Snakes and Birds!

Today we are featuring a guest blog by John and Sue Hrobar

Sue and I have been fortunate this past year to have the time to hike the Scuppernong Springs trail every few days usually a couple of times a week. We have been impressed by all the invasive clearing that you, Pati, Lindsay and your occasional other volunteers (ed. note Saturn Tre Volte, Mark Mamerow, John Mesching, Mike Fort) have accomplished. Sue and I try to hike a number of the other trails in Waukesha County and have hiked a number of sections of the Ice Age Trail. We both feel the Scuppernong Springs trail is one of the most important for a number of reasons. At Scuppernong Springs, you have a number of habitats and soil types and conditions all coming together. There is some gradient associated with moraine topography which contributes to the springs and you have lowlands, wetlands , fens and what almost seems to be an old vegetated dune in the area above and to the east of the Indian Springs. This juxtaposition of these variables allow a visitor to view habitats and their gradation into each other, sometimes abruptly, and how the plants and critters that make up that biota interact and use the habitats.

The photos below are from several dates. As we all recall it has been a brutally hot and abnormally dry summer. Many plants bloomed quite early . Once the hot weather set in Sue caught these images.  On July 1st, these three snakes were observed in the creek, near the marl pit bridge. The two lighter colored snakes are Northern Water snakes, the one with his head under a rock is underwater in the middle of the creek, after a minute or two he came to the surface with what appeared to be a Slimy Sculpin in his mouth. He was pretty quick so Sue couldn’t quite get that shot. We had only a fleeting glimpse of the small Darker snake underwater so we didn’t positively ID it. Then she has a nice photo from July 9th which is a nice photo of a Hog Nosed snake. We have observed several of these in various locations.  On one occasion we observed Mr Hog-nose with toad legs still hanging out of his mouth but we didn’t want to get closer or attempt a photo and disturb his well earned meal.

Northern Water Snake.

Darter Snake?

Hog Nosed Snake.

Sue and I wanted to send you these photos taken near what we call the Hotel Spring, from the trail guide, which is downstream from one of the wooden bridge crossings. The springs have a nice dolomite wall in an arc which is handy to sit on and cool your feet on these very hot summer days. Sitting on the dolomite wall arc and cooling our feet on June 26th, we were able to observe this beautiful scarlet tanager using the shade of the large willow that cools the rocky riffle area that has spring water flowing out over it. Numerous other species were flitting in and out of the willow and the shaded riffle area. We speculated that the combination of shade, firm rocky riffle with cool water  and some over head protection from a possible predation from Copper’s hawks made this a special area for a number of bird species.

On July 1st ( still beastly hot) this female goldfinch and waxwing were again enjoying the shaded, cooled riffle area.  We have seen many bird species flying in and out and perching on many different plants and areas all along the trails. The variety of birds and numbers taking advantage of this spot surprised us and after documenting this use we thought it important to mention to you.

(ed. note  Thanks John and Sue!  We appreciate your observation that the huge Willow Tree by the Hotel Springs creates a unique setting for birds.  We had planned to cut this Willow down to open up the views up and down the river but, per your advice, we will not cut it.)