Allan Bell’s Birch Bark Nature Notes: Revisited

Well, I checked up on the wildlife at Spring Green (Gleason) last weekend. As many as six flaming red cardinals and two, more subdued, females were feeding at once, just a few feet away. They had to compete for the sunflower seeds with about 20 juncos, 20 goldfinches and 10 purple finches. The finches prefer the thistle seed but with only a limited number of feeding perches available, condescend to partake of the sunnies. I hope the shots I took of those red-crested beauties against the white snow turn out.

Across the valley, some 300-400 yards away, several deer were in sight all day. Some were lying down, some nibbled at low branches of bare-looking trees and other investigated anything not snow-covered. They appeared to feed on and off all day.

We skied the Wintergreen touring area, following around the edge of the Spring’s golf course. Deer tracks were under each juniper and arbor vitae, with all the green bitten off as high as they could reach. Many places on the golf course had the snow pawed away down to the grass. Some of the grass was slightly green.

A large, light-phase red-tailed hawk soared overhead in 360s. It must be tough hunting.


During the Jan. 2-16 eagle census I saw a big ZERO. That is the same amount reported to me, too. Last Year I was luckier. Ced Vig told in his column that two or three were seen in the vicinity of Camp 10. A fast stretch of the Wisconsin River stays open near there, providing opportunities for food finding. Ced also notes that in the North Central DNR district there has been only one reported eagle and trap incident Remember last year?


You know what happens when one gets away from home on a vacation. A wee little nip, maybe? A bit of the bubbly? I have it on good report that some of our feathered friends do likewise.

Vera Nelson observed some of our summer residents in Florida (robins). Apparently they had imbibed too freely. Why else would they be falling off their perches, flying into cars and staggering around lawns? They had been seen partaking of red berries from an unknown tree and the fruit of the papaya trees. This happens in our area, too, sometimes from mountain ash berries.

The robins are here for such a short time we readily overlook this small indiscretion. In Florida, some of the Floridians consider the birds a nuisance and look on this behavior with disfavor. Floridians – send us your inebriated avian unwanted – the sooner the better.


What would you do if you found a toad hibernating in your home? Who would have the heart to interrupt a long winter’s nap? Virginia Foreman brought some flower pots in the house last fall. Recently she had occasion to scratch around in one of them – and there was a toad! They usually wiggle down into the ground, remaining just beneath the frost level for the winter. At any rate, the toad seems content to stay right where it is. Come spring, Virginia will transfer it back to its normal habitat. Won’t that toad have some stories to tell its offspring about the winter of ’83-’84? The warmest it will remember. See – everything is relative. Maybe it’s really a prince.


Happy ground hog day! Gordie Krueger had it figured out about as good as anybody. A bratwurst or a pork link in a barrel with an umbrella over the top. Nobody will ever top that one!

This Birch Bark Nature Notes column by Allan Bell appeared in the Tomahawk Leader back on Feb. 1, 1984. In revisiting some of his entertaining outdoor columns, wouldn’t Bell be happy to know the remarkable return the bald eagle has made across the state as was evident in the most recent eagle count. And while we have seen nowhere  near the number of wild birds at the feeders this winter than what he counted at Spring Green 36 years ago, we certainly would agree, some robins would be a welcome sight in this neck of the woods, even if they were a bit tipsy from overindulging on the berries.

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