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Hi.

Welcome to my travel blog. Hope you have a nice stay!

Northern Wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin

In 2013 we bought a small 5 acre island in northern Wisconsin near Hayward, WI. There is a rustic log cabin on the island with minimal amenities (no electricity, no running water, heat from a wood burning stove and an outhouse). Now you may be asking yourself (as we did), why would you want to buy something up north where the winters are frigid when all of our friends are buying condos in Florida and southern California? It’s difficult to explain except that the cabin is actually in very good shape and the surroundings are spectacular. It is on a lake that is relatively unpopulated with a scattering of other cabins. In the winter we snowshoe over the ice pulling a sled with our supplies while the rest of the year we have a pontoon boat to go across the lake. Our first trip to the island was in late December of 2013 and there were several days in which the temperature dropped into the -30 deg F range at night. Since there’s no electricity, mostly we use candlelight at night.

Maple and our cabin in the winter

Maple and our cabin in the winter

Of course in the winter we depend on the wood burning stove to provide heat. When we first arrive to the cold cabin, it takes 4-5 hours before the main room warms up enough for us to take our coats off. Usually we don’t sleep in the bedroom since it is farther away from the stove. Fortunately there is a sofa that converts to a bed in the living room which is cozy next to the fire. Of course, the fire goes out after we sleep so either someone has to throw a log onto the fire in the middle of the night or we need to stoke up a fire in the morning.

We really haven’t made any friends with our neighbors on the lake, partly because we really don’t see them since the cabin is on an island. However, this north woods community is not diverse at all so I am sure that our Asian faces are noticed in town. On one of our winter trips to the island, we were about to leave for home when out of the woods appeared a tall figure. Initially it was quite a shock since we had never seen anyone else on the island. But this fellow had a police uniform on and introduced himself as a police officer. He said that the office got a call from a lady who lived across the lake and reported that smoke was no longer coming out of our chimney that morning. Since the weather was very cold, she was afraid that something had happened to us and wanted the police to check it out. So for sure, our neighbors are looking after us, even though we haven’t met them!

Is it cold out?

Is it cold out?

Back of the cabin

Back of the cabin

Hoarfrost

Hoarfrost

Full moon rising over snowy lake

Full moon rising over snowy lake

Moon lit woods

Moon lit woods

The structure of smoke

The structure of smoke

Panoramic view of the island from the north in the winter. The cabin is visible through the trees to the right of center

Panoramic view of the island from the north in the winter. The cabin is visible through the trees to the right of center

Panorama of the island in the fog

Panorama of the island in the fog

Reflections of a birch stand

Reflections of a birch stand

Sun trying to break through the fog

Sun trying to break through the fog

Fishing in the fog

Fishing in the fog

Colors of fall

Colors of fall

Fall colors

Fall colors

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Early snowstorm

Early snowstorm

Mid-autumn moon rise

Mid-autumn moon rise

Rowing past the great blue heron

Rowing past the great blue heron

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Reflection

Reflection

Maple

The island is a great place for Maple since we can pretty much let her run free without having to worry that she will bother the neighbors. There is some danger that she will swim out to greet any fishermen who try to get too close to the island. She loves to swim in the little area off the pier, usually spending her time chasing the minnows that she can see, but cannot catch, in the water. In the wintertime she seems impervious to the cold and snow and loves to frolic on the ice.

Maple enjoying the kayak ride

Maple enjoying the kayak ride

Maple directing the purple loosestrife expedition

Maple directing the purple loosestrife expedition

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Amidst the water lilies

Amidst the water lilies

Face to face with a cheeky red squirrel

Face to face with a cheeky red squirrel

The ice makes a nice scratching pad

The ice makes a nice scratching pad

Maple loves the snow

Maple loves the snow

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On a blustery day on the ice

On a blustery day on the ice

Eagles

Who goes there?

Who goes there?

On our island the only notable inhabitants are a pair of nesting bald eagles who had a large nest on a tall pine tree the year that we bought it. They raised two eaglets that following spring and summer, but in the fall a large storm blew the nest down. However, the eagles stayed in the area in future years and built a nest on the mainland across from our island in the winter. They have successively raised eaglets every year except one, as far as we know. Of course this assumes they are the same birds which we have no way of confirming. In the meantime we are learning a lot about eagles.

Back home I have previously followed for about 5 years a pair of red tailed hawks who had a nest on my bike route to work. I read up on hawk behavior at that time and some of the observations on these eagles extrapolates from what I learned about hawks. The parents do not seem to spend the night either on the nest or near it except when there are eggs to incubate and very young eaglets to feed. They remain in the area in the winter and check in almost daily on the nest or on their favorite roosts near the nest even though our lake freezes over so there is no open water for fishing. There must be an area with open water, perhaps near a dam with a spillway, where they can catch fish for sustenance over the winter. Even in the winter they will sometimes spend hours just roosting on a branch near the nest, perhaps to keep the claim on the very large nest from other eagles who might appropriate it. However, they don’t seem to use the nest to sleep overnight, even though the northern Wisconsin winter nights can be frigid.

Perhaps the most surprising thing for me is that the parents maintain the same behavior even in the summer when the lake is available for fishing. Only rarely have we seen the parents fishing on our lake though they commonly spend hours just roosting on a branch overlooking the water.. On the other hand when there are young eaglets to feed in the nest, they often fly in from some distant lake with lunch in their talons. They don’t seem to overnight on the nest unless they are incubating eggs or the eaglets are very young.

One of the parents overlooking the original nest on the island

One of the parents overlooking the original nest on the island

Keeping an eye on the nest

Keeping an eye on the nest

The parents

The parents

Hanging out away from the kids

Hanging out away from the kids

Fishing

Fishing

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Eagle braving the bitter winter cold

Eagle braving the bitter winter cold

One parent going off for more fish

One parent going off for more fish

Eaglets

For most of the years the eagles have successfully raised one or two young eaglets. They are typically born in early spring and remain in the area until the fall. They usually fledge in July but will stay around the nest still dependent on food from the parents. Oddly, the parents do not hang around the nest except when sitting on the eggs or making a food drop once the eaglets hatch. As noted above, we rarely see them hunting on our lake and we do see them flying in from somewhere else with a fish in their talons, presumably from some other lake. Once the eaglets hatch, then we see a lot more of the parents as the eaglets are usually very hungry and vocal so it’s hard to miss them.

Calling for dinner: This eaglet was born in 2015

Calling for dinner: This eaglet was born in 2015

These two eaglets were born in 2015

These two eaglets were born in 2015

Caught in the act

Caught in the act

Incoming lunch

Incoming lunch

Eaglet wingersizing above the nest before fledging

Eaglet wingersizing above the nest before fledging

In 2018 we had an interesting and very improbable experience. That year there was only a single eaglet and when we were at the island in late July we never saw it out of the nest until one day when it appeared on a pine tree on the island. Undoubtedly, it had fledged and had flown over to our island. The next afternoon, it was again out of the nest and sitting on a tall pine tree on our island. Since it was around dinner time, we expected that we might see a parent come in with a food drop. So we decided to bring our dinner aboard our pontoon boat and have dinner on the boat while monitoring the eaglet’s activities. As we were watching the eaglet and eating our dinner, the sun started to set and a nearly full moon started rising in the east. I joked that it would be something if the eagle would fly across the face of the moon but I didn’t think it would really happen since it was so improbable. Most pictures one sees of birds or planes flying across the moon are shot with considerable distance between the subject and the camera which allows a bit of time to take the shot. In this case we were 40-50 yards from the eaglet so there would be little time for preparation.

I decided to take a movie instead of shooting photos and take screen grabs from the movie. My camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, has 4K video with reasonable resolution. In any case the eaglet did finally leave its roost and flew across to the nest and I was able to capture it on video as you can see below. Of course I wouldn’t be telling this story if the eaglet hadn’t actually flown across the moon. In the few seconds that it took for the flight, I didn’t actually realize that it had taken the improbable flight path until I looked at the recording afterward. I sent the photos to my kids and grandkids and commented on how this was a result of luck and patience. I was extremely lucky that not only did the eaglet take a flight path that happened to cross the moon, but also that the day happened to be just before a full moon, so the moon was rising before the sun set, giving enough light to see the eaglet. And we had the patience to wait for about an hour and a half for the improbable event to occur.

Here’s the eaglet sitting on the pine tree on the island

Here’s the eaglet sitting on the pine tree on the island

Here we are having dinner on the pontoon boat while monitoring the eaglet, which can be seen on the pine tree to the far right.

Here we are having dinner on the pontoon boat while monitoring the eaglet, which can be seen on the pine tree to the far right.

The eaglet is on the pine tree on the left and the nearly full moon is rising slowly at the far right.

The eaglet is on the pine tree on the left and the nearly full moon is rising slowly at the far right.

Fly me to the moon!

Fly me to the moon!

Sequence of the eaglet flying across the moon from screen grabs of the movie. Time between each view is .067 sec so the total time from the first to last image is .only 1/3 of a sec. The images were stitched together with Photoshop.

Sequence of the eaglet flying across the moon from screen grabs of the movie. Time between each view is .067 sec so the total time from the first to last image is .only 1/3 of a sec. The images were stitched together with Photoshop.

Slow motion (20%) movie of the eaglet flying across the moon. Actual total time of the video was about 7 sec. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize it had actually flown across the moon until I looked at the video.

In 2019 we had a very similar experience. This time the eaglet had fledged for several weeks but it was waiting for its parents to bring dinner from the same branch at sunset. I caught this sequence of it leaving its perch.

In 2019 we had a very similar experience. This time the eaglet had fledged for several weeks but it was waiting for its parents to bring dinner from the same branch at sunset. I caught this sequence of it leaving its perch.

Loons

The other common birds on the lake are loons. They are beautiful diving birds and there is usually at least one nesting pair with possibly others on the far side of the lake. They have an incredibly haunting call and yodel both during the day and sometimes at night.

Loons are often seen in pairs

Loons are often seen in pairs

Loon with fish for the two chicks

Loon with fish for the two chicks

Common loon feeding fish to chick

Common loon feeding fish to chick

Standing up in the water

Standing up in the water

Checking out what’s below

Checking out what’s below

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In this light the red eye is especially prominent

In this light the red eye is especially prominent

Pair of loons calling to each other

Other wildlife

Painted turtles

Painted turtles

Sequence of a flicker leaving its nest

Sequence of a flicker leaving its nest

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Woodpecker handiwork

Woodpecker handiwork

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Maple was not happy to see this visitor to the island

Maple was not happy to see this visitor to the island

Otter amidst the birches

Otter amidst the birches

Great blue heron with lunch

Great blue heron with lunch

Duck family

Duck family

Ruby throated hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbird

Hummer acrobatics

Hummer acrobatics

Ruby throated humming bird. Only males have the ruby throat, which is iridescent and only shows in certain angles and lighting.

Ruby throated humming bird. Only males have the ruby throat, which is iridescent and only shows in certain angles and lighting.

Fresh beaver work on the island. We have never seen the beaver at work though there are many trees showing signs of his presence.

Fresh beaver work on the island. We have never seen the beaver at work though there are many trees showing signs of his presence.

There’s lots of signs of beaver activity on the island but this is the only shot of the beast itself.

There’s lots of signs of beaver activity on the island but this is the only shot of the beast itself.

Lil caught a largemouth bass!

Lil caught a largemouth bass!

Sunset over the water

Sunset over the water

Sunset over a pair of loons

Sunset over a pair of loons

Suzhou and the watertowns

Suzhou and the watertowns

Down Under: Green Island and Daintree Rainforest

Down Under: Green Island and Daintree Rainforest