Turtle Gallery – Western Wisconsin

We live in an area with a lot of turtle habitat, much of which is criss-crossed by our favorite hiking and biking trails. On top of that, RoZ regards herself as a turtle person.

So we seem to get a lot of turtles jumping in front of our lenses, ranging from the size of a half-dollar to the size of a substantial foot-stool.

See an awesome 9-image gallery of turtles after the jump… Read on

New Jewelry for Peregrine Falcons

I work one day a week at the US Bank Building in La Crosse, which has a nesting box for peregrine falcons. There is now a camera in the box, and the image from that camera is on a screen in the building’s lobby…

Two newly hatched peregrine falcons in a nesting box mounted to the top of the US Bank Building in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin, are visible on a live display in the bank lobby.

Seeing the new baby falcons reminded us that we had some video of the banding of an earlier hatching of falcons that took place a few years back. This motivated us to edit the video we shot that day, and it’s finally “in the can”…

Eagles Are Us

Bald Eagle on La Crosse Marsh

A bald eagle warily watches a photographer near La Crosse, Wisconsin.

One of the special treats of living near the Mississippi River is that we share our space with bald eagles. Usually we see them in the wintertime near the river, as they like to catch fish from the open water.

The eagle shown here was spotted over the marsh, along the bike trail between La Crosse and West Salem. A set of high-voltage power lines run next to the trail, and the eagle was perched in one of the towers.

Eagle on power tower

A wide view of the eagle's perch.

Too often when we get this close to a special bird, we either don’t have our best camera along, or the bird flies away before we can get it out. To our amazement, this bird struck some iconic eagle poses for us before flying off to look for food in some other part of the marsh, away from the paparazzi.

Bald Eagle near La Crosse

The eagle near the bike trail warily watches a photographer with his other eye.

Mourning Dove and Downy Woodpecker

It’s time to share some pixels that finally escaped our camera today.

On the top of the page are some cattle sharing their pasture with a pair of sandhill cranes, as seen from our favorite bike trail about nine miles from home. (If you don’t see cattle and cranes, click on the title of this post.)

We have a grape vine supported by a trellis in our back yard. This year, a mourning dove built her nest in the grape vines.

A mourning dove minds its nest, nestled in a trellis of grape vines.

Today we were entertained by this woodpecker. Our bird book seems to say it’s a downy woodpecker, but we’re willing to be corrected if we’re wrong.

A downy woodpecker hunts for seeds on a tree near the La Crosse marsh.

Windstorm Closes Bike Trail

We had plans to spend the weekend bikepacking overnight from La Crosse to Sparta and back (30 miles each way, camping in Sparta). The weather forecast looked good… the muggy upper 90’s would give way to dry air in the mid 80’s, with little wind. But it’s always the transition from hot to not-so-hot that creates trouble.

Friday night (July 1) a strong wind blew through the house before we could get windows closed. Fridge magnets and the stuff under them were blown all over the kitchen. A large crystal was blown off a window sill. We later learned our area had experienced winds up to 80 mph. It started hard and suddenly, then died down after a few minutes. It started to feel like deja vu from the tornado we had in May, and it lasted about the same amount of time.

We finished packing for our ride, and early Saturday afternoon we set out for the edge of town and the state bike trail, oblivious to the situation left behind by the storm. We went about 5 miles and found this…

A downed tree blocks the city bike trail on the north side of La Crosse.

A downed tree blocks the city bike trail on the north side of La Crosse.

We spoke with some people coming from the other direction, they told us that there were lots of trees down blocking the trail, all the way to Sparta. Some were large and others were small. “Too many to count.”

Just to get across that first large tree, we would have had to take the bike trailer off the bike and then find a way to finagle everything over the tree. That’s not so hard on a regular bike, but it’s nearly impossible with a loaded 10-foot bike, plus a loaded 3-foot trailer. If there were just one tree we could probably deal with it, but knowing there were a lot more of them down, we decided to turn around and go home.

Weirdly enough, we didn’t get any rain, just lots of wind and lightning. It did cool everything off though, and that’s a good thing.

RoZ adjusts gear on The Limo after we turned it around at the down tree blocking the city trail on the north side of La Crosse.

RoZ adjusts gear on The Limo after we turned it around at the down tree blocking the city trail on the north side of La Crosse.

Obbie adds: This bike trail is a major connection to La Crosse for users of the state bike trail system. I wonder how long a local highway – or even a minor street – would be allowed to remain impassible due to a downed tree.

Egrets, Geese and Cranes on La Crosse River Marsh

We’ve said it before, that one of the great things about living in our part of the world is the bird population. Our favorite bike route is the La Crosse River State Trail, and the first few miles from the Medary trailhead would be a birder’s paradise.

Canada geese are overabundant around here, but at this time of year you can see them out with their babies.

Two families of Canadian geese on the La Crosse River Marsh, as seen from the nearby bike trail.

Two families of Canada geese on the La Crosse River Marsh, as seen from the nearby bike trail.

We’ve been noticing sandhill cranes for the past two years now, and we see them on at least half our rides.

A family of sandhill cranes forages for food in a young cornfield near the La Crosse River Bike Trail.

A family of sandhill cranes forages for food in a young cornfield near the La Crosse River Bike Trail.

This pair of birds was chattering to us while we were taking a break as we approached West Salem. We’re not sure what they are, so if you can help identify them we’d appreciate it.

A pair of small birds pose for photographers along the La Crosse River Trail near West Salem.

A pair of small birds pose for photographers along the La Crosse River Trail near West Salem.

We see a lot of great egrets and great blue herons, but the herons haven’t posed for us yet. The birds are related and look very much alike. The link below opens a three-second video. It’s a 6-frame burst of a great egret landing on its perch overlooking the La Crosse River Marsh as seen from the bike trail.

The video will load in a new window or tab. If you have trouble viewing it, make sure you have QuickTime extensions installed.

Egret on the Marsh

Hawk Encounter

red-tailed hawk from below

A red-tailed hawk stands watch above our front sidewalk.

We saw a large bird in our neighbor’s maple tree 18 months ago. Today a similar bird (a red-tailed hawk, please comment if you disagree) appeared in the large tree in front of our house. It was the robins who brought it to our attention, sounding uncharacteristically alarmed in the outer branches.

Just like last year’s bird, it was kind enough to pose for pictures. But this year we have a better camera, so we got better pictures. Seven-image phototale after the jump. Read on