Monday, March 17, 2014, the pair of sandhill cranes that nest in the marsh between Tower and Bluff Roads across from Wawanissee Point returned from their winter vacation. They called and circled overhead throughout the morning, echoing atop the east end of the Baraboo Range.
We at the Inn at Wawanissee Point consider the crane’s return as spring’s arrival and the beginning of the spring bird migration.
Today, the first day of spring, the red-winged blackbirds added to the welcomed spring chorus and robins appeared despite snow covering half of the ground yet. A good-sized flock of cedar waxwings has been feeding in the neighborhood again this week (it first appeared at the end of Feburary), an unusual occurrence here. It’s time to schedule a spring birding vacation!
The Baraboo Hill’s contiguous, mixed hardwood forest—one of the largest in the Midwest—is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. It hosts 135 breeding bird species, some of which are important at-risk populations like the cerulean, worm-eating and hooded warblers.
Birding By Car
If you don’t feel like hiking squishy trails in the spring for up-close bird watching, you can bird by car. Closest to the Inn, drive along Steinke Basin near Devil’s Lake State Park’s north shore, South Shore Road through the Park’s south end, and Roznos Meadow and the Merrimac Preserve along Marsh Road and State Highway 113.
Baxter’s Hollow State Natural Area, seven miles west of U.S. Highway 12, is another spot where you can view birds by car or on foot, along Stone Pocket Road. Drive further west into central Sauk County to meander Rustic Roads Orchard, Schara and Ruff to see more birds. For more birding-by-car ideas near the Inn, see the late Harold Kruse’s article at The Nature Conservancy’s Web site, and download his birding map.
The Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area along the Wisconsin River nine miles northeast of Baraboo offers another ecosystem in which to see many migrating bird species while driving Levee Road, another Rustic Road.
Crane Foundation, Aldo Leopold Center Open Mid April
April 15 the International Crane Foundation will open for the season. It’s 15 minutes north of the Inn. Take a guided tour of the world’s 15 species of cranes that reside there and hike through the Foundation’s restored prairie to spot spring arrivals. Visit www.savingcranes.org for more information.
The Aldo Leopold Center nine miles northeast of Baraboo, Wis., also opens for the season by mid April, operating Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Besides visiting the educational and interpretive facility, farm and Leopold shack, you can hike the new 2.5-mile upland interpretive trail network through 305 acres of critical habitat for grassland birds and sandhill crane staging during migration. Learn more at www.aldoleopold.org.
If you spot waterfowl you can’t identify, drop by the Flyways Waterfowl Museum at the north entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park. You’ll find more than 60 mounts of species that migrate through the Mississippi River flyway. The Museum is currently open Thursdays through Sundays. Find the hours and learn more at www.duckmuseum.com.
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More Area Fun
Saturdays, March 22–May 6: Wings & Water Public Reception, River Arts Center in the Sauk Prairie High School, 105 Ninth St., Prairie du Sac, 5:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. A national juried exhibition of 2D, 3D and mixed-media. Juror Martha Glowack selected 61 pieces to display from hundreds of submissions. Tonight she will announce the Best of Show award. Exhibit admission is free and artwork is for sale. Exhibit open for viewing school days 8:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m., and Saturdays 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. beginning March 22, both until May 6. Details at www.riverartsinc.org.
April 25: Shari Sarazin performs at the River Arts On Water Gallery, 509 Water St., Prairie du Sac, 7:00 p.m. Celtic harp music with inspiring vocals featuring ancient Celtic melodies, contemporary ballads and her originals that evoke a range of emotions. 40 years of experience and an abundant repertoire ensure a memorable and moving evening. Donations at the door are recommended to benefit the River Arts Inc. programming. Learn more here.
April 25–27: Death And Taxes Dinner Theatre at the Farm Kitchen, S5718 Hwy 123, Baraboo, 6:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. RAVE (Rogues And Vagabonds Entertainment) of Baraboo presents an original, politically incorrect comedy murder-mystery by Bruce Bradley about an independent U.S. Senate candidate whose dreams turn to nightmares when his cronies and enemies unexpectedly attend his gala fund-raiser to reveal secrets and skeletons that put more than his campaign in jeopardy. Tickets $35.00, reserve by calling 608-356-5246.
April 26: Frog Safari at Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, 8:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Meet at the Steinke Basin parking lot, five minutes west of the Inn, to hike the Johnson Moraine Trail to the park’s kettle ponds where we’ll listen for spring peepers, and chorus and wood frogs, plus other night sounds. Bring a flashlight. Call 608-356-8301 ext. 140 or e-mail [email protected] with questions.
April 27: Encore!! Art 6: Reuse, Recycle, Rethink at U.W. Baraboo/Sauk County Campus gymnasium, 1006 Connie Rd., Baraboo, 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. An art event by the Sauk County Art Association for artists to create art of discarded and unwanted materials. Admission for the public is free; artists have an entry fee. Held in conjunction with the Sauk County Earth Day Celebration. Learn more at www.wi-scaa.org or by sending a note to [email protected].