Red shouldered hawk frequents backyard feederEach morning I fill our two hanging feeders with sunflower seeds, top off the thistle feeder, then place a bit of tallow or meat scrapes on the platform feeder. At times, if I feel generous, I’ll add some dog food kibble, extra sunflower seeds and the left over spillage from our 19-year-old cockatiel Rocky’s feeding dish to the mix.
Each morning I fill our two hanging feeders with sunflower seeds, top off the thistle feeder, then place a bit of tallow or meat scrapes on the platform feeder. At times, if I feel generous, I’ll add some dog food kibble, extra sunflower seeds and the left over spillage from our 19-year-old cockatiel Rocky’s feeding dish to the mix.
The platform feeder is set high enough off the ground to prevent dogs Xena, our overweight lab/weimaraner mix, or lab Tyson a chance to pilfer the goodies. Our dogs’ main goal in life is to deny the naughty squirrels access to the feeders. This is a game that I think both the dogs and squirrels enjoy. If I’m not fast enough in stocking the larder, our crows gather and will caw until I make an appearance. This has become part of my morning routine.
Over the last few weeks, a hawk has been making a stop at our feeder upsetting the routine but adding greatly to the viewing opportunities. At the old house, we had an immature red tailed hawk as a frequent dinner guest.
I have a hard time identifying raptors and to me most hawks look alike. I can group hawks according to shape and size such as the butos, accipiters, falcons and harriers but that is about it. The common red tailed hawk is an easy one along with the kestrel or sparrow hawk, but when it goes beyond that I have to admit I’m at a loss to identify with any degree of certainty. Juveniles versus adults and males versus females also throw a monkey wrench into my birding prowess.
Thanks to my Wisconsin Bird Identification book, Sal’s set of good birding binoculars and the cooperation of the subject sitting on the feeder, I can confidently say that our avian visitor is a red shouldered hawk.
I now refer to the bird as “our hawk” as it shows up in early morning, to the consternation of the crows and squirrels. While taking its time filling its gullet, the half dozen crows sit on the ground awaiting its departure. The squirrels also keep their distance and the rest of our songbirds and woodpeckers are non-existent.
As soon as it has had its fill, the hawk will fly to a large cottonwood tree near the lake to start out its day on a full stomach. Immediately, the crows and squirrels take over the feeders and within a few minutes the rest of the avian cast appears. It is amazing the respect the other creatures give the hawk. In this case I think the respect is earned!
Last Saturday morning, I, along with Sal and friends Jim and Judy, attended a seminar on “Landscaping for Wildlife.” This was the second in a series of talks sponsored by the St. Croix River Fund and held at the St. Croix River Visitors Center in St Croix Falls. The guest speaker was Mike Zeckmeister, a Wisconsin DNR biologist, who lives in Shell Lake. Mike provided an extremely interesting presentation.
All living organisms have four basic needs to prosper: food, cover, water and space. When it comes to landscaping for wildlife, how these basic needs are put together is the key.
A Mess is the Best: Organization is not natural and the more broken terrain the better. Non-mowed grass and uneven boundaries fill the need. Branches and logs on the ground are ideal and provide places for invertebrates and other organisms to live and thrive which provide food and nourishment for a variety of creatures. Old dead tree snags should be left alone. These snags can provide home for 43 species of birds and 26 species of mammals in Wisconsin.
Soft Edges Rule: A gradual transition of vegetation going from short to tall where two habitats meet provide the type of space that a variety of animals need in the mix to thrive.
Diversity and Structure: Sunlight is needed to get a diversity of plants going. A layering of plants from grass, forbs (flowering plants), shrubs and trees can provide the needed blend. A diversity of plants can provide seeds and fruits to be available all throughout the year. Conifers can provide a thermal benefit in the winter breaking up the wind.
There are options to achieve success. One can let nature take its course which is a slow process or one can speed things up by planting and doing management activities. A combination of the two also will get the desired results. Cutting vegetation and trees can cause natural regeneration. Replicating a natural disaster will cause re-sprouting and removing the over story will allow dormant seeds a chance to germinate.
There are several different plant species that can be maintained to assure that the desirable bird, butterfly or mammal you wish to foster will flourish. A focus on habitat for the long term is the key.
The next scheduled speaker is Adrian Wydeven, from the WDNR who will talk on “Cougars in Wisconsin”. The talk is set for Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. This should be a good one!
Grazing as a Management Tool
By Tom Kerr
Many of the Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District are located in parts of St. Croix County that were historically covered by prairie and oak savanna before European settlement. Natural disturbances such as wildfire and grazing animals helped maintain grassland and prevent the invasion of trees.
Located on the eastern side of the prairies, this transition zone between the prairies and the northern forest fluctuated with the amount of wildfire on the land. Oak savannas, which are a fire dependent community with large burr and white oaks, are commonly found in the transition zone. The management tools we use on local WPAs simulate this natural disturbance that helped maintain grasslands and oak savanna.
Although many people are familiar with one of these management tools, having seen the columns of smoke from our controlled burns, we also use grazing as a tool. Grazing is an effective tool to control the spread of brush and when applied at the right time of the year can help stimulate the growth of native grasses and forbs. This disturbance to maintain grassland is crucial for providing habitat for many species of grassland dependent birds including meadowlarks, bobolinks, Henslow’s sparrows, short eared owls and blue winged teal.
If you would like to learn more about grazing, District Wildlife Biologist Chris Trosen will be giving a Grazing 101 presentation which is open to the public on Wednesday, March 7, at 2 p.m. at the district office at 1764 95th St., New Richmond.
For more information on the St. Croix Wetland Management District, check out our website at www.fws.gov/midwest/stcroix/ or find us on Facebook.