Ice Age Trail Winter Hike

img_3122Yes! Finally, a weekend without tons of stuff going on, certainly I can find a couple of hours for a hike. I did yesterday! I hiked 6 miles on the Ice Age Trail in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest of Wisconsin. It was a great day to get out for a winter hike. Not too cold at 26° F and lightly snowing when I arrived at the trailhead. Before I started my hike, I helped to free car that was stuck in the snow of the unplowed trailhead parking lot. If you decide to come here be prepared, do not try parking in the lot right at the trailhead if you are driving a car with low ground clearance, I have seen people park on the road directly across Highway P from the trailhead.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin is not yet complete, with only about 600 miles of blazed trail segments out of the 1200 miles of total length. For more information about the Ice Age Trail, check out the Ice Age Trail Alliance website at www.iceagetrail.org.

img_3121My afternoon hike encompassed only a short piece of this great trail totaling about 6 miles. Walking south from the Highway P Trailhead near Glenbeulah to State Highway 23 and then following the same route back to the truck. This completely wooded section of trail has an elevation gain of about 365 feet. There is no shortage of great views along this hike. The first two miles the trail follows hardwood ridges, with great views overlooking wooded valleys on both sides. The third mile brings you into thick pine stands and the Aspen Reforestation area before coming out of the woods where the trail crosses Highway 23.

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This is the first time I have done this hike in winter. It is always neat to take in an area during different seasons. In the winter, you notice things that you cannot see in summer when there are leaves on the trees limiting how far you can see. Winter in any woods is special for many reasons; you can easily see the tracks where the wildlife walk and the picturesque views of snow hanging in tree branches is simply awesome. The trail conditions are really nice right now. Snowshoes are not required, but there is just enough snow that they would definitely be helpful.

 

At the end of the day I felt great having finally gotten out for a hike this winter (it’s been way too long). I recommend to anyone getting out and spending some time in nature especially as the winter drags on, there is plenty of natural beauty to cleanse and rejuvenate your body and mind. Don’t forget to Like my Wild Stewardship Facebook page, and check out my website www.wildstewardship.com.map

Chickadee dee dee dee…

In my backyard, here in East-central Wisconsin, Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most common visitors to our bird feeders. These tiny little birds are seemingly full of energy and are fun to watch. They will often fly down to perch on the feeder, quickly grab a sunflower seed and flutter back up into a nearby tree to crack open the shell and eat the nutritious seed inside. As soon as that one is gone it flies right back to the feeder for the next one.

Black-capped Chickadees are easy to identify both visually and by their songs. These small birds have a dark black cap on top of their heads, and a black throat patch under their beaks, with a white stripe running from the sides of their beak across their cheeks to the back of their heads. The Chickadee’s body and wings are primarily a brownish gray. In most of their range their typical song is a two or three note fee-bee. When they become frightened They will give their signature Chickadee-dee-dee-dee call adding more dees as the perceived threat level increases. The Black-capped Chickadee’s range stretches across the Northern half of the United states, into Canada and along the Pacific coast into Alaska. Along the Southern edge of their range they may share habitat with the Carolina Chickadee. Throughout the Rocky Mountains you will also find Mountain Chickadees, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees can be found along the Pacific coast.

Chickadees are curious little birds, even of humans; while sitting still in the woods, I have had them land on my hat, boot, knee, and even my shoulder. They are fun to watch as they dart around looking for insects, seeds and berries. Putting sunflower seed or suet feeders in your yard is a great way to attract Chickadees to your yard, and putting up a Chickadee nest box in the spring may keep these non-migratory birds frequenting your yard all year long. You can find my Wild Stewardship bird feeders and nest boxes at www.wildstewardship.com or search for my Wild Stewardship products on ebay.  Please also like my Wild Stewardship page on Facebook, and check out my shop there as well. Most important of all, get outside and enjoy nature!

Feed your Backyard Birds

Adding a bird feeder or two to your backyard is a great way to help the wild birds in your neighborhood have a consistent food source to help them get through the long cold winter. In wintertime, natural food sources are harder to find for wild birds, and at this time of the year where I live in the upper Midwest, they need plenty of energy to survive the stretches of extreme cold.

Wild bird feeders are available in many shapes and sizes. Feeders can be large, small, plastic, wood, steel, round, rectangular, and the list goes on. Some are designed to offer a wide variety of bird feeds, and some are designed to offer a specific type of seed. Others still are designed to cater to a specific species of bird. At Wild Stewardship, I have come up with a few simple bird feeder designs that will appeal to a wide variety of birds in just about any neighborhood.010517_0146_FeedyourBac1.jpg

My simple cedar sunflower seed feeder is designed to be used with black oil sunflower seeds, considered by many to be the most appealing feed for the largest number of bird species. This feeder is available in three sizes, is constructed primarily of natural cedar with a mesh screen on the front and back to allow the birds to pull the seeds through. I have a plastic wedge at the bottom to force all the seed to the sides so there will be no left overs out of reach of our feathered friends.

As humans, we like to have variety in our meals and certainly there are some foods that we prefer over others. I think to some degree the same can be said for the birds out in nature too. Different seeds and seed blends will be more attractive to one species of bird or another, so it is a good idea to have more than one feeder with more than one type of feed, especially if you want to attract a wide variety of birds.010517_0146_FeedyourBac2.jpg

My suet and seed combo feeder adds variety immediately by having the large chamber for seeds or seed blends, and the suet basket on the back to hold one of a large variety of suet cakes on the market today. Whether you choose my seed feeder with or without the suet basket, this feeder is made primarily of natural cedar, with a clear acrylic window to show how much seed is left. This feeder will work well with just about any of the seed mixtures available, or straight cracked corn or sunflower seeds.

In my yard, it seems that the seed will be attractive to finches, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, and many other species of birds, and often the suet will bring in several varieties of woodpecker. Make sure you place your feeders where you can see them from your favorite window. Bird watching is an enjoyable pastime on cold winter days for nature enthusiasts of any age. Having bird feeders in your yard is a great way to get children interested in nature and wildlife as well. Give a child a pair of binoculars and play a game with them to see who can identify the most types of birds. Children will also enjoy helping to fill the bird feeders, and afterwards watching the birds come to eat will give them a sense of connection to nature, and hopefully plant the seed of a lifelong love for wildlife and the outdoors, and create future stewards of our natural resources.

Check out my full line of bird feeders and bird houses at www.wildstewardship.com I also have them listed on eBay. More products will be added soon so stop back often. If you have an idea for a custom bird feeder contact me for an estimate and I’ll see what I can do to bring your concept to reality.