Favorite Thing Friday: Wisconsin Wildlife

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After a four year absence, I was finally able to get back to my roots in the Northwoods of Wisconsin last week. I spent most of my childhood years playing in the snow, traipsing through the forest, and swimming in pristine lakes. There’s no place like it on earth and I feel so privileged to know it’s beauty firsthand.

While the trees, lakes, wildflowers, and marshes all lend to the region’s rustic beauty, the presence of wildlife alongside human settlement has always been a source of amazement for me. Northern Wisconsin is peppered with a number of small towns, (most with populations of just a few hundred), with large expanses of state and national forests in between. These forests are filled with everything from deer, bald eagles, bears, and rodents. Throughout my life I’ve had honor of seeing these animals in their natural habitat.

My recent trip up north was no exception when it came to experiencing wildlife.  I’ll be frank and admit that I was worried I had lost my touch in spotting animals through the trees and thick leaves. I live in the city where finding animals isn’t a necessary skill and it’s been a long time since I’ve thought of the “rules” my grandparents and aunt and uncle had taught me as a child.

  • Rule#1: Be quiet and listen.  Rustling leaves can mean a bird or small animal like a squirrel. A dull thud is something larger like a deer. Large rustling and a deeper thud might mean something larger like a bear. A hollow thud up high means a woodpecker is around!
  • Rule #2: Don’t make sudden movements. Move slowly so as to not frighten animals away or trigger an attack out of fear (this is particularly true of bears).
  • Rule #3: Keep your eyes open. Wherever you hear sound scan the area carefully. Animals tend to blend into the background, but if you look hard enough you’ll see them.

Within the first hour of arriving in Wisconsin, my worries were immediately put to rest. On the ride from the airport alone, I saw six deer! Every day after that, my list of wildlife sightings only grew. Luckily, I had my camera with me for some of these sightings.

In Land O’Lakes, on Big Portage Lake Road I spotted a large Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Thump! Thump! Thump! A woodpecker at work.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

Walking along Bearskin Trail near Minocqua, I saw a number of little critters:

A chipmunk nibbling on his dinner.

Nom, nom, nom. A chipmunk feast.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A mother duck swimming with her brood of 10 chicks. Look through the two big trees to see them.

Momma duck and her chicks go out for a swim.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A robin clutching an earthworm.

A robin clutches a tasty worm.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A woodpecker (I’m not sure of the species).

Another woodpecker hammers away!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

While staying at my uncle and aunt’s cabin near Boulder Junction, I was lucky enough to see a nest of quail eggs and a cute painted turtle hanging out on a log on the lake.

Little quails waiting to hatch.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A sunbathing turtle!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera handy for the following sightings:

  • 1 gray wolf. This was an unbelievable sighting and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. He was beautiful.
  • More than 20 deer, including a mother with her spotted fawn.
  • 4 loons
  • 2 turkey vultures
  • 2 leopard frogs
  • 1 toad
  • 1 rabbit
  • Countless chipmunks and squirrels (I know they are everywhere, but they are soooo cute!)
  • Fish jumping to catch bugs
  • Dragonflies
  • 1 bald eagle
  • 4 different varieties of owls
  • 3 different varieties of hawks

The Northwoods of Wisconsin will always have a special place in my heart, as will all the beautiful creatures that roam through the trees and lakes.

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What is your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013