Tuesday, October 28, 2014

More late October birding!


Pheasant Branch Conservancy's prairie parcel

More American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have found their way to the prairie over the past few days. I had a day off from work and spent a good share of the morning birding and digiscoping at the conservancy. Strong winds from the west kept sparrows concentrated on the east side of the drumlin, which was where I was able to photograph a few of them. While talking on the phone, I was alerted by another birder that a Northern Shrike had made a brief appearance. I circled the hill a few times and found a shrike perched atop one of the few trees that still has leaves, which you can see in the left of the photograph above. I got a documentation photo of the bird, but nothing I'm eager to share, especially when considering some of the great portraits of shrikes I got last year. I think this particular shot might be my favorite.


American Tree Sparrow


Dark-eyed Junco



Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 28, 2014 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
42 species

Canada Goose
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Northern Shrike
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Snow Bunting
American Tree Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Monday, October 27, 2014

Late October Sparrows


White-crowned Sparrow

Striking fall colors are fading and many trees are bare. Diversity-wise, the migration of sparrows at Pheasant Branch Conservancy is a little past peak, though Fox Sparrows are quite numerous at this time. American Tree Sparrows have begun trickling in; soon there will be a few hundred that will spend winter at the conservancy feeding on prairie plant seeds, plus doing their best to avoid being eaten by accipiters and shrikes.

Around twenty birders joined me on Saturday for a Madison Audubon field trip at the prairie and observed 37 bird species. In addition to the aforementioned sparrows, there are still White-crowned, White-throated, Song, Swamp, Savannah, Field, Chipping, but Lincoln's Sparrows have moved on. There might still be a straggler or two, but you can see from my eBird reports that they peaked between the end of September into early October:

Lincoln's Sparrows at Pheasant Branch Conservancy

2014-10-18 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-16 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-12 [6] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-10 [4] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-07 [8] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-05 [8] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-04 [6] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-10-02 [8] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-30 [2] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-27 [10] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-25 [5] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-23 [4] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-22 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-21 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-19 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-16 [2] Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-09-16 [1] Mike McDowell Checklist

This departure is slightly earlier than usual, but I've scoured the prairie parcel the last four times I've been there and haven't come up with any Lincoln's Sparrows.






Fox Sparrow


Fox Sparrow


American Tree Sparrow


Song Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow (HY)


White-throated Sparrow


The Prairie Parcel


Along the Creek Corridor



Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 26, 2014 7:30 AM - 11:30 AM
43 species

Canada Goose
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Time



I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion this evening on Wisconsin Public Radio and heard Joyce Sutphen recite her poem Next Time. It has some pleasant sentiments, but why wait until next time? What's the matter with this time? Perhaps I've missed the point or maybe this poem is meant for a different audience. But in a way, I believe this is one of the most perfect poems I've ever heard. After work today I went to Owen Conservation Park where I knew all the names of the birds. I wasn't really birding, though, I was admiring and photographing the dramatic fall colors. It was such a pleasant and healthy way to spend a couple of hours. So, maybe I'm giving this poem that I didn't write to you. Maybe it will give you hope or serve as a catalyst to escape the paralysis of modern life that grips so many and seldom ever lets go. Anyway, I've been to Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was incredible, but it doesn't have anything on the canopy Nature renders this time of year. Here is my church ... its only tenet is impermanence.


















Hermit Thrush

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nelson's Sparrow!



I hit the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy before sunrise. Kyle Lindemer was already present, scoping the trail for the Harris's Sparrow. There were dozens of White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, plus a few Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Song Sparrows. Eventually we were joined by Cynthia Bridge, Lindsey Boland, and Sylvia Marek (Dottie Johnson would join us later in the morning). After waiting for over an hour for the Harris's without luck, we decided to check the rest of the prairie to see if there were any other new arrivals.



There was an impressive variety of sparrows in the habitat along the southern slope of the drumlin, including Swamp, Song, Field, Lincoln's, and Chipping. We could also hear the calls of an Eastern Towhee coming from the top of the hill. The big surprise came near where the trail turns north along the eastern slope. I was busy taking landscape photos when Lindsey abruptly called out "Nelson's! I got a Nelson's!" She quickly got the rest of us on the bird and I got a lovely confirming look through my bins. The bird flew a short distance down the trail and I was able to take a crude digiscoped image of it (below). The little orange sparrow then flew across the path and popped out of the brush right where Lindsey, Cynthia, and Sylvia were standing, perching directly in front of them. "Please tell me you're getting photographs of that bird!" I said to Cynthia. She had her 100-400mm right on it and was able to get outstanding photographs of it.


Nelson's Sparrow


Yellow-rumped Warbler

After lunch we went to the creek corridor to see if there was any warbler activity. There were only Yellow-rumped Warblers, but the fall colors were pretty spectacular. While I was busy looking for macro photography subjects, Dottie Johnson found a Red-headed Woodpecker, which was my first of the year, or year bird in birder parlance. Other birds along the creek were Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadees, and other expected species.



With the recent cold temperatures during the night, I didn't expect to find much in the way of spiders and insects, but there were still some around. I found a couple of treehoppers and Peacock Flies, but the macro highlight was finding a couple phiddipus jumping spiders right along the fence where we parked.


Jumping Spider Phiddipus audax





What a fantastic weekend! Awesome birds and wonderful pals to hang out with! With effort and help from my friends, I got three new bird species for the year. Saturday was the Harris's Sparrow, then Sunday a Nelson's Sparrow and Red-headed Woodpecker. What great fun!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 12, 2014 7:00 AM - 12:30 PM
47 species

Canada Goose
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Magnolia Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lots of WCSPs? Think HASP!


White-crowned Sparrow

Right on schedule! Just as White-crowned Sparrow numbers made a discernable jump, I found a Harris's Sparrow (bottom photo) this morning at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I immediately called Dottie Johnson, left Sylvia Marek a message, texted a few friends, and then posted the sighting to the Wisconsin Birding Facebook group. Dottie and Mark arrived within 10 minutes and got to see the handsome sparrow; the bird was a Wisconsin lifer and their first Harris's in nearly 20 years. While we were waiting, I snapped a few digiscoped images of the gorgeous White-crowned Sparrows, however a couple of these images were taken yesterday.

Zonotrichia rules!


White-crowned Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow


Harris's Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Friday, October 10, 2014

A few more fall birds ...


Yellow-rumped Warbler


White-crowned Sparrow


Ruby-crowned Kinglet



All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

Sunday, October 05, 2014

October

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


The Prairie Parcel

It was a rather rainy Madison Audubon field trip Saturday morning at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, but Sunday was a golden October day. If I had explored the overlook and the North Fork, I probably could have topped 70 bird species for my outing. Still, 62 is very good for early October. In another month it will be challenging to surpass even 40 species, so I'm enjoying the remaining fall migrants while they're staging at or moving through the conservancy.


Song Sparrow

It was 33 degrees when I hit the field this morning. Most prairie plants were covered with sparkling frost. Many birds, including this Field Sparrow, were perched in the sunlight, puffed up to keep warm.


Field Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows are becoming more numerous, which is a sign that's it's just about the right time for Harris's Sparrow. The juvenile white-crowneds lack the black and white crest the adults have, but their size and shape gives their identity away.


White-crowned Sparrow

And the rest ...


White-throated Sparrow


Swamp Sparrow


Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Red-tailed Hawk


Along the Creek Corridor

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 5, 2014 7:00 AM - 11:00 AM
62 species

Canada Goose
Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Merlin
Blue Jay
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell