A walk along the Red Cedar State Trail revealed a number of things. These are the remains of last year’s milkweed crop.
What little water there is in the ditches along the trail is already starting to grow over with slime.
The Skunk Cabbage is growing well in various locations along the trail.
Something really unusual happened on Saturday. The sun was shining. Since spring started I think we have seen the sun about three times. On most of the other days it has snowed. Since the sun was out my wife and I decided to take a walk on the Red Cedar State Trail.
The no walking signs have been removed so people can now walk on the trail but with all of the snow some diehard folks are still trying to ski. On Saturday the trail was 90 percent snow covered between Menomonie and Irvington. In the morning the snow was crusted and the bare spots were frozen. by late morning the snow had turned to slush and the bare spots were muddy. Most of the hike was along the side of the trail where the ground was solid.
We hadn’t gone three hundred yards and we saw a Sharp-skinned Hawk on a tree next to the trail. Of course, my camera was in the pack. He didn’t seem concerned about our presence so I started to get the camera out when I notice a large group of kids walking towards us. I figured they would scare the hawk away so we just watched the hawk until it finally flew away.
We started seeing large numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, Veerys, Brown Creepers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets along the trail. It was a great day for birding. We also saw a couple of Bald Eagles fishing along the Red Cedar River.
The first flower of the year was also starting to bloom. We found Skunk Cabbage poking through the snow several places along the trail.
Late in the morning we started to be plagued by what I think were snow flies. We could hardly open our mouths without getting a bug flying in. In some places the snow was almost black with them. The birds were having a field day. There were large groups of swallows flying above the river.
On Monday we hiked the trail from Irvington to the five mile marker. On Monday there was less snow but where there was snow it had turned to ice so waking was a little difficult. There were a lot fewer birds although we did see and hear a fair number of Sandhill Cranes and saw a few eagles. There were also quite a few of Buffleheads in the river.
We had another six inches of snow overnight.
In my way of thinking winter is all too short. The first hint of spring is when we typically take our last ski trip of the season. This also a time when we take in our last sled dog race of the season. We travel to Calumet, Michigan the first weekend of march to ski at the Swedetown Ski Trails and take in the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race. This year is going to be a little different. It was below zero this morning, the coldest start to spring in fifty years. Last year on this day it was eighty degrees. We have been battered by one snow storm after another with more on the way. What a great winter! It looks like it last at least another week so there will one more ski trip.
Shortly after ski season I start to see the waterfalls that have been encased in ice most of the winter start to thaw and gradually the ice gives way to raging waters as the weather warms and the spring melt occurs.
Lower Falls Amnicon Falls State Park
The few leaves from last fall that are falling onto the snow start to melt into the snow in the woods and trails around the area.
Shortly thereafter, the first flower of spring starts to poke through the snow and mud. This is the often overlooked Skunk Cabbage which grows in wet areas along the Red Cedar State Trail.
The Canadian Geese return to Hoffman Hills. This pair arrived a little early and were having problem navigating the ice on the pond. One year a late March snowstorm caught everyone off guard and I found a goose egg laid in the snow along one of the ponds.
Spring is surly here to stay once the Easter Bluebirds return. Sometimes they are a little early and get caught in a late season snowstorm but they are the first of the summer birds to return.
I’ve had a chance to walk portions of the Red Cedar State Trail this week. A few Skunk Cabbage continue to bloom along the trail mainly in areas that were shaded. However, most of the cabbage is leafing out now along the trail.
The False-Rue-Anemone are out in force along the trail. You can see large patches of them all along the trail.
False Rue Anemone
Spring Beauty are starting are also starting to bloom along the trail.
Marsh Marigolds are in full bloom in sunny areas but in shady areas they are just starting to bloom.
I was also looking for birds but was surprised not to find many around. A couple of weeks ago there were numbers of Yellow Throated Warblers but I didn’t see a single one today. If the warblers don’t migrate through soon it will be very difficult to spot them because the trees will have leafed out.
A couple of days ago the first birds of spring arrived on the farm. Today I noticed that the first of the spring flowers were blooming, the lowly Skunk Cabbage. They usually start poking their heads up just as the snow starts to melt.
They can be found along the Red Cedar State Trail just south of Irvington. In a few weeks they will be all along the trail south of Irvington. They are usually found in the ditches along the trail in the muck and mud. They are not the most beautiful flower around but since they are the only game in town they get most of my attention.
While photographing the Skunk Cabbage I noticed quite a few Northern Cardinals flying around in the area. I also notice several large flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying north.
Trail conditions have greatly improved. Last Friday and again today the DNR graded the trail fixing most of the rough spots caused by early bikers and hikers walking on the soft trail. Conditions should be good for biking/walking on the trail unless we get a hard freeze and thaw. Unfortunately as the snow leaves the trail the litter starts to show through. I’ve started to carry a bag along to collect some of it. Unfortunately just North of Irvington a number of the folks who live above the trail have seen fit to dump everything, including the kitchen sink, out their back door along the trail. Today I noticed someone had posted a sign along the trail that said “Slobs Live Here”.
There are a variety of birds along the trail. The warblers have started to return. Last Friday there were hundreds of migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers along the trail where it runs close to the Red Cedar River. Today I only saw a couple of them. The next most common bird is the Red Winged Blackbird which can be seen all along the trail. The Eagles are on their nest at the 1.5 mile mark. Last Friday, around the 4 mile mark, I could hear a number of Sandhill Cranes and Some Turkeys. Today a flight of three Sandhill Cranes landed in the wetlands. There were also a number of Turkey Vultures flying around the area.
Flowers are starting to appear. The first flower to appear is always the Skunk Cabbage. They are now starting to get large leaves. Bloodroot can also be found along the trail. The Marsh Marigolds are also starting to bloom along the trail. I noticed several large clumps of Trout Lilies. They are not yet in bloom but should be blooming shortly. The Touch-me-nots are starting to emerge from the mud along the trail.
I’ve seen a few animals along the trail, a White Tailed Deer, and a Raccoon crossed the trail in front of me. On warm days the frogs are really out in force and you can hear them all along the trail.