Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Forest Floor

"In the woods there must be a sense that time has ceased and that for a moment we pause on the edge of some extraordinary discovery, that for the space of a heartbeat we are close to knowledge, on the verge of the solution to all problems, on the threshold of an answer."

― Faith Baldwin


Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor

We're definitely past spring migration's peak, but birds will continue to pour into Wisconsin until early June. My birding friends and I have done well with wood warblers at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor. I can't remember the last time we got Hooded, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Black-throated Blue in the same season. Here's the complete list of warblers that were present during the past few weeks:

Ovenbird
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler

A Cerulean Warbler was discovered by Trudy Karlson at the creek corridor, but I was at work at the time. I tried to find the bird after afterwards, but was unable to relocate it. I missed this species at the conservancy last year as well, but found plenty of them at Wylausing State Park where they are exceptionally abundant nesters.


Chestnut-sided Warbler

Though there is much birding yet to be done this spring, my attention is beginning to shift toward the forest floor for wildflowers, spiders, insects, and whatever else I can find there. Observation with attentiveness reveals a world as beautiful and strange as something rendered out of a CGI science fiction movie like Avatar's Pandora. But this place is real and not an artificial theme park.


Jack-in-the-pulpit

Unlike a theme park, you're welcome to visit and explore public natural areas just about any time you like. Apart from the expense of binoculars or a camera, the cost is minimal. Some places are more popular than others, but are no long lines to witness Nature's awesome beauty.


Maidenhair fern


Hexagonal-pored Polypore


Gray-cheeked Thrush

This might be my final post for May 2017, so I'll end it with a bang of wildflowers. Sometimes I scroll through my blog's archive to relive the moments of April and May. I won't soon forget all the wonderful birds that stopped at the creek corridor this spring and graced us with their presence, even if only for a few days. Most have continued northward on their way to the boreal forest where they will spend the summer months. Additionally, I'm grateful for spending time in the field with friends, sharing and admiring the thrills of spring with kindred spirits.


Wild Ginger


Wild Ginger


American Cranberrybush


Starry Solomon's Seal


Columbine


Virginia Waterleaf


Virginia Waterleaf


Showy Orchis


Showy Orchis

Wildflowers ... and a cool spider, too!


Tuffed-legged Orbweaver (Mangora placida)

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 21, 2017 6:28 AM - 10:25 AM
59 species

Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Philadelphia Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Veery
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Tennessee Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Warbler Code!


American Redstart

This is going around on Facebook, but I thought I would post it here as well!

The Warbler Code
  1. Warblers are meant to be heard, not seen. Occasionally. Faintly. Most often by others.
  2. When chasing a warbler, remember to check terrain. Hospital visits after falls can last throughout migration.
  3. When warblers are personally seen, others will not see them.
  4. When warblers are seen by others, your chances run between 0-5%.  5% might be optimistic.
  5. "Right there" does not constitute a direction.
  6. Most of us do not know our tree species. "The Chestnut-sided is 20 feet up in the purple gallinaceous sumac" is not helpful.
  7. Warbler songs cross over. Yellow and Chestnut-sided are particularly apt to get you in trouble. American Redstarts revel in their ability to sound like others.
  8. Those who recognize warblers by chip notes are worth their weight in gold. Follow them discretely, like within 18 inches.
  9. Others will not hear what you hear. When you point out a song, warblers interpret your pointing as "shut up".
  10. When all else fails, enjoy the cardinals or orioles.
All true!

American Redstart © 2017 Mike McDowell

Monday, May 15, 2017

Spring Apex

"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

― Wendell Berry


Pheasant Branch Conservancy Creek Corridor

It's hard to believe it's already the middle of May. Songbird migration is at peak and Saturday's outing rendered our first twenty-warbler species excursion of spring. The forests are still stunning shades of verdant green before June blends them. An increasing array of blossoming wildflowers decorate the woodland floor. Sprinkle in a variety of spritely warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes arriving each morning before sunrise and you have the all the ingredients for one of the finest displays of natural beauty.


Magnolia Warbler

Last week we were very fortunate to have four consecutive days of Black-throated Blue Warbler sightings at the conservancy. I often tell other birders I'm lucky if I see one or two a year, and usually only for a single day. It's great when they hang around so other birders get an opportunity to enjoy them. Being on the western edge of their range, it can be a challenging bird to find each spring.

Several years ago while birding with Dottie and Sylvia, I was looking at a male and female Black-throated Blue Warbler at the same time Dottie said she also had them in view. However, I noticed she was glassing in a different direction ― that's when I realized there were four! Eventually they all came together and that was the only time we've ever had four Black-throated Blues in our field of view. Checking eBird, that sighting was seven years ago...the time sure does fly.


Black-throated Blue Warbler


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Cedar Waxwings


Mayapple


Starry Solomon's Seal


Woodland Phlox


Blue-eyed Grass

Last weekend we had such a great time at Indian Lake Park, we decided to return and hike the same route with one minor deviation. Because Dottie hadn't yet seen a Blue-winged Warbler, we added a section of trail at the far east end where I've found them nesting in the past.


Indian Lark Park

As you can see, Indian Lake Park is an extraordinarily dreamy place. Wild Geranium, purple and yellow violets, various anemone, and other native wildflowers decorated the entire trail for three miles ― absolutely breathtaking. Wood Thrush songs added an ethereal quality to the experience.

During our previous hike, Sylvia found Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) that were not yet in bloom, so we were excited with anticipation to see how they were doing. To our utter disappointment, someone else found them and decided they didn't want anyone else to enjoy them. Digging up wild orchids is becoming far too common in the Madison area. Last year it was the Showy Orchis, and now this. The same thing seems to be happening at Baxter's Hollow as well. What can one do?


Wild Geranium


Shagbark Hickory Bract

Where the woodland trail was illuminated by sunlight, it wasn't uncommon for us to find Six-spotted Tiger Beetles. I stopped and photographed them for several minutes while Dottie and Sylvia continued listening to chorus of birdsong. We heard Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, Yellow-throated Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, and Black-throated Green Warblers. All together, we tallied 56 bird species, mostly by ear.


Six-spotted Tiger Beetle





Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 13, 2017 5:46 AM - 9:55 AM
76 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Veery
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Replacements on the way!



Link: Understanding Radar and Birds (eBird)

Reserves



This one goes out to all the wonderful people who pull Garlic Mustard along the creek corridor trail of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The reserves are ready ― resistance is futile. Just know that this goes back for dozens of yards from the trail, all the way up to backyards adjacent to the corridor. The few plants that get pulled and left on the trail eventually go to seed and continue to spread the menace.

If you pull it, bag it.

I'm working on a new birding blog post, but I probably won't have it finished until Monday or Tuesday.

Good Birding!

© 2017 Mike McDowell

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dane County Chasers!



Dane County's finest chasers are starting to dominate the lead. Some have already ticked as many species as I'm going to see all year. But 7.5 mile eBird patch? Virtually no competition:



Think Globally, Bird Locally!

Link: What is patch birding?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

NRF Field Trip Results!


Prothonotary Warbler 

What an amazing field trip! Any time you can get Prothonotary Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler during the same outing is just awesome. Plus, we got good looks at other warblers like Black-and-white, Northern Parula, Golden-winged, and Magnolia. As has been the case for the past few days, the greatest concentration of songbird activity was located around the first bridge near Century Avenue. Tree, brush, and plant vegetation is already very dense, so many birds were identified by song only. The warbler parade continues!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 11, 2017 6:00 AM - 9:00 AM
60 species

Wood Duck
Mallard
Cooper's Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

Monday, May 08, 2017

Orioles are back!

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."

― Rachel Carson


Baltimore Oriole

Here in southern Wisconsin the beauty of spring is bursting all around us in a myriad ways. We have favorable winds for bird migration, but once again, it won't last for very long. Along with various warblers, vireos, and flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles returned to the conservancy over the weekend. Most of the warblers will keep flying north, but the orioles will spend the summer along the creek corridor. We are ready for the next wave of feathered migrants!


Indian Lake Park

I spent the weekend birding and exploring Pheasant Branch Conservancy as well as other nearby natural areas: Pope Farm Conservancy, UW Arboretum, Indian Lake Park, and Baxter's Hollow in the Baraboo Hills. As you can see from these Indian Lake Park photographs, our weather was absolutely gorgeous. Dottie, Sylvia, and I scoured the trails for interesting wildflowers while listening for birds. There were a few Ovenbirds and Yellow Warblers, but we were hoping to find Blue-winged Warblers on territory. I guess we were just a little early.


Indian Lake Park


Indian Lake Park


Rue Anemone

Yesterday we found a small mixed flock of warblers near the overlook parking lot along Pheasant Branch Road. There were nearly a dozen Yellow Warblers, a single Black-and-white Warbler, a very vocal Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroats, and a Nashville Warbler. At this same location I saw my first-of-year (FOY) Lincoln's Sparrow foraging along the gravel trail. Further down the path near the two bridges we found a Northern Waterthrush.


Black-and-white Warbler


Northern Waterthrush

By the way, it needn't be an open birding event if you want to come to the creek corridor and bird with me and my troupe birding friends. On any given morning during the first two weeks of May, there are almost always impromptu gatherings of birders that tag along with us. So, don't be afraid of bothering me. If I want to be alone, you won't be able to find me.


Prairie Trillium


Otter Creek at Baxter's Hollow

Now that we're nearing peak songbird migration, I sense the annual dilemma to bird light versus hauling all my photography gear along. Naturally, the less gear I'm carrying the easier it is for me to find and observe birds. But if I don't bring it, then I may not have much material to share for my blog. In any case, I'll do what I can to keep the posts coming. However, this week I have early morning field trips on Wednesday and Thursday, so I won't be carrying my digiscoping rig during those particular outings.


Spring Beauty


Spring Beauty


Jacob's Ladder

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 7, 2017 6:29 AM - 10:41 AM
67 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Hooded Merganser
Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sora
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

Thursday, May 04, 2017