NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Birds Say Spring Has Finally Arrived

A walk around the neighborhood the other day found me hanging around the bird feeder, along with some  feathered fellows.  The pan of that bird feeder looks like it's seen better days!

 There were more feathered friends a little further along at Lake Elizabeth.  The American Coot moved around  a lot and did not cooperate as a subject, though he got closer than any of his one hundred friends spread out over our lake.  When I looked it up online I discovered that the American Coot is more closely related to Sandhill Cranes than to Mallards, which I thought was interesting.

When my arms got tired I gave up and walked back home, swinging by another bird feeder to see what might be hanging around and found some ducks.  I liked the sunlight peeking out on the female Mallard, who was much more cooperative!  Her mate kept giving me his backside though.  I  keep going to that same spot because I saw a big group of juvenile grouse heading off into the brush a while back, but haven't spotted them again since.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Eyes Like a Hawk

When Cory was little we used to say he had eyes like a hawk because he was always spotting things before we did.  Today I had eyes like a hawk, and spotted this red tailed hawk on the side of the road.

The first time I stopped to try to get a shot I thought it flew off, but when I turned around the car it was back in the same spot again.  I parked across the road and it fluttered off again, but this time I paid closer attention and noticed it just moved down into the ditch out of sight.

I waited a bit to see if it would reappear, and when it didn't I took a chance and crossed the road on foot to try to get a shot.  At this I point I figured it was either guarding supper or maybe injured.

When I got across the road, there it was, and it let me get as close as 20 feet and shoot away.

Eventually I left the poor red-tailed hawk in peace.  If it's injured, hope it heals up soon so it can get up in the air and put those hawk's eyes to good use.  Great short article on why a hawk's vision is so sharp here. As an eye care professional I found it especially enlightening.  But let's not forget that hooked beak... that's a serious hunting tool as well!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Duck, Dodge, Scamper and Squelch

After all the water I saw in Fort Atkinson, I was happy that I brought my new boots along with me for my next stop.  Just a few miles down the road lay Lima Bog State Natural Area, and I was determined to see what it might be hiding.  

State Natural Areas in Wisconsin are usually open to hunting, and hunters tend to lay down a faint footpath, but there usually aren't any established trails.  I parked in the small area next to a local farm, pulled on my new boots I found at The Rack last fall, and set off in search of boggy treasure.

The "trail" started out fairly easy to see, and just meandered alongside the farmer's land.  I kept my eyes, and my nose, alert for signs that a bog was nearby.
I left the trail for a moment to make sure I wasn't missing the secret path to the bog, but after ducking under branches and dodging all kinds of thorny undergrowth, all I found was some old farm equipment that I was fortunate not to trip over.
 Back  on the path it didn't take long for me to hit a pretty big obstacle in the form of a very large downed tree that looked to have been there quite a while.  Underneath the log looked like ankle twisting territory, so I scampered up on top and kept going.

It wasn't far to a cattail marsh from there, and what looked promising on the other side for the site of the bog from the type of trees growing there. It was a bit squelchy, but I kept at it until my thighs started getting tired.  Even though the water only got close to the top of my boots a couple of times, I decided to head back for the woods and just take a trip out to Beulah Bog on another day.   Now that I have boots I can tramp around to my heart's content and see what I couldn't access last time I visited

Peacock boots on clearance...score!

I was almost back to the car when my eyes caught sight of something small crossing the trail ahead. 

But, one can only spy on a chipmunk for so long, so I said farewell to him and to the bovine guards in the field by my car and mooo-ved on. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flooding and Feathers in Fort

On Tuesday I had the day off so on the advice of a fellow blogger I drove out to Fort Atkinson to try to find the heron rookery.  There's been a lot of rain in the area lately, and the further north I went the wetter things were looking.  By the time I got to Fort there was noticeable signs of flooding, especially along the Rock River through town.

Other benches were barely visible above the water
This is the entrance to the actual "fort" in Fort Atkinson
Riverside Drive? Try River Drive!
Should be fun getting into this driveway
And after arriving home you can feed the ducks from your bedroom window
Duck and geese crossing

I finally found the rookery, and luckily there was actually a nice shoulder to pull onto to take some photos.  I brought both my Canon EOS DSLR with the 75-300mm lens and 1.4X teleconverter and my Canon XS50.   I even put the DSLR on the tripod, but the XS50 won the contest, hands down.  The image was much farther zoomed in, and the picture quality was the same...and without a tripod!  However, when I brought the DSLR to Kettle Moraine the other day and used my extension tubes versus the XS50 the extension tubes definitely made a better image.  Seems like I won't be getting rid of my bulky bag of equipment just yet.

While I was driving around looking for the herons I saw a few other feathered friends.

The cranes were so close to the side of the road it sounded like they were ready to hop into the car with me when I rolled down the window to take a shot.  Who needs to go to a NWR?  Apparently Fort Atkinson and the Rock River is a birder's paradise!

And the flooding is only going to continue - 3 to 5 inches of rain today and more on the way tomorrow.  Perhaps by next week kayaking season can start early...right from my front door!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring or Winter?

It was supposed to be a beautiful day on Sunday so I headed out to Kettle Moraine's Scuppernong Trails for a hike.  The wind was a bit strong so a forest hike was in order, but as I drove the temperature dropped, and by the time I arrived there was snow on the ground and it was only 35 degrees!  I was watching an episode of "Happy Endings" on TV last week and Jane said, "Early spring in Chicago is really just winter."  Got that right!  This time last year we were in North Carolina, enjoying what spring should really look like.

Well, I had hoped to search out lichens and other things that were harder to see once the forest leafed out, so I pulled up my hood and carried on.

There wasn't much to see and I was getting a little disheartened, but I checked a pile of rocks just off the trail and things got a little more exciting.

There wasn't much after my exciting lichen find, and I plodded on, up and down the ridge.  And just when I was getting tired and needed a lift.....

As I was taking pictures I realized I was catching my reflection and lined up for a better shot.  Even though the snow had melted it was a "merry" ending to an invigorating 2 mile hike.  Still, next time I'm in Kettle Moraine hiking I'd rather see some dragonflies, pull some garlic mustard, and hear the wind blowing through the leaves.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hunky Junk

There is only one mural in Elkhorn that I know of, it's on the side of the building for Uncle Hunk's Junk, an establishment I have never entered.

The mural is pretty high falutin' for a "junk" shop.   I couldn't find an artist name.  I was just happy to find a mural on my route to Kettle Moraine for a hike.  More about that tomorrow!  Linking up to Mural Monday, see what everyone else found if you like.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chain O' Lakes State Park...Life's Wet Rewards

I've tried to come up with a post for Chain O' Lakes a few times, but whenever I take my camera the photos end up disappointing. I went on Thursday for a short hike for the first time since fall, and even though it was only 40 degrees, wet and windy I got a few shots that were fun.

The Chain is not as large as some other parks at under 3000 acres, but it offers a lot of diversity.  Camping, hiking, cross country skiing, boating, fishing and horseback riding are all offered here.  We haven't camped here because it's less than 15 minutes from home and the sites are a little on the smaller side and closer together compared to the Wisconsin State Parks.

I've hiked the horse trails for a little variety before, got to watch your step though!  Dog walkers favor the other watch your step on those as well.  What can you do?  Otherwise the trails are well taken care of, and most are a nice mixture of sand and gravel that kept my boots from getting muddy, even when wading through big puddles.

I drove through the whole park before settling on my hiking spot, and I only saw this one mallard and his mate.  Where have all the waterfowl gone?  Last week there were so many geese out this way I was afraid they might be lining the roads soon.

With all the wet I was on the lookout for fungi and lichens, but did not find the bonanza I've come across in other states like Kentucky, North Carolina and even Minnesota.  There were a few interesting trees that caught my eye.  In the first picture I was struck by the striping, it reminded me of tiger fur, but in the second picture it looked like the tree was disrobing!

This log had quite a show going on, but it was the only example of fungal proliferation that I found.

Wildlife was scarce today, no geese, no hawks, but I ran across these mourning doves napping in the drizzle as I exited the park.  They didn't seem to mind my car or my camera so I got some wildlife practice with my new camera after all.

There was no one else out and about in the rain today except for Homer, who is stuck outside in all kinds of weather to help promote paintball at the Richmond Hunting Club.  I doubt he has had any takers in the weather we've been having lately!