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Monthly Archives: January 2012

I normally purchase my Wisconsin state park sticker at Willow River State Park. When I stopped in December the office was closed so I thought I would try again today. This time I planned ahead and called the park. The office wasn’t open and the only way you can purchase a senior park sticker is in person. What to do? I started looking around to see if there was someplace else where I could purchase it. Turns out that Baldwin, Wisconsin has a regional DNR office and they just happened to be open on Wednesdays. Since this was on my way to Willow River I made the stop and purchased my two senior park stickers for 2012. I’m now ready to hit the parks for another year.

 When I pulled into the Willow Falls parking lot there was not a car to be seen. I don’t remember the last time this happened. I suppose with the lack of snow and cold weather the falls isn’t much of a draw. The first thing I noticed was the trail to the falls was glare ice. There was no way I would make it to the falls without some ice cleats on my feet. Fortunately I always carry them on my pack in the winter. Even with them on it was slow going on the ice.

 When I reached the river level I notice a mature Bald Eagle fly into a tree. As I was watching that one I noted another one in a tree. Then I saw a Pileated Woodpecker in a nearby tree. When I left home I had my Birding lens and camera in my pack and since I was too lazy to take it out I was ready to shoot the eagles. Unfortunately I only managed a distant shot before the eagles took off. I left my birding lens on the tripod and headed for the falls.

There was no frost, too warm, and very little ice in the falls. Since the ice formations were so small I decided to leave my birding lens (500mm) lens on the camera and use it to photograph the ice formations. I wandered around both sides of the river but could only find a few close-up shots that were worth taking.

 As I started to leave I noticed some watercress growing in a small stream. I stopped to take a few photos of it before heading back down the trail.

Rather than go back to the car I decided to walk down the ski trail that follows the river back toward the main parking lot. Normally you couldn’t hike on the trail but since it was glare ice I though no one would mind. I heard some geese and duck along the river and thought I might get a few shots. As it turned out the ducks took off before I got close enough and the geese were too far away. I took a few ice shots and started back to the car. Just then I heard something overhead and saw six Trumpeter Swans fly over. I had seen them in this area before but didn’t expect to this year because of the large amount of open water available to them. I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot but it was a great sight nonetheless


This is probably the worst stretch for photography I’ve ever experienced. Things turned brown in mid October and have continued that way for most of the fall and into the winter. We had a brief snowfall that provided an opportunity for a few photos but for the most part there has not been much to photograph. The last couple of weeks I’ve been out to some of my winter locations without much luck.

Frozen in Time

Normally at this time of year I’m getting some great ice and frost pictures on the Red Cedar Trail. This year the trail has remained open for hiking which is great for those folks that don’t ski and would like to walk down and view the ice formations on the trail. Conditions on the trail vary from no snow, to a slight snow to ice covered. Unfortunately the ice walls have not really formed this year because it’s been so warm. The ice wall looks like it normally would in the spring when it has just about completely melted. It’s even difficult to find ice along the small streams that flow into the Red Cedar River. This was taken along the trail where a small patch of snow had melted and then froze.

Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil’s Punchbowl has the same problem. The ice formation are very disappointing and the warm weather means that you are still walking through mud to photograph the ice that has formed. This is what it should look like at Devil’s Punchbowl this time of year.


Normally I’ve made several trips to the Bjornson Education Recreation Center by this time of year. It usually provides some interesting frost shots along the streams. There are a number of spring fed streams that run through the center and when the warm water comes out of the hills it creates a lot of steam and hence frost when it is cold. No such luck this year. There isn’t even any ice in the streams and very little snow cover on the trails. The one thing I did notice is that the Watercress has recovered in the streams. A couple of years ago we had a really harsh winter and in March all of a sudden the Watercress disappeared from the streams. The deer in the area were so desperate for food that they eliminated it in a few days and it is just now recovering.


Ice Formation

Willow River State Park is another area I frequently visit during cold weather. There are usually some great frost and ice shots to be had. This winter most of the ice seems to be on the trails. Normally folks are skiing on the trails but the trail down from the upper parking lot to the falls is glare ice so be prepared for a fast trip down to the falls.

Northern Cardinal - male

Normally I do a lot of bird photography on my farm in the winter. This year there are hardly any birds at the feeder. There are always American Goldfinches around. Apparently they are a lazy group and would rather eat at the feeder than forage for food. Normally I have all kinds of Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees around. This year the only time I’ve seen them is right after a snowfall. As soon as the snow melts they are gone. I’ve seen a few male Northern Cardinals but again only right after a snowfall. This photo was taken last year.

Previously I posted several blogs regarding my mole problems. It started last spring when the snow melted and I found that the moles had build a town under the snow. I finally resolved the problem using some mole poison. Things were great through the fall and early summer when I posted an update on my mole problems.

 Shortly after the first snowfall I noticed some mole signs moving out of the prairie and into the yard. They stopped when they hit the driveway so I didn’t give it much thought. However, in the next few days the mounds of dirt started appearing along the driveway. I put some poison out but it didn’t seem to help. I realized this was some bait I had opened earlier in the summer and it had dried out and was hard as a rock.

The moles continued following the driveway toward the house. When they finally stopped they had traveled about 80 feet along the driveway. The weather warmed up and the ground was not frozen so I opened my last package of poison and put it out in four different locations. So far I haven’t seen any more mole movement. I’m hoping that is the end of it for the winter.

 Somehow I think this is going to be a war that doesn’t end.


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I was taking a last look at my 2011 photos before sending them off to storage and decided to write a brief review of the years photographic experiences.


Things started off with a bang with an early winter blizzard. Not only did January bring lots of snow locally but it created some fantastic ski conditions in the upper Midwest. We made a number of ski trips to the U.P. of Michigan. Our favorite ski location was Swedetown. This is a shot taken on the Backcountry Trail. Unfortunately the log was removed because the groomer could no longer get  the groomer under it with all of the snow.

Swedetown Backcountry Trail


February was highlighted by a trip to the Apostle Islands Dog Sled Races in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a bunch of excited dogs as I did in the morning before the race started. The whole parking area was a scene of bedlam. Things were much different in the afternoon when they returned from a day of racing. There wasn’t a sound to be heard from the dogs. Their tongues were hanging out and all they wanted to do was eat and lay down. It’s a trip will worth taking for the family because you can get so close to the dogs.

Off and Racing


In late March we were planning one last trip to Lake Superior. Unfortunately nature had one last blizzard in store for us and were snowed in for a couple of days before the township was able to get all of the roads plowed. This was a massive storm that was supposed to hit the Duluth area with lots of snow. The weather pattern changed at the last minute and the snow dropped down into our area. When we did make the trip north we found almost no snow in the Duluth area. We had hoped to find some ice along Lake Superior but there was almost none to be found. When we stopped at Tettegouche State Park we asked the  ranger if there was any ice around. That started a surreal day of hiking through great fields of ice formations. The saga was documented in an earlier postfrom that day. The storm that brought us snow brought a strong Northeaster to the North Shore and created fantastic ice sculptures.

Tettegouche State Park


April brought another trip to the Minnesota North Shore. Amazingly most of the ice was gone and the spring snow melt was under way. This is a shot of the Cascades in Cascade Falls State Park.

The Cascades


The highlight of May was a visit to my bird feeder of a pair of Scarlet Tanagers. I have rarely seen Tanagers and had never gotten photos of them. The male showed up one day and as soon as I saw what it was I raced for a camera. I photographed the male and then the next day the female turned up at the feeder. They were both feeding on suet. By the third day they were gone.

Scarlet Tanager male


In June I made another trip to the Minnesota North Shore. Driving south from Grand Marais I noticed the fog moving in and out around Bluefin Bay. I stopped at a gas station for some coffee and then drove back to watch the fog in the early morning light.

Bluefin Bay


I July I spend most of my time photographing insects and flowers. I happened to catch this Honey Bee on a Milkweed plant that was just starting to bloom.

Honey Bee


August brought an invasion of Clearwing Hummingbird Moths. I had seen them along the Red Cedar River several years ago but had never seen them on my farm or at Hoffman Hills. This year they were everywhere so I spend a considerable effort to try and photograph them. I suspect I will never see as many again.

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth


In early September my wife and I made a trip through the U.P. of Michigan. We had planned on spending an night in Seney so we could photograph the sunset at Seney Wildlife Area. Through a stroke of luck I managed to capture my favorite photo of the year. We had not seen clouds during the day but as evening approached clouds formed in the western sky. We were late in arriving at Seney and sunset was already well underway. In addition, there were some contrails in the sky. I wasn’t happy to see them but continued to photograph the sunset. As the evening progressed th clouds and contrails combined to create an image of an eagle in sky making for a memorable photo.

Seney Sunset


One of the benefits of living in the upper Midwest is the fall color displays. I had to work hard to capture them this year because just as the fall color season was starting strong winds also started blowing. They continued throughout the fall and took the leaves down almost as soon as they peaked. This photo was taken in Rusk County in northern Wisconsin.

Rusk County


In November I usually make my way to Crex Meadows near Grantsburg, Wisconsin to photograph the fall Sandhill Crane migration. In November there can be as many as 14,000 Sandhill Cranes residing in Crex. On this particular day I had intended to drive out to where the cranes were roosting and not bother to stop for sunrise shots at Phantom Lake. As I drove past Phantom Lake I realized that there was going to be a spectacular sunrise. This was my favorite fall shot taken shortly after the sun came up.

Phantom Lake Sunrise


December was one of the slowest photography months I’ve had. We had virtually no snow until a 6 inch wet snowfall the first week in December. My wife and I quickly drove down to the Red Cedar Trail to take advantage of the fresh snow. Fortunately we did because it quickly melted and Christmas looked more like Thanksgiving with brown grass and no snow. This is the bridge over the Red Cedar River.

Red Cedar Trail Bridge