Friday, December 31, 2010

A Visit to Crex Meadows

Since I've been such a poor blogger of late, I've decided to make this my grand finale post of 2010. Please join me on this wonderful pictorial (and video) journey to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. This visit took place on November 6, 2010 during the Sandhill Crane migration. Since a spring visit to the Platte River is not in my immediate future, the next best place for witnessing the Sandhill Crane migration is Crex Meadows in the fall. And the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area is really easy to find......just follow the goose!

See, it's right there on the road -- you can't miss it! (I was really glad it was just a painted goose though)

Turn right, then left, and you're there!

Be sure to watch for Trumpeter Swans along the way. I was thrilled to see them on the small river running right through town.

with their youngsters too!

We were a bit too late getting going to see the early morning Sandhill Crane departure, but we decided to do a drive around the entire park and try to catch some of the later departing cranes and any other waterfowl that might be hanging around. As you can see, it's a paradise for waterfowl.

While taking these photographs, I was lucky enough to capture this video of a Trumpeter Swan flyover. (In case you're wondering, that's the sound of Sandhill Cranes in the background!)

Farther down the road, we did spot a couple of Sandhill Cranes still hanging around in the marsh.

The Crex Meadows Wildlife Area does allow hunting for deer and waterfowl. In my opinion, if you're a responsible goose hunter, you should be smart enough to know the difference between a Snow Goose and a Trumpeter Swan, but apparently the Wisconsin DNR doesn't want to make any erroneous assumptions regarding the intelligence of their licensed waterfowl hunters.......

In addition to wetlands, there's also some beautiful prairie and oak savannah areas within the park.

Sophie got to go along with us on this trip and we were glad to be able to bring her -- especially after almost losing her earlier this summer. I was really happy that one of the motels in Grantsburg allowed pets for a mere $10 extra on our room price. I think Sophie had a good time too.

You can click on this photo to enlarge it for reading the Crex Meadows story on this sign.

Another view of a large pond in the oak savannah area. Can you see what appears to be a stick pointing up from the lake just to the left of center in this picture? I had to get the binoculars out for this one.
Fortunately I was able to maximize the zoom on my camera to get this shot.......I believe it's an Osprey nesting platform, but the really cool thing was that there were 2 Bald Eagles sitting on the platform!

Driving further down the road, we were lucky enough to spot this Northern Shrike just hanging out on a small tree in the ditch. It's always a good year when I get to see and photograph both species of shrikes.

This is one of the drainage ditches in the park.

After completing the auto tour of the park, we headed back to the visitor's interpretive center.

I believe this is a fairly new center for them and it was really neat inside. There was this big diorama featuring the wildlife, birds, and plants that are commonly found in the park. It was really nice to hear all the spring and summer bird calls and sounds of the park. Except for the Sandhill Cranes, there were almost no bird calls to be heard this time of year.

I'm looking forward to going back for visits next spring and summer.

They had a bunch of taxidermist mounts of waterfowl in the interpretive center but my photos of those didn't turn out. They also had this large wolf on display. I guess there are bear and wolves in the park, but we weren't lucky enough to see any during our visit.

Outside the interpretive center, there was a hiking trail loop, so while Mr. Johnson toured the center, Sophie and I decided to take a hike through the woods........

out to the boardwalk........

and across the marsh.........

to the viewing platform at the end of the trail. What a beautiful view!

From all directions!

Walking back through the woods, I noticed these plants growing close to the ground. Maybe some kind of moss? I don't have a field guide to moss and I was too lazy to look it up, so if someone can ID these plants, please feel free to leave a comment telling us what they are. Thanks!

This plant had a few remaining red berries that the birds hadn't devoured yet.

While were at the visitor's center, we met another couple who were in town to see the Sandhill Cranes. They told us that if we really wanted to see lots of cranes we should head south of Grantsburg and drive some back roads past farm fields. Because almost all of the corn had been harvested, this is where the cranes tended to hang out during the day, foraging for food to prepare themselves for their long migratory flight to Texas and New Mexico. We were grateful to them for this tip because it provided us with the best Sandhill Crane viewing of the day. They are truly magnificent birds and we were just so thrilled at being able to see these huge numbers of birds up close. They're magnificent in flight!
Especially against the background of a beautiful autumn blue sky.
They were extremely watchful when on the ground, much like Wild Turkeys. We were able to stop the car and take photos, but they kept a close eye on us.

I hope their wariness works to their advantage when the Wisconsin DNR decides to institute a fall Sandhill Crane hunt (yes, they're talking about it pretty seriously -- taking their cue from Minnesota, I'm sure!)

I was amazed at the sheer numbers of cranes in this field. I've never seen this many together in my life!
It was cool to see some of them "dancing." They are quite graceful for such a large bird. And the sound of their calls of this many birds was magical.

I'll finish this post with one more video of the Sandhill Cranes.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year full of good health and good birds!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the trip to Chrex Meadows to see all the Sandhill Cranes and to listen to them. That was a spectacular sight. I enjoyed the swans too.


Gaelyn said...

WoW, and wow again. I've never seen sandhill cranes. This is awesome. You got some really great captures. Couldn't play the video but like the rest very much. Do hope you'll go back.

Friend of HK said...

Happy New Year!

Jayne said...

What a wonderful place Ruthie! I can tell that you will be visiting there again. And how neat that you got to see so many of the Sandhill Cranes. I love that last video. They almost look as if they are suspended in flight as they come in! So neat to see!

Got your invite to the birding festival and am mulling it over at this point. :c)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories. I owned a cabin on North Refuge Road, just on the edge of Crex Meadows, from the mid 80's until 93. I took my kids there all the time and we spent all that time walking and driving thru the reserve. Swimming in the Wild River during the summers, and hiking during the winters. I miss that cabin and Crex Meadows.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Mom. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was glad we got over there that weekend because it ended up being really the last nice weekend of the fall too.

Thanks Gaelyn. I've seen Sandhill Cranes but usually only a couple at a time. It was spectacular seeing so many in one place. I'll definitely go again!

Happy New Year to you also HK!

Thanks Jayne. They really are so graceful when they fly, aren't they!
Think hard! I hope you can make it!

I'm glad you enjoyed the post Anonymous. Crex is a magical place and I can't wait to go back there.

Mel said...

Hola Ruthie!
That's an amazing place! And it seems like you had a great time over there. I started the new year with a short hike, I needed a dosis of nature!!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mel,
Glad to hear you got a chance to get outside -- even for a short walk. I hope you're enjoying some nice warm weather too.