Spring is exploding right into summer across Wisconsin. You would never know that just a few short weeks ago the Northwoods were covered with ice and snow.
Memorial Day weekend kicked of the unofficial start to summer and many of the reservable campsite at state parks and forests were booked. The lower Wisconsin River continues to run high, but there were signs of sandbars beginning to emerge in some areas as water slowly drops.
Fields and forests have greened up, and regular rains have kept fire danger low to moderate across most of the state with just a few areas still in high fire danger. Through the spring fire season 639 wildfires burned 1,800 acres; 53 structures were destroyed and another 441 were threatened, but saved.
Wisconsin’s northern zone musky season opened this past Saturday and spring fish assessments showed anglers would not be disappointed with what they find, with many fish over 40 inches netted and released.
Overall, fishing success was fair along west shore of Green Bay last week. Some anglers were catching good numbers of walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Fishing pressure was high Sunday at Oconto for the perch opener. Anglers on the pier were having a lot of success catching perch, northern pike and the occasional walleye. The walleye bite on the east shore was more consistent with many boats at Bayshore catching close to their limit.
Bass fishing has started to heat up off Door County with some anglers reporting fish moving onto beds at Little Sturgeon Bay. The Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament last weekend attracted anglers not only from Wisconsin but competitors traveled from Illinois and Michigan. Cold, windy, and foggy conditions caused very little boat traffic on Lake Michigan. The few who did go out had little luck; however, a few anglers reported landing mostly coho and the occasional chinook.
Young wild animals such as deer fawns, rabbit and raccoon kits, fox and coyote pups, ducklings, and goslings are out and active all over. Most wild mothers watch their young from a distance, and what you think is an abandoned baby animal may be perfectly safe. If you see a young wild animal you think is injured or orphaned, visit the DNR webpage and search keyword “Keep Wildlife Wild” to learn what to do.
Coyote pups are becoming more active, and their parents are traveling more in search of food for their young. Although coyotes rarely cause a problem people should keep a close eye on pets whenever they are outside.
Fledged young have been reported for mallard, wood duck, hooded merganser, Canada goose, great horned owl, sandhill crane, mourning dove, red crossbill, and American robin.
Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies are all active. Unfortunately, mosquitoes, flies and ticks have also made an appearance. Wood anemones, violets, marsh marigolds, blueberries, wild strawberries, Juneberries and pin cherries are in bloom.
Hepatica are still showing blooms in cooler areas, and bellwort, jack-in-the-pulpit Canada Mayflower, clintonia, dwarf lake iris and other ephemerals starting to bloom. Morel mushrooms have begun to pop up.
Green up of vegetation and regular rains have kept fire danger Low to Moderate in southern Wisconsin. Fire danger ranged from Moderate to Very High in northern Wisconsin. The progression of green up statewide and predicted rain over the weekend is expected to quell the fire danger even further. Over the past week, 72 wildfires burned 147 acres in DNR Protection Areas. Recent wildfire causes have been equipment, debris burning, fireworks, power line, railroad and campfires.
Make sure campfires are made in a fire-safe pit or container. Clear an area 10 feet around the fire pit and never burn when it’s windy. Before leaving, drown your campfire thoroughly with water, stir the ashes and add more water until it’s out cold.
Statewide Birding Report
Although migration activity is now past peak, birders statewide continue to find a nice mix of migrants and newly-arrived breeding species returning from tropical wintering grounds.
Warblers are still moving through, especially the later species like Canada, blackpoll, bay-breasted, Wilson’s and mourning, although expect numbers to decrease almost daily now. Swainson’s thrush, gray-cheeked thrush, and ruby-crowned kinglets also linger.
Red-eyed vireos made a big move into the state over the past few days, as did the flycatchers, including least, willow, alder, great crested, olive-sided, and Eastern wood-pewee, as well as black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos, cedar waxwings, and common nighthawks. Look for more of these species over the week ahead.
Shorebirds are notably late migrants and flights are now near peak at sites with suitable habitat, such as flooded fields, exposed mudflats, and sandy beaches. Look for black-bellied and semipalmated plovers, dunlin, semipalmated sandpipers, sanderlings, and ruddy turnstones, among others.
Hudsonian godwits, marbled godwits, and American avocets were seen at several locations this past week. Among the lingering winter birds found this week were rough-legged hawks, snow goose, and pine siskins, the latter with breeding documented well into southeastern counties.
In other nesting news, fledged young were reported for mallard, wood duck, hooded merganser, Canada goose, great horned owl, sandhill crane, mourning dove, red crossbill, and American robin. Nest building was documented for recently-arrived neotropical migrants such as ruby-throated hummingbird, baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak, and various warblers.
Rare birds spotted this week included western tanager in Ozaukee County, Eurasian wigeon in Bayfield, laughing gull and whimbrel in Milwaukee, red knot in Kewaunee, white-eyed vireo in Washington, summer tanager in Bayfield, and northern mockingbirds at several locations as far north as Lake Superior. Find out what others are seeing and report your sightings of common and rare birds alike at www.ebird.org.wi.