Wilderness Wednesday – Prairie Dogs of the Midwest

Adorable prairie dog near hole on sunny day

Prairie dogs are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. The five species are: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, found in North America. In Mexico, prairie dogs are found primarily in the northern states, which lie at the southern end of the Great Plains: northeastern Sonora, north and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas. In the United States, they range primarily to the west of the Mississippi River, though they have also been introduced in a few eastern locales. They are also found in the Canadian Prairies. Despite the name, they are not actually canines.  These two that I took a picture of are from South Dakota.

Selective Focus Photograph of Two Rodents

Highly social, prairie dogs live in large colonies or “towns” and collections of prairie dog families that can span hundreds of acres. The prairie dog family groups are the most basic units of its society.  Members of a family group inhabit the same territory. Family groups of black-tailed and Mexican prairie dogs are called “coteries”, while “clans” are used to describe family groups of white-tailed, Gunnison’s, and Utah prairie dogs.  Although these two family groups are similar, coteries tend to be more closely knit than clans. Members of a family group interact through oral contact or “kissing” and grooming one another.  They do not perform these behaviors with prairie dogs from other family groups.

(wiki/prairie_dog)

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Benefits of Birding in the Midwest

White and Black Birds Piercing on Tree Branch

“IN ORDER TO SEE BIRDS, IT IS NECESSARY TO BECOME PART OF THE SILENCE” – ROBERT LUND

A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.

Shallow Focus Photography of Gray and Orange Bird

The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare   The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.

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  • Bird watching develops patience. …
  • Bird watching will get your children to go outside. …
  • Bird watching allows for introspection and contemplation. …
  • Bird watching can improve cardiovascular health. …
  • Bird watching gives you an excuse to travel. …
  • Bird watching builds a sense of community. …
  • Bird watching quickens reflexes.
Bird Quotes - Quotations about Birds - Famous Quotes - Funny Cartoons

“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes” – Charles Lindbergh

Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.

Here is a great resource if you like birding:  

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  National Geographic Birds

Hike & Go Seek – Platte River State Park

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Between two large cities, Lincoln and Omaha, you will find Platte River State Park, and a Trail Loop that is a 6.7 mile heavily used located near South Bend, Nebraska that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail. The elevation gain is 797 feet and the trail is of a loop type design.


The trail is kid friendly and ideal for camping, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trips, walking, running, bird watching and is dog friendly. It also offers great forest views and river views throughout the year.

Other popular attractions are the park’s waterfall, spray park and biking trails and two observation towers that allow those who climb to the top a spectacular view of the Platte River Basin.

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Hike & Go Seek – Duck Creek Trail

White and Brown Wild Duck on Water

This little hidden gem…the Duck Creek Trail in Wisconsin is a crushed limestone trail in Outagamie and Brown Counties in northeast Wisconsin. The Duck Creek Trail spans seven miles (11 km), beginning at the eastern end of the Newton Blackmour State Trail, just east of Vanderheuvel Road in Seymour.

The trail continues east through the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in northern Outagamie County paralleling State Route 54, and continues to the Village of Oneida.  The Duck Creek Trail will eventually extend to Pamperin Park in Green Bay.    

With the connection to the Newton Blackmour State Trail, the combined trails are over 30 miles (48 km) long. The combined trails extend from Village of Oneida to New London. (wiki)

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Hike & Go Seek – The Voyageur Hiking Trail

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Voyageurs means “runners of the woods”

The Voyageur Hiking Trail runs between Sudbury and Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario, Canada.  It is a public hiking trail whose name honors the European fur traders of the region who travelled the area mostly by canoe and were known as “voyageurs” (runners of the woods).  Used by all ages and levels of experience, the trail is used by day hikers to the serious hardy backpackers.  


The hiking trail crosses the vast privately and publicly owned forests of this rugged wilderness.  Over half of the linear trail has been completed plus numerous side trails.  Sault Ste. Marie is the largest city on the completed trail and is located between two of the Great Lakes………….Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  The route runs alongside these two great bodies of water frequently touching the shoreline.  Many other communities through which the trail passes include Elliot Lake, Iron Bridge, Wawa, Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Rossport and Nipigon.

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You can refer to a trail guidebook that provides trail users with all of the up-to-date maps and descriptions of the available trails.  In addition, digital maps can be downloaded to GPS units for on-trail navigation.  Many trail users participate in Geocaching and the number of geocaches that can be found along the trail is continually increasing. 

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The Voyageur Trail is a pedestrian trail only….meaning that it is made for hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing and bushwhack skiing.  In most places, the trail is too rough for other uses.  You will find fallen trees that lie across the path where your only choice is to climb over them.  You will cross streams on beaver dams, rocks or logs.  And the trail is advertised as a “true wilderness trail” because there are no facilities along the Voyageur Trail.  Regardless of your physical condition you can expect to do approximately two kilometers per hour on the trail so plan your outing taking this into account.  Some hikers have described it as “bushwhacking with blazes” and in some areas of the trail this description is true. (wiki)

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Wilderness Wednesday – Wildlife of the Midwest, USA

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Did you know Red Foxes’ forepaws have five toes, while their hind feet only have four?

The great plains of the Midwest are home to some of the United States’ most amazing wildlife.

In the American prairie your will mostly find animals adapted for living in grasslands. Indigenous mammals include the American bison, eastern cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, plains coyote, black-tailed prairie dog, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, prairie chicken, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, swift foxes, pronghorn antelope, the Franklin’s ground squirrel and several other species of ground squirrels.

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Did you know their entire mating season is only an hour long?

Rabbits live throughout and neighboring areas; the black-tailed jackrabbit is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas, the white-tailed jackrabbit in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the swamp rabbit in swampland in Texas, and the eastern cottontail is found in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and every state in the Eastern U.S.The groundhog is a common species in Iowa, Missouri, and eastern portions of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The groundhog is widespread throughout Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. Virginia opossum is found is states such as Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas.

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Did you know bobcats are crepuscular- meaning they are most active during twilight (dawn and dusk)?

The nine-banded armadillo is found throughout the South and states such as Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The muskrat is found throughout the Central U.S., excluding Texas, while the American beaver is found in every central state.The American bison is the heaviest land animal in North America and can be as tall as 6.5 feet (2.0 m) and weigh over a ton.

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Did you know The name, hummingbird, comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast? Hmmmmmmmm

Maybe the most iconic animal of the American prairie, the American buffalo, once roamed throughout the central plains. Bison once covered the Great Plains and were critically important to Native-American societies in the Central U.S. They became nearly extinct in the 19th century, but have made a recent resurgence in the Great Plains. Today, bison numbers have rebounded to about 200,000; these bison live on preserves and ranches.

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Did you know a male duck is called a drake and female duck a hen?

Some of the species that occupy every central state include the red fox, bobcat, white-tailed deer, raccoon, eastern spotted skunk, striped skunk, long-tailed weasel, and the American badger and beaver. The wild boar is common in the South, while the American mink lives in every central state with the exception of Texas. The least weasel is found around the Great Lakes as well as states such as Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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Did you know male deer grow new antlers every year?

The gray fox is found in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and also around the Great Lakes region. The ring-tailed cat is found in the southern region, including in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. There are many species of squirrels in the central parts of the U.S., including the fox squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, Franklin’s ground squirrel, southern flying squirrel, and the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Voles include the prairie vole, woodland vole and the meadow vole. The plains pocket gopher lives throughout the Great Plains. Shrews include the cinereus shrew, southeastern shrew, North American least shrew, and the Elliot’s short-tailed shrew. (wiki)\

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           Birds of the Midwest

Hike & Go Seek – Ice Age Trail

Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest.  Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.

Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.

The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

CAMPING

Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.

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The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes. 

Hikers at Devil's Lake
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.

The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.

  • Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
  • Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
  • Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
  • Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
  • Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest 
  • Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
  • Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest
    • Southern Unit, Eagle
    • Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
    • Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
    • Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
    • Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
  • Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
  • Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay

The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.

  • Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
  • Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
  • Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
  • Military Ridge, near Verona
  • Badger, near Fitchburg
  • Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
  • Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
  • Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
  • Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay

Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest – all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve – have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/iceagetrail/

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Wild: From Lost to Found

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Nature’s Silent Message