Ferry Bluff, 4/7/18

We’ve already had first winter, but what about second winter? The first week of April has been cold this year. Forget about March, this appears to be the month that is changing from a lion to a lamb. With the weather like it is, my annual hike on the opening week of Ferry Bluff State Natural Area was chillier than usual, but the sun kept me and the other members of the Madison LGBT Outdoors Group warm. Ferry Bluff is closed during the winter because it is a popular winter roosting area for bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and it opens April 1st of each year. The most noticeable differences between this hike and previous years was the lower water levels of the Wisconsin River and its tributaries. With spring being dry the floodplain forests that are often covered in water this time of year were not. Perhaps this will change after the rain predicted for this week.

I have covered Ferry Bluff in a previous post, but as nature is in a constant state of flux throughout the year, it is worth noting my observations from Saturday. I saw three bald eagles and several turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) riding the air along the bluffs. Down below were waterfowl including common mergansers (Mergus merganser). The vultures arrived back in Wisconsin in early March and the mergansers will soon be in their northern breeding grounds. There were some signs of plant growth. Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) leaves were starting to show low to the ground and I saw my first pasque flower (Pulsatilla patens or Anemone patens) of the spring.

Pasque flower
Holes from a yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) on a tree

As I have pointed out in recent posts, Blue Mound is visible from many locations in southwestern Wisconsin. On Saturday, I took a few pictures of Blue Mound from Ferry Bluff across the Wisconsin River.

The trees are in Sauk County, Dane County is just across the river, and Blue Mound is in Iowa County. Tri-county picture!
As usual, Blue Mound is marked in blue and the location I took the picture from is marked in red. The two hills are approximately 14.75 miles apart.

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