Readers’ wildlife photos

November 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas. His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently traveled for the first time since the covid outbreak and spent a week in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. I didn’t bring home a t-shirt, but here are a handful of pictures to submit for consideration for your Reader’s Wildlife Pictures feature.

Coming in from Texas, one of the first things that struck me is that the tall pines put the lie to the boast that “everything’s bigger in Texas”! The trees that made the biggest impression on me were red (Pinus resinosa) and white (Pinus strobus) pines and  the balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Unfortunately, I don’t know the identities of the trees with the bare branches, but I like the way they look.

There is typically snow that far north this time of year, but the week I was there saw only a few days of light snow which melted after about 48 hours. You can see how beautiful the forest is with even a soft dusting of snow.

Light snow in the northwoods. There are white pines on the left and balsam fir in the middle.

Snowy Wisconsin lake:

Looking up at the pines helps to differentiate the white from the red pines. The red pine coming up from the left has needles that form in starburst clusters and has a distinctive crusty looking bark tinged with red, while the white pine coming up from the bottom has branches that sort of pancake out.

Young trees ready for the sun.

The area is dotted with small lakes, and the bulk of these pictures were taken on a small peninsula on one of those lakes. The reflections on the water give everything a magical look, and even the rotting tree stumps seem to have kind of a grandeur about them; if I squint my eyes they make me think of ancient crumbling castles.

Boat by the lake:

Morning sky reflected in the water:

Tree stump and pine needles:

Tree stump, moss, and pine needles:

This was taken on the west side of the peninsula just before the sun rose above the tree line.

Just around the corner from the previous picture, it’s the east side of the peninsula and taken a few minutes later, just after the sun topped the trees.

I’m not the all-around cat lover that you are, but when I find one I like, I really fall for it, and I just love my Mom’s little cat, Bella; she’s a gentle little sweetheart! Along with a visit to see my mother and the beautiful scenery, Bella was a huge highlight!

Here she is looking out a window and another picture where she looks kind of ominous, but in reality is just perched to see out the front door.

10 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Beautiful photos. Sadly, nowadays the really big White Pines are mostly gone from Wisconsin. My family and I used to look for them as teenagers when we lived in Wisconsin. The biggest one I ever saw was the MacArthur Pine, 17 feet in circumference at the base. It had a hollow trunk and I could stand inside it. That was decades ago, and I see from Wikipedia that this tree burned in 2001 under suspicious circumstances.

    My brother Paul is an expert on big White Pines in Wisconsin, and he searches old newspaper accounts and modern aerial photos to hunt them down. He found an 1884 reference to a cut tree 20 feet in circumference and 200 feet tall.

    He wrote this about the modern big trees in Wisconsin (he measures them with a laser rangefinder):

    “There are still a few big white pines in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

    The tallest that I have seen in Wisconsin is a 13.5′ girth 165′ tall tree on private Indian Reservation land in Menominee County. Others nearby were up to 167′. A white pine tree snag of 18-19′ girth was nearby. (My access permit had a time limit and no longer is valid. Trespassing in the reservation comes with a mandatory $750 fine with no lenience for any non-Indians hiking anywhere in the reservation forests without permission.)

    The tallest in statutory Wisconsin is a 150′ tall tree next to a 147′ tall tree on the western extents of the Cathedral Pines Grove in the Nicolet National Forest, but not visible from the hiking trails within the grove. They are around 10-11′ girth.

    The tallest that I have seen in the U.S. is a 188′ tall pine on the Boogerman Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It was 207′ tall a few years earlier before a hurricane topped it. Other pines over 180′ tall exist in the virgin grove at Cook Forest State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania. Trees over 160′ tall are visible at Mohawk Trail State Park in Massachusetts. Trees around 150′ tall are in the old grove at Harwick Pines State Park in lower Michigan.

    Trees up to 150′ tall also exist in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan. There are several around 12′ girth and around 145′ tall along the Little Carp River valley off-trail, along with the two 18-19′ girth snags of two former national champion white pine trees. A topped, large girth pine is on the Lily Pond trail within view of the cabin. Other very large pines 13-15′ girth, but very short exist along the Big Carp River valley where the marsh meets the woods along and near the cross country ski trails. A few large diameter pines also in remote similar locations near Trail Creek.

    There is also one highly visible tree about 147′ tall and about 12′ girth along the Presque Isle River east bank southwest of the ranger station and visible to the north of the northernmost boardwalk overlook along the river. It grows at river level along a steep cut bank with a trail along the top that allows you to look at the midpoint of the tree at eye level from the ground where it still has a respectable girth!

    I’ve been through most of the white pines on Wisconsin’s big tree list and most either no longer exist, had poor location descriptions that may have hindered their remeasurement, or were obviously mismeasured.”

    -Pul Jost,

    1. Thank you for the informative essay, Lou! I had no idea there were people who kept track of the fates of individual trees, though it makes sense upon reflection.

      …well, wouldn’t you know it; just as I was about to submit this comment, PBS news aired it’s “brief but spectacular” segment, and tonight’s guest was a naturalist named John Bates who was talking about old growth trees in the Northwoods of Wisconsin!

  2. Very nice scenery (plus bonus cute kitty). I really love pictures with interesting reflections on water. I am always on the lookout for these when I am out walking around.

  3. Beautiful trees and landscapes. Bella is very cute…I like the split log / wooden staircase as well…must be a log cabin?

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