Thursday, April 03, 2008

Early Bird for the Early Birder!

NexRad frame from 04/03/2008

I can't recall ever having anything other than a Yellow-rumped Warbler as my first warbler of spring migration, but today proved the exception. I checked a few weather maps before going to bed last night. I noticed that wind changed to a southerly direction, and NexRad indicated detectable levels of bird migration coming out of Illinois. When I woke up this morning, I rushed to the computer and animated several hours of NexRad, indicating steady migration throughout the night. From this data, I predicted there would be many new arrivals at Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

Arriving at 7:00 a.m., my first new arrival was a Hermit Thrush foraging right along the trail, and then a Winter Wren's voice grabbed my attention. A little further down the trail I came upon a group of Wood Ducks perched high up in the trees. Fox Sparrows were present in good numbers, foraging on the ground alongside of Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. A few Eastern Phoebes were singing, too.

As I stood along the stream, I prepared to digiscope a Black-capped Chickadee that was busy working on clearing out a cavity in the side of a decaying tree. All of a sudden I was alerted to a loud chip-note. As the bird responsible for the call flew past me, I instantly knew it was one of two species. I was all set with my digiscoping gear and snapped away once the bird finally came to rest on a partially submerged log near the stream bank. After I getting a few ID-worthy shots, I studied the bird through my spotting scope: very pink legs, clear white throat and a bold supercillium. Then it sang and ended the ID challenge.

Louisiana Waterthrush!

Louisiana Waterthrush - Pheasant Branch: 4/03/2008

Fast-forward to work: I checked the record early arrivals for this species on WSO's website. There are three records before April 7th:

1. March 30, 1988 – Manitowoc, Charles R. Sontag
2. April 3, 1998 – Waushara, Mark S. Peterson
3. April 4, 1948 – Milwaukee, Gordon H. Orians

Rewind back to Pheasant Branch: Just moments after successfully digiscoping the waterthrush, I heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler and then watched it fly across the corridor trail and perch in willow tree. Warblers! The excitement has begun, but was over for me. I checked my watch and had to get to work. Time flies when you're seeing great birds!

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Cooper's Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Louisiana Waterthrush © 2008 Mike McDowell

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