When I saw the sign for the Wildlife Loop Trail near the entrance to Yellowstone Lake State Park, I had to chuckle because this park must have thought it was the Wyoming version to have a trail like this. Surely a trail in southeastern Wisconsin could not have enough interesting wildlife to have a trail named in this fashion.
I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of birds found while hiking along this loop. The Wildlife Loop Trail is only a one mile loop located at the entrance to the park near the Visitor’s Center. In fact, you can park in the lot at the park office and walk over to the loop.
The lake is open to motorboats, but the wetlands area where the loop is found is off limits to boats. Immediately upon entering the trail, swallows, cedar waxwings, and goldfinches dive bomb, circle, and fly off of every tree. Then the cacophonous hack of the elusive kingfisher is heard. In the distance, the guilty bird hovers over the water and then dives straight down into the water with a splash hoping to spear a fish.
In the distant wetlands areas egrets, herons, cormorants, and sandhill cranes can be seen and heard. This is all in the first quarter of a mile of the trail. The trail was off to a good start and living up to its name at least with the birds, but it seemed to lack the heavy hitters.
The trail curves away from the main lake into the sloughs of the wetland area. In a dead tree across the swamp a bald eagle perched in the tree. While focusing on the solo bird, he was joined by his mate. Another hiker came by at this moment and notified me that they had their nest over yonder on a pine tree and lent me his binoculars to see their home.
While taking photos of the bald eagles, my attention was momentarily diverted by two large sandhill cranes that noisily announced their presence and circled the wetlands area until they finally found a suitable landing place.
I hiked the Wildlife Loop several times during my stay at Yellowstone State Park. While the wildlife is not as impressive as its namesake in Wyoming, there is an abundant amount of birds to be found. On the back stretch eastern kingbirds played atop trees on the water’s edge and a group of wood ducks burst out of their cover and wailed at my encroachment as they flied away.
The best times to walk the trail are dusk and dawn, but anytime is a good opportunity to most likely spot a pair of bald eagles. I hiked the trail the next morning and the same two eagles were in the same tree as if they had never moved. They may not have except for a splash into the lake to catch dinner or breakfast.
Yellowstone Lake State Park is part of the Wisconsin State Park system. There is a fee system to enjoy all of these parks. For more information on the fees click here. The Wisconsin State Parks do have a reservation system. In order to avoid my debacle, make sure you reserve on busy summer Saturday weekends.
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