Some May Call Me Crazy!

My goal wherever I travel is to see as much as I can since I never  know when I will return! Birdwatching is a challenge since I cannot always be where they are when they are migrating for an easier time to bird watch, but they are here each day! With patience I will see them even as I move through 3 states in this one day: South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska!

Today’s temperature rose from a morning 65 to midday 93 degrees; feeling like 103 degrees. Before leaving the area the next day, I had three places to visit. I camped in North Sioux City, South Dakota, a couple of miles from Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve. I spent a few hours at the homestead and loved it. I walked more than a mile on their trails and stood behind 2 wildlife blinds to ultimately observe 21 different species of birds and 4 deer, yet no sign of the red-headed woodpecker, darn! This 1500 acre property includes the family’s homestead and other buildings. Many of the trails you can also bicycle ride with hybrid tires being the best for the trail. Plenty of history here. Stephen Searls Adams in 1872 purchased Civil War soldiers’ homesteading rights through the Homestead Act. It was 120 years later, 1984, when his granddaughters donated the 1500 acres to the state of South Dakota. They wanted this place to be “a place for inner renewal”. 

I watched three great blue herons for a period of time. I thought the crouch of one was to be intimidating or to attract a female, yet it seemed there a was way to protect ones territory. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is a place worth visiting. Here are photos from this place:

Next I drove across the Missouri River to Iowa. I visited Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center. What beautiful indoor exhibits and also a “Bird of Prey” outdoor exhibit with a barred owl and red-tailed hawk, each in their own area, both unfortunately permanently injured. The three miles of hiking trails wind through forest and prairie areas and connect with Stone State Park trails. I loved seeing the tree fort and rock climbing area for children. There are also nature programs for children with trained naturalists. I walked the Whitetail Ridge Trail and did observe birds. Photos from here:

Next stop was Dairy Queen! I needed to sit in an air-conditioned area and have a “Blizzard”. No amount of water was keeping me cool, yet I knew I must keep hydrated and why not cool my innards!?

After starting in South Dakota, then to Iowa, I was now visiting Crystal Cove Park in Nebraska. Not much was happening at this park …. temperatures were over 100 degrees so that was understandable. I did talk with a couple of people who found it necessary to get their run in!?!?! I also talked about traveling to the 3 different states in such close proximity to each for gasoline, medical appointments, etc and they all agreed it does get tricky at times. My 3 visits were all less than 7 miles from each other and in three different states. Interesting!

I was exhausted, but had a good day and then a wonderful shower, but the black flies attacked my feet! I have so many bites and they itch unbelievably! After Bite is not helping! Never had this experience before and not enjoying it! Insects may rule the world in the future; horrible thought right now!

Retzer Nature Center … in Wisconsin

Thanks again to people bequeathing their land! In 1938 this land was once the 90 acre home of John and Florence Retzer who restored the land with over 26,000 trees, flowers and shrubs. In 1973 it was given to the Waukesha County “to conserve the scenery, natural life and wildlife, leaving the land unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”. In 1974, plans to develop a nature center began and in the 1980’s the site expanded to 335 acres. I walked the trails under gray skies, but no rain, and really enjoyed the area. It is a place to return to and for anyone with children wanting an environmental education experience. I saw 16 different species of birds and photographed some despite it not being the best light for photography.

After hours of hiking at the center, I stopped at a laundromat to wash and dry cotton towels, eat a bratwurst at the Elegant Farmer, known for apple pie baked in a paper bag, before heading back to the campground. I needed to organize everything in my car since it was easiest to do when it is not raining. All things need to be in their place for ease in finding them. At times I think I packed to much, but then again it could have been colder and I would have needed the heavier clothing layers! Just as I had wondered if the silk liner for my sleeping bag was necessary, I discovered it was best to use it alone in the heat at night when sleeping. Glad I packed it!

In June 2020 I had hoped to bicycle ride and camp north of Madison Wisconsin. Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted that travel plan! But I am now realizing this area around Milwaukee has wonderful places to visit too. I may be back some day!

Here are some photos:

Wehr Nature Center & Squeaky Cheese

Rain to arrive by 8am so I am up, eating my breakfast quickly so I can drive to Franklin, WI to visit Wehr Nature Center. Fortunately the weather cooperated for my visit there!

I saw plenty of birds and was mosquito bitten despite being slathered with Deet for insect and tick protection! This nature center is really impressive and worth a visit if you are in the area.

Today’s photos:

I stopped to buy cheese curd, ate and loved all that I did eat, but wondered why it is squeaky when eaten fresh? Now I know. The elastic protein strands of the fresh cheese rub against the enamel of our teeth to create the sound … and now you know too!

Is That A Bird Nest or What?

During my daily neighborhood walks, I look for plants and animals new to me. Recently I was looking for active bird nests for my possible participation in Nest Watch. With focused eyes toward tree tops, shrubs and cacti, I saw a hefty silhouette of something and thought it may be the start of some bird’s nest-building. Here is what I saw … look closely in the top quarter of the photo below:

As I walked closer to the tree, I observed it was not a bird nest. And what was in the space remained in place, not bothered by my approach. Upon closer inspection I observed a ground squirrel, sitting on the tree branch riding the wind as the branch bounced up and down, looking at me! The ground squirrel never moved as I took a couple of photos with my phone. These photos allow you to more easily see the ground squirrel:

Usually I see ground squirrels on the ground:

But the winning, most fun observation for me was when 9 months ago in our backyard I saw this ground squirrel pulling on our prayer flags! 

It is important to keep our eyes open, even during our daily neighborhood walk or looking in our backyard. There may be a fun observation to be made by you! What will you see? No idea until you get out there and look; have fun!

What do you see?

You are on the trail, you hear movement and see something coming down a tree limb and you are not sure what it is … and there may be two somethings! I am showing the 3 photos I took as I tried to figure out what was causing the movement within 10 feet of me. Photos have not been edited so you have a chance to see what I saw and in the order of what I saw.

If you read yesterday’s blog post you might have a hint. Do you see two bobcats? Yup, that’s what was happening … two bobcats on the move …. off a tree limb and walking along yet I could not see them beyond these couple of peeks. I love nature!

Butterfly … Queen or Monarch?

I discovered butterflies can be as difficult to photograph and identify as birds! It finally dawned on me to wait for a butterfly to land on a flower,  photograph it, and then identify it. Any photo of a butterfly in flight has not been worth saving, but a few on a flower, well maybe yes!

My next question to myself, am I photographing a queen or monarch butterfly? To refresh my memory, I checked my resources and now know these are all queens. Notice in the dark orange of the wings there are occasional white dots; therefore, it is a queen butterfly in photo above and below.

Next question, is it a male or female butterfly? When their wings are open, a male will display prominent black markings, often referred to as the “family jewels”, but they are defunct pheromone sacs once used to drive the female butterflies crazy. And now you know! In the photo below, a male Queen butterfly.