The north woods of Wisconsin is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. One of the birds you can see if you look is the Blue Heron. Cathedral Pines is an amazing place that is home to a rookery of blue herons that nest in May and June each year. The Pines are over 200 years old; and located just north of Lakewood, WI. Besides just walking through this beautiful stand of huge old pine; once the babies are born, the calls that all of the birds make is like a concert in the woods.
One of my favorites at the ranch is our little barn swallows. They are excellent mosquito eaters. They are amazing to watch, so tiny and delicate; extremely busy little creatures. I love when we have the babies in the barn. When they are finally old enough to leave the nest, they all kind of line up on one of the wires or beams in the barn. There you have that scary moment among the little swallows, each telling the other, “you go first, no you go first. ” Parent birds fly around, encouraging them to do it… to fly for the first time. Sometimes they sit for hours until they muster the courage to make that first leap of faith and fly.
One of my favorite times of year is when the painter and snapper turtles are on the move; coming up out of the Oconto River area to lay their eggs in the spring. Sometimes you can even see them digging their nest in the sandy soil that is abundant in Mountain. Kingston Road is a hot spot to see the turtles as they move around. I have often stopped my car to help one get to the other side. When the baby turtles hatch, they are only about the size of a quarter, and must make the long journey back to the river.
Occasionally, because we have guinea fowl at the ranch, foxes and coyotes can be visitors. The foxes are incredibly clever which makes them formidable foe, as did this fox several years ago now. She would watch my dogs and how acted around the guineas, and the guineas are not afraid of the dogs because they had been taught not to chase or harm them. So this fox learned by observation to go into my horse paddock and sit like a dog waiting for an unsuspecting guinea hen to walk by. After that we taught Valentine the Springer Spaniel to protect the guinea hens and chase the fox. This was quite effective, but Valentine is a house dog, and is not always outside. So, the fox began to time her visits, observing when Valentine was most usually out, and usually inside. One particular season, we had a mama guinea with about a dozen keets. This particular group of guineas was smarter than most. One day she had the keets out in the horse paddock learning to hunt and peck, when a coyote paid a visit. Mama guinea screeched an alarm; hurried her little keets into a ball; the all of the adult guineas ringed the little keets and screamed and screeched at the top of their lungs. We brought the dogs out to help, and the coyote was turned away apparently too much trouble that morning. It was an amazing display of nature to watch; and we had guests who got to see the whole experience unfold.
Guests always ask about the bears. Through the years, we have only had one little bear wander through the ranch that we know of. There are bears around us, but the ranch is very active; with lots of activity, different animal smells with the visiting horses; visiting dogs. I am sure that bears can feel the presence of our big Percheron Thorn; when he trots; or gallops outside you can feel the earth move if you are close enough. A few guests have run across them in the forest. Generally, if you keep your distance, let them do their thing, they will just continue on their way. A few of my riders carry whistles to make lots of noise to scare them off. Never get between a mama bear and her cubs. That can be a very dangerous situation.