Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sandhill Cranes, Black River State Forest, WI

Now that I am busy with school again, I will limit my posts to one or two  on weekends, instead of my daily summer posts. Thank you to all who follow my blog.

Sandhill Cranes, Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, WI; 5/29/2011.
On our way to Rockford, IL, from the Boundary Waters, MN, we split up the 9+ hour drive with a stop in Black River Falls, WI. Approaching the exit to Black River Falls, I saw a Bald Eagle getting harassed by a flock of  what I thought were Eastern Kingbirds and I immediately saw that as a good sign for birding in the area. Indded, There was a fantastic 67,000 acre State Forest only minutes away from town. It was already fairly late afternoon on a cloudy day, so I knew bird photography would not be at its premium, but I decided to take the 15 minute drive to check it out.  Black River State Forest ( ) turned out to be quite nice - a good number of hiking trails, forest, grassland and lots of flowages, so the varied habitat made for good birding. Within minutes of hiking down a grassy trail leading to a flowage, I came across three Sandhill Cranes, which took off as soon as I crested a hill and they startled me as much as I startled them. They flew right over my head bugling their rattling cackle. I didn't even have time to raise my camera.  Upon further exploration of different areas of the State Forest, I ran into no less than two more pairs of Sandhills. In less than an hour, I counted seven Sandhills and heard several others that I couldn't see. Because of bad light, my photos of these creatures were not very good, but (Above and Below) are photos of a couple of Sandhills that were on a trail I was hiking at the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (not far from the Black River State Forest) in late May of this year. This pair of Sandhills were very close and didn't scare off very easily. I took a few photos and left them alone, suspecting they might have had a nest nearby.

A Sandhill Crane patiently but warily waiting for me to vacate the area of a probable nest, HMNWR, WI; 5/29/2011.

A Field Sparrow, Black River State Forest, WI; 8/12/2011.
Other birds that I heard or spotted in the Black River State Forest were Song Sparrows, Field Sparrows (Above), Barn and Tree Swallows, a Downy Woodpecker, Canada Geese, Mallards, Wood Ducks, a Tufted Titmouse, an Eastern Towhee, Blue Jays, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, American Crows, and American Robins.  This area also boasts as one of its signature residents, the Timber Wolf. I think I will definitely take a trip up here in the future in better birding circumstances. But a word of warning for anyone hiking here or anywhere else for that matter, watch out for ticks. After my first 100 yards hiking the grassy trail where I saw the first sandhills, I pulled no less than a dozen ticks off of my legs. That is by far the most ticks I have ever had on me at one time.