Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bass Hollow

This past weekend (May 15) we decided to return to Bass Hollow Recreation Area in Juneau County. We discovered this area a few years ago when we were returning from a trip to Adams County to see the Kirtland's Warbler. Our last time visiting we only had a couple of hours to scratch the surface of this magical place.  The Bass Hollow Recreation Area is adjacent to the Bass Hollow State Natural Area.

Although this area is likely less pristine when compared to its counterpart state natural area, it still abounds with more varieties of woodland flowers and spring ephemerals than I have seen in most
Wisconsin landscapes. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a handful of Giant Yellow Lady Slippers among the diverse array of woodland flowers.

Even more amazing was the abundance of Bishop's Cap extending its delicate sprays of white among the Trillium, ferns and other numerous woodland flowers.

We hiked the 3 mile loop trail (plus some side exploratory jaunts) in 7 hours, at a snail's pace, absorbing the bird, plant and butterfly life.  Unfortunately we had no trail map to guide us at our starting point, so we embarked on the trail with blind curiosity.  We put our faith in the lone hiker we encountered at the beginning of the trail.  She assured us the trail was a loop that took about an hour to complete. Approximately 2 miles into the hike, we finally located a posted map confirming the trail was indeed a loop. Seven hours later we completed the "about an hour" 3 mile trail.

We entered the hollow from the parking area off Hwy. K. The trail traversed immediately down a slope of disturbed habitat of downed trees teaming with native ephemerals and ferns.

We immediately encountered very visible singing Mourning and Cerulean Warblers on this section of trail.

After about 50-100 feet, the trail opened on to a small field, Flambeau Field, with a sign directing us southeast on the loop trail into the hollow. Following this path, we were led through more disturbed forest and more encounters with Mourning Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees, other migrating warblers, Wood Thrush, Ovenbirds and many Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

However, if one were short on time, an alternative to the loop trail would be a hike in and out on the same trail, picking up a part of the loop on the northeast side of Flambeau Field.  This unmarked trek across Flambeau Field to the northeast corner and edge of the field quickly reveals an obvious trail which is actually the endpoint for the loop trail if one follows the signs.  Taking this route, one more quickly advances into the shaded old growth habitat of this area where Acadian Flycatchers can be easily seen and heard.

On this visit we opted for a leisurely exploration of  the entire the loop and followed the well-marked trail in the southeast direction where the signs pointed. This southeast path, eventually meandered into the heart of the hollow where open disturbed forest was replaced by old growth shade and we encountered Acadian Flycatchers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Louisana Waterthrush.  The terrain in this area was relatively steep in sections with wide paths that rose and descended in and among the hollow. Hiking poles were useful as knee-saving and balancing devices for the down hill sections and rocky creek crossings.

The area also seemed to attract butterflies.  On this particular day I found the following four species:

Duskywing species????
???Pearl Crescent butterfly

After our extended loop hike. We decided to briefly investigate the access points into the state natural area off of Cowan Rd. The trails into the Bass Hollow State Natural Area resemble narrow, barely distinct game trails that seem to peter out and involve some bush-whacking to follow. Perhaps this will be an adventure for another day as I am intrigued of reports that this habitat supports Nodding Pogonias.

Total Bird Species: 68 (including 19 warbler species of which 2 were 'picked up' at a nearby marsh)

Bird Highlights: 2 Common Ravens, 1 Olive-sided and 5 Acadian Flycatchers; Magnolia, 2 Blackburnian, 3 Cape May, 2 Hooded, 5 Mourning, 6 Cerulean Warblers; 1 Louisiana Waterthrush, 1 Gray-cheeked Thrush, 3 Veery and 6 Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Plant Highlights: Wild Geranium (common), Yellow Lady Slipper, Trillium Grandiflorum (abundant), Maiden Hair Fern (common), Bishop's Cap (abundant), Jack-in-the-pulpit, American Cancer-root, Rue Anemone and Yellow Forest Violet.

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