May 19 was the first day of the 10th annual Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival, and we didn’t waste any time exploring the water, land and sky.
Our first stop was to the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs, or what some call the “Everglades of the North.” The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa owns more than 16,000 acres of this wetland near Lake Superior – an area that supports many species of birds and fish as well as the growth of wild rice.
The group split up and hopped onto small boats. Along the way we spotted turtles, geese, an eagle, blue-winged teal, cranes, herons and trumpeter swans.
Edith Leoso, tribal historic preservation officer, led the tour and shared the wetland’s history with us. To learn more about the importance of the area, read this article by The Nature Conservancy.
To see more photos from the Kakagon Sloughs, check out my Flickr page.
In the afternoon we checked out another body of water at Frog Bay Tribal National Park, but the hike was mainly to spot warblers and other migrating birds in the transitional boreal forest. This is the first tribal national park, which opened in 2012, and there the Bayfield Regional Conservancy and Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa preserve 88 acres of land.
Before the hike even started, everyone’s attention was on the young squirrels scurrying around a hole (likely their home) in a tree.
Then the search for black-throated green, black-throated blue and northern parula warblers was on.
Shortly after the photo below was taken, one of the trip’s leaders and festival keynote speaker, Laura Erickson (at left sporting the binocs, fanny pack and mega zoom) warned us of experiencing “warbler neck.” And she was right.
I didn’t manage to take any decent shots of the warblers high above us, so I stuck to finding things more at ground- and eye-level, like this Swainson’s thrush.
And even lower like these unfurling fiddlehead ferns, marsh marigolds and wood anemones.
Other finds included a deer mouse watching us as we hiked through the woods and a spotted sandpiper far away along the shoreline.
How can you not feel a connection with this grand place?
To see more photos from Frog Bay, check out my Flickr page.
Our day wasn’t over, though. My mom and I went back to the festival gathering spot, the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, to listen to Costa Rican biologist Guido Saborio talk about the Sister Park Agreement between the Osa Conservation Area and 14 national parks of the U.S. midwest region.
Then, once it started to get dark, a group of us went for a “woodcock walk” led by Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. She told us about the quirks of this bird, including its flexible bill tip and “peent” and twittering sounds. We ventured outside to try to listen to and watch the woodcock’s spring courtship display at dusk, and we did. And it was so cool.
Of course it was too dark to capture the moments on camera, but even in daylight I’m not sure I would’ve been able to track this quick bird in my viewfinder. Once we ventured down the boardwalk further by the light of the moon, it became more difficult for me to differentiate the sound of a woodcock from the frogs that we heard.
I found this video of the display – a woodcock spiraling into the air and silently diving back to the exact same spot – that is definitely worth a watch.
To see a few more photos from this night hike, check out my Flickr page.