Coming of spring means busy times in outdoorsMarch 21 marked the first day of spring but the vernal equinox actually occurred this year on March 20 at 5:32 p.m.
March 21 marked the first day of spring but the vernal equinox actually occurred this year on March 20 at 5:32 p.m.
Vernal equinox is derived from the Latin “ver” meaning spring, “equi” meaning equal and “nox” meaning night/day. The sun appears to spend an equal amount of time above and below the horizon on this day.
From this point forward until the summer solstice on June 21 at 11:28 a.m. the days get longer. Spring is a great time of the year and my favorite season.
With the coming of spring many natural events are set into motion. Male cardinals are seen and heard as they sit at the highest point of the tallest tree to make themselves visible to the female cardinals and other males in the area. He is telling the world that this is his territory. Several cardinals are now staking out our neighborhood, dividing it up into their home turf.
Rooster pheasants that have made it through a rough winter are now walking the walk as they stake out their territory, stopping at appropriate times to call to the ladies and warn the other male pheasants to stay clear or suffer the wrath of his pointed spurs. A rooster pheasant walks the edge of Paperjack Creek each morning behind my house crowing at intervals before stopping off at the bird feeder to partake of a few sunflower seeds that the finches had knocked to the ground.
The warm weather we experienced last week has caused the frogs in the small ponds and wetlands to squeak and peep their spring time songs.
Wisconsin has 12 species of frogs but the ones we hear mostly in the spring are the chorus frog and spring peeper. All frogs breed and deposit their eggs in water. It wouldn’t be spring without the song of these small amphibians.
When we were kids, my dad had a saying that entertained us each spring. “Spring has sprung, the grass is riss, I wonder where the birdies is?”
This is the time of year migrating birds return to their nesting areas. On a recent walk, we observed our first redwing grasping the stem of last years’ cattail and staking out his territory with his sharp trill. As the ponds open, a variety of waterfowl, including some migrant visitors such as redheads and canvasbacks, will stage in our area awaiting ice out on ponds farther north, as they make their way to their Canadian breeding grounds.
A dozen different species of waterfowl can be observed at times during this period. Local Waterfowl Production Area ponds such as Erickson, Bierbrauer and Oakridge offer excellent birding opportunities. The path/trail system along Hatfield Lake and Mary Park are excellent areas to observe these migrating birds without even leaving New Richmond.
Spring is also the time for fish to spawn. Northern are early spawners followed by walleyes and muskies. Soon the large muskies will be running up the Balsam Branch out of Lake Wapogasset and staging below the dam at DD Kennedy Mills, a Polk County Park located just south of Highway 8. They are visible even during the daylight hours. A trip up there for a walk and picnic is a very worthwhile outing. It is a beautiful area.
USF&WS Tom Kerr’s Spring Migration and WPAs
As the spring thaw continues, many species of waterfowl are heading north to their breeding grounds. Some of these, such as wood ducks, mallards, blue winged teal, hooded mergansers and even a few green winged teal and northern shovelors, will set up territories and raise their young in our area. Others such as canvasbacks, ring necked ducks, redheads, American mergansers, pintails, widgeon and a myriad of other species are merely stopping over on area wetlands to fuel up before continuing their journey north.
If you spend any time driving around or looking for wildlife on local Waterfowl Production Areas or State Wildlife Areas you have probably noticed waterfowl in some of the shallow sheet water found on crop fields or pastures. These areas of shallow water are important sources of food for migrating waterfowl. They often fill up with open water before the larger marshes are ice free but as soon as the frost goes out these areas of sheet water dry up quickly.
During migration, waterfowl need to re-fuel constantly to maintain their fat reserves, which are essential to successful reproduction and egg laying. These shallow areas provide easy access to seeds and invertebrates. Hens that arrive on the breeding grounds in good condition are more likely to be able to produce a clutch of eggs.
Waterfowl are also using seasonal wetland basins such as those found on the Bierbrauer Waterfowl Production Area located about a mile east of Star Prairie.
Last summer I wrote about how drought can benefit these basins by allowing many species of seed producing plants such as beggar’s ticks and smartweed to grow, produce tons of seed and make “deposits” into the seed bank. Waterfowl feeding in these basins are starting to make the first “withdrawals” from the seed bank. These “withdrawals” from shallow wetland basins are critical for migrating waterfowl, allowing them to refuel on their long migration north.
For more information about the St. Croix Wetland Management District and a map of the Bierbrauer WPA, check out ww.fws.gov/mid west/stcroix.
Warden Paul’s Corner
Turkey Youth Hunt
The fourth annual spring Wisconsin Youth Turkey Hunt is set for April 10-11. The hunt is intended to give youth hunters (both residents and nonresidents) an opportunity to hunt turkeys and gain valuable hunting experience. The youth hunt occurs each year, and is held the weekend prior to the opening Wednesday of the spring turkey season.
As in previous years, youth ages 12-15 who have successfully completed a hunter education program and have purchased a 2010 spring turkey license, 2010 turkey stamp and have a valid carcass tag for spring 2010 may participate in the two-day youth hunt.
New this year, youth ages 10 and 11 or youth of 12 through 15 years of age who do not possess a hunter education certificate but who still have a current valid 2010 turkey license, stamp and permit may participate if “mentored” by a qualified adult under the new mentored hunting program.
Participants may only hunt in the turkey management zone for which their permit was issued, and may only harvest one bearded or male turkey total during the youth hunt. Youth who do not fill their tags, or who have purchased extra tags over-the-counter, may still use any remaining unused tags not filled during the special youth hunt during the original time period and zone for which the tags were issued.
A full set of regulations for the youth hunt is available in the 2010 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations, which is now included in the 2009 Small Game and 2009 Fall Turkey Hunting Regulations.
More information, including the criteria for a qualified adult mentor, can be found on the youth turkey hunting page of the DNR Web site.
Hunters looking for further information can refer to the spring turkey hunting regulations.