Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Out for Elk

My dad and I headed back to the Clam Lake area hoping to see more of Wisconsin's herd of wild elk.

On the drive down I noticed an adult bald eagle perched low in a tree at the edge of a farmers field. I scanned the area for a carcass or some other reason for the bird to be there. About fifty yards away standing in a puddle in the worked farm field was another almost adult bald eagle taking a mud bath. Here the bird is taking flight. You can see that its head and tail feathers are almost colored brown from bathing in the muddy water.

Well, I thought, that bodes well for the rest of the trip.

And it did. Once we got to Clam Lake we quickly found a group of five cows in a meadow near the road. This calf born last year walked off into the forest.

I didn't get many photos of the elk, but was glad to see them. For all of my trips to the Clam Lake area I have only seen elk 30% - 50% of the time.

We drove a little more and found a group of six cows and calves grazing and browsing the edge of a pine forest. Many of the elk were wearing ear tags and radio collars as they are intensively monitored and studied as part of the state's reintroduction efforts.

 After awhile the group of elk worked their way into the woods and we left to see what else we could find.

It was only about fifty degrees outside, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found this common garter snake laying on some leaves near a log in a pine forest.

The snake had been basking in the sun on a southwestern exposed hillside.

I was able to make a few close up images before the snake went on its way.

It really was turning into a lucky day for critters. As we drove the roads looking for more animals I mentioned to my dad how I'd like to see a porcupine. Within ten minutes.....

This guy showed up crossing the road in front of us and then climbed a poplar tree. I wasn't able to get the photos I hoped for, but it was great to see him. And on request even.

The light was fading as we started to leave the Clam Lake area. On our way out we watched six bull elk walk out of a forest and into a meadow at the edge of the road. One bull had lost his antlers and had started growing new ones, the other five were spike bulls who had yet to shed their antlers.

In all we saw 24 elk, six of which were bulls, one garter snake, one porcupine, many wild turkeys, several white-tailed deer, and three bald eagles. It was a pretty good afternoon.

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