Aerial Video of Lake Puckaway

On a calm day I took to the skies and made an aerial video of the eastern dredgbank on Lake Puckaway.  The dredge bank is a left over from the commercial steamboat travel of more than a century ago.  Today it provides protection from the aquatic vegetation on the other side.

Unfortunately the dredgebank is made of sand and has been eroding several feet a year, and some years more than 12 feet.  As the dredgebank has eroded away so have the plants behind it.  These plants include: Wild Celery (Vallisneria americana),  White Water-Lily (Nympheae odorata), and Spatterdock (Nuphar avenda), provide valuable nursery habitat for gamefish as well as wildlife.

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Amazing Colorful Sunrise over the Lake

Newly published video from about a week ago featuring scenes from a single, amazing sunrise over Lake Winnebago September 20th.  This video was shot using 3 cameras and includes real-time and time-lapse clips.  All colors etc. are as they occurred no filters were used.  The sounds were all recorded that morning too, and are mostly Canada Geese and crows.

It was a great to be out at dawn, not chilly at all, and barely any wind.  Not to many people were around and this time of year the sun is up late compared to June.

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Time Lapse of Lake Winnebago Sunrise and Clouds


Over the last week or so I’ve been using my iPhone, old and new, to film time lapses of a few sunrises and passing clouds over the Oshkosh area.

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Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)

Sandhill Crane

A Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)  walks through the grass near along side of the road after leading its chick to safety from me.

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) are a great big interesting bird that I have been in contact with since I was a boy.  When my family moved into the country when I was eight I used to love slogging through the neighbor’s marsh.  One time I did this I got too close to a Sandhill Crane nest.  I watched one of the cranes leave the nest and slink low through the vegetation to come over to its mate, which was making a racket.  After the two birds joined forces they turned to me getting close and in my path.

I had no desire to bother their nest, but I did not want to change course.  I do like splashing around in wetlands, but it is hard going and I didn’t want to lengthen my journey home.  I decided to head straight towards the cranes who were directly in my way.  These were Greater Sandhill Cranes and they were not much shorter than I was, and they have very sharp beaks.  I was intimidated, but I had a walking stick and I was determined to continue.  For about two hundred yards the birds kept a safe distance in front of me, while slowly retreating.  They probably felt good about corralling this dangerous human, and saving their eggs.  When I was far enough away from their nest they departed.

Sandhill Crane Injury Display

A Sandhill Crane fakes and injury so I will eat it and not its fuzzy brown chick, it was quite a display.

Last week, about thirty years later, a similar thing happened, except this time I’m was in a car, and the pair of cranes have a small, brown colt (chick), and I’m driving an SUV.   The family of cranes was by the side of the road and my approach sent the parents into a panic.  The birds were in a farm field with no cover, but there was cover on the other side of the road.  One, then both of the parents went into the road to stop my approach and lead their chick to cover, but the chick was too scared to go.

Still the parents held their ground, one crane returned to the colt and the colt ran across the road.  The other parent decided the car was hungry and offered itself as a sacrifice by pretending to be injured.  At the range it was pretended, any predator, even me jumping out of the car, would have been able to pounce and dispatch the crane quickly.  I was surprised at the silliness of the display under the circumstances, but impressed with the bird’s protective nature over their offspring.  I felt a bit bad about bothering the birds, but they were in the road, and I came to a complete stop and even reversed a short distance, so the colt would feel more comfortable crossing.

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Turkey Vultures on the Rocks

Yesterday I took a drive up to the north end of Lake Winnebago at High Cliff State Park and came across a  flock of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) loaf about the breakwater along the lake. It is a cool foggy morning and the birds are probably hoping for warm air to create thermals that will help raise them high into the air. To find their carrion food Turkey Vultures use their sense of smell, which is unusual for birds, and also the sight of other vultures (buzzards) descending on food. Because the fog is limiting the height at which they can fly, and perhaps the movement of aromas associated with decaying animals, these birds are hanging around on the rocks waiting for better conditions.

The vultures hopped around the rocks while some flew off into the trees, and others returned from the trees.  At least that is the way it seemed to me since it was foggy and their source and destinations were obscured.

Video taken at High Cliff Harbor Marina, High Cliff State Park, Sherwood, Wisconsin.

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Nature Calling Spring

Nature Week

It is like nature wakes and calls to all the other creatures and plants.  They rise to greet the sun and shun the cruel dead of winter…

It was another beautiful week last week and I can’t wait to get out this week, right now I am waiting for the rain to let up.  In any event even more birds are back, calling, singing making nests and laying eggs.  More wildflowers are in bloom and the leaves continue to unfurl from the trees.

The above video shows the sight of wildflowers, woodlands and lakes and the sounds of birdsong and the calls of American Toads.  The photos below were taken at Hartman Creek State Park, Wisconsin.

Swamp Understory

The skunk cabbage understory of a lake-side swamp at Hartman Creek State Park, Wisconsin.

Wood Anemone  (Anemone quinquefolia)

The spring woodland wild flower Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) in bloom.

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Woodland Spring

This last week I had the chance to visit several forested areas and witness the blooming of some of the early spring woodland flowers.  The wildflowers I encountered most frequently were White Trout Lily, Bloodroot, and Sharp-lobed Anemone.  While these were the most often in bloom, there were many more just getting started.

The leaves on most species of trees are starting to break bud at Kettle Moraine State Forest and elsewhere.  It won’t be too long before the light of the forest floor fades away and the spring flowers turn to seed and the plants go dormant until next year.

Forest Floor in Spring

Forest floor in spring.

Greenbush Kettle

Greenbush Kettle Hole

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Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Gallery of the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) probably the second most common waterfowl around here after the Mallard Duck.

Calling Canada Geese Video


Note: Some birders will be irritated if you call these birds Canadian Geese, because not all of them are from Canada, and its not the official name.  :)

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Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)

The common, spotted Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) is found through much of the northern half of the United State.   This wide range means that this is the frog many of us grew up trying to catch by hand, or less sporting, with a net.

Leopard Frog Reproduction

Mating Leopard Frogs

Northern Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens)  mating in a flooded swamp.

In early spring, sometimes when there is still ice on parts of the lakes, Northern Leopard Frog males begin calling females.  Once attracted  the female lays, and the male fertilizes on large cluster of hundreds of eggs.   Depending on how warm the water is the eggs can develop very quickly, and in less than a week tiny tadpoles (polliwogs) will squirm out of their clear eggs.


Once released from their egg they will continue to feed off their yolksack and the remains of the egg.  After that the food of choice algae and plant matter, but they will also feed on soft dead animals, like their fellow tadpoles.  This can happen in situations were over population occurs.

Throughout the life of a frog they must be wary of predators, but this is doubly true as tadpoles.  Every predator will be happy to sink its jaws into a juicy tadpole.  Fish and birds come immediately to mind but also hundreds of species of insects and other invertebrates will take place in the spring feast.  Some of the main insect predators will be beetle and true bugs, in both their larval and adult stages, and the larval stages of dragonflies and damselflies.   Those vegetarian tadpoles that survive to adulthood will get the last laugh though, because as adults they will feed on the same insects that ate their brothers and sisters.

Unlike some frogs that will stay at the water’s edge most of the year, the Northern Leopard Frog will  sometimes move out into the wetlands and beyond to low-lying grassy areas with enough cover from predators.  If your out looking for frogs with the family, you can still bet on finding these frog by the lake-shore provided, once again, that there is enough places to hide from predators.

The Northern Leopard frog also goes by scientific name Lithobates pipiens.  

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Spring Rolls Along

Nature Week

Last week was another advancement of spring with The above video begins with a time lapse of the River, and some other footage of the rivers as well.    I put together a time lapse of leopard frog eggs developing into tadpoles which is in the above clip along with several other sights and sounds from the week.  Click the above links to view the full videos on YouTube.

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