Friday, January 19, 2007

Birds along the Road

( Snow Bunting searches through the snow)

For the past few mornings on my way into work, I've been making stops to watch mixed flocks of Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks between Waunakee and Middleton. Though I hadn't seen the birds all winter, I knew once we got our first heavy snowfall they would be forced to leave farm fields (where they're almost completely undetectable) and head for roadsides in order to find food...undigested seeds in manure and waste grain - yum yum!

(Horned Lark on the watch)

The first flock (~200 birds) I encountered was along Woodland Drive, just on the outskirts of Waunakee. About a mile further south I came across a smaller flock near the intersection of Meffert and Pheasant Branch. About another two miles south, I was startled to find huge mixed flocks of all three species along Balzer Road – several hundred, perhaps even thousands of birds. They were very active, zooming around the fields and over the roads, but unfortunately some of the birds weren't so lucky with morning rush traffic.

(Horned Lark)

(Lapland Longspur)

As I watched, nobody slowed down for them – not once. Sadly, I had the misfortune of watching one of the birds, a Horned Lark, get smacked by a car. Sadder still, its corpse wasn't the only one along the road. I wonder if drivers even notice these large flocks as they wing it over the road? Do they, but think they're a bird deemed of less value like a House Sparrow? I wonder if they knew what they were, a beautiful Snow Bunting, if perhaps they would slow down for them?

(Snow Bunting Range © BNA)

Perhaps if they knew how far some of them traveled, even beyond the Arctic Circle for some, if they would give them just a little more room and time to do their thing. It's not like we have to slam on the brakes...just slowing down a little would be enough. The snow cover made it easier for me to see them, but life for them was easier before the snow.

(Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting)

All bird images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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