Thursday, August 16, 2018

4-8 Aug: Big trip part 5 (and last)

Day 9

I left Horicon Marsh feeling rested and satisfied with all the FOGYs I'd gotten there. I almost decided to just bike straight home, partly because there weren't many more species I could realistically expect to find on the rest of the loop... but also because I wanted to minimize my chances of something happening to prevent me from biking all the way home! It would be a shame to have all my green efforts canceled out if I had to get a ride due to major bike breakdown or injury.

But completing the loop didn't add a whole lot of distance in the context of what I'd already biked, so I decided to head north. From the north end of Horicon, I took quiet roads and the Mascoutin Valley State Trail to a random campground that was conveniently placed. The campground turned out to be more like a vacation resort, or even a small village! Lots of what appeared to be permanent residents, pool, mini-golf, even an air-conditioned bar! I was glad to hear they had one "wilderness site" tucked in the woods at the edge of the property. With my bike to help me get around the campground, I didn't mind being far removed from the showers and water. This was the second night that it rained a fair bit; I'd learned the first time (which I think I forgot to write about) that my trailer cover is less waterproof than it used to be, so this time I wrapped my tarp around it and all stayed dry.

58 miles today; no FOGYs.

Day 10

By morning, it had stopped raining, but there was rain in the forecast, so I put the tarp inside the trailer (over my stuff - under the trailer cover) and put my wet tent and laundry inside a garbage bag in the trailer. Turned out I didn't have another drop of rain, though!

Today I biked northwest through ag fields and tracts of prairie, visiting Leola Marsh State Wildlife Area and Buena Vista Grasslands (BVG). Based on what Google told me, I thought BVG was one tiny parcel of land. eBird doesn't load very well on a mobile device, so I didn't try to check where the hotspots were - but I should have! Turns out BVG is a multitude of parcels, some much larger than others, across a wide area. I happened to bike past several of them. It was the middle of the day and getting hot as the cloud cover burned off, so I wasn't surprised that I didn't see the Upland Sandpipers or Greater Prairie-Chickens I was hoping for. There were some nice bits of prairie, though!

Buena Vista Grasslands (one parcel of many)

This was basically the worst time of year to try to look for prairie-chickens, but it was worth swinging past while I was (relatively) in the area!
BUT, I did get two FOGYs today! The route I biked happened to take me past a cattle pasture where there were no trees and the grass was cropped short. Several Western Meadowlarks (#227) were singing there! This is one of the few places in Wisconsin where you can reliably find them, so I was very happy to add the species to my year list. Then, as I approached Wisconsin Rapids, I stopped at a birdy patch of forest to listen (that road was super quiet) and heard a pair of Common Ravens (#228) cavorting not far away (also added a couple of species to my trip list). Success!

I also saw a bunch of butterflies at the grasslands! A female monarch was ovipositing on young milkweed, so I waited until she left the area and then ran over to take a photo of an egg!

I almost wished I'd brought my macro lens all this way just for this photo... but the pocket camera had to do. Look how tiny it is!

There was also a monarch mimic flying around: the viceroy butterfly. The stripe across the hindwing is a good field mark to differentiate the two; the viceroy is also considerably smaller.


(Yeah, I know, this is a birding blog... but I would have had a pretty good butterfly list for the trip if I'd kept track, and been better at identifying the little ones!).

Tonight's campground wasn't a resort, but it was crowded and noisy and probably my least favorite of the trip! I'd thought about staying here another day and birding the grasslands again. But I was not at all optimistic about finding Uplands or chickens, and the campground helped make up my mind that I would continue towards home the next day.

53 miles today - mostly flat!

Day 11

Today I biked southwest through Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, hoping to find some Whooping Cranes. I did not find many places to view open areas, and saw no Whoopers (alas). Later I realized that the refuge map I'd downloaded to my phone cut off what probably would have been the best part of the refuge to visit! Well, it's not terribly far from home, so I might make it back there sometime.

Meanwhile, I found more butterflies... In contrast to the monarch and viceroy (different species that look very similar), these two are the same species but they look very different!

White admiral

Red-spotted purple
I was fascinated when I learned these were the same species, and I love the subtle beauty of the red-spotted purple.

I also saw (*gasp*) a bird!

A few Broad-winged Hawks flushed from the side of the road as I biked across the refuge, and this one landed again immediately and seemed unconcerned by my presence (this was the only photo in which it was looking approximately in my direction). Many birds are much more wary of me on a bike than they are of cars, so I never linger long just for the sake of a photograph. The abundant and vicious ankle-biting flies swarming the refuge helped encourage me to move along, too!

I continued south toward my campground for the night, which would be at Mill Bluff State Park. After two days of almost completely flat biking, I knew I was getting close when I saw this!

(With bonus photobombing birds... Any guess as to species?) Unlike at Devil's Lake, I did not have to bike up those bluffs! I might have rather done so, though, as the campground was between the interstate (which apparently never sleeps... constant traffic even at 3:30am??) and the railroad (with a crossing right next door... where they do blow the horn all through the night...), so it vied with last night's crowded mess for worst of the trip. And there were no showers! I'd been so spoiled with hot showers every day except two - much appreciated when covered with road debris and sunscreen. But the weather was still lovely, the bugs weren't bad, and it was my last night on the road, so I still enjoyed it.

61 miles today.

Day 12

Today started with a couple of busy highways in the fog - luckily they had decent shoulders and I had lots of bright flashing lights! I had one good climb, and then it was all downhill toward the Mississippi River. Soon I was back in Sparta and joining up with the La Crosse River State Trail, which took me all the way home very peacefully. 547 miles, 143 species, 18 FOGYs, and yes - not a single flat tire on either the bike or the trailer! My new saddle seems to be finished already (well... new last fall, but now with 2500 miles on it - but a saddle ought to last much longer than that!), but otherwise I was thrilled that my bike and legs did so well for the whole trip. Definitely a fantastic experience overall. Now to plan the next one.....

52 miles today - my fourth day in a row of >50! I was feeling it, but not totally exhausted. I'm sure it would have been a different story with more hills. For future trips, I'll aim for 2-3 days of travel (50-65 miles per day) followed by a low-mileage birding day - unless I manage to get into much better shape before the trip starts, but that would become a serious time commitment!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for doing the day-by-day recap to allow me to bird vicariously through your efforts. Wisconsin looks amazing, and you are setting the green birding bar very high. Good show!