Tuesday, August 23, 2016

At Home with Hummers

Each year nature seems to send a special gift to us up on the sandhill we call home. Last year, it was a bounty of monarch caterpillars transforming into butterflies. In recent weeks, we have been surrounded by frolicking hummingbirds.

Six, seven, maybe eight hummingbirds will fly high-speed sorties around our house, chasing each other to get the advantage at each of three feeders.

They will swoop up and down in arcs in front of the house, or scramble around back to catch their tiny breath on a twig. Stand on the back deck and you are certain you are going to have a hummer beak stuck in your ear.

They have been the source of hours of enjoyment, some of which I will share here.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cottonball sky

The sunsets frequently are beautiful up on the Sandhill, but tonight the sky turned alien. Reds, purples, greens. A ridge of cloud containing a cottonball sky.


This explanation from WRFV-TV5 meteorologist Dave Miller:

Those are mammatus clouds. They generally are found behind thunderstorms. They are boiling clouds bubbling down, with a lot of turbulence in them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Park-to-Park paddlers must portage

NEENAH, Wis. — A strong showing is expected for the Park-to-Park Paddle, launching at 9:20 a.m. July 23 from Neenah’s Shattuck Park and organized by North East Wisconsin Paddlers.

Paddlers received plenty of help when the P2P participants had
to portage around the Menasha Lock in 2014.
Kayakers, canoeists and stand-up paddlers will travel 8.5 miles along the Fox River, out onto Lake Winnebago, through downtown Menasha and on to Lutz Park in Appleton by way of Little Lake Butte des Morts and the Fox River. For the second time in three years, paddlers will have to portage around a closed Menasha Lock.

“In 2014, the lock was closed for mechanical repairs,” Jeff Mazanec, president of NEWP said. “This year the lock has been ordered closed by the DNR in an attempt to prevent the round goby from getting into the Lake Winnebago system.”

The small, highly invasive fish was discovered in Little Lake Butte des Morts by two Neenah High School fishing team members late last summer. 

Paddlers will get out at the Valley Marina landing and carry their boats over Broad Street and down to the channel on the other side — a distance of about 500 feet.

“The portage in 2014 went very smoothly because people were very willing to help each other,” Mazanec said. “We found portaging actually was faster than locking through for our large group.”

Paddlers will benefit from accessible launches both in Shattuck and Lutz, thanks to the two cities and the work of the nonprofit Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway. The launches are designed to help paddlers with disabilities, but also make for a dry launch and landing for able-bodied paddlers.

Pre-registration is available at www.wisconsinpaddlers.org. Participants will find event registration and waiver documents there, which they can fill out and bring along to save time at the launch. A fee of $10 per adult covers expenses. Children under 16 are free with an adult.

Paddlers can drop off their boats and gear at Shattuck Park starting at 7 a.m. Drivers only then take their vehicles to Lutz Park, where shuttle buses will take them back to Shattuck for the launch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Upper Fox elevates quality paddling

By David Horst   sandhill7@gmail.com

Our group paddles have had an impressive history of good weather, but this was ridiculous. Temperatures lapping at 80 on May 21. Wind that was only detectable on occasion. Sun a constant companion.

We launched our 24 colorful boats at the White River Dam. We have used multiple times before. It's back in the woods east of Princeton. The reference to the dam is a historic one. This low head dam is so low as not to be visible.

The 28-foot Fox of the River.
This Fox River is not the same one that's bordered by houses, industry and urban parks in the Fox Cities. It flows through marsh and farm fields. The catfish outnumber the people.

Our usual circle gathering to talk route, rules and safety before launching took a solemn mood as we remembered Warren Brown, a paddler who had been with us on the Wolf River two weeks earlier and was with us no longer. Despite a protective suit, a lifejacket and training in self-rescue, he lost his life on Lake Winnebago.

Our ambitious route today takes us from White River to Berlin, 16 miles, just because there's no where else to land.

We chose up birds we wanted to see beforehand. The orioles, great blue heron, osprey and pileated woodpecker all made their appearances. The first eagle showed up while we were still on shore talking about them, and they kept coming until we couldn't count them anymore.