A New Job & a New Apartment

Life has been quite busy recently; with wedding plans, house-hunting, starting a new job, and now heading into weekly marriage counseling.  I’m doing my best to keep up with my online job too – this blog!

Today was my last day of training for R&J’s Fish and Reptiles, and I will be starting on my own next week.  Every Wednesday, 10-5, and possibly some fill-in days.  It’s a messy, busy job, but I love handling and caring for all of the animals.  I have always been fascinated with snakes of all kinds, and the store has many to choose from.  We have iguanas, basilisks, chameleons, geckos of all sorts, anoles, frogs of all sorts, a scorpion, fish of all sorts, budgies, and so much more.  If you’re looking for a pet store in the area, check out this one located in Tomah, WI – you’ll no doubt find something you’ll love.

Baby Ball Python

Baby Ball Python


In Other News . . .

My fiance` and I have been looking for an apartment for a while, and today while I was work he went and signed the lease on the one we looked at yesterday.  Things are falling into place and a new life is starting.  Exciting!


Wildlife Rehabilitation

The Ornery Biologist in cooperation with the Raptor Education Group, Inc (REGI)



We accept injured, sick, and abandoned wild birds, mammals, and reptiles/amphibians.  Birds will be evaluated and transported to the Raptor Education Group in Antigo.  All other animals will be evaluated and cared for until a proper rehabilitation facility can be found.  Our goal is to lessen the number of wildlife fatalities in our region through rescue and rehabilitation.  

If you know of a wildlife emergency, please contact us!

Located near Tomah, Wisconsin

Call or Text: 608-633-7120 or 715-896-2945

Website: www.ornerybiologist.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OrneryBiologist  www.facebook.com/RaptorEducationGroupInc

Email: ornerybiologist@gmail.com

Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, and Whoopsie Whoophills

Whoophill Family

Whoophill Family

Taken from a July 22, 2015 post on The International Crane Foundation’s Website: “The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have captured a hybrid crane chick, referred to as a ‘Whoophill,’ in eastern Wisconsin and will place the chick in captivity. Whoophills are a result of a successful pairing between a Whooping crane and a Sandhill crane.”

More recently, on August 30th, I spotted an odd (to me) scene in a field; an adult Whooping Crane, an adult Sandhill Crane, and a young colt that was obviously part Whooping.  My very own “Whoopsie”, and I was beyond excited to see it.  After consideration I made the decision not to disclose the location of this little family.

There was much debate within the birding community over whether or not the first colt should have been removed, or left in nature to do as it would.  It is not yet known if a Whooping/Sandhill hybrid would be able to breed, or if it is sterile and therefore a “waste”.  Some worry that the re-establishment plan with the Whooping Cranes will be jeopardized through allowing Whooping Cranes and Sandhill Cranes to breed, as both species are monogamous and so will stay together for life.  While perhaps that is the case, it is my opinion that we should leave them be for now, and see what happens.  There are enough Whooping Crane pairs together to carry on and continue their species.  If anything, Whoophills may be an indication that the natural in-the-wild breeding instinct of Whooping Cranes is becoming stronger, but without enough of them to go around at this point in time.

While the Whooping/Whooping pairs continue to breed and grow their species number, Whooping/Sandhill pairs may be a good thing for us to monitor for a while.  If the number of true Whooping Crane pairs start to decrease, or the number of Whooping Sandhill pairs continues to increase, then we should tread carefully so as not to set the Whooping Crane species back once again.  However, first, we should give these Whoophill hybrids a chance; see if they can contribute to either species in any way, or if they are indeed sterile.

Personally, I think the idea of someday seeing some “Whoophills” is an exciting one.  A bird more rare than the Whooping Crane, and no doubt beautiful in it’s own way.  If they truly hurt the Whooping Crane’s comeback, then it is our duty as stewards of the land to act.  But if they are harmless, let nature take its course.

Fawns: Take Them or Leave Them

It’s that time of year; the iconic spring-time Bambis can be seen lying in the tall grasses and ferns throughout the forest.  This irresistible baby deer is in danger, and not from animal predation, but from humans.  Every year, people find fawns left behind while their mothers go out to forage, and in many cases, the fawns are touched, handled, or even taken away.  Many think the mothers are nowhere to be found, so the Bambi must have been abandoned, but this is usually not the case.  The mother could be standing behind a tree, watching you with her fawn.  Or she could be some distance away, looking for food to sustain herself so she can nurse her baby.

Photo Credit - Grover Wooten

Photo Credit – Grover Wooten

In most cases, the fawn should not be touched, and should be left exactly where you found it.  If you are concerned about the fawn, contact your local DNR or Fish & Wildlife Services.  They can check on the welfare of the fawn and, if it does need assistance, they will have the knowledge and resources to take care of it.

Have fun in nature this summer!

The Ornery Biologist – I’m Engaged!

Yet again, it has been much too long since I last posted anything; here, on Facebook, YouTube, and even Twitter.  But, yet again, I hope to change that and put in place a schedule that will allow me to post more content more often.



For today’s post, I have some wonderful news!  In late December, my boyfriend from Colorado came for a visit over the holidays.  We had been dating for almost three years, and this was the first time we met, though with technology as it is today (cellphones for talking and webcams for frequent “dates”), we truly felt as if we knew each other very well.  He stayed for two weeks and, at the end of his visit, asked me to marry him.  I said yes! and our wedding is scheduled to take place in the beautiful month of August.  <3

I’m excited for this new adventure in life, and wanted to share my happiness with my readers.  And promise more future posts.

Keep on birding on, peeps!

Eastern Hognose Snake

Earlier this month, I was walking out across the old garden and came upon a snake lying, flattened out, sunning itself.  Once I had double-checked the markings, I identified it as an Eastern Hognose, and quickly picked it up, expecting it to play dead.  However, it was very calm and allowed me to handle it for close to half an hour.

Eastern Hognose 9-17-14 -3

It’s always nice when I can find a critter and use it as a teaching tool.  Be it my siblings, friends, young children, or even my grandparents; I enjoy being able to give them an example of what I’m talking about.

This particular Hognose measured 22″ tip to vent; overall length was two feet.  An impressive snake!  No playing dead or rattlesnake-type behavior.  A very sweet snake, if you are one who considers snakes to be such.  😉

Eastern Hognose - In Jacket

Yes!  It crawled into my jacket and settled like this for at least ten minutes.

Eastern Hognose Snakes are harmless and non-venomous to humans.  They are a rear-fanged serpent, with saliva toxic to their prey (amphibians).

If you would like to know more about the Eastern Hognose Snake, click HERE.

If you would like to see more photos of this snake and others, click HERE.

Wildwood Park & Zoo – Marshfield, Wisconsin

Mountain Lion SelfieThis past Friday, our grandparents surprised us with a trip to Marshfield.  The main goal of the trip was a visit to the Wildwood Park and Zoo located there.  The last time we had visited this particular zoo, I was around the age of two, so in a way it was new to me.  Being most familiar with the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular.  However, though not a huge zoo, it had an excellent variety of animals and all were visible as well as being up close and personal.



One thing that impressed me were the bird exhibits.  Instead of the zoo just having one of each species, the birds have a companion.  Amber and Liberty, the Bald Eagles, were definitely my favorite.  Being that close to such a magnificent bird is an awesome feeling.  Amber and Liberty


The zoo has two sections; one for walking and one for driving.  While walking, you are able to get very close to the open, airy exhibits and view the animals from a safe yet fascinating distance.  There are plenty of geese and ducks to feed along the way, too.

The driving section is nicely paved, takes you past the wolf exhibit (currently inhabited by Nelson, a Timber Wolf), and allows you to get an excellent view of bison, white-tail deer, and elk.  There is also a pond with a observation deck out over the water where you can stop to feed the ducks and geese.  And where I photographed the zoo’s Mute Swan, Lady.  You can click HERE for more photos of Lady.

Mute Swan - Lady1

In addition to the many exhibits currently at the zoo, they will be working on a Grizzly Bear exhibit come Spring of 2015.  If you visit the highlighted link, you can contribute to this fun and interactive home for the bears.

My family and I had a wonderful time at this zoo, and I highly recommend you plan a visit as well.  It is definitely worth your while!

Lake of The North

A bank of flora, soft and green.
The wind in rushes sings.
A place of beauty; rare, serene,
and zipping, shining dragonfly wings.

The gentle waves beat against the rocks,
gurgling for all they’re worth.
Seemingly their small space they mock,
carving new rivulets in the earth.

I sit and my gaze drifts to yonder shore;
a wide, glass-like expanse in between.
My mind races with thoughts of lore,
rehearsed when the earth was but a teen.

A loon with an appearance of distiction
bobs upon the gentle, slipping waves.
My thoughts cry “Far be ye from extinction”
for your call is one every being craves.

A fish swims up, colorful scales shim’ring.
Ripples hurry away as it moves.
So close to the bank, I see eyes glim’ring
as it forages amongst the stones and grooves.

As I lie back on the peaceful bank,
I watch the geese fly overhead.
To think this earth was once quite blank
before our Creator “It is good.” He said.

The Autumn winds blow colder now.
The sunset sets the trees afire;
red and orange, shine a blazing show
and I revel in my God’s great empire.

Soon the glistening lake will turn to ice,
and my feathered friends be gone.
But the peace will remain just as nice
as the wildlife silently lives on.

For though many birds fly southward;
mammals and reptiles slumber sweetly –
there are still places to be explored;
sketches and field notes kept up neatly.

Come Spring, greenness and life shall return;
the earth always in cyclical balance.
This dead, white, silent Winter adjourn,
and the new season bound forth with radience.

I, here at the lakeside will always stay;
for here is my life, my joy, my muse.
And I can never be drawn away
from the place my heart and soul did choose.

Lake Superior

– Mara Clipner

Sand Mines & Cleaning Operations

from an ornithological perspective

I live in West Central Wisconsin; I suppose you could call it the “Land of Sand”. Where sand operations are now opening up in every empty corner; buying farmland plots in bulk to then destroy with their mountains of sand, heavy equipment, and finely-sifted sandy air pollution. In my small township alone, there are 5 of these operations; varying sizes and companies, pushing out not only decent land for living, but also wildlife habitat. When we first moved to our small farm in the county of Monroe, there was a field in which 9 Whooping Cranes (a Federally Endangered species) could be seen all at once.  More inquiry proved that they frequented this spot twice a year during migrations. A bird that prefers grassy and marshy areas, with plenty of water nearby, they also frequent fields looking for a tasty morsel in the newly-plowed soil. Once the sand operations moved in across the road and also a couple of miles away, the cranes vanished from the entire area. For those who are not as familiar with the behavior of birds, a flock of 9 Whooping Cranes is a sight to see; a good-sized flock for this species and a treat to any bird enthusiast. With the rapid destruction of this species’ habitat, the road to “Least Concern” status could hit a bump.

BestPicEver - Whooping Cranes - ©MaraJael

The 9 Whooping Cranes that frequented the field – 2011

Not only are these operations destroying prime habitat for this particular species, but miles of habitat for a diverse array of all species. The destruction of natural habitat, the fine sand filling the air, the heavy truck traffic, and the stench-filled ponds are all potential dangers to both animals and humans.



With this many operations dotting the map, how much land is being torn up and wasted? The sand operations won’t be in business forever, and when they do go down, how many will rehabilitate the land?

How can you help? Spread the word and share your personal concerns on the matter. If you have meetings in a township where sand operations are appearing, bring up the issue for discussion. In our township, concerns were shared, considered, and solutions put into practice.

If the after-math of such operations are a concern for you, try speaking with the owners; see if a program to reclaim the natural habitat is in their plans, or is something they would consider.

This article, from the Chicago Tribune, states some alarming facts about the wide-spread mining.  The very first paragraph mirrors what is going on in my township.