November Meanderings from Visitor Services Mgr. Pam Steinhaus

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone;

Thanksgiving seems like it’s the forgotten Holiday.  Stores start selling Halloween stuff in August and then comes the Christmas season. Last year several stores opened for “pre” Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. Really? I respect those stores and companies that let their workers enjoy time with their families. Thanksgiving is a day that we need to stop and give thanks for the blessings that we have been given this past year. Friday, is another story. Let the Christmas music begin.

 

At the time I was writing the last blog, we were getting ready for two special deer hunts. I know many of our followers are not hunters and may disagree with the next two stories but we will have to agree to disagree.

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge manage two deer hunts on the Lost Mound Unit, formally called Savanna Army Depot. The main purposes for the hunts are to control the herd size and monitor Chronic Wasting Disease. (Thankfully, none of our samples have come back positive). Deer harvested through this program places venison on family tables.

Thirty-four hunters from four states participated in the Youth Deer Hunt that was held on October 7-8. One-third of these hunters were young ladies. Five hunters travelled from out of state: Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A total of 5 deer were harvested that included 3 bucks and 2 does. Four of the five deer were taken by the young ladies including 10 old Irelyn Chapman and 12 year old Jaycie Keith that harvested their first deer.

Fifteen year old Marie Petersen harvested the largest deer, a 10 point buck with a field dressed weight of 208 pounds.

November 11-12 brought the season’s first snow fall which briefly blanketed the landscape as the peak of the deer rut welcomed hunters to the Lost Mound Unit. Quadriplegics, paraplegics, amputees, and other physically challenged hunters participated in this special deer hunt.

Sixty-eight hunters harvested 21 deer that included 15 bucks and 6 does. Wounded Warrior Michael Liscomb harvested his first deer ever that was the largest buck taken, a 5.5 year old 11 pointer with field dressed weight of 193 pounds. Two non-profit organizations, Midwest Experience and the Travis Mills Foundation, sponsored Michael’s trip from Maine.

Another distinguished participant was Charles Melton. He earned a silver medal in the 2016 summer Para-Olympics in Rio as a member of the American rugby team. Charles harvested an 8 point buck weighing 170 pounds field dressed.

Scott Hansen with Seth Nelson and Colt

 

 

Scott Hansen from Muskego WI harvested an 8 point buck weighing 187 pounds field dressed and expressed his appreciation “Thanks guys for doing this, you would not believe how much this hunt means to me. Being in a wheelchair it’s almost impossible to go out on the national forest and deer hunt. And all you guys make it possible for us to go out and maybe get a buck of a lifetime.”

The Refuge and Down Deer Recovery, a certified United Blood Trackers provider, entered into partnership this year to help hunters recover wounded deer. Co-owner Seth Nelson, and his bloodhound Colt, successfully tracked several wounded deer.

An intriguing part of the hunt is the personal stories of the hunters. Dave fell out of a tree stand while deer hunting and was paralyzed. Scott was a city worker that was pinned between a sewer cleaning truck and a car, requiring both legs be amputated. Ten disabled veterans participated.

 

Trio Bald Eagle Nest Update

All three have been seen working on the nest throughout the month. We had a visitor, a 3 ½ year old, for a couple of days that did a little house keeping. This isn’t an uncommon site this time of the year. However, as it gets closer to the nesting season the trio will be more protective of the nest.

We have had many folks wanting to know the name of the new female. The locals will have a chance to vote on the new name at the Clinton Bald Eagle Watch that will be held on January 6, 2018. So, what are the names that are being considered?  In no particular order: Belle, Unity, Glory, Starr and Spirit. I will let you know the results next year.

The trio cam has been online since October 30, thanks to the work of JCWifi. The streaming software runs on Adobe Flash, which is the reason why some of you are having problems watching the cam.  We are hoping to have this upgraded in the future but in the meantime we have to deal with the challenges.

Tips to viewing:

PC: Make sure your Adobe Flash is up to date and enabled. Many browsers are flash friendly and may not need to be enabled. Chrome is one that you need to enable each time it updates. The browsers that we have found to work pretty well, without many issues are: Internet Explorer, Mozilla (Firefox) and Vivaldi.  Chrome is a pain, and I will not use to watch the cam.

Mac: I’m not a mac user but I have been told that Firefox, Chrome (flash enabled) and Safari is working pretty well.

Mobile Device: We are encouraging folks to use Puffin.  It is super-fast and saves data usage.  Dolphin works well also.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us on how to get linked. We are not IT specialist but will do our best in getting you connected.  In order to answer your question, please provide us with the following information:  What browser are you using, PC or Mac, and what operating system (Windows 7,8,10, XP etc). Here is a helpful link for those that are having issues with Flash.  Flash Player Help

Fall is quickly turning into winter with temperatures plummeting into the 20’s in the evening, creating a sheet of ice in backwaters. Waterfowl migration has been pretty steady throughout the month.  Many of the dabblers are moving on to less stiff waters while the divers are making their way through the area. Hundreds of Tundra Swans have arrived a couple of weeks ago and can be seen feeding on waste grain in neighboring fields and flying back to the river in the evenings.

From the family of the “Stewards” to yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

October Meanderings from Visitor Services Mgr Pam Steinhaus

 

This will be a new endeavor for me. My goal is to write once a month on different activities that is happening on or around the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Savanna District.

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is right around the corner.  Where has the year gone? When, I was young, I couldn’t wait until I was …. (fill in the blank). My grandma always said, “Don’t wish years to come quickly for they will speed right past you”. Boy was she right.  It just seemed like we just started our 5th season of the Jr. Stewards program, but in reality were almost done. We have one more session, which is an owl prowl on November 4. Nineteen youths, ages 9 – 15 had an amazing year of learning. Searching for ornate box turtles on the Lost Mound Unit; Traveling to Genoa National Fish Hatchery at Genoa Wisconsin; Pollywoggin for mussels in the Mississippi River were a few of the highlights. I’m excited to start planning for next year.

In May, we left the Trio Eagle Nest with both Valors tending and teaching the two fledglings how to be on their own.  Both were successful in leaving the nest and now are experiencing all the growing pains that eagles must face. Hopefully, they have learned all they need to survive their first winter. For those that are still asking about Hope, she has never been found and we have considered her MIA. We and the Valors have moved on and are looking forward to a new year. The questions that we had at the end of the nesting season were; will the Valors attract a new female, will they split or will they abandon the nest site.

Let’s look at a question that is often asked, do they mate for life? Generally, yes. Eagles engage in significant courtship and pair bonding behavior. Once a pair has succeeded in breeding, the pair will likely remain together for many years. However, if a mate dies or does not return to the nesting site for the breeding season, studies show that the surviving eagle (in this case, both males), generally will find a new mate very quickly. The remaining mate will likely use the existing nest with a new mate because of eagles’ strong nest site fidelity.

September 1st we received the answer that we were hoping for. A new female was spotted with both of the Valors. We have been able to capture a few photos to see that she is a young adult. You might be thinking, how can you tell? She still had a few dark feathers on her head at that time the photo was snapped. Periodically, we have spotted them bring sticks and adding them to the nest. The nest building activity is an essential part in pair (trio) bonding.

We, along with thousands of eagle viewers around the world will be eager to watch as the next chapter unfolds. The public cam will be online November 1st.  There will be a time when the cam will be down for maintenance, for we haven’t been able to complete the work due to high water. (Another day on the river)

Making plans to visit the Mississippi River for some winter eagle viewing?  The Migration Cam is a great tool to help you determine when to visit. Generally, we start seeing Bald Eagles arrive in December at the Lock and Dams. This varies due to winter conditions north.  The one question that I get asked a lot is, when is it a good time to watch eagles in the winter.  The first thing you need is cold weather to produce ice in the backwaters and snow to cover up the carrion (dead animals) in the uplands. This pushes them to the lock and dams where the river remains open. Shad and other fish get stunned as they go through the rollers and makes easy pickings for hungry eagles.  This cam is located at Lock 13, north of Fulton, IL and is a great spot to watch these majestic birds capture and/or steal their lunch.  Currently the cam is viewing the river, but as the eagles arrive we will zoom in to their favorite roosting tree on the Iowa shore.

Summer and Fall we are busy gathering data on the Monarch Butterfly. (More on that next year) In July, we start bring them inside to raise and release. Towards the end of August we begin tagging the migratory generation. This year we tagged 78.  I have been tagging monarch butterflies for 11 years with hope that one day one of our monarchs will be found in Mexico. We finally got our first one. If you ever come across a monarch with a tag, please report it to monarchwatch.org. It’s important that we track their migration patterns.

Life is too short, take a break and enjoy the beautiful fall. Until next time …..   Pam

Monthly Bird Walks 2nd Saturday of each Month

Monthly Bird Walks are held on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9 – 11 a.m. Participants will meet at the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center at 8:45 a.m. and carpool to various locations on the refuge.

This is a great opportunity to brush up on the birding skills.   If you don’t have a pair of binoculars, that s okay, you can use some of ours. Please let us know when you register.

Registration is required. Please email us at stewardsumrr@gmail.com or call 815-273-2732.

Golf Cart Tours begin in May

Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are hosting Refuge Golf Cart Tours that travel through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  The tours are free and open to all ages.  Trips are the 1st & 3rd Thursday and the 3rd Saturday of every month from May through September. The Golf Cart will leave promptly at 8 a.m. from the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center located at 7071 Riverview Rd, Thomson, IL and will return at 10 a.m.  Participants are asked to arrive at 7:45 am. Registration is required and seating is limited.

 

Registration is required for all activities. Please call the refuge office at 815-273-2732 to make your reservation or email at stewardsumrr@gmail.com.

Curing Cabin Fever VI – Geocaching Event March 25

Are you itching to get outside?  Do you want to get your kids unglued from the TV and video games? The answer to these questions should be a resounding YES!  It’s been a mild winter and we need to get outside and so some exploring. Come to the Curing Cabin Fever VI Geocaching Event (GC70BNM) on March 25th. Some folks are versed in Geocaching while others don’t even know how to pronounce it.  For those not familiar, it’s pronounced (JEE-oh-CASh-ing).  It is a high-tech treasure hunt using a hand-held Global Positioning System receiver (GPSr) to find a treasure or cache. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little monetary value.  The event will be held at the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center 7071 Riverview Rd, Thomson, IL.

You can make your reservation by submitting a “log your visit”; “will attend” on Geocaching.com or call the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center at: 815-273-2732 ext. 116. Please include the TOTAL number of people that plan on attending.  This free event is geared towards beginners, however all levels are welcome.  You don’t need to own a GPSr, you can borrow one of ours for the day.  If you do bring your own, please be sure to have your cable to connect to the computer for downloading cache locations. Come and be prepared to cure your Cabin Fever.
We also need experienced geocachers to volunteer and help us with the field practice.  If you would like to volunteer either call or let us know when you log in.

 

Event Schedule:

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Introduction to Geocaching Class.

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Let’s go Geocaching!

5th Annual Amazing Refuge Race – August 13

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Armed with GPS units, teams, will “race” by attempting to complete a series of challenges located on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Teams will be given a set of coordinates for a specific location which they will find using a handheld GPS unit.  Once at that location, teams must work together to complete a task. When that task is successfully completed, teams will receive the next set of coordinates for the next location. Those who finish all tasks and arrive at the finish first, win!

Sound like fun? You may bring your own GPS unit or borrow one for the day. The event will begin at the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center located at 7071 Riverview Rd, Thomson, IL 61285. Prior to the race, we will hold an introductory GPS course at 9:00 a.m. to learn how to use the unit. The race will then begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude around 1:00 pm.

Registration is required for the race! A team is comprised of a minimum of 2 people and a maximum of 6. Teams will be driving and walking to get to their designations.

Registration deadline is August 11th. Call 815-273-2732 ext. 116 or email pam_steinhaus@fws.gov to register or receive more information. There is no cost to enter and is open to all ages.

Smartphone Photography classes going well

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Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is sponsoring free smartphone photography workshops for all ages that are new to the smartphone technology. Workshops will be held at the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center on  July 13, 23; August 27 and September 24, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.  Participants will learn basic photography principles, useful camera accessories and photo-editing apps to create unique and amazing photographs. Pick a date and join us for this fun workshop.

We are adding an additional class on Wednesday, August 24 from 9 – Noon.

Each participant will need to bring a fully charged smartphone and charger. Space is limited to 10; please contact Pam Steinhaus at 815-273-2732, ext 116 for further information and to register for the workshop.  The Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center is located at 7071 Riverview Road, Thomson, IL.

Lost Mound Birding Tour – May 14

Migration is in full swing. This is a perfect time to get a glimpse of those migrates as they travel to their perspective breeding grounds.  Join experienced birders as we travel through largest sand prairie in Illinois. You will learn about some of the history of the former Savanna Army Depot, current habitat management and get a chance to see various species of birds. The van will leave from the Lost Mound Office promptly at 4:00 pm and will return at 7:00 pm. Participants are to meet at 3:45 pm Tours are free, but seating is limited. Contact the refuge office at 815-273-2732 to register.

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Come and Explore the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge via Golf Cart

golfcartourStewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are hosting Refuge Golf Cart Tours that travel through the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  The tours are free and open to all ages.  Trips are the 1st & 3rd Thursday and the 3rd Saturday of every month from May through September. The Golf Cart will leave promptly at 8 a.m. from the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center located at 7071 Riverview Rd, Thomson, IL and will return at 10 a.m.  Participants are asked to arrive at 7:45 am. Registration is required and seating is limited.

Monthly Bird Walks are held year round on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9 – 11 a.m. Participants will meet at the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center at 8:45 a.m. and carpool to various locations on the refuge.

Registration is required for all activities. Please call the refuge office at 815-273-2732 to make your reservation or email at stewardsumrr@gmail.com. Please check the calendar of events for other activities.