DNR Outdoor Report | Environment
Snow remains deep and the ice thick in the Northwoods while rain continues to fall and rivers continue to rise in the south. And most everywhere conditions have been cold and soggy, which has made many anglers and turkey hunters understandably surly.
Turkeys, more often than not, are bunched up and hunters have had limited success. Rain, snow and cold have frustrated turkey hunters from Bayfield to Pepin counties, but there have been some successful hunts in Grant, Lafayette and Sauk counties.
Lake Superior is open along the south shore in Bayfield County, but Chequamegon Bay is still locked in ice.
Anglers are reporting limited success, overall, and miserable weather conditions.
Ice fishing is still an option in many northern regions, including the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area, where up to 36-inches of ice remains, along with 17-inches of snow on the ground. Anglers there have had some success with panfish.
Elsewhere, including, where rivers are high, anglers are finding steelhead opportunities and success on tributary streams of Lake Michigan and several anglers are doing well fishing just outside the harbors for brown trout on Lake Michigan. Inland lakes still are covered in ice, although they have begun to show signs of melting around the edges. In Racine and surrounding Lake Michigan counties, rivers are discharging large amounts of muddy water into the lake, resulting in a cloudy mess along the lakefront.
The Mississippi River is also on the rise and fishing activity has been heavy, but with limited success. The Wisconsin River is high, fast and boating and fishing is not advised.
Forest migrants arriving back included sapsuckers, winter wren, hermit thrush, kinglets, fox sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers. Birders also reported the first few early warblers of the spring including yellow, palm and pine warblers.
A pair of bald eagles is setting up house in Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area. A pair of ospreys was also confirmed nesting in an old hawk nest on the west side of the Theresa Marsh. Robins are being seen everywhere, including Brule River State Forest.
Chorus frogs were heard this week, but amphibian activity has been low. Some white-tailed bucks have been spotted with new antler growth visible. Coyote pups have been born over the last week. Wildflowers have been slow to bloom, but spring beauties pasque flowers have been seen emerging, but not blooming yet.
There are more opportunities for people to work and play at state parks this weekend, with Work*Play*Earth Day events scheduled this Saturday, April 20 at Big Foot Beach State Park near Lake Geneva, the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, Kohler Andrae State Park near Sheboygan, Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee, the Lapham Peak Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest near Delafield and Newport State Park near Ellison Bay.
The maple syrup season is in full swing in northern Wisconsin with snow covering most of the north making for high quality sap. A very successful season is winding down in central and southern Wisconsin with many producers reporting higher than normal sugar content and excellent sap runs this year. The weather forecast will likely extend the maple syrup season in northern Wisconsin for at least another week.
Statewide Birding Report
Warm fronts early in the week finally brought the expected push of mid-April migrants into southern and central Wisconsin, but northern Wisconsin birders are still firmly entrenched in the throes of a very late spring. Forest migrants arriving this week included sapsuckers, winter wren, hermit thrush, kinglets, fox sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers. Birders also reported our first few early warblers of the spring including yellow, parula, water thrushes, palm and pine warblers. These birds should linger in high numbers as the northern half of the state is locked in ice and snow. With recent rains there is an abundance of sheet water in farm fields and very high water levels in area wetlands. Recent migrants include American bittern, great egret, Virginia rail and swamp sparrows. Our first shorebird reports are coming in including avocets, godwits and a black-necked stilt at Horicon Marsh. High water levels and cooler temps should produce excellent shorebird viewing conditions in farm fields and lowlands across most of southern and central Wisconsin. Lakes are open now south of the tension zone bringing large numbers of loons, grebes, waterfowl, pelicans and our first Forster’s terns and Bonaparte’s gulls of the year. Large flocks of tundra swans are still feeding in flooded fields in western and northeast Wisconsin. South winds on Monday and Tuesday brought our first broad-winged hawks of the year along with a nice push of accipiters, red-tails and immature red-shouldered hawks. Grasslands are beginning to pick up with meadowlarks, field sparrows, savanna sparrows, vesper sparrows and harriers all back on territory. Look for Henslow’s sparrows and upland sandpipers to arrive on the next warm front. Canada geese, sandhill and whooping cranes, American robins and other early nesters are now sitting on eggs while great-horned owlets are starting to leave their nests in the south. Look for a large push of birds across all habitat types on the next warm front. Hopefully this will bring some hope to those birders still feeding redpolls in northern Wisconsin. As always, please report your sightings to Wisconsin eBird so that we can better track our migratory bird populations.
- Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator
Brule River State Forest - It may be cold and snowy but that is not enough to cool the romance in the air. Male red-winged black birds, woodcock, and robins are setting up their territories before the females make their way up north. Male sharp tail grouse are displaying on their leks (dancing grounds) and tom turkeys are still gobbling, trying to attract hens. Other birds that have come back recently are turkey vultures and killdeer, and sand hill cranes. The Bois Brule River is open (other than shelf ice), yet area lakes remain ice covered. The ground remains snow covered and more snow is expected. The Douglas County Fish and Game League will be hosting their annual Sports Show April 19, 20, and 21 at Wessman Arena.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Ashland County - Last week saw even more snow. Ice conditions on Lake Superior are not good. Approaches are melting out and open areas are starting to appear at predicted locations as well as many unpredicted locations. So, extreme caution should be used on the ice. Deer are starting to show up in large numbers along road ditches and out in open fields where grass is starting to show. The area is under several inches of snow and robins can be seen waiting in trees and on wires for a chance to find food. So robins along with many humans are confused by this Northwood’s spring weather pattern we are stuck in.
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Bayfield County - The area keeps getting snow. Last week some areas of the peninsula had 20-inches of snow with more to come with the latest storm. Some of the tributary streams opened a few weeks ago, but with the snow so deep not many people have been fishing them as of yet. Lake Superior is open along the south shore, but Chequamegon Bay is still locked in and it is expected to be a couple weeks before any kind of smelting may be done. Turkey hunters have been having a hard time in the north trying to find the birds as well as wanting to have to sit out in the present conditions.
- Amie Egstad, conservation warden, Bayfield
Douglas County - Spring is still not in sight for the northwest corner of the state. An additional 10-inches of wet snow is predicted for the end of this week. Fishing is almost non-existent around the area as it appears most anglers have put their ice fishing equipment away for the year. Period A turkey hunters were faced with terrible conditions, although a few birds were reportedly taken in southern Douglas County. Walleye spawning is easily two or three weeks away, and that assumes a return to seasonable conditions.
- John Krull, conservation warden, Superior
Copper Falls State Park - All of the trails are still trying to break free of winter. With the crazy weather this spring at the park the trails are still left snow covered and slippery. All ski trails are closed for the season and are currently open to hikers and snowshoers. Access to the trails is still limited to the winter access parking lots. Anyone wanting to see Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls should limit their hike to the designated winter trail. There are several rock steps along the Doughboy Trail that are snow covered and icy. Visitors are advised to not traverse these areas. Visitors are still able to view both of the falls and Tyler Forks Cascades from the designated winter loop. The local lakes are still under a sheet of ice with the shorelines starting to show open water edges. Visitors are advised to stay off of the ice at this time of year. The waterfalls within the park have just started to break open from under the ice that locked them in time over winter. We have yet to see high amounts of runoff to raise water levels to normal springtime conditions. We expect that good viewing of spring waterfall conditions to begin by the weekend of April 26. We still need to see a warming trend in the weather in order for the local rivers to rise to spring like conditions. There are still only 6 plowed winter camping sites due to the amount of snow within the park. More than 8 inches of snow remains on the ground. As the weather hopefully warms and melts the snow, more sites will open as they become accessible for availability. Due to the freezing weather conditions, the pressurized water systems to the campgrounds and picnic areas remain shut down. Visitors can access drinking water at the parks maintenance building located near the North Campground.
- Emily Anderson, visitor services associate
Pattison State Park - With the recent snowfall, the park currently has 8 inches of snow on the ground. The ski trails are now closed for the season and are open once again for hiking as well as snowshoeing. Both Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls are starting to open up and running water is visible once again. The hiking trails are snow covered and slippery going to Little and Big Manitou Falls from the park office parking lot. The trail to Big Manitou Falls from the parking lot on County Highway B is currently cleared of snow. 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 with the onset of spring approaching.
- Phillip Brown, Ranger
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Spring is slowly arriving. Some highlights include: black ducks spotted on Middle North Fork, common mergansers spotted on Dike 6, several ring-neck ducks and hooded mergansers on open water, yellow-rumped warbler, American tree sparrow, vesper sparrow, and fox sparrow. The northern part of Phantom Lake has a good amount of open water as well as the south end of the refuge (Main Dike Road). Other flowages are spotty with open water on the edges. Grettum Flowage on Fish Lake Wildlife Area has high numbers of a variety of ducks as well as coots. In celebration of Earth Day, there will be a showing of “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time,” Monday, April 22 at 6 p.m. To learn more, visit http://www.crexmeadows.org/events.htm
- Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator
Washburn County - Although the weather is tough on all of us and is postponing wildlife activity, the osprey are all back to Washburn County and sharp-tailed grouse are still dancing at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, although not as much as they will once the weather improves.
- Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner