Red-shouldered hawk

A red-shouldered hawk. They can often be seen along the Mississippi River.  Ann Kamzelski photo

Now is a good time to be out in the woods and listen to birds. Turkeys are gobbling, geese noisily get up off ponds, quacking mallard ducks fly by, sandhill cranes bugle, pheasants crow, and hermit thrush sing their remarkably liquid music. We are fortunate to live in western Wisconsin with hardwood forest, rivers and lakes where we can watch and hear many species of birds and enjoy the spring flower show.

Nugget Lake 

There are many great places for birdwatching in western Wisconsin. One of our favorites is Nugget Lake, a Pierce County Park located two miles off County Road CC on County Road HH north of Plum City.

Nugget Lake is well worth the $5 per vehicle cost of admission. The quiet 122-acre lake (paddle-craft and electric motors allowed) holds bass, bluegills, crappies and walleyes. Eagles, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, and many songbirds live there. 

The forest floor is colorful this time of year with trilliums, mayapples, wild phlox, dutchman’s breeches, wild ginger and rue anemone. In addition, Nugget Lake Park has several miles of trails. There’s an overlook onto Plum Creek and interpretive information about the Blue Rock/Rock Elm Disturbance where a meteor created a vast impact crater.

Crex Meadows

Crex Meadows just north of Grantsburg is one of the finest wildlife-viewing areas in the upper Midwest. There are 30,000 acres of prairie, wetlands, woods hosting many waterbirds in the spring. There’s a 24-mile driving tour with stretches on dikes built to restore the wetlands drained years ago for farming. 

The Wildlife Education and Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits and trails through restored prairie areas. Now you can see goose and duck broods, nesting sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans, red-necked grebes, bobolinks, yellow-headed blackbirds, and a long list of native waterbirds and songbirds.


Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge is on the left descending bank of the Mississippi River north of La Crosse. The refuge covers 10 square miles with much of the wetland areas separated from the river by a dike. There is also bottomland forest, oak savannah and prairie growing on old dunes. 

There were more than 15 waterfowl species there in the spring.  Red-shouldered hawks, American white pelicans, ospreys, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, Virginia rails, sora rails, and black terns breed there. There’s a 4.5-mile driving tour that winds along restored prairie. 

Apostle Islands

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located in Lake Superior off the Bayfield Peninsula and includes 21 of the 22 Apostle Islands. The islands have eroded Precambrian sandstone carved by the lake with sea caves, sand spits, dunes and bay-mouth lagoons. Most of the islands and the 12-mile segment of mainland shoreline are forested with hemlock, white pine and northern hardwood forest. 

In addition to fish-eating eagles, ospreys, loons, cormorants, gulls and terns out on the lake, there are shorebirds along the beaches and warblers in the forest. An interesting trail leads to the sea caves near Meyers Beach near Cornucopia. 

We enjoy boating out to the islands and hiking on the many miles of trails on Stockton, Oak, Raspberry and Sand islands. You can take tour boats out of Bayfield or ride the ferry and visit Madeline Island to see Big Bay State Park.

You really don’t have to drive a long way to watch birds and see wildflowers. 

Near here are trails along the Kinnickinnic River at Glen Park, Kinnickinnic River State Park, Willow River State Park, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust Drewiske Preserve on County F, and the Kelly Creek Preserve on County J.

Enjoy the spring!


Dan Wilcox of River Falls, Wis., writes a periodic column. 

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