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The weather this week has reminded us that winter is not quite over. This is very much the "tweener" period for outdoor pursuits. Looks kind of like spring but it was 5 degrees in parts of the state early this week. Astronomical spring officially arrives next Monday with the vernal equinox.
Most of the state received at least some snow, with heavier amounts falling in central and southeastern parts of the state. The Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest received enough to groom ski trails but they are not expected to last long with a warmup and rain in the forecast.
A few Northwoods lakes still had fishermen out fishing for crappies last weekend but safety is questionable on what ice remains and many landings have open water. Recent cold weather brought some ice back to some lakes in southern Wisconsin; however, not enough to safely venture out on.
The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway still has high flows but they have come down substantially. Anglers are flipping the switch from ice-fishing to open water fishing and many are fishing from the shores of the lower stretches of rivers but with little success as fish runs are still on hold.
Anglers were catching steelhead in the Milwaukee River and brown trout in the harbor before the snowstorm. Some brown trout were caught near Jones Island or trolling near the Harbor Gaps, where some also reported catching lake trout.
Spring steelhead fishing opens on March 25 for the lower stretch of the Brule River from Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior. There is still some ice and snow along the edges of the river, but there is little snow left in the forest.
The cold temperatures last week left a hard crust on the remaining snow and firmed up some previously soft ground, enabling folks to explore just about anywhere and hunt for deer sheds. Some bucks are still being seen with antlers hanging on, but the majority have shed.
Snowshoe hare coats are beginning to turn brown, river otters are giving birth, grouse have started drumming and the turkeys started strutting.
Just like clockwork, numerous bird species that are short-distance migrants recently arrived back in southwestern Wisconsin. Red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and robins have arrived in droves, while lesser numbers of killdeer, song sparrows, bluebirds, and eastern meadowlarks have filled in the gaps.
Migrating waterfowl have been moving through southeastern Wisconsin. The Bong Recreation Area has a had a wide variety of waterfowl stopping on the property including mallard, pintail, widgeon, ring-neck, redhead, canvasback, scaup, hooded merganser, wood duck, goldeneye, shoveler, tundra swan, Canada geese, and trumpeter swan. Six trumpeter swans have stopped on the property in the last month and two have remained for the last three weeks.
Maple sugarers were collecting sap last week but due to the fluctuating temperatures it has been on and off again. With a warm-up in the forecast the sap run may be in full swing again. There will be a maple sap program at High Cliff State Park this Saturday. A cool phenomenon this time of year is maple sap icicle. These can be located on maple trees that have been damaged and the sap freezes at it leaves the tree.
Pussy willows have begun budding. Hazelnut will be blooming soon, and the silver maples and willows will start to flower also.
Now is a good time to do invasives control work on woody species like buckthorn, honeysuckle, or even large oriental bittersweet. Cutting the stems and immediately treating the cut surface with an appropriate chemical is very effective.
A late winter snowfall dropped a wide range of precipitation over the state, with some areas receiving only a dusting and others accumulating several inches. Wildfires continued to burn in parts of the state free from snow. A total of 30 wildfires burned in DNR Protection Areas over the past week, burning 102 acres. The largest was an 80-acre fire in Bayfield County. Just over half of the fires were caused by debris burning. When burning leaves or brush as part of your spring clean-up routine, always adhere to burning permit restrictions. Put off burning entirely on windy days. Burning permit restrictions can change daily this time of the year, and so it's very important that people stay aware of the day's fire danger and check our website dnr.wi.gov, keyword "fire" or call 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) each day they plan to burn. Fire danger and burning permit restriction info is posted each day at 11 a.m.
Firewise Tip: Keep the area 3 to 5 feet around your home "fuel free." Remove anything in this area that can burn, such as leaves, plants, mulch, or piled wood. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madsion
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Chiwaukee Prairie SNA: March 18, 10 a.m. -1 p.m. Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Remove invasive brush threatening the prairie. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.
Sugar River Wetlands SNA: March 25, 9 a.m. - noon. Help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association (USRWA) restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "4th Saturdays" winter volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning (if possible) invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.
Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - The weather this week has reminded us that spring can be fickle. We did not get the snow that nearby areas got earlier this week, but we did get the cold weather. The latter part of the week has warmed up a bit and the forecast looks like warmer temperatures in the 40s are on the way. As the days get longer and weather turns warmer, we are seeing some of the migratory birds returning to the area. Canada geese and trumpeter swans have been seen in the area, and soon the songbirds will be showing up. Eagles, hawks, and owls are already nesting. It won't be long before those nests hold eggs and chicks. As the small amount of remaining snow melts away, last year's vegetation, leaves and other debris is exposed and dries out quickly. As the humidity drops and winds increase, wildfires can ignite and spread rapidly. The satellite view shows how little snow cover remains in the northern half of the State. If you have debris or brush to burn, get a burning permit and follow the rules of the day. You can learn about fire danger conditions and burning permit requirements by checking the Wisconsin Burning Permits website or calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876). Information is updated each day at 11 a.m. Spring Steelhead fishing opens on March 25 for the lower stretch of the Brule River- from Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior. River flow and gauge height conditions are available at the USGS website. There is still some ice and snow along the edges of the river, but there is little snow left in the forest. The 2017-2018 Fishing Regulations and 2017-2018 Trout Fishing Regulations are available on the DNR website. Please be sure to know and follow the Rules that apply to you. It's not too early to start planning your spring and summer vacations! The campgrounds at Bois Brule and Copper Range are open year-round. You can reserve a campsite at our campgrounds from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend at ReserveAmerica.com. Search for Brule River State Forest. Not all campsites are reservable-there are many available on a first-come-first-served basis. Prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day, all the sites are available as first-come-first-served. Public comments on proposed adjustments to the BRSF Master Plan will be accepted until March 20, 2017. These proposed adjustments focus on the recreation section of the existing plan and a proposed road management plan to reflect current conditions. The proposed changes were made based on public comments received last fall. Details and a link to the public comment form and on-line questionnaire can be found here. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Interstate Park - Snow cover is minimal in the park right now, with most snow on north facing slopes or areas that are protected from direct sunlight. The St. Croix River is again flowing and is starting to rise with all the melting that has occurred recently. The Lake O' the Dallas is still ice covered at this time. Expect trail conditions to vary from bare ground, to mud and water, and possibly some icy spots. The Pothole, Summit, Echo Canyon, and River Bluff Trails are all great for taking in the scenic beauty of the St. Croix River Valley. Nuthatches, chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, and mourning doves, along with squirrels, have all been seen around the Ice Age Center birdfeeders. Deer have been seen browsing through out the park. Geese and other waterfowl have been seen enjoying the open waters of the St. Croix River along with several Bald Eagles. Sandhill Cranes have been seen flying in the area as well. Another cool phenomenon this time of year is maple sap icicle. These can be located on maple trees that have been damaged and the sap freezes at it leaves the tree. - Matthew Densow, ranger
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - The snow depth is patchy in the woods and the landscape beyond the trees is nearly snowless. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail and the Flambeau Snowmobile Trails are closed for the season. This is a great time to hike the landscape, as you can view and hear the newness of spring begin. Lake of the Pines had fishermen out fishing for crappies last weekend but safety is questionable on the ice. The landings have open water and the high winds of last week didn't help. The snowshoe hare coats are beginning to turn brown, the male red-winged blackbirds returned, the river otters are giving birth, the grouse have started drumming and the turkeys started strutting. Maple sugarers have been collecting sap last week but due to the fluctuating temperatures it's on and off again. Logging operations on the Forest are virtually over till road bans are lifted. Hazelnut will be blooming soon, and the silver maples and willows will start to flower also. Pine siskins, yellow finches, eagles, owls, a few swans and ducks are patchily on the landscape. Pussy willows have begun budding. Bird activity is increasing: enjoy the easy viewing before leaf-on and take extra precautions with outdoor fires. The weather forecast for this week has Friday with a chance of rain, high of 43, low of 26. Saturday will be partly sunny with high of 39 and low of 21. Sunday, partly sunny, high of 48 and low of 29. Monday will be sunny and breezy with a high of 46. Sounds like a great sap weekend. The First Day of Spring is the March 20. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The cold temperatures of last week brought some hard crusty snow enabling folks to explore just about anywhere in the forest. Time to hunt for deer sheds? With cross country and snowmobile trails closed for the season, one has to rely on their feet to get them outside and enjoy this quiet time of the year. Quiet except for that chickadee or nuthatch that keeps telling us that spring is coming! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - A small amount of snow fell on Sunday night but the ground now is snow free again for the most part. Some large groups of robins have been seen in yards. Red-winged blackbirds have now made slightly further north into the Crivitz area. The seemingly large-scale migration that began with a warm spell nearly a month ago appears to have come to halt with our single digit overnight temps and highs just above freezing. Ice loss has also slowed, but few anglers have been observed on area lakes. Anglers are flipping the switch from ice-fishing to open water fishing and many are fishing from the shores of the lower stretches of Menominee River but with little success. The forecast is still for fairly cold temps over the next week so and staff expect fishing and migration will be slow during that time. The cold has firmed up some previously soft ground and with little to no snow on the ground, now is a great time to get out in the woods and look for shed antlers. Some bucks have been seen with antlers still hanging on last week, but the majority have shed. If the temps continue to stay cold, now would be a good time to do invasives control work on woody species like buckthorn, honeysuckle, or even large oriental bittersweet. Cutting the stems and immediately treating the cut surface with an appropriate chemical is very effective. If the temps warm however and the trees begin to move sap, then treatment is not effective and should be postponed until fall. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Marinette County continues to have intermittent snowfall, not enough snow for snowmobiling however good snowfall for seeing fresh animal tracks. Local lakes are still ice covered however most have open water along shorelines preventing access. Rivers continue to have large pieces of ice passing through making fishing efforts difficult. Turkeys have been strutting their stuff on sunny days and snow geese have been spotted passing through the area. - Dale Romback, conservation warden, Wausaukee
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - We are very much in the "tweener" period for outdoor pursuits. Got 1.5 inches snow Sunday into Monday but that is now mostly gone. Looks kind of like spring but was 5 degrees in Wild Rose yesterday am. Greenup has not started yet; no trees seem to be breaking buds. Maple sap run seems to be in full swing, see lots of trees are tapped and the blue sap bags the syrupers now use seem to be mostly full. Fish runs on local rivers on hold, things will happen fast when it warms up. Previous warm weather has left the ice in bad condition, and have not seen anyone out ice fishing lately. Nice conditions to take the dog for a run, hunt for sheds and/or cut next year's firewood. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - Waushara County is a little confused going from its first wildfires of the season last week to now trying to fight off winter and the few inches of snow it gave us, to today where the sun is shining bright. The forecast shows mild improvement, but open water and typical springtime activities are still some ways off. The open water that had been starting has quickly frozen back over, but the ice is still very thin so use extreme caution if you get the itch to venture back out on the frozen lakes. More robins have showed up in the area as well as other songbirds can be heard even in the chilly mornings. Red-tailed hawks have been seen flying around with nesting materials. Ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes have been seen paired up and staking their claim for their spring nesting sites. Even with the weather forecast and winters grasp not letting go yet there is still plenty to do this weekend, dress for it and enjoy what Waushara County has to offer. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - Anglers were catching steelhead in the Milwaukee River at Kletzch Park before the snowstorm and brown trout in the Harbor. Anglers were catching brown trout on jigs near Jones Island or trolling near the Harbor Gaps. Some anglers reported catching lake trout in the gaps. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Milwaukee
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 7 inches of snow on Monday. All trails were packed down to about a 2 to 3 inch base. The sunshine has softened things up and bare spots are beginning to show but skate lanes remain in fair to good condition as of March 15 with some debris poking through in many areas. A classic track was set on the entire system and is in fair to good condition depending on what section you're on. Trail lights will be on until 9pm Monday through Saturday evenings as long as there is skiable snow. Due to the thin conditions and debris, grooming will likely not occur again until more snow falls. Check back for current condition and grooming updates. - Brett Johanen, ranger
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - Migrating waterfowl have been moving through the Kenosha and Racine county area. The Bong Recreation Area has a seen a wide variety of waterfowl stopping on the property including Mallard, Pintail, Widgeon, Ring-neck, Redhead, Canvasback, Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Goldeneye, Shoveler, Tundra Swan, Canada Geese, and Trumpeter Swan. Six Trumpeter swans have stopped on the property in the last month and two have remained for the last 3 weeks. The birds are using the pond west of the refuge area. With the recent rain and snow, water levels on Wolf Lake and flowages on the property are high. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Weekly Riverway Report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnGY5afWhvs&feature=youtu.be Still high flows on the river but they have come down substantially. About twice the average flow at Muscoda. Hundreds and hundreds of ducks are on the river backwaters between Muscoda and Blue River. There is a little film of ice on the lake. Lots of mallards, woodies, shovelers teal and geese. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - After last week's writing, robins were observed in the area and have been snowed on twice now. One more snowfall if you believe in the lore. Recent cold weather has brought some ice back to some lakes in the county, however, not safe to venture out on. Responded to a report of a deer going through the ice on Silver Lake in Portage. Deer was able to get out on its own and ran away. Only the hearty anglers ventured out in boats this past week due to the poor weather conditions. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Just like clockwork, numerous bird species that are short-distance migrants recently arrived back in the area despite the snow and cold. Red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and robins have arrived in droves, while lesser numbers of killdeer, song sparrows, bluebirds, and eastern meadowlarks have filled in the gaps. Short-distance migrants respond more to weather clues, so they can gradually move northward as weather improves. Long-distance migrants depend on changes in day length to trigger their migration. It is believed that short-distance migrants can get a jump on resources and outcompete long-distance migrants that arrive later in a region. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Volunteers have stopped grooming ski trails but expect some snow and icy spots on the hiking trails. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - Trails still have a little snow cover and some icy spots in the shade. Trails are not quite ready for standard bicycles but certainly open for a nice day hike with the family. Staff cleared over 50 large trees off the trails in the last week due to the recent wind storm that moved through the state. Most of the large branches have been cleared as well but expect some smaller debris to be aware of if taking the fat tire bike out. The river corridors are attracting a lot of bald eagle this time of year as well as waterfowl moving through the state. The shoreline of the Chippewa River along the bike trail should provide excellent opportunities for early spring fishing. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Lake Wissota State Park - Species of birds seen or heard include: the first pair of great blue herons, red winged blackbirds, mergansers, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, robins, mourning doves, nuthatches, ravens, black capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, barred owls, and bald eagles. Sugar maple tapping is in progress throughout the area. With the weather conditions, it may be a short season this year. The campgrounds remain closed at this time. Most of our trails are thawing and are very wet, soft and have some icy patches. The horse trails remain closed as we await drier conditions. The rivers have open water, as do a few of the larger lakes. Small lakes and most bays continue to hold ice.- Dave Hladilek, park manager
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - There is open water north and south of the Buckhorn Bridge but still ice covering bays. The drawdown of the lake has started. Boat launch piers will not be in until water level is back to normal, should be in by end of April. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Roche-A-Cri State Park is a seasonal park and the main gate is closed at this time until early May. - Heather Wolf, park manager