Monday, November 24, 2008

My World: Crex Meadows

Welcome to this week's edition of My World.
This week I would like to feature the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area located in western Wisconsin. Crex is about an hour drive from where I live but I still manage to spend quite a bit of time there.
I usually begin my trips to Crex by stopping of at the visitors center to check and see if there have been any interesting sightings that have been reported, it also has the only restrooms with indoor plumbing in the park.
The visitors center was built in 2002 and it includes several wildlife interpretive paths. One path, which begins behind the visitors center, runs through several different habitats. If you look closely you can usually find some very interesting wildlife on the trails, like this tree frog that was on an interpretive sign.
With over 30,000 acres Crex is the largest state owned wildlife area in Wisconsin. It is made up of many different types of habitat such as sand prairie and bush prairie.
During the warmer months of the year the prairies are filled with wild flowers which attract many types of wildlife. Like this female twelve-spotted skimmer.
Butterflies are also pretty abundant especially common species like the monarch.
More uncommon species, like this Olympia marble, and even some endangered species, such as the Karner blue, can also be food in the fields and wildflowers of Crex.
The prairies are also home to a lot of mammals, such as deer, wolves and rodents, like this thirteen-lined ground squirrel.
One of the larger, and most popular, of the Crex prairie residents are the sandhill cranes. Crex has a population of these large birds typically from late March through November.
About 6000 acres, out of Crex's 30,000 acre total, are open water. This includes 4 lakes, numerous ponds and twenty-nine water flowages. Twenty-two miles of dikes run in between the flowages and the water levels are managed using thirty-four water control structures, eight miles of water transfer ditches, and a diversion pump.
All of this open water makes great habitat for waterfowl such as the common loon.
Trumpeter swans are commonly seen on the lakes and flowages of Crex.
Birds are not the only wildlife that enjoy the water features of Crex. River otters, muskrats, and beavers can be seen swimming in the waters at Crex.
Reptiles, especially turtles and frogs, also live in the Crex waters.
Dring the spring new life is abundant at Crex. Sandhill cranes are one of the species which nests in Crex. Do you know what a baby sandhill crane is called?
There are also typically a dozen or so nesting pair of trumpeter swans in Crex. Do you know what a baby swan is called?
During the fall many migrating birds stop at Crex to feed and rest. Large flocks of waterfowl, like these American coot, can be found on the lakes during the fall.
Migrating sandhill cranes also stop at Crex during their fall migration. While their numbers do not compare to those of the Platte River in Nebraska, during the spring migration, the hundreds of cranes attract birders and other visitors to crex to watch them as they take off in the morning or return to the water at night.
Crex helps the migrating water fowl and sandhills by planting agriculture crops on some of the land to provide extra food.
All of the migrating waterfowl also attract migrating raptors. Birds, like this rough-legged hawk often show up in the late fall.
Other raptors like turkey vultures and osprey, pictured above, leave the area before it gets cold.
There are some raptors that will stay all year long as long as they can get food. These would include bald eagles, red-tail hawks, and great-horned owls. If food becomes scarce even these hardy raptors will head south.
One of highlight of my life so far occurred at Crex Meadows on my birthday, August 12, 2007. This was when Michelle, my wife, and I found and rescued an injured immature eagle from Crex. Rescuing the bird was a thrill for me but it got even better when I got to release the bird six months later after it was patched up at The Raptor Center. If you would like to read the whole story check out these posts.

15 comments:

Shellmo said...

Wow - I didn't want this post to end! I couldn't stop looking at that Common Loon photo - they are my favorites and touch my heart deeply. A wonderful world you have shared - thank you! I am putting Crex Meadows down as a place to visit in the future.

RuthieJ said...

Looks like a very neat place to visit. Do you recommend any season/time of year that's better than another?

Leedra said...

This is a great post. The tree frog appears to be cold, but reading what it was a tree frog I guess he was just holding on. Yep, your photos make me know for sure I did see a Sandhill Crane in Cades Cove, which you already verified for me.

2sweetnsaxy said...

What!? No more pictures? :-D I could have kept looking at more pictures. Each one was just wonderful. I really liked that Olympia marble butterfly. I've never seen one like that before. It was beautiful! I can see why you spend a lot of time there.

Guy D said...

Wow what a great tour with wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing.

Cheers!
Regina In Pictures

ewok1993 said...

Thank you for taking me along this nature trip. I enjoyed all the photos. You are so lucky.

Happy Thanksgiving.

fishing guy said...

Eco: That was a neat wlak through the marsh and the Eagle rescue was a neat story, Thanks for sharing.

Rambling Woods said...

Is it called a "colt"...now where did I get that from..This is a wonderful post for a nature lover like me...thank you..

New Rambling Woods Site

babooshka said...

That's an incrdible amount of wildlife you get there.

gina said...

what a delightful place to spend some time and enjoy the wildlife! and take pix! :) i love the olympia marble and frogs..the eagle and hawks..the cranes...shucks! i love em all!!

Wren said...

I love visiting places like this! Thanks for sharing your world, even if I can't decide whether I'm more jealous of the resident otters or the eagle adventure.

Laura ~Peach~ said...

I was interested and tickled until I got to the otter then I fell head over heels in LOVE If I believed in reincarnation and becomeing an animal I would want to be an otter in my next life. What fantastic photography and congratulations on being in the paper! Wonderful program too!
I love your world its great!

The Good Life in Virginia said...

what an interesting post and i loved each and every photo that was included. what an amazing place...simply amazing.

Gaelyn said...

Thank you for the most amazing tour of Crex meadows. I feel like I was there with you.
How cool for you to rescue and release the wild.

noflickster said...

I'm indebted to you for writing this post: for the past couple of weeks I've been listening to recordings we made at Crex Meadows in fall 2007, and it's wonderful to have a visual image of the soundscape I'm hearing!

Beautiful location, thanks for highlighting it!
-Mike