There's beauty in every direction on the MIssissippi River in the Driftless Region

There’s beauty in every direction on the MIssissippi River in the Driftless Region

 

A friend told me he had seen a mother turkey the other day with several very small chicks. He asked me if this might be her second brood considering it was so late in the summer. I told him that it’s probably her first hatch of little chicks. She may have laid a first clutch of eggs but for some reason they didn’t hatch and she laid another clutch that hatched. This happens more often than we think and some of the hens start again and some don’t.

I’m not sure why I haven’t seen very many young turkey so far this year but I’ll keep an eye out for them. I did have an interesting sighting on Thursday morning when three white-tailed deer stepped out onto the gravel road in front of me. The interesting part is that they were all bucks and the sunlight seemed to make their velvet antlers glow like halos. Would have made for a great picture but I was too slow on the draw with the camera, then they were gone.

The female mallard duck siting alone in the short grass seemed to be hiding something under her. Sure enough, as I paused for a closer look, she stood up and eleven tiny, fuzzy brown ducklings scurried about around her. Is there anything cuter than two- or three-day-old ducklings? Mama duck quickly made for the nearby pond with her new family in tow. There’s a chance that the mallard experienced the same circumstances as the female turkey and for some unknown reason lost her first clutch of eggs. At any rate, the new family of ducks looked very happy and healthy.

Saturday I took a trip over to the Big Muddy (the Mississippi River) with some good friends. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen the great river even though it’s only 45 miles away from home. My heart was filled with a sense of anticipation and wonder as we dropped down into the grand expanse that is the Mississippi River Valley. I’m always in total awe when the river first comes into view and my senses come alive with the sights, sounds and smells that this magnificent, living environment has to offer me.

Crayfish burrows along the banks of the MIssissippi

Crayfish burrows along the banks of the MIssissippi

The first things I noticed as I walked up to the muddy river bank were several nice large crayfish burrows. The clever crayfish digs the hole down in the muddy soil, using his tail to scoop out the mud and pile it around the entrance hole. I didn’t see any crayfish around and figured they were all holed up for the day.

I could hardly believe how many water beetles there were in the still water near the bank. I’ve always called them “whirligig beetles” but not sure which of the 48 species these were. When disturbed, these water beetles will swim around and around in tight circles. When there is a group of several thousand it is quite a sight to see them all going around in circles at the same time. That has to be as distracting to a hungry bird looking down at them as it is to a hungry fish that looking up at them.

The view from our boat on the river was very humbling and reminded me what a big river looks like. So big! There was more than enough room for everybody, even the large barge that was heading up the stream to the Twin Cities. So much moving water, so much wildlife, so much fun.

 

A gull soars over the river

A gull soars over the river

There were several places where the beavers left their tracks along the muddy banks. I wasn’t lucky enough to see a beaver but I could sure tell they were around. Lots of insects of all kinds including dragonflies, damselflies and of course a few mosquitos. A nice wolf spider patrolled the shore line for an insect meal and a large gull surveyed the river as he flew overhead. Everyone is on the lookout for what the river may offer them.

A pair of stately bald eagles watched us from their favorite perch in the tree branches at the edge of the river. They didn’t even bother to fly as we passed but one of them called to us as though to say “have a great day.”

I got lucky and caught six damselflies (with the camera), as they hovered over the water, or was it three pairs of damselflies? The females lay their eggs while in tandem with the males. That’s why you can often see them flying while hooked together.

 

monarch

This is the first decent picture I’ve got of a monarch butterfly this year and one of only a dozen I’ve seen all summer. So many flowers this year and so few butterflies. There were so many inviting flowers in the milkweed family for the monarchs including this beautiful tall ironweed.

Near the boat landing where the water was still, a mama mallard and her first brood of ducklings swam through the bright green Duck weed. They will be taking wing any day now if they haven’t already, and with luck some of them will return to this place at the big river next year.

On the way I snapped a picture of wild cucumber—its vines covered in a blaze of bright yellow and white blooms.

It was a wonderful way to spend a summer day in southwest Wisconsin and I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the mighty Mississippi.

Naturally Yours,

Dan