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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Prairie Smoke is an early season flower that blooms in the prairie at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area. The first several years I photographed at Hoffman Hills I didn’t realize any flowers were in bloom because it was around in such small numbers. Once I realized it was an early bloomer I started looking for it sooner. It along with Common Violet and Pussyfoot are the three early blooming flowers in the area. Prairie Smoke has a long season and can be photographed at various stages during the season.

Prairie Smoke bud

Prairie Smoke

Dew Covered Prairie Smoke

Wild Lupine and Bumble Bee

I made several trips out to Hoffman Hills this week to view the flowers and wildlife. This time of year I spend most of my time in the wetlands and prairie areas and avoid the trails in the woods because of the mosquitoes.

The early spring flowers are now out in the prairie area. Pussyfoot, Prairie Smoke and Wild Lupine abound. A Bumble Bee was working the Wild Lupine for nectar.

Eastern Bluebird

I haven’t seen the goslings in over a week. They may have moved back into the wetlands which is common when they are a little older. The Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds are all nesting and have young birds in the nest. I’ve noticed Green Herons by the ponds and today saw a pair of them flying several times. The ponds are high and the herons seem to be spending quite a bit of time in the trees. I noticed an Eastern Bluebird with a bug in its beak so I watched as she brought the bug to the nest. The male was a little more reluctant to approach the nest with me in the area.


I did see a Muskrat several weeks ago but haven’t seen any sign of him recently.

I had a chance to hike several sections of the Red Cedar State Trail this past week.

Ostrich Fern Unfolding

Wild Geranium

The early spring flowers are just about gone. There are a few Large-flowered Trillium, Marsh Marigolds, Swamp Buttercups and Pussytoes still around but they won’t last long. The mid spring flowers are starting to show themselves. The most common are the Wild Geranium and Wild Blue Phlox with a few Columbine also out. Various types of ferns  can be seen unfolding all along the trail. Unfortunately the DNR likes to mow a double wide swath along each side of the trail and in the process mows down lots of beautiful flowers.

In terms of wildlife I heard lots of different birds  but with the leaves on the trees and the strong winds it was difficult to find them and even more difficult to photograph them. There are a variety of warblers along the trail including Yellow and Common Yellowthroat. I noticed a number of American Redstarts. The Grey Catbirds can be seen and heard all along the trail as can the Red-winged Blackbirds and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The eaglets at the 1.5 mile mark seem to be growing fast. One of the adult Bald Eagles was sitting in a tree along the trail calling to their young in the nest across the river. If you listen carefully you might hear them calling as you pass the limestone cliffs. I also saw several Bald Eagles flying along the river this week.

White Tailed Fawn

White Tailed Doe and fawn

This morning while eating breakfast I noticed a White Tailed Deer doe standing  in my small prairie area. I watched it graze for a while. Soon a fawn jumped out of the pine trees and joined the mother in the prairie. The mother then laid down and began to groom the fawn. This went on for about a half an hour. At that point the fawn laid down and the mother left the prairie. Later in the day I walked out into the area where I thought the fawn might be and  I found the faun laying in the grass right next to a path I had mowed through the prairie.. It was difficult to see the fawn because the grass was so high. I took a few photos and then left the area. This is the first time I’ve observed the process of the doe bringing the faun into an area to hide it for the day while the mother goes off to graze.

In the past several years I have found fawns around the farm. One year the doe left the faun in my garden. I was more than a little surprised to find the faun in my pea patch when I went out to pick some peas early one morning. out of the corner of my eye I saw something move but couldn’t see what it was. Later in the day I went out to the garden again and this time I saw the faun jump up and move into some tall grass. It was still there the next day so I made the mistake of thinking it had been abandoned. I put a pail of water out in the garden thinking it might need something to drink. The next morning I found the pail had been destroyed by the doe. The faun stayed around through the next day before leaving.

I was taking pictures of several birds taking a bath last week and started thinking I probably have a number of photos from the past of birds in the process of taking a bath or cleaning themselves after a bath.

Yellow Warbler

This is a Yellow Warbler captured taking a bath in a small stream along the Red Cedar Trail. I watched him for quite a while as he would take a bath fly up to a branch and then fly back down to the stream again.

Mallard Duck

This Mallard duck spent a considerable time preening himself after taking his bath. He became a contortionist trying to make sure each feather was just right.

American Robin

This American Robin had just been in the bird bath and was spending some time working on it’s feathers.

Grey Catbird

The Grey Catbird was busy using the bird bath in front of the house.


Late last week I made the trip up the Ice Age Trail east of Rice Lake to hike the Hemlock Creek Loop. The weather was overcast and I was hoping to get a chance to photograph a few wildflowers. Much to my amazement I found over twenty different wildflowers in bloom. Large Flowered Trillium were the most common but there were lots of wild strawberries, a variety of anemone, violets and many more. If you have never hiked this segment of the ice age trail now is a great time to do it.

On the down side there were a few mosquitoes out.

Common Blue Violet


Large-flowered Bellwort

Large-flowered Trillium

Rue Anemone

Wild Strawberries


On May 16th and 17th I made my spring trip to Crex Meadows. I usually vary the trip time each year. This year I wanted to see the newly hatched goslings. Highlights of the trip were the goslings, watching a controlled burn in the meadows, Sighting a family of beavers and an encounter with a black bear.

Canada Geese

Although I didn’t get any great shots of the goslings they were sure fun to watch. For some reason they like to congregate on the dike roads that run throughout Crex Meadows. When a car comes down the road they wait until the last minute and then run in every direction. It reminded me of an old time silent movie skit. They would usually end up in the water only to return to the road shortly after the car drove by. In one case the parents flew into the flowage leaving the goslings to scramble over the grass and brush to get into the water. This is a shot through my windshield as I approached some geese.

Goose Swan Encounter

I noticed some Trumpeter Swans in one of the flowages and stopped to take some photos. Just as I drove up a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings entered the water near the swans. One of the swans was upset and went after one of the geese. Unfortunately I was only able to capture the end of the encounter.

Controlled Burn

I noticed that a controlled burn was taking place because I could see the smoke for miles. As I drove on the various dyke roads I managed to drive through the area they were burning. Lots of equipment and people conducting the burn. I had hoped that it would continue through sunset so it would create a nice glow but it didn’t.

Moonrise over Crex Meadows

Normally I like to plan my trip to Crex Meadows to coincide with the full moon. In this case I noticed that the full moon was a couple of days away and more importantly the moonrise and sunset were within a few minutes of each other. It makes it handy to capture both if the weather cooperates. Unfortunately it didn’t on this trip. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen. Even worse I was looking for a new area to photograph the sunset and it didn’t work out and so I was out of place to photograph the moonrise. I did manage a few shots but nothing spectacular.

Lilly Pads

I normally say in Grantsburg overnight so I can photograph the sunrise. Again it was a disappointment because there were no clouds to be seen and there were no birds on Phantom lake. However, I did manage to get some nice backlit photos of lily pads and reeds.

BeaversDriving past one of the canals in the wildlife area I noticed several beavers swimming down the canal. I drove along a parallel road and was able to get ahead of them. I setup the camera and waited for them. Unfortunately they were backlit but when they reached me they went up on land. Turns out it looked like a family. The adult was on shore and the two smaller ones swam up to it. Watching them swim I didn’t realize how large they are.

Ring-Necked Ducks

I then headed drove through the burn area on my way to the sand blow. There were still logs and stumps smoldering. Just as I started my drive through the burn area I found a pair of Ring-necked Ducks in a small pond. As I watched them a Mallard Duck came out of the reeds and started after them.

Shortly thereafter I had a surprise encounter with a large black bear. I was driving along the road at about twenty five miles an hour in a place I didn’t expect to see any wildlife when all of a sudden a large black bear charged out of the swam right in front of the car. He hit the road running full speed headed down the road in front of me. I was so surprised I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes. I followed him for about seventy five yards before he veered off the road into the swamp. You might think I got a great picture having three cameras sitting on the passenger seat. But I was so startled that I forgot to grab a camera as I followed the bear down the road at twenty five miles an hour.

Wolf Tracks

At the sand blow I managed to photography what appears to be some wolf tracks. I never know what I’m going to find at the sand blow. Last year I found some fresh bear track.

Trumpeter Swan

Driving out of the meadows I found a pair of Trumpeter Swans along the road. I typically don’t find them in the road and even when they are close to shore they usually move out into the water. This pair wasn’t about to move. They held their ground.

Canada GooseOn my way back home. I stopped at the Fish Lake Wildlife Area to watch some birds. As I watched several Canada Geese in the water another goose flew down and landed on top of one of the geese I was watching. It  pushed it entirely underwater. I had never seen anything like this. The goose popped back up and they swam off together.

All in all it was a successful trip with the fire burn and bear encounter. Crex Meadows is a great place to photograph wildlife because of the extensive dyke road system that allows you to photograph from the car without disturbing the wildlife.

More photos from Crex Meadows can be found on my website.


Scarlet Tanager male

Scarlet Tanager female

Wow what a spring for birds. We have had an amazing number of Baltimore Orioles around for the past week. Yesterday a Scarlet Tanager showed up. I’ve only see three or four of these in my entire life and have never been able to get a photograph of one. It was amazing he came to my feeder several times during the day. I had just put a different kind of suet it the feeder and he went right for it even though there was some regular suet available. This was a packaged suet and seed mixture which included black sunflowers and corn. He seems to really like it. The amazing thing is I only put it out because I was down to my last package of suet and didn’t have any more peanut butter suet remaining. The next day the female showed up at the feeder.

We had a bad storm on Monday and when I stopped at Hoffman Hills I noticed there were a number of large willow tree branches had blown down around the ponds. There were a large number of warblers in and around the downed branches. I spent quite a bit of time photographing the various warblers. In all I saw four different types of warblers including Yellow-rumped, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow and Cape-may.

Yellow Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler





One of my favorite waterfall destinations in Wisconsin is Amnicon Falls State Park. There are several reasons I like to visit the park. On one it is at critical junction in my travels to the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior and the South Shore in Wisconsin. When I travel to either location I usually travel past Amnicon Falls State Park. A more important reason is the large number of beautiful waterfalls in a very small area.

Now and then Falls

Now and Then Falls

As the name implies the waterfall exists only now and then. In fact, it wasn’t until my third visit to the park that I realized that the waterfall existed at all. The water flow has to be high enough feed the falls which is on a tributary flowing off of the main river. I always check to see if this falls has water flowing over it. This falls can be shot from a bank above the falls and by scrambling down the bank to the right of the falls. I like to wade up the stream to photograph the falls from below. It used to be easy to describe how to reach the falls because it was right behind the restrooms. However, the recently build new restrooms in a different location. The falls is located to the right of the new restrooms at the south end of the main parking lot.

If the stream flow is low enough I like to wade up the stream to get some intimate photographs  There can be a lot of debris in the stream so sometimes it is difficult to get to the base of the falls.

Upper Falls

Upper Falls

Upper Falls is located just above the Covered Horton Bridge. It can be very dramatic if there is a large amount of water flowing in the Amnicon River. There are photographic opportunities from above, below and on both sides of the river. You can photograph from the bridge or if the water levels are lower you can walk under the bridge. This is a popular wading spot in the summer so you may have to share the falls with others.

Lower Falls

Covered Horton Bridge

Lower Falls is located just below the Covered Horton Bridge. You can photograph from both sides of the river. Just below the parking lot on the cliffs above the river is probably the place most people photograph from because if offers a dramatic view of the Horton Covered Bridge just above the falls. This is also a popular wading spot in the summer so you may have to share the falls with others.

Snake Pit Falls

Snake Pit Falls

Snake Pit Falls is located across the island from the Horton Covered Bridge. It is perhaps the most dramatic of the waterfalls as is drops in a deep chasm before flowing back toward the main stream. You can photograph the falls from several locations above the falls and also walk down a gully to photograph where the falls leaves chasm.

Amnicon Falls State Park

There are many more smaller waterfalls located in this beautiful park. In addition there are rapids all along the Amnicon River in the park.

You can view more photos of Amnicon Falls State Park on my website.