|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|
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.