While driving I try and keep an eye on the road, an eye on the dash, it turns green when I am driving more efficiently, and an eye out for wildlife. It's a good thing that I have four eyes that way I can also keep one closed to get some rest while I drive LOL. You never know what you might see while you drive like an American kestrel hanging out on the power lines. Fortunately I spotted this kestrel after I left the interstate so I could stop to take some pics. Usually kestrels are quick to fly away when you pull your car over but this little guy did not seem to mind me very much. If you look closely you can see that he has one foot tucked which is not something a bird will do if he is nervous or frightened.
Crex is named for the Crex Carpet Company which owned the land in the early 1900's. The Crex Carpet Co. harvested wiregrass from the areas marsh lands to create grass rugs. In 1933 the carpet company went bankrupt, later, in 1946, the state of Wisconsin bought the land and turned it into the Wildlife Management Area that it is today. The carpet camps are long gone but the marshes where the grasses where harvested from still exist and are now home to a lot of wildlife. One of the most noticeable wildlife that you can often find in the marshes of Crex during the warm months are the very large sandhill cranes. Sandhills can be found in Crex through out the spring and summer but the largest populations are seen in the fall when migrant birds use crex as a staging area for the fall migration.
Crex Meadows stands on what is sometimes referred to as the Northwest Wisconsin Pine Barrens. The barrens is a long narrow sand plain that was formed as the Wisconsin glacier retreated 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. As the glacier retreated north, glacial till was deposited in the area forming the sand prairies that make up the Barrens and much of Crex.
The sand prairies support the growth of many different prairie grasses and plants. Wild flowers like butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, and blazing star help to add color to the prairie and attract butterflies like the pink edged sulphur, pictured above, and the Aphrodite fritillary, pictured above the sulphur.
As the Wisconsin Glacier receded it also created Glacial Lake Grantsburg over where Crex now stands. Over the years the lake drained away leaving shallow sedge marshes behind. Today there is approximately 6000 acres of open water with in the Wildlife Management Area. Most of this comes from the twenty-nine flowages which are managed by a series of dikes, pumps and transfer ditches. Besides the flowages there are also four natural lakes, numerous ponds and three streams which begin on the property.
These waterways are home to many different types of wildlife including fish, reptiles, mammals, and waterfowl. Some of the waterfowl are visitors who stop in the spring and the fall during migration to rest and to feed. Other waterfowl like the common loon and pied-billed grebe can be found all summer long. The common loon in the photo above is an immature that was born in the park and photographed on Phantom Lake. For more information about Crex Meadows check out their website here.