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Some cold nights are retaining the snow and ice cover in the far north, but with no new snow in the last week, snowmobile trails have now closed in all but one county in the north where trails are listed as poor on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). The deep snow has allowed cross-country ski trails to remain open and in good to fair condition in several northern parks and forests.
Northern parks and forests, Like Pattison State Park, still have good conditions for cross-country skiing. Photo credit: Gervase Thompson, DNR
Northwoods lakes still have over a foot of ice but anglers have mentioned some slush under the snow. Fishing has picked up a bit with anglers catching some crappies. Lake Wisconsin is still holding on to its ice, but barely. Looks like it will melt off any day now.
Despite a Coast Guard ice breaker making it out of Sturgeon Bay through Green Bay ice conditions on the east shore have remained stable. Fishermen are still accessing the ice of Green Bay on foot off Door County. Fishing action has been good over the last week with most anglers still catching whitefish, some still taking limits. The Sawyer Harbor boat launch in the city of Sturgeon Bay, is now free of ice as of this week, and a few boat fishermen are already taking advantage in pursuit to trout, walleye and northern.
Good numbers of steelhead have been taken below the Kohler Dam on the Sheboygan River. Anglers fishing near Esslingen Park report catching some brown trout. Despite moderate pressure, trout action has been tough from the Sheboygan piers., but a few persistent anglers have had success catching small browns. Many boaters were reporting success catching brown trout to the north and south near the power plant. Several steelhead have been taken at the Port Washington Utility.
Many turkeys are still grouped up in bachelor groups but toms are starting to display and break out of larger flocks on warm days. American woodcock are likely peenting in good habitat. A bear was seen sitting on the ground in Washburn County that looked like it was just waking up.
There has been an increase in the number of baby animals sighted, including fox, raccoon, and squirrel kits. If you see a young wild animal you think is injured or lost, contact your local wildlife rehab center or visit the DNR webpage and search keyword "Keep Wildlife Wild." Most wild mothers watch their young from a distance, and what you think is an abandoned young animal may be perfectly fine.
Sap is flowing when our temperatures are above 40 degrees and the sun shines and nights are still below freezing. The rest of this week and weekend temperatures looks to be good sap flowing weather. In the south, a walk through the woods may reveal wild onion, hepatica and skunk cabbage, all early spring wildflowers.
Fire season is just beginning. So far this year, 57 fires have occurred in DNR Protection Areas. Main fire causes have been debris burning and equipment.
Despite extensive snow and ice, the vanguard of American robins, red-winged blackbirds, American kestrels, ring-billed gulls, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons have joined the trumpeter swans, Canada geese, common goldeneyes, common mergansers, and other waterfowl as far north as Lake Superior. Loons have returned to far southeastern counties and will trickle into big lakes with open water over the weeks ahead.
Fire season is just beginning. Each year an estimated 1,100 wildfires burn in DNR protection areas (about half the state, generally the more forested areas) and another estimated 2,500 wildfires burn in parts of the state where fire departments are the primary responders. Two-thirds of these fires occur in spring. There is a great deal of dry vegetation and fallen leaves and other debris present this time of year, which is quick to dry out. Accompanied by warmer weather, drops in humidity and gusty winds, wildfires can quickly ignite and spread. So far this year, 57 fires have occurred in DNR Protection Areas. Main fire causes have been debris burning and equipment. Fourteen homes and 12 outbuildings have been threatened by these fires and 3 outbuildings have been destroyed. With the nicer weather, homeowners are cleaning up around their properties, sometimes choosing to burn leaves and branch debris. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires, especially this time of year. Burning is not your only option. Try alternatives such as composting or leaving brush in the woods for wildlife cover. The best practice is to not burn at all or to wait until surrounding vegetation greens-up in the summer. If you do burn, get a burning permit and follow the rules of the day. You can stay aware of fire danger and burning permit requirements by checking our website dnr.wi.gov, keyword "fire" or calling 1-888-WIS-BURN. Information is updated each day at 11 a.m.
Firewise Tip: If you burn wood for home heating, it's time to move any remaining firewood stacked near your home to a spot that's at least 30 feet away. If you dump wood ash outdoors, spread the ash in an area free of vegetation and debris and drown with water to make sure any hidden embers are fully extinguished. Or leave the ash in a metal bucket with a tight fitting lid until it is completely cool. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison
Statewide Birding Report
Despite extensive snow and ice, northern birders are finally seeing some migrants. The vanguard of American robins, red-winged blackbirds, American kestrels, ring-billed gulls, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons have joined the trumpeter swans, Canada geese, common goldeneyes, common mergansers, and other waterfowl as far north as Lake Superior. Brown creepers are singing now, and numbers of pine siskins increasing there as well. Siskins remain common across the south where many spent the winter and some have even been confirmed nest building in recent weeks. Redpolls are lingering too but will be leaving in the next couple weeks for breeding areas in arctic Canada. Meanwhile, American goldfinches are beginning to show some of those bright yellows characteristic of their colorful summer plumage.
Eastern bluebirds are now returning in numbers to much of southern and central Wisconsin.Photo credit: Beverly Engstrom
Good numbers of tundra swans are moving through the south and east now, including 1,000-plus near Shiocton on March 18. A nice sandhill crane flight was observed in Dane on the March 16. Song sparrows are back singing and the first migrant fox sparrows have arrived. Love loons? They have returned to far southeastern counties and will trickle into big lakes with open water over the weeks ahead. American white pelicans are also back as far north as the Fox Valley, and tree swallows were observed in Vernon and Dane counties. Eastern bluebird numbers are on the rise south of the Highway 29 corridor. Get recommendations for attracting them and maintaining nest boxes from the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin www.braw.org (exit DNR).
Buena Vista Wildlife Area in Portage County remains a hotspot for snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, American kestrels, greater prairie-chickens, meadowlarks, and more. Of note this week were great egrets in Fond du Lac, Columbia, Waukesha, and Grant counties. Rarities spotted this week included laughing gull in Sheboygan, gray catbird in Milwaukee, and early chipping sparrows in Dane and Marathon. As always, track migration progress by species at http://bit.ly/2oznJKK and put your sightings on the map by submitting them to www.ebird.org/wi. - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Saturday March 24 & Sunday, March 25, 2018
For all events search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."
Find a park, forest trail or recreation property
Upcoming State Natural Area Workday
March 24, 9 a.m.-noon-Sugar River Wetlands Workday: Cutting and piling brush. Help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association (USRWA) restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "4th Saturdays" winter volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Skiing is still good on the Afterhours Cross Country Ski Trails trails. The trails were groomed on the March 19 and the base is holding up well for skate skiing. The classic track varies from good to icy or melted, and White Pine trail has a couple of small bare spots. Track may not be re-set this season unless we receive another snowfall soon. However, there is no snow predicted in the 10 day forecast. The snow in the woods is still deep, but the open areas are beginning to show some bare spots now. Daytime temperatures are above freezing, but night time still brings temperatures in the teens. It's been a slow and steady push toward spring. As the snow recedes along the roads and south-facing slopes, deer are very active looking for any tasty morsels that have been uncovered. Eagles, crows and ravens are also finding some tasty morsels as the melting snow reveals car-killed deer carcasses in the ditches. Be careful as you approach these feeding birds. When eagles take flight, they take off low and slow and can easily be hit by a car. DNR employees will be on-hand to answer questions and share their expertise at the Fish and Game League of Douglas County annual Sports Show March 23-25 at Wessman Arena (2701 Catlin Ave.) in Superior. A $7 admission ticket is good for all three days of the event, children ages 12 and under are free, and parking is free! The Show will feature vendors, seminars, door prizes, a live fish pond, information booths, and more. Staff are clearing snow from some campsites for the upcoming steelhead opener on the Bois Brule on March 31. Spring Steelhead fishing opens for the lower stretch of the Brule River--from Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior. The 2017-2018 Fishing Regulations and 2018-2019 Trout Fishing Regulations are available on the DNR website. Please be sure to know and follow the Rules that apply to you. Want to take a look at the river? The USGS website for the Brule River now has time lapse photos of the river near the Ranger Station in Brule, as well as discharge flow and gage height data. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
The Bois Brule River is open and ready for the March 31 steelhead opener.Photo credit: DNR
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Big Manitou Falls was still ice covered as of March 20.Photo credit: Gervase Thompson, DNR
Pattison State Park - Another week without snowfall. The cross-country ski trails are still open at Pattison. They were groomed and tracked on March 15. There is a nice hard base of about 6 inches right now, with about 14 inches of snow in the woods. With the fluctuating air temperatures, if was difficult to set track. You will experience some areas of shallow depth, with most of the trail in moderate to full depth. Look for trails to soften a little with warmer afternoons, and some glazing in the mornings. There are a couple of small bare spots along Riverview Trail. A trail pass is not required, but a vehicle admission sticker is. Both Big and Little Manitou falls are ice covered as of March 20. The hiking trails are hard packed, so be careful of slippery spots on the trail. Come out and enjoy Pattison State Park before spring arrives. - Gervase Thompson, ranger
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Heavy snow in the area has delayed the migration of smaller waterfowl, but trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and sandhill cranes are returning to Grantsburg. Recent reports tell us that the bald eagles and common ravens are nesting. Although spring migration is beginning and some species are nesting, there are still several winter residents still around, including rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, snow buntings, common redpolls, and American tree sparrows. Rare birds that were sighted this week include golden eagles and pine grosbeaks. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator
Washburn County - Last week mergansers showed up on the Yellow River. A couple other little tweety birds showed up but look like they're thinking they came a little too early. We will still have deep snow, bare ground on some south facing slopes. Some swans were sitting on ice...it looked like they decided they would just wait until it thawed. I saw a bear sitting on the ground that looked like it was just waking up. - Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail has not received any new snow. It is in poor condition, hard in the mornings and soft in the afternoon, some open south slopes. Snow depth varies throughout the Forest from bare ground to 24 inches depending on location. It is still very difficult to hike without snowshoes. Lake of the Pines is reported to have approximately 15 inches of ice and fishermen are catching some crappies. Fishing has picked up a bit and folks have mentioned some slush under the snow. Sap is flowing when our temperatures are above 40 degrees and the sun shines. It flows slower with cloud cover. Nights are still below freezing. The rest of this week and weekend temperatures looks to be good sap flowing weather. One of the most exciting moments for us northerners is when the first geese fly thru with their musical honking and the first robin is sited. Well, we are happy to say that the geese have been flying overhead, some swans were seen and heard with their nasal honking, and robins were sited. A few turkeys have begun gobbling and looking to mate. The great horned owl eggs should be hatched soon and eagles are sitting on their nests. Male grouse have been seen puffed up and displaying. We haven't heard any drumming yet. Snowshoe hares are mating. The weather continues to challenge the Flambeau River wildlife. The snow is such that predators can run on the hard surface of the snow and the deer and elk break thru. We are watchful of all the usual March activities when temperatures rise and we have the extra daylight hours. We're eager for any sign, as winter has seemed long, but spring is in the air. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be mostly sunny with a high of 42 and low of 22. Saturday, will be mostly cloudy with a high of 40 and a low of 19. Sunday, will be sunny with a high of 44 and a low of 26. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Cross-country ski trails are no longer being maintained for skiing.- Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialist
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Council Grounds State Park - The snow is on its way out, but there is still enough to enjoy some snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing is not advised. A walk through the campground would be a fantastic opportunity to see deer. Recent cutting of hazard trees has left the tops of maples in easy reach and the deer are taking advantage of it. Local birders report increasing numbers of Canada geese as well as a few common and hooded mergansers, black ducks, and mallards. - Sarah Gilbert, ranger
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Door County - The Coast Guard ice breaker Mobile Bay out of Sturgeon Bay made its way through Green Bay mid week, cutting a trail the whole length of the bay as well as to Sturgeon Bay and Menominee. Despite this ice conditions on the east shore have remained very stable. With a lack of wind and cold temperatures at night, the ice seems to be holding well. A layer of snow on the ice also helps reflect sunlight, reducing the effects of the sunny 40 degree days we've been having. Ramps are deteriorating but anglers are still parking trucks on the ice in many places. As always, check the forecast before venturing out past major cracks. Since the cutter went through, ice sheets are more able to shift with changing wind conditions. Fishing action has been good over the last week. Most anglers are still catching whitefish, some still taking limits. Morning bite has been the most consistent. All locations up the east shore are producing whitefish. Being mobile seems to be key. A few anglers out of Volks Landing and Little Sturgeon have picked up the occasional walleye but there hasn't been much consistency. Pike fishing around Sturgeon Bay has been very good with some large individuals being caught on tip ups. There were significantly fewer anglers on the ice this weekend as many are likely switching gears for open water fishing. As long as the weather remains consistent, we will still have a couple weeks left to get on the ice. Be safe and good luck!- Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - We still have nearly a foot of snow in hardwood stands in northern portions of the county but have bare ground in pine stands and in most areas south of Wausaukee. Robins, cranes and red-winged blackbirds made it north of Wausaukee this week. River channels are now open, but there is still considerable ice on inland lakes and other areas without current. However, ice deteriorates quickly on sunny days (especially along the north shorelines)--be very cautious when heading on the ice and remember that the firm ice you walked on early in the morning may be thinner in the afternoon. Turkeys are still in large flocks and more toms have been seen strutting and gobbling. The first turkey season of the year is now four weeks away! If you didn't draw a tag or forgot to apply, you can still buy leftover tags for later seasons. Zone 5 leftover turkey tags go on sale on Friday March 23rd. Most, if not all, recreational trails are now closed to prevent rutting. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Manitowoc County - Spring has arrived in Manitowoc County. This past week wildlife could be seen in many different locations. Canada geese are starting to pair up and create nesting areas, Snow geese were seen throughout the county this past week, with large groups resting in Collins Marsh Wildlife Area. Turkeys are out and moving, a first for the season this week as I heard a tom gobbling and the next day saw a tom strutting in the field. Sandhill cranes have been around for a few weeks now. Point Beach State Forest was busy this past weekend with hikers and bird watchers. Park guest were noting that parts of the trails in the woods were ice covered in spots. The forecast looks like it will be a nice weekend with some cloud cover. A great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors! - Alyssa Neff-Miller, conservation warden, Mishicot
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Door County - Fishermen are still accessing the ice of Green Bay on foot off Door County in search of whitefish and walleyes. A reminder the walleye bag limit on Green Bay is one fish through May 4. Fishermen on the ice of Green Bay need to be aware of near shore working cracks forming and wind speed/direction as the ice deteriorates. Crossing working cracks can result no access back to shore. Numerous geese and diver ducks are utilizing the now open water in Sturgeon Bay. The Sawyer Harbor boat launch in the city of Sturgeon Bay is now free of ice as of this week, and a few boat fishermen are already taking advantage in pursuit to trout, walleye, and northern. This time of year is a popular time for volunteer safety instructors to offer their hunter education courses. Numerous courses are now being offered in Kewaunee County. - Christopher J. Kratcha, conservation warden, Sturgeon Bay
Snowy owl looking for a place to picnic at Newport State Park.Photo credit: Contributed
Newport State Park -- As with most of northern Door, the park still has a fair amount of snow and ice on trails. Ski conditions have deteriorated, but colder temperatures have kept everything frozen for now. Robins and bluebirds have been reported in the area, a sure sign of spring. We are hearing sandhill cranes with some regularity now. A snowy owl visited our picnic area by Lot 3 last week and there was even a report of a red breasted merganser sighting. As is typical of cold, clear winter nights, the skies have been glorious. Winter star gazing has its challenges, but it is well worth checking out the night sky at our International Dark Sky park. We've even had some hardy winter campers adventuring out for some backpack camping. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist
Potawatomi State Park - Spring is officially here but the trails and roads continue to be in winter set-up until the ice and snow melt. Cross-country ski trails were groomed on March 7 and now coverage varies from bare to ice covered. The suggested hiking trails are any of the three listed in the winter map: Ice Age Trail section, Picnic trail, and nature trail. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Spring is officially here but the park trail system is still in winter set-up with a lot of ice on the trails. Hiking is recommended along the beach shoreline or the Black Trail at this time. This is a great time for birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There have been several common goldeneyes and buffleheads near the shoreline by the office and they are fun to watch bobbing in the waves. Park staff also saw an eagle along the shoreline. The bird feeder has been busy with downy, hairy, red-bellied, pileated woodpeckers, and squirrels. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Pretty cold in central Wisconsin with spotty snow in the woods and on north slopes. No Herpitile or insects to report, we still have plenty of frost in the ground. Bird migration progress has been slow; tons of geese around but they never seem to leave anymore. More mallards starting to show up and a couple of wood ducks are around. No new songbird arrivals to report. Saw my first turkey strutting this spring last Sunday. Jumped a woodcock at Willow Creek today and had a red-shouldered hawk overhead at the same time. All lakes still iced over with shorelines getting very unsafe. Some folks still ice fishing on area lakes. Wolf River is starting to break up; Fox River is wide open. Have not heard of any great fishing success on either. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
While panfishing has been good on area lakes and the back waters of the Wolf River, anglers need to know the ice conditions before heading out. Ice conditions change daily in the spring of the year. Some anglers have reported catching large bluegills on areas lakes with a jig and spike for bait. The migration is here - seeing lots of birds moving into the area that we have not seen in several months. A good place to look for these birds is along a river. Beaver trapping is coming to a close, but trappers have reported good success using castor mounds to attract the animals. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Waushara County - Waushara County is in definite limbo right now between winter and spring. There is still ice on the lakes that some folks are venturing out on, but remember as the get more sunny days and fewer nights below freezing the quality of the ice diminishes quickly so be careful! Fishing has been spotty, but some folks are reporting some good gill and crappie bites on a few lakes. The skies have been filled with cranes, geese, swans, and ducks on these sunny days. They are making their way further north or right back here to Waushara County. I have also seen numerous, red winged black birds, robins, and even a blue bird or two in the last week. It may not feel like it, but spring is coming. It won't be long until the turkeys are gobbling. A little bit of a warming this week will help to take care of the last little bit of snow out there so get out there and enjoy what Waushara County has to offer. A couple of acorns that are opening with the warmth of the sun. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - We've seen an influx of songbirds with the warming weather, including red-winged blackbirds, golden-crowned kinglets, eastern bluebirds, eastern phoebes, and our summer resident turkey vultures! You can visit some of your local ephemeral ponds around the county, in search of singing frogs and hiding salamanders. A walk through the woods may show you wild onion, hepatica and skunk cabbage, all early spring wildflowers. There has been an increase in the number of baby animals sighted, including fox, raccoon, and squirrel kits. If you see a young wild animal you think is injured or lost, contact your local wildlife rehab center or visit the DNR webpage and search keyword "Keep Wildlife Wild". Most wild mothers watch their young from a distance, and what you think is an abandoned young animal may be perfectly fine. You can get out and enjoy the beautiful weather with a Spring Thaw Hike at Big Muskego Wildlife Area on Saturday, Marcy 24. Contact Dianne Robinson at Dianne.Robinson@wisconsin.gov or at 262-424-9827 for more information. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Milwaukee
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Sheboygan County - Good numbers of steelhead have been taken below the Kohler Dam on the Sheboygan River. Fly fishermen are catching fish using wooly buggers, however the majority of anglers report spawn sacs as the most successful bait choice. Anglers fishing near Esslingen Park report catching some brown trout using spinners. One fisherman reported catching a small coho salmon near the 14th Street bridge. The water level rose a few inches over the last few days, while the water temperature ranged from 33-35 degrees. On the Pigeon River, fishing pressure was light with only a few reports of fish being caught. The water temperature has been steady throughout the week at 32-33 degrees and water clarity is good. Despite moderate pressure, trout action has been tough from the Sheboygan Piers., but a few persistent anglers have had success catching small browns. Most anglers report using spawn sacs, however others claim to be catching fish using spoons. Many boaters at the Deland Park ramp were reporting success catching brown trout to the North and to the South near the power plant. Several lake trout were also caught and some fish weighed over 20 pounds. Fish were taken on crank baits and spoons in water ranging in depth of 10 to 20 feet. The river is still being frozen at the 8th Street and 14th Street ramps. Fishing pressure was very low at the shoreline and harbor. - Jarrett Mapes, fisheries technician, Plymouth
Ozaukee County - Pressure was low at the Port Washington ramp; however several boats were spotted trolling within the North and South piers. A few anglers were observed fishing the Port Washington piers with spoons and spawn sacs, but no catches were reported. Several steelhead have been taken at the Port Washington Utility on spawn sacs, but action is very hit or miss. Fish taken at this location ranged in weight from 2.5 pounds up to 11.5 pounds. On average, anglers can expect to catch 1 fish for every 2 hours of effort. Sauk Creek fishing has been reported as slow with just a few steelhead being caught. Successful fly fishermen were drifting stone fly nymphs, while spin fishermen used spawn sacs. The Grand Avenue bridge and the bridge behind the high school saw the most activity. The water level is very low, water clarity is good, and water temperature ranged from 33-35 degrees. - Jarrett Mapes, fisheries technician, Plymouth
South Central Region
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Large amounts of diving ducks have moved into the Dodge County Area. Beaver Dam Lake is opening up and thousands of redhead, canvasbacks, goldeneye and scaup can be found in the open areas. Bald eagles are incubating eggs and the first reports of young great-horned owls have come in. Redpoll are becoming more scarce but juncos and pine siskin continue on. Geese and swans can still be found in large numbers in the farm fields surrounding Horicon Marsh. Trumpeter swans have been seen around the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center and Highway 49. Killdeer and woodcock are also being reported. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Lake Wisconsin is still holding on to its ice, but barely. Looks like it will melt off any day now. There are some open water spots like Whalen Grade and Okee Bay that are providing excellent migrating waterfowl watching opportunities. There are also many potholes in picked cornfields in the southern part of the county holding good numbers of geese and ducks along with some swans. Turkeys have been reported gobbling and some are strutting in the fields still with their large winter flocks. Eagles can be seen incubating eggs in area nests. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Dane County - Song sparrows are now in and singing on territory. The first few flickers of the year have also been heard. American woodcock are likely peenting in good habitat. Turkeys have started displaying in the morning - many turkeys are still grouped up by bachelor groups are starting to display and break out of larger flocks on warm days. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - People who feed birds should keep a sharp eye on the birds frequenting feeders during the coming weeks. Purple finches are a common early spring migrant in southern Wisconsin. Often confused with the resident, exotic house finch, with which it may associate at feeders, a male purple finch is more uniformly colored than house finches. Also note the purple finch's broad dark jaw stripe, dark ear patch, light stripe behind the eye, and large bill. Purple finch numbers typically increase toward peak numbers in late April, and the birds rapidly advance to their breeding areas in northern Wisconsin by early May. These birds readily flock to black oil sunflower feeders, which they crack with their large seed-eating beaks. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Lake Wissota State Park - Spring is here! The warm weather has left the ski trails in very poor condition. The trails are now open for foot traffic. The trails are bare in many places. Snowshoeing conditions in other areas of the park are poor but still an option. People are still getting out ice fishing, but be cautious of ice near the boat launch. Part of the bay has open water. Mornings are getting more and more filled with bird calls, with more bird species arriving. Species of birds seen or heard include: mourning doves, robins, nuthatches, crows, black capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, and bald eagles. - Nathan Fries, ranger
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Sandhill cranes, herons, robins and more are making their way back to the park. People have been fishing from shore at the Buckhorn bridge. Ice is slowly melting on the lake and boat launches and bays are still iced in. The friends group is holding a work & play day on April 28. Call 608-565-2789 to sign up to help build benches for the new hiking trails, clean up picnic areas and more. The friends are providing lunch for volunteers. The new campground is open but the dump station, flush toilet/shower buildings are closed for the season - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and camping are still closed, but the gate will open May 5 for a Work*Play*Earth Day event. Call 608-565-2789 to sign up to volunteer and help clean up the park that day. The friends group will be providing lunch for volunteers. Bring rakes, leaf blowers, gloves and water bottles. - Heather Wolf, park manager