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Hikers spot plenty of birds and blooms

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Russ Helwig | July 2, 2014

Six of us walked counterclockwise around Lake LaGrange on a hot and muggy afternoon last week Tuesday. I was surprised that the mosquitoes were not really aggressive. We did put on some DEET but were only attacked by a few insects while in heavy cover with no breeze.

There was a single kayak in the middle of the lake. The occupant was fishing.

The prairie is starting to bloom. We saw common and butterfly milkweeds, purple coneflower, and mountain mint in the prairie and St. John's wort, cinquefoil, red clover, white clover, yellow and white sweet clover, alfalfa, lobelia, ox-eye daisy, fleabane, false sunflower, and several others in bloom along the rest of the trail. Spiderwort was plentiful and heavily budded but only blooms in the morning hours.

Lots of birds serenaded us and we saw a green heron which landed quite close to us but flew to a protected location after seeing me pick up my camera. We walked a ways out on Kangaroo Walk to see if we could get a closer look, but the walk was full of Canada geese and we retreated so that we would not disturb them.

Large cottony seed heads had fallen from big cottonwood trees located next to the trail and some were caught in nearby branches decorating other trees.

Marvin Herman writes:
 
On an overcast day last week Wednesday with temps in the 70s, 14 long hikers carpooled to Oleson Cabin on Duffin Road to hike back to the Highway 12 meeting place. Before we departed, a tree frog was seen clinging to the rear of the vehicle of one of the hikers. Perhaps this augured well for the sightings of nature we would encounter along the trail.

From the cabin we walked the short distance to the Ice Age Trail and headed southwest. Along the way a sharp-eyed hiker called our attention to a painted turtle of about 6 inches across scurrying across the trail. During our hike of about 5 miles, we encountered spiderwort with its green branches seeming to fly every which way. We also observed oxeye daisy, butterfly weed, blue lobelia, black elderberry, black-eyed Susan, yellow hawkweed and yarrow. We noted that the common milkweed is in bloom. We also saw whorled milkweed, bindweed and fleabane.
 
Near the end of the hike, a white egret was seen over Lake LaGrange.
 
The group reassembled at LaGrange General Store for lunch and conversation.


Eleven of us plus a small canine companion carpooled to the hunter parking lots near Wisconsin Highway 59 along the Ice Age Trail for a short walk last week Wednesday. From there we hiked that trail to the next crossroad, County Highway N, and back for a hike of slightly less than two and a half miles. It felt longer than that because it was extremely muggy from high humidity.

Many plants were in bloom and but the showiest ones that will bloom in July and August were still small and growing.

We spotted several bobolinks which were nesting in the area. These “upside down birds” with males that are cream colored on top and black on the bottom are making a comeback in protected prairies. They had become scarce because their nesting habitat had been destroyed in the past when hayfields were cut more than once a year. I remember seeing them as a child but had not seen them since until a few years ago when hiking the large restored prairies and wildlife areas.

Near Highway N a sandhill crane landed nearby. It was being chased by a blackbird which would not leave it alone.  The blackbird would continue to attack while the big bird dodged it with its head as it stood in tall grass. We observed this for several minutes before we proceeded on our way.

After the walk we regrouped at the LaGrange General Store where we were joined by the long-distance hikers.


Happy Trekking,

Russ



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