We’re in the “shoulder season” in Northeast Wisconsin now, it’s no longer winter, but it’s not really spring either. The early migrants are here. The red winged blackbirds have arrived, the bird that most serious birders consider the real sign of spring, as opposed to the non-birders choice, the robin. When the big mass of robins arrive that is a true sign of spring, but most birders have seen robins throughout the entire winter, there is a small contingent that just doesn’t migrate.
Baird Creek is a great place to see robins during the winter, they like open water and with all of the springs feeding the creek, portions of Baird Creek are always open. The winter robins survive as “frugivores”, meaning that they live almost entirely on fruit and berries throughout the winter, along with some seeds, a few insects, and some suet from birdfeeders.
I confess that this is the first winter in years that I have not seen robins at Baird Creek but I have talked to other people who have seen them during all of the winter months.
Back to the redwings. If one of your favorite remedies for the late winter blahs is to hear the “Conk-La-Ree” song of the redwings, there are several great places to go at Baird Creek. The retention ponds at Christa McAuliffe and McKenzie Lane have lots of redwings, and the cattail marsh by the parking area at the north end of Superior Road is loaded with redwings.
I heard sandhill cranes today, we have had at least one pair nest in the Greenway the past two years, and there are many pairs of Canada geese flying over as they search out nesting sites.
Although raccoons are not considered hibernators they certainly seem to sleep through most of the winter. Once temps get up into the high 30s and low 40s they start to become active again. After the little snowstorm we had last week I saw raccoon’s tracks all over at Baird Creek. They have a very distinctive track because the toes tend to be more splayed than the toes of most mammals. There is also lots of visible raccoon scat, raccoons are omnivores so there is a mix of seeds along with hair from little mammals they have eaten. Some raccoons seem to have a favorite toilet site, on top of one log there were many mounds of raccoon scat.
There will be lots of changes at Baird Creek in the next few weeks, so get out and enjoy seeing them. If you hike anywhere other than the asphalt trail you will still need your ice/traction cleats, although most of the ice is gone, you only need one small patch to put you on the ground.
Charlie Frisk, President, Baird Creek Preservation Foundation