Monday, January 3, 2011

Hawks, Eagles and a Winter Red Fox

A roadside Red-tailed Hawk

After a weekend of snow and ice, the sun was shining and the sky was blue.  Despite the freezing temperatures (21- degrees F), I couldn't resist taking the Prius out to look for roadside raptors.  I didn't have to go far.  Rural Pepin and Buffalo Counties in west-central Wisconsin are full of hawks, shrikes and eagles.

A roadside Northern Shrike
Rough-legged Hawk

I was surprised to see so many Bald Eagles perched in trees along the farm roads - several miles from the frozen Chippewa River.

Bald Eagles at State Road 85 and Pepin County Road T

The sky turned gray around 2pm and it started to snow.  At the intersection of State Road 85 and County T, I asked my husband:  should we head home, or turn left on to Marsh Road?  I didn't wait for an answer.  I turned left.  I've never been on Marsh Road... maybe there actually is a marsh... maybe we'll see something out of the ordinary.

The road was icy.  I started to wonder if this was such a good idea after all.  But the Prius pulled us up the hill without a slip.

Then we saw something out of the ordinary.   I stopped the Prius; put it into park; and held my breath as I opened the window on the passenger side.  I pulled up my camera and snapped 2 photos of a red fox walking across the farm field, sniffing for rodents.

 It stopped and looked at us, then ambled off towards the tree line.

Red foxes are not uncommon in west-central Wisconsin.  Spotting them in the daytime is, however, a rare treat.   We sat in the comfort of the car - and watched, hoping to see this one pounce on a mouse or vole.  Not today.

This is the time of year when red foxes pair up and mate.  Their dens are almost always near some kind of water - a marsh, pond or stream.   Kits are born in March and April.  

A couple of years ago, I spotted a fox den and two kits, in a cornfield on State Road 25.

I was surprised to learn that red foxes are native to North America - and that they are the most widely distributed carnivore in the world.  Back in colonial times, the British imported red foxes to what is now the eastern United States - for sport hunting.

Populations of red fox increased as wolves were extirpated and continent was changed by human settlement.

No comments:

Post a Comment