DNR Outdoor Report: Spring Arrives | Environment
Spring is taking root. And if we can believe the long-range forecast, it appears spring may actually linger. Snow and ice are melting rapidly in the Northwoods, but there was still a lot of snow on the ground and ice on the lakes. To the south, most areas are bare ground in Madison finally, but the lakes are still ice covered.
Spring wild turkey hunting begins this weekend with a two-day special youth hunt Saturday and Sunday April 6 and 7 and the first of six 7-day regular spring turkey hunting periods begins on April 10. Each time period begins on a Wednesday and goes to the following Tuesday. The 2013 season closes on May 21. Wildlife biologists say that hunters should look forward to a good season, thanks in large part to last year’s mild winter and early spring. Male turkeys are gobbling in the Brule River State Park and have been seen strutting or looking for food in Columbia, Dunn, Washington and Waupaca counties.
Turkey hunters considering hunting in a state park are reminded that the previous 16 state parks that were open to turkey hunting by permit only remain open only to those hunters who have permits to hunt in those parks. Other state park properties are open to any hunter who has a permit for the zone in which the state park is located. State parks are only open for the first three hunting periods.
The early trout season opened on some stretches of Lake Superior tributaries last week and it was a wet, cool opener, creating lighter than normal fishing pressure. Anglers did get out reported that they did catch some steelhead and browns. Along Lake Michigan, fishing at Port Washington has improved. Both rainbows and brown trout were caught during the week. Steelhead fishing had picked up considerably on the East Twin and West Twin rivers in Manitowoc County, but most other tributaries were running high and still fairly cold, with some action reported on the Sheboygan and Root rivers.
While spotty due to remaining ice and snow on many waters, ice fishing was still going on in the north where a few bluegill, perch and crappie have been caught.
Open water fishing season on the Wisconsin River has begun, especially below the various dams. Some keeper walleyes are being taken by anglers but with waters temperatures in the mid-30s, the actual walleye run is some time away.
There has been a large influx of song birds in the last week across the Badgerland, including robins, killdeer and red-winged blackbirds. Ducks, geese, swans and sandhill cranes continue to arrive in numbers. Eagle migration has peaked and resident birds have initiated nesting activities .
Loons were being seen on open water in southern Wisconsin this week, waiting for the lakes to open farther north. Where you won't see a loon this season is on the Wisconsin income tax form. Wisconsinites can no longer "look for the loon" to donate to the state Endangered Resources Fund, as all images have been removed from the form, but there is still a line for making your donations.
Warm weather late last week resulted in decent sap runs in southwest and east central areas of Wisconsin. Cold temperatures starting last Saturday have limited sap flow with the exception of the southwest portions of the state where there have been decent runs. Some producers are reporting the quantity of maple sap seems to be down a bit this year, but high sugar content is some areas have resulted in extra sweet sap making up for the reduced sap flows. Northern Wisconsin is still in the grips of winter with only a couple of small sap runs reported last week. Warmer temperatures are predicted for later this week which should jump start sap flows in the north, but nighttime temperatures above freezing in the south may slow sap flows in that part of the state.
Statewide Birding Report
Spring is finally making headway across much of Wisconsin. Early migrants such as American robins, common grackles, killdeer, great blue herons, and red-winged blackbirds have reached north to Lake Superior. Birders in southern Wisconsin are seeing their first eastern phoebes, fox sparrows, rusty blackbirds, Yellow-rumped warblers, ospreys, and both kinglet species. Ice prevails across many bodies of water but flooded fields and other areas of open water are hosting many waterfowl as numbers build and peak in the next few weeks. Tundra swans made a major move into the eastern half of the state this past week with 2,000-3,000 being seen near Green Bay. Eagle migration has peaked and resident birds have initiated nesting activities. Spring raptor migration will very soon pick up as red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and other species head north. Mid-late April also marks the best time to witness the elaborative courtship displays of American woodcock statewide, greater prairie chickens near Buena Vista, spruce grouse in northern conifer bogs, and sharp-tailed grouse in the sand barrens of northwestern Wisconsin. Owls continue to make headlines, including great gray owls in Middleton, Mauston, and the far northwest. Other rare birds reported this week include ruff and Eurasian wigeon in Dodge County. Expect increases in bird diversity and abundance ahead of each warm weather front over the next two months. As always, help us track the migration by reporting our observations to Wisconsin eBird at www.ebird.org/wi.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Brule River State Forest - Fishing on the river started last weekend from Highway 2 to the mouth of the river. It was a wet, cool opener that landed on Easter weekend, creating lighter than normal fishing pressure. Anglers did get out reported that they did catch some steelhead and browns. Snow may still be on the ground and we may still be getting some brisk mornings, but it is indeed spring. More signs of spring are becoming more apparent as the season progresses. A few robins are back in the area as are kestrels, Canada geese, and woodcock. Trumpeter swans are staging near their frozen breeding sites, waiting for the warmer weather to melt the lakes and ponds. Male turkeys are gobbling, trying to attract hens. It has been noted this year that a large amount of maple trees are being girdled by gray squirrels, looking to get the sap. It is possible that the snow and ice may have much of their normal food sources covered so they are taking advantage of the delectable treat in the woods.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Pattison State Park - The park still has a few inches snow cover in most areas, but there are a few spots with no snow cover at all. The ski trails are now closed for the season and are open for hiking. Both Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls are starting to open up and running water is visible once again. Please call the park at 715-399-3111 for up to the minute park conditions. The number of campers has increased over the past month.
- Phillip Brown, Ranger
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - There is a little open water on Crex Meadows near Dike 1 and the pump house. Diving ducks are starting to appear such as buffleheads and hooded mergansers. Kestrels, northern harriers, and sandhill cranes have been spotted. More spring migrants are expected in the coming weeks with warming temperatures and melting ice.
- Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator
Washburn County - Otter are up on the ice enjoying the sun. Hooded mergansers, killdeer, and pie-billed grebe are now back sharing the rivers with trumpeter swans, geese and mallards. Kestrels and horned larks are in the fields.
- Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner