Sunday, September 25, 2016

Late September Birding

"Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul... but I must confess that I love you only because you are a prelude to my beloved October."

― Peggy Toney Horton


Gray-cheeked Thrush

It was another incredible weekend of birding at the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. We got to see a male Black-throated Blue Warbler (a favorite), plus a wonderful variety of vireos, thrushes, and other warblers. I was surprised to find Wood Thrush, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and Gray-cheeked Thrush during our outing―that rarely happens during fall migration. One thrush species was missing, but I haven't seen any Hermit Thrushes yet this fall. In any case, the experience was a fond farewell to songbirds we won't see again until spring.


Spiny Puffball

The light wasn't particularly good for bird photography today, so I decided to photograph some of the neat mushrooms we found on the forest floor. Actually, I did this during a second trip to the creek corridor just after a brief rain shower. While sitting on the ground and preparing my camera, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. To my astonishment, an Ovenbird walked by just several feet away. I didn't want to frighten it, so I sat perfectly still until it was about a dozen feet from me. I slowly lifted my bins so I could continue to admire its foraging strategy. I resumed photographing mushrooms once the little ground warbler was out of sight.


Gilled mushroom of some variety.


Amanita muscaria


Amanita muscaria


Ramaria sp.


Ramaria sp.

Though I'll likely skip birding Monday morning, I'm probably finished with the creek corridor for the season. Sparrow migration is underway and I would like to try and find a Harris's Sparrow at the prairie parcel. No doubt, many of the sparrows are there already, like Clay-colored, Lincoln's, Savannah, Field, Vesper, White-throated, and White-crowned. Sadly, my energy level and overall motivation is still somewhat low and I don't feel completely recovered from having the flu a few weeks ago. Hopefully a few visits to the prairie this week will provide the necessary inspiration.


Smooth Aster

Happy Fall!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Sep 24, 2016 10:00 AM - 12:45 PM
48 species

Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rusty Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open Birding for 09-25 (changed)

09-25 @ 7:30AM PBC (CC) Warblers! [OB]

I think we will do well at the creek corridor.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Three to go!


Tomorrow River, Portage County

I was too ill to accompany Mark Johnson last weekend as he picked up his lifer Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle Cicindela duodecimguttata. I got it yesterday, though! Mark decided to come with me because he wasn't completely satisfied with the photographs he got on his first trip. The scene of the bug is a crushed limestone path intersecting the Tomorrow River just north of Amherst. Looking either north or south from the path was like experiencing two different seasons. To the south, summer was holding on, but to the north I could see hints of fall approaching.



September is a great time of the year to search for tiger beetles, but since they don't live for very long I was a little worried they wouldn't be there. Mark had seen at least a dozen or so individuals, so I was fairly optimistic some of them would still be alive. And so they were. We found several of the tiger beetles, alive and well, hunting on the path within minutes of arriving at the spot.


Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle Cicindela duodecimguttata

Now there are only three Wisconsin tiger beetle species I haven't seen:

Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle Cicindela patruela
Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle Cicindela longilabris longilabris
Cow Path Tiger Beetle Cicindela purpurea purpurea

Note: you can see all 16 species at Mike Reese's website.



I think I'm probably done with tiger beetles for the season; it's nice to save something new for the following year. I confess that I've been feeling unmotivated to do much of any digiscoping this summer. Perhaps that will change once sparrows from the north return to the prairie. Though I've had an inordinate fondness for tiger beetles since I was a boy, documenting them has been a nice break from bird photography. I've photographed nearly 300 bird species and it can get old. It takes a lot of time and energy to prepare and produce a blog post about birds and birding and there are many other fascinating things to see and do at Wisconsin's awesome natural areas. Plus, it's very relaxing hitting the trail carrying only a binocular, which is what I've been doing this summer.











Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Sep 18, 2016 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM
51 species

Wood Duck
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back in Business!



We may need to park elsewhere Friday morning for Open Birding. Work crews are going to start paving High Road and Park Street tomorrow, so it's for sure going to be blocked off on Thursday. Anyway, if the usual parking spot where Park Lawn meets Park Street is closed to access, use the above map to find your way to the parking lot behind the Middleton Police Department near the intersection of Donna Drive and Parmenter Street. There is easy trail access to the creek corridor from there.

See you there!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Sep 14, 2016 5:15 PM - 7:00 PM
40 species

Mallard
Cooper's Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Saturday, September 10, 2016

MME!



It's a Major Migration Event (MME)!

Alas, I had a 102F fever last night and still feel pretty fatigued, so I doubt I'll go birding in the morning―I need rest. I'm sure there will be lots of woodland sprites foraging for insects in the tree canopy, so get out there if you can!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Open Birding: No



There will likely be no open birding tomorrow on account that I've caught a cold and will need to rest this weekend. I'll post here should I change my mind.

Good Birding!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Field Guide

There is a field guide, don't ya know ...

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Two Tiger Beetles!


Spring Green Preserve (west unit)

Winds from the south have stalled bird migration for the past few days. Yesterday, Dottie Johnson and I scoured the creek corridor at Pheasant Branch for 3 hours in order to reach 10 warbler species. We found our first Northern Parula of fall migration, a single Canada Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and very low numbers of other warbler species. More will come, but we'll have to wait for the next cold front to bring them down from the north.


Silky Aster

Last night I saw on Facebook that Alex Harman and Lester Doyle found Common Claybank Cicindela limbalis and Splendid Cicindela splendida tiger beetles Saturday at Spring Green Preserve. Claybank would be a new species for me and I've only ever observed and photographed a single Splendid. I called Mark Johnson to see if he wanted to go on a tiger beetle hunt for the two species. Claybank would also be a lifer for him, so we headed west early this morning to see if we could relocate the beetles. Since Alex and Lester reported multiple of each species, we thought our chances were pretty good.


Rough Blazingstar

The prickly pear cacti were done flowering, but blazingstar and asters were in full bloom. We carefully navigated our way to the spot Alex showed me on a map. As we began finding rocks, we knew we were getting close.


Prickly Pear Cactus

And just like that, we found 3 Splendid Tiger Beetles! The first thing I noticed is that these are fairly large tiger beetles, nearly the size of Big Sand Cicindela formosa generosa. Now that we were in the right spot we set our sights on finding Claybank.


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Common Claybank Tiger Beetle Cicindela limbalis

Mark found our first Common Claybank Tiger Beetle after several minutes of searching. They're fairly similar looking to the Splendid and both species show a little variation in color and maculations (patterns) of their elytra (wing cases). There were many more Splendid than Claybank. I'd estimate around 30 of the former and half a dozen of the latter, so we had little difficulty observing them.


Common Claybank Tiger Beetle Cicindela limbalis

Fortunately for us, the tiger beetles were fairly cooperative for the first hour or so. After the sun warmed them, though, they became more skittish and difficult to approach. Nevertheless, I was able to get many handsome portraits of these colorful tiny monsters. Lichens on the rocks provided brilliant accents.


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida


Splendid Tiger Beetle Cicindela splendida

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Drizzle & Fog


Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor

It was a drizzly Saturday and foggy Sunday, at least for most of the morning. Despite the weather conditions, my birding party found a nice assortment of warblers over the weekend. Today was a little better than Saturday with 11 warbler species (see checklist below). Poor lighting was not favorable for digiscoping, so I carried only my Nikon 1 V1 and smaller lenses in my backpack as we hiked the creek corridor trails in search of our feathered quarry.



Dottie mentioned that the creek corridor reminds her of Peru this time of year. And like Peru, it would be quiet for awhile and then suddenly burst with mixed songbird flocks, frenetically foraging high up in the tree canopy. We didn't get great views of the spritely birds, but were still able to observe identifiable field marks for faded Blackburnian Warblers, fall plumaged Chestnut-sided Warblers, and diminutive appearing Tennessee Warblers. I can identify some of the warblers by chip note, or at least separate any warbler vocalization from the resident songbirds.



Finally! I found my first Buffalo Treehopper Stictocephala bisonia of summer. It was grasping to cup plant Silphium perfoliatum, which the tiny green insect extracts sap using its mouthparts. I also found a few more Red-banded Leafhoppers Graphocephala coccinea, but didn't take time to photograph them. Still, apart from mosquitoes, there continues to be a dearth of interesting insects.


Buffalo Treehopper Stictocephala bisonia

There are numerous wildflowers along the trail, the most prolific this time of year being Yellow Jewelweed Impatiens pallida. Orange Jewelweed Impatiens capensis is also present but less common in the woodland sections of the conservancy. There are only a few patches of Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana, with the largest just after the first bridge going west from Park Street.


Yellow Jewelweed Impatiens pallida

It wasn't a highly productive weekend in terms of photography, but it sure was enjoyable sifting through the warbler flocks with my friends. I'll probably skip birding Monday morning, but hope to get out a few mornings before next weekend.


Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Aug 28, 2016 7:00 AM - 11:00 AM
48 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Open Birding Parking!



There might be a bit of a parking issue for Open Birding this Sunday, August 28th. Park Street is under construction and I'm pretty sure the cul de sac where we normally park by Parisi Park is going to be inaccessible. If this is the case, I'm proposing an alternate parking area behind The Stamm House restaurant, which recently closed. I'm not sure about the parking lot at the corner of Branch Street and Century Avenue. The entrances there have been blocked off, but if you can enter and there aren't any "no parking" signs, it ought to be fine. In any event, the first hour I plan to bird the creek corridor between Park Street and Century Avenue. So, if you can't get to the regular Park Lawn & Park Street location, try 6625 Century Avenue and enter the creek corridor trail just to the east.

UPDATE: Middleton Public Works told me today (8/26) that we will be able to park at the cul de sac where Park Street meets Park Lawn on Sunday morning for birding!

Bird Brain



Pairing experimental science with advances in animal neurobiology, we have dramatically increased our understanding of avian intelligence. Cognitive abilities like creativity, insight, math, planning, intentionality, degrees of sociality, deception, language, spatial memory, imitation, etc., are not exclusively natural human traits. The more we understand bird intelligence we begin to realize they are not mere instinct machines responding to external stimuli, but in many ways they’re a lot like us.

For a comprehensive and fun examination of the current science of bird intelligence, I wholeheartedly recommend Bird Brain – An Exploration of Avian Intelligence by Dr. Nathan Emery. Senior lecturer in cognitive biology at Queen Mary University of London, Dr. Emery’s research focuses on what corvids, apes, and parrots understand about their social and physical worlds, from insight and imagination to psychology and evolution innovation and creativity.

The book is beautifully illustrated with color photographs and diagrams, written in short chapter style that will appeal to the lay reader as well as advanced avian aficionados. Dramatically enhancing my own appreciation for birds, I suspect this is a book I will routinely refer back to. Published by Princeton University Press, Bird Brain is available wherever books are sold!

Here’s a preview (.PDF)

Link: Bird Brain at Princeton University Press