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Blue Mound State Park Nature

Southern Wisconsin's Blue Mound State Park is a great place for observing nature, both close up and at a distance from the two observation towers. Learn about and experience the birds and other wildlife, trees, wildflowers and geological formations. Stop in at the nature center in the picnic area to look over the displays. The amphitheater provides an excellent setting for evening naturalist programs. Programs about the park, the plants, animals, human history and the natural environment are presented throughout the summer.

Wildlife at Blue Mound

The largest mammal living in Blue Mound State Park is the white-tailed deer. Deer are often seen in the open area near the swimming pool, in the other fields in and around the park and in the woods. During June, July and early August, tiny spotted fawns are sometimes seen with their mothers.

The mammals most often seen include gray squirrels, fox squirrels, chipmunks, 13-linded ground squirrel, woodchucks and raccoons.

The park is also home to coyotes, cottontail rabbits, flying squirrels, opossums, two kinds of weasels, skunks, meadow mice, deer mice, jumping micehouse mice, harvest mice, prairie moles, at least two kinds of shrews, four or five kinds of bats, red foxes and gray foxes. The badger occasionally visits the park as well.

Most mammals are very timid and move about during twilight hours and at night, therefore, they are not often seen, although many species may be present in the large numbers.

Before this region was settled by Europeans, the mound, its forest and the surrounding prairies had black bears, timber wolves, bobcats, Canada lynx, fishers, elk, bison and cougars (mountain lions). And, thousands of years ago when the thick ice blankets of the Wisconsin Glacier lay to the north and east of this area, these park lands felt the weight of giant, elephant-like mastodons. These huge beasts were hunted by nomadic Paleo-Indians who killed them with heavy-shafted, stone-tipped spears.

Birds

The crow-sized pileated woodpecker lives here and ruffed grouse often scare hikers as they thunder up from the brushy trailside. The beautiful, mellow song of the wood thrush is often heard in the twilight hours. Tiny house wrens chatter, black-capped chickadees scold and the ovenbird often "gives out" with its staccato tee-cher, tee-cher, tee-cher call. In late spring and early summer you may be lucky enough to hear the long, loud tinkling song of the little winter wren.

Blue Mound attracts red-tailed hawks and sometimes the eagle-size turkey vulture, both species circling high above the mound riding the rising are currents.

Wild turkeys are also a common site in the park. Male turkeys (gobblers or toms) average 18-25 pounds in weight and females weigh 8 – 10 pounds. The wild turkey is primarily a woodland bird, preferring mature hardwood forest. You will probably see turkeys in small flocks of 6 to 20 birds.

During spring and fall migration periods, the park’s woods are often alive with birds. On a good day, in early May, it would be possible to see or hear, 50 to 60 species of birds in just a few hours! It’s quite probable that in a single year’s time, more than 150 kinds of birds live in or migrate through the park. At least 15 kinds of birds can be considered year-round residents. These residents, plus a dozen more winter "visitor" birds, would bring the birds to be seen in the winter up to perhaps 25 species.

Flowers

A walk on any park trail can be a new experience from week to week or even day to day, especially if you are observing flowering and growth of new foliage.

wildflowers
Spring wildflowers

From April and into early June, trees, shrubs and herbs display the best floral show of the year. Some of the early flowers common on many woodland trails in the park are bloodroot, mayapple, anemones, buttercups, violets, hepaticas, jack-in-the-pulpit, strawberry, wild geranium, columbine, Dutchman’s-breeches, shooting stars, cherries and dogwoods.

A few of the most common early flowers in maple forests (east and west ends of the Pleasure Valley Trail) are yellow ladyslipper, trillium, wild ginger, Dutchman’s- breeches, spring beauty, toothwort and trout or fawn lily. Most visitors to the park after June never see the last four listed plants since the entire plant disappears within a few weeks (ephemeral) after they bloom.

Park visitors often completely ignore early flowering of three common trees, white oak, red oak and shagbark hickory, since they lack colorful flower parts. Campers may notice these flowers littering the picnic tables.

Plants often bloom one to two weeks later on the north and east sides of the mound compared to the south and west sides because of a cooler and moister microclimate.

This cooler environment, especially along the Indian Marker Tree Trail, is the home for an abundance of several large fern species such as the interrupted fern and a few flowering plants that are common in pine forests of northern Wisconsin. A list of those plants includes starflower and blueberry.

From July to fall, hikers and their pets often leave the forest trails with sticktights attached to their clothing or hair. These sticktights (fruits or seeds with small barbs or hooks—nature’s velcro) spread the plants to new locations. These plants include agrimony, burdock, enchanter’s nightshade, sweet cicely and tick-trefoil and are most common in the oak/hickory forests on the north and south sides of the mound.

A second explosion of color occurs from July into September in the prairie rather than the forest. Visitors on the central part of the Pleasure Valley Trail can observe a tall grass prairie being restored. Big bluestem and Indian grasses and the colorful sunflowers, blazing star, asters, goldenrods, compass plant, prairie dock, coneflowers and black-eyed Susans dominate the area

In late September and early October, leaves provide the color. Maples provide brilliant yellow on either end of the Pleasure Valley Trail and the single-track bike trail off of the Pleasure Valley Trail. The Minix, Willow Spring and Indian Marker Tree Trails also offer some yellows and also the deep crimson of the red oaks.

Last revised: Friday June 24 2016