Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rewards of Spring!

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life."

― John Burroughs


Black-and-white Warbler

Our first Black-and-white Warbler of spring has found its way to the creek corridor on its northward journey. They're one of my favorites, but then again I can probably say that for most of the wood warblers. It's interesting to ponder a bird's journey: did this particular warbler come from Florida or from somewhere in the northern regions of South America? Will it stay in Wisconsin or is it ultimately headed to Canada's boreal forest? That these small songbirds cover such long distances is one of the awe-inspiring miracles of migration.


Common Nighthawk

This Common Nighthawk is leading the pack (see below map). It was discovered by a birder friend of mine who observed it flying into the creek corridor before sunrise. The nighthawk found a suitable branch high up in a tree to use as a roost and snoozed the entire day. Naturally, it might have traveled with other nighthawks that went unnoticed by observers elsewhere. Without having witnessed it flying in, it's difficult to say if anyone birding the creek corridor would have noticed this one. From the main path that runs along the creek, it appeared little more than a bump on a branch. After work, I went back to see if it was still there, opting for the upper trail from Parisi Park for a closer view.


Common Nighthawk sightings so far (2016)


Prairie Trillium

It's astonishing how quickly the creek corridor's spring flowers have blossomed in the past week. It's also hard to believe April is nearly over and there's only another month or so left of migration. The phenology of the spring season follows a similar theme each year, but the details are always more nuanced. In the avian realm, some birds are early, some late, others are right on time; we might miss a particular species or discover a rarity. Similar observations can be made of most other flora and fauna at the conservancy. And the more springs experienced, the better one becomes at detecting subtle changes and shifts.


Wild Ginger


Rue Anemone 


Wood Duck


Great Blue Heron

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 26, 2016 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM
65 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sora
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

The Messenger

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Warbler Parade Begins!


Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor

The woods along the creek corridor are greening up and more warblers are moving in. This morning my birding group found 6 warbler species, the best being a Yellow-throated Warbler. I've encountered this species only a few times in the past. In fact, the last one I saw at the conservancy was May of 2002. Other warblers this morning were Yellow-rumps, Palms, Orange-crowned, Nashville, and Black-throated Green.


Mayapple

Only a week ago the Mayapple were just little sprouts poking out through the leaves on the ground. With a synthesis of rain and sunshine over the past several days, they've opened their green umbrellas and their flowers won't take long to follow.


Palm Warbler


Common Violet

The White-throated Sparrows return en masse when the violets bloom...


White-throated Sparrow


Common Violet


Common Violet

The Belted Kingfisher searches for fish to eat along the creek corridor...


Belted Kingfisher

The Wood Ducks guard the nest box...


Wood Duck (male)


Wood Duck (female)

And more wildflowers...


Virginia Bluebell


Dutchman's Breeches






Yellow Trout Lily

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 24, 2016 6:30 AM - 10:30 AM
50 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Solitary Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April's Birds & Blooms


Yellow-rumped Warbler

As warblers go, there was a bit of a migration lull over the weekend. There weren't many new arrivals despite southeast winds. Other than Yellow-rumps there was one Nashville Warbler (a record early), a few Palm Warblers, one Louisiana Waterthrush, and three Pine Warblers. It's still early. Most of the Golden-crowned Kinglets have moved on and the corridor was devoid of any spotted thrushes. However, what is increasing as spring progresses is an abundance of birdsong to sift through. I love the challenge.


American Goldfinch

I'm grateful for my hearing and ability to identify most birds by ear. As I close in on 50 years of age, my vision certainly isn't what it once was. Fortunately, my hearing closes up most of the slack. Of course, I might walk right past a bird that isn't vocalizing. That's how Dottie picked up the Louisiana Waterthrush ― she was systematically scanning the creek bank and happened upon it. She did the same thing with the Nashville Warbler, though I found it at the same location the previous day.


Song Sparrow

The mornings have been cool as this Song Sparrow shows, but the afternoon temperatures have reached the sixties and seventies. Now that it hasn't been freezing overnight there are plenty of insects for the birds to eat at first light. As such, many songbirds are no longer foraging on the ground and have returned to the treetops.


Wood Duck

The seasonal transition that April renders is one of the best things about living in Wisconsin. Life awakens and Nature splashes her paintbrush in a myriad ways. We observe the slow progression distancing us from monochromatic winter. Spring seems almost to struggle at first, but then explodes before April ends. Summer isn't far away ― the effects of April's ephemeral nature will still be with us, but the transformation is utterly captivating to witness.




Bloodroot


Mayapple


Pasque Flower





Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 16, 2016 6:00 AM - 9:30 AM
53 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Bufflehead
Pied-billed Grebe
Osprey
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Poor Owl...

You mean several photogs played recordings to a roosting Eastern Screech Owl during the day just so that they could get a photograph of it with its eyes open and calling?

Say it ain't so!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Feathered Treasure

"The world is its own magic."

― Shunryu Suzuki


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Once again we opened the creek corridor's treasure chest and found riches in the form of feathered creatures. This time was a reunion of sorts. Sylvia was back from her two-month stay in Florida and Dottie was well enough for a hike after battling bronchitis. Though it was a cold day, the warming sun and sprightly birds kept us from feeling the chill.


Hermit Thrush

More Hermit Thrushes have arrived at the corridor. They'll spend a little time here before continuing on to the northern forests to breed. When foraging, sometimes they'll toss leaves aside to expose an insect's escape route. Occasionally they'll stir up insects by quivering one foot against grass or leaves. I've also noticed that Hermit Thrushes tend to survey for food items from a foot or so above the ground. Spying a morsel from above, they quickly hop down and grab it with their beak. Watching the direction one particular thrush was taking on the forest floor, I looked ahead for perches I thought it might use and waited.


Hermit Thrush

Golden-crowned Kinglets were grounded once again on account of the low temperatures. How low? It was a frosty 18 degrees F. when I first hit the trail at 7:00 AM. Fortunately for the kinglets there were tiny insects to be found on sticks and wood chips.


Golden-crowned Kinglet


Golden-crowned Kinglet

Eastern Phoebes held the demeanor of birds who have seen it all before this season. Enduring some particularly nasty weather the past few weeks they were less vocal, but still in prime shape.


Eastern Phoebe


Wood Ducks






Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers were foraging throughout the corridor trail. Their check calls were omnipresent during the hours of our outing. Though I had seen some earlier in the month, these were Dottie's first YRWAs of spring. Never underestimate the incredible healing power of Nature ― she didn't cough once!


Yellow-rumped Warbler

Like other insectivorous birds, the warblers scoured the ground for food. Migratory birds can survive during freezing conditions so long as they keep eating to generate heat-producing energy. With the warming trend next week, many songbirds will return to the treetops once midges and other insects hatch. Tree buds look ready to burst. South winds will help bring more feathered treasures. Will you be there to welcome them back?


Yellow-rumped Warbler

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 9, 2016 7:00 AM - 12:00 PM
59 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Three Early April Calls!


Hermit Thrush

I heard my first-of-the-year (FOY) Hermit Thrush during my rainy walk along the creek corridor this morning. I’ll admit now that their screy call used to really trip me up when I was a novice birder. In fact, there were three somewhat similar bird calls I would get mixed up this time of year: Hermit Thrush, Eastern Towhee, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Here are their calls:

Hermit Thrush:



Eastern Towhee:



Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:



I think most intermediate birders can pick out Yellow-bellied Sapsucker with relative ease, but I’ve witnessed even experienced birders confuse Hermit Thrush with Eastern Towhee.  And, as Nature is often so inclined, there exists call variation to raise the identification challenge.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 6, 2016 7:00 AM - 8:15 AM
49 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Audio Clips from All About Birds

Hermit Thrush © 2016 Mike McDowell

Sunday, April 03, 2016

There's Wildlife in the Conservancy!


American Robin

Noticing me with my photography gear and binocular, a man jogging along the creek corridor trail asked:

"There's wildlife in here?"

Why yes ― yes, there is!

There are toads, frogs, turtles, salamanders, snakes, pike, voles, shrews, mice, moles, bats, chipmunks, squirrels, flying squirrels, rabbits, mink, muskrats, woodchuck, otter, skunks, raccoons, opossum, foxes, coyotes, deer, cranes, turkey, owls, hawks, sparrows, warblers, moths, butterflies, flies, dragonflies, bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, crayfish, and more.

And as birds go, around 200 species use the conservancy each year.


Brown Creeper

It didn't rain, but it was still a very windy day. It wasn't as bad along the creek corridor on account of the surrounding trees.


Bloodroot

I literally watched Bloodroot open over the course of an hour.








Golden-crowned Kinglet

Loads of Golden-crowned Kinglets today.



Virginia Bluebell just about ready to bloom.


Virginia Bluebell

A very chewy Muskrat!


Muskrat

And the chickadees were hard at work!


Black-capped Chickadee







I finished my day at the prairie, enjoying the beautiful sky.



Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 3, 2016 7:00 AM - 11:00 AM
54 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell