Still. Quiet. Cold. Generous.

Winter in North Central Wisconsin is just spectacular. When I walk our woods, I pause to see what they are giving me on this day. The feature photo is a dried vine that is captured by millions of tiny ice crystals that wrap each branch like a fairy’s blanket. They call it hoarfrost.  These enchanted moments happen when a saturated air mass meets air temperatures below freezing, like winter dewfall. Only once or twice a year hoarfrost brings a Narnian wonder to the woods, on pine trees, dried angelica blooms, bare vines. I must look closely and joyously at this visual delicacy… Mr Tumnus, are you out there?


A rare neighbor joined the ‘hood this winter…

The silvered-circle face on a sleek black torso with a white-tipped tail belongs to a wild red fox variant called a silver fox, which was successfully bred in Central Wisconsin in the early 20th century by the Fromm Brothers. Spotted in late Fall by my neighbor who spied this curious creature as it approached her chicken coop… no casualties!  Later it migrated further down the Little Eau Pleine River, frequenting two gardens and likely living under a deck near the river. Again, a creature that I would expect in J.R. Tolkien’s world, not ours.


River otters are elusive….

Haven’t seen one this winter, but late in the Fall, I paused by the riverbank to listen to a bird call that I could not identify. Sort of high-pitched, rhythmic hacking sound that was echoed from across the river and again further downstream. Looking across the river, eyeing the sky and treetops, I suddenly hear the sound very close, below my elevation by the river’s edge… then a rustling in the brush ten feet away and coming closer… ruffed grouse?  At the base of a maple tree, leaning over the water was a river otter producing the loudest part in this choral trio. Three creatures were communicating an alert, likely because we were standing fairly close to a bank den. After settling into months of snow cover and ice, here’s what we see… paw prints in shallow trenches made by the low-hanging long body of the otter and feeding holes in the ice.


Lastly, another rare animal, the stuff of fairy tales…


has found its way onto our land. White deer are either albino (with red eyes, pink nose and ears) or leucistic like this one with dark eyes and nose. A herd of white deer populated the woods about about 3 miles north of us; a sunset drive in July brought a pack of 9 white deer into view.  This winter we have had a doe and her fawn in our woods; this buck visited in January 2021.

A bit more of the wonder of the Central Wisconsin woodlands… hard to choose a favorite, huh?

Photos by S.A.M. and Bob Steiner 2021, 2022, 2023




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