Friday, December 31, 2021

2021-The Year in Pictures

 The year in pictures or my favorite ones of the year.  A yearly disclaimer, these are my favorites blended with ones I feel are good images.  Or, at least in my eyes.  They are roughly chronological, but not always, and some I may feel need a title or caption, while others not.  This blog has been floundering for the past couple years, maybe the result of just trying to make it through 24 months of covid, misinformation, ignorance and a democracy teetering.  It's exhausting and I think spending time outside instead of typing will be my go-to excuse.  Maybe I have less to say with words than I do with pictures.  

Cold First Sun of the New Year-Reed Farm

Big Blue Stem on Sturtz Paririe

Old Dodge

The Highground-Service Dog Memorial


Beginnings and Endings

The Big Blow-Loyal, WI

Regrowth-Dike 17 SWA

The Golden Hour

Trumpeter Swans-Jackson County

A Boy and his Kite-Reed Farm

Sun Setting-Ashley ND

Big Land, Big Sky- Danzig ND

Beaver Creek Fisheries Area-WDNR

Sky GLow

Simple Elements-Sturtz Prairie

Simple Prayer

I'll wrap this up with my favorite image of the year, a happy accident as we were about to paddle.  Mark seemed to be at peace with just floating, as it should be.  Cold water, dry suits on, and speed and distance of no concern.  Taking in the moment was as good a reason to be on the water.  

Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

2020-The Year in Pictures

 7 days late and 7 months or so since my last post.  Seems national tragedy spurs these things.  After yesterdays attempted coup, and make no mistake, it cannot be called anything else, we all will see what today brings.  

For now, maybe some pictures.  I joked yesterday that maybe it wasn't the day to post pretty rime ice photos, but maybe it is exactly the right time.  A distraction from the chaos.  For quite a few years I have published my favorite pictures of the previous year.  They may be my favorites for very different reasons-some may be great photographs, others just a memory or a marker of a different time and place.  Some, just because and I have no other reason than that.  

What follows are kind of in chronological order except the first-I start with a "pretty rime ice" picture.

Rime Ice on "Fragments"  The Highground Memorial Park

Rime Ice at the Tailings Pond-Lake Wazee

Lab on Ice-Reed Farm

Truly Snow Angels

Century Oak

Spring Thaw

This was the start of the lockdown, the pandemic, the failed responses to the first national crisis of 2020 and it didn't have to go the way it ultimately did. 5000 dead in Wisconsin, 350,000 across the country and many who still call it a hoax and refuse to do their part to help.  That yesterday happened doesn't surprise me-it's been building to that with complacency from some of our "leaders."  It was allowed to happen and for some, it was wanted.  For a few images that follow are many long sullen walks as we all take life day by day when so much is out of our control.


"Eagle Tree" Reed farm

Cliffs Tractor

Fox pup-Reed Farm

Brook Trout- A return to fishing

Cervus canadensis

Prairie Burn- Sturtz Farmstead

Two Boys-Some sunsets are better than others

Two Boys on Giants Chairs

Perfect Landing

Lake Kaubshine Sunset

Prairie Grass Colour- Sturtz Prairie

7 Hour Rain Delay-FT Flowage

Dead End- Potters Flowage

The Forest for the Trees-Town of Hewett

Bird Dog-Mara with rooster

Ice Devil-Oxbo Pond BRSF

Dark Mode-LeMoine Farm

Fire and Ice- Dike 17 State Wildlife Area
Portrait of 2020- Reed farm

Friday, July 10, 2020


W1045-March 2020
W1045 is the DNR ID number for wolf 1045.  He'll be known as that for as long as he's "on the air" and long afterwards if he has a life and stories worth remembering.  Hopefully he'll provide more information for those of us who conduct, monitor and help with wolf research.  Personally, he's special to me as he's from a pack I know quite well and live among.  There are other packs like that in Jackson and Clark counties of the Central Forest, but he'll be one I'll really want to follow and get to know better.

There's my preface of this post.  It can sit there for a moment.  It's been a while since writing and yes, I've had subjects in the cue-Ice Age Trail hikes, kayaking, mountain biking etc....but the urgency to type hasn't been there like back in March when the covid crisis started.  It's now 4 months in and although we had a downward trend in April (and many other countries contained it then) Americans grew tired, lax and have no consistent plan from anywhere to stop it.   Why this tucked in here?  I guess the frustration is always sitting under the surface lately-sometimes crawling out on FB posts, but I'm preaching to the choir there for the most part.

 There seems little to look forward to-can't make plans.  Unsure of the future.  Even activities I love seem more like I'm going thru the motions.  Using up a day.  Like flying with an unhappy baby on an airplane-you just gotta make it thru....but lately, it seems like the pane will never land.  

So that leaves me with doing what I can to make days during this crisis meaningful.   I love working with wildlife, and wolves especially are a fascinating species and one I study.  I jump at every chance to learn more.  I remain basically laid off from my DNR work until re-hiring starts up again. There is so much work to do from our work station, and I think it could be done with low risk but for now, wait and see.  So sans that work option, I look for volunteering opportunities.

Trapping wolves in Wisconsin in order to place research GPS collars on them, takes place in late May and early June.  Pups have been born and are usually hanging close to their den-adults wander far and wide to find food for their growing appetites.  Travel corridors during these time periods give a trapper the opportunity to be successful.  It's no easy task to get an adult wolf in a 50+ square mile territory to place one foot on a specific spot the size of a coke can.    This time span also proceeds the bear hound "training" season which starts July 1st.  It would be difficult then as the public lands are crawling with pick-ups, hounds chasing bears and wolf/ hound conflict and depredations begin.  (sidebar: I don't understand running bear when heat indexes push to the 90 and 100 degree range and hounds are placed into known pack territories. A personal frustration.)

W1045 has been around for a number of years-a survivor so far in a county known for frequent poaching.  He's appeared on my cameras before-at least I'm quite sure it's him.  Same territory, same pelage (fur coloring).  He's a big male as Wisconsin animals go, in the 90 # range.  Contrary to fairy tales from barstool biologists, that is about as big as they ever get in the state and a little unusual-no 150 or 200# Little Red Riding Hood big bad wolves out there.  The really interesting aspect of W1045 is that the day before he was trapped, I had seen him about 3 miles away from where he was caught while driving a forest lane looking for tracks.  No way to know for sure, but it was the same color, in the right area and checking tracks he left behind, he seem to fit.  Ironically, I'd also been in the area checking cameras and discovered him in several frames from March and April in a full thick winter coat!

W1045- April 2020

Covid effected trapping season as well.  Normally it would be a crew of 3 scheduled ahead of time, generally over a 2 week period.  The trapper, and 2 assistants.  There is a lot to do in a short amount of time for the welfare of the animal.  Assistant duties include distracting the animal when it's being sedated, constantly monitoring temperature during work-up, and cooling as needed. Recording information on a particular animal, following a check list step by step and monitoring it during reversal.  It's all done efficiently and professionally.  This year was different, as we traveled in separate vehicles, wore masks and took precautions.  Instead of being formally scheduled, we were on-call to help as needed should a wolf be captured.

The system worked well and I was able to help out on W1045-a fortunate thing as during reversal, the trapper headed out to check other sets and as luck would have it, W1046 was also caught the same day.  Another assistant was called in to help there while I watched this big guy finally wander off into the woods. 

During the June session, one more wolf was collared from a pack researchers were targeting, so a successful season overall.  Data from collar locations will be used to learn more about wolf and elk interactions, pack territory shifts and generally where they are spending their time throughout the year.   Trapping never goes smoothly and challenges included bears tripping or pulling sets completely out, raccoons digging attractants and some days just a general disinterest by animals walking by without investigating a perfectly good set. All frustrating, but a part of the game.

For myself, it's an chance to really be up close and personal with an animal that normally is seen only through the lens of a game camera pic or track on a sandy road or snow covered trail.  They are often such a maligned animal, misunderstood by many-especially in the area I live.  I'm thankful to have such an opportunity during these crazy times volunteering with W1045 and others. I'm glad I could contribute to learning more about him (and them,) a species I hope we can appreciate for what they are, how they live and who lives among us and makes the wild a little bit more wild.
W1045 Reversing

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Country on Fire.

I joked with Rick that his RX prairie burns are always one of the big deals in the Town of Hewett...and I wasn't joking.  With firetrucks lined up along Columbia Av and white and gray smoke lifting up into the sky, it's about all the action we get out here. Exciting stuff.  Rick and Toni Sturtz live on an old farmstead, which they have transformed into a wondrous home property-caretakers of the land until the next generation comes along.

There are few prairies anywhere in the central forest region of Wisconsin.  It's hard to imagine that a 1000 years ago, all of this landscape would have been covered by warm season grasses and plants.  The Sturtz's are doing their part to bring a little back and enhance the environment.  Over the course of years since flipping the fallow ground back to what it is today, it's steadily improved and more and more varieties of prairie plants find their way "home."

I've written and posted pictures of these RX fires before, so I think there was a different need to do so this morning.  CV19 has claimed over 100,000 lives in the US and shows no sign of slowing.  In Wisconsin, it's getting worse as we "opened up" 2 weeks ago.  24% unemployment. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer a week ago,  has now fanned protests and looting and violence across the nation.  (Knowing that protests & the violence are not the same thing, nor the people).  We are on fire in the US, literally and figuratively. There isn't anyone alive that knows how this will end, or if it will end.  3 months ago I had the same ache and anxiety, and it's returned today, but for a different reason. The racial injustice that has always been below and above the surface and those who willingly and purposely fan those flames as we are learning today.

Seems fire is a theme in this post.

So escaping all of that, Rick invited me help yesterday.  Of course-I'd be glad to.  Usually I'd have a big camera in hand, but it was replaced by some kind of fiberglass broom, used to stomp out any escaping flames heading sneaking to where they shouldn't.  The firemen had it all under control and I didn't have to do much 'sweeping."  The firebreaks were green, and the back fires worked like a charm.  The head fire really was subdued, but still blackened the majority of the field.  Successful in any regard.  I walked around in the black, made some pictures and took in the transformation of this property.

Our country is being transformed as well.  These past few months I've noted the very best in humanity in those who realize we're in this together (however cliche that is, it fits) and the very worst, as we are seeing now.  I don't think there ever will be a "normal" or a getting back to where we used to be. In so many ways we can't and shouldn't.  Like the prairie starting over after fire, so will we-we have to, to make this world better.

And then some pictures:

2021-The Year in Pictures

 The year in pictures or my favorite ones of the year.  A yearly disclaimer, these are my favorites blended with ones I feel are good images...