tyler Ramaker, a Minnesota DNR conservation officer in La Crescent, attended training at Camp Ripley. Time was also spent checking coyote hunters and anglers. Boats were inspected for exotic species regulation compliance. Minnesota DNR conservation officer Mitch Boyum, in Rushford, reports a busy snow weekend. Six to 8 inches of fresh snow made the trails busy. Violations encountered included failure to display valid registration. Shed hunters were also out in force just before the heavy snow and reports are that hunting is getting better.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

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Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Deep snow drifts, piles of snow, endless shoveling and snowblowing machines are causing sore muscles and backs this winter.
Thermometers are also getting a workout displaying numbers and mercury levels not realized since last year's winter. These are advantages for some, yet struggles to others attempting to survive another winter.
We’ve heard stories about ruffed grouse (pictured) snow-roosting, sometimes diving into a drift or even 12 inches of fluffy stuff overlaying the land. Snow is great insulation if it’s not too heavy and hard. Crusty snow hinders most critters, but gives advantage to lightweight predators, who sail over the top while sharp-hooved deer cut through.
Below snow drifts and deeper still are mice and shrews that often get what they need to survive by never coming above to look, even for their shadow.
Plant root systems and crowns are usually protected from raw winters by snow’s insulation. Some plant parts are protected from gnawing rabbits that don’t touch the under-snow stem regions while girdling the exposed stems. Farm crops, such as winter wheat and alfalfa, take advantage of snow cover, while often killed by snowless Decembers.
Wisconsin's lake sturgeon spearing season has been hampered somewhat by ice conditions and water clarity, but probably continues through the entire 16-day season. Continue to follow daily DNR updates through season’s end, not likely until Feb. 23.  
Robins continue to amaze birdwatchers, even though we know a sizable lot of these birds, as well as bluebirds, take advantage of sun-thawing ice and snow on rooftops to get much-needed water.
Berries become the food of choice from hackberries (City of La Crosse) and crab apples (most urban backyards). Recently, it was noticed that robins had found some albeit temporary satisfaction on small buckthorn trees, now that other food sources are low. But birds can get diarrhea from buckthorn berries, which can weaken them. Blue stains on walkways and houses are often the result of robin droppings that have been eating this forbidden fruit.
Ground feeding for a dozen bird species has been as successful as feeder displays, according to Bob Ross, at Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop on Old Sauk Road in Middleton.
“Meal worms, alive and dried, have been taken by bluebirds and robins,” he said.
Carolina wrens and flickers are two of the more uncommon birds visiting area feeders, with red polls and pine siskins being no-shows during this unusual winter.
A few bluegill anglers fishing in private ponds in Green, Dane, Sauk and Lafayette counties have complained about grubs in the flesh of some bluegills, according to Don Martin, at Martin’s Sporting Goods.  
"Some anglers don’t notice them, and likely eat them,” he said. Coyote hunters continue to have success with dogs, with prime pelts bringing about $50, Martin said.
The DNR reported that wolves depredated a beef calf in the Town of Oakland in Douglas County.
Backwater and slough panfishing have been good, according to Wayne Whitemarsh, at McFarlanes’ Sports Department in Sauk City. He said anglers have also been catching walleyes.
An outstate fur buyer has one more trip to McFarlanes’ early next month.
Fall turkey hunting continues to be a missed opportunity with the success rate the last two years running about 5 percent. In the 2019 season, there were 3,792 birds registered, 10 more than in 2,018.
Keep looking for harbingers of spring. A few blooms and bud swellings can be documented, turkeys are responding to coyote howls, and bucks are shedding their antlers. All are signs we’re heading toward spring on March 20.

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

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

Well we’re on the down side of February which brings us closer to spring!  
If my memory is correct, you should be hearing the start of some spring singing by the chickadees, cardinals and even white-throated sparrows that may be passing through. This is a lovely sign that spring is approaching.
We’ve had a few snow showers, so it would be good to check your feeders to make sure that seed is flowing freely through them and there is no ice or snow build-up. Once the ice and snow melt, they will make the seed wet and this can cause bacteria to grow, so get out and check your feeders.
How old is your Nyjer thistle? Once it is six months old, finches tend not to eat it. Make sure there are no clumps of thistle in your feeder.  A good way to check for freshness of thistle is to sprinkle some on a clean sheet of white paper, crack the seeds, hold the paper up to the light. If you see an oil residue, the seed is still good.  
Have you ever tried hand feeding birds? Chickadees (pictured) are pretty easy to come to your hand. Start first thing in the morning before your feeders are filled. With a little patience, chickadees will readily fly in for black-oil sunflower, crushed mixed nuts and live mealworms.  
I used to sit close to the feeders with mixed nuts and sometimes mealworms. Chickadees will come. Be patient and sit still.
Our seed sale is still going on at Wild Birds Unlimited through the end of the month. This is a great time to try feeding with cylinders or try one of our Wild Birds Unlimited Bark Butter products!
Stop into our Wild Birds Unlimited store in Onalaska. For more information, call us at 608-781-5088.
Happy Birding. Think warm thoughts of spring!
Karen Perry