Monday, July 26, 2010

Late July Birding



I spent most of Sunday enjoying the sights and sounds of Pope Farm Park in the Town of Middleton; the weather and lighting was perfect for digiscoping. The panoramic sunflower field is at peak and was announced in a local newspaper, attracting a multitude of park visitors to witness and capture its exquisite beauty. I took a few snapshots with my point-and-shoot camera, but quickly moved on to my primary quarry.



A relatively young prairie restoration effort, Pope Farm Park is attracting more and more grassland birds year by year. I was pleased to find a couple of Bobolinks. Last year Clay-colored Sparrows were somewhat sparse, but now their buzz buzz buzz song can be heard from every corner of the prairie. To the untrained ear, many would likely pass them off for an insect, like a grasshopper or cricket.



The park is also host to more showy songbirds like Eastern Bluebirds and Indigo Buntings. When I took these particular photos, I couldn't help think about a friend from Massachusetts who has never seen an Indigo Bunting. This bird shows hints of feather wear but still retains its gorgeous radiance. There were several juveniles lurking in the dense grasses by the oaks, so I was sure they had a busy and productive breeding season.





Another enjoyable discovery was the numerous Sedge Wrens that have recently taken up residence this summer at the park. Approximately twenty yards from one another, these two wrens exchanged songs practically the entire day. Towering above the prairie, the Sedge Wren below seemed to favor this particular perch, making a lovely portrait of a singing bird.



Pope Farm Park – July 25th, 2010:

Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2010 Mike McDowell

Thursday, July 15, 2010

15 years of staunch environmentalism in Middleton's Pheasant Branch Conservancy



"When angry residents organized against the Middleton City Council in 1995 over a plan to put sewer lines through a nature preserve, many people — including some of the angry residents — thought the group would dribble away once the issue blew over. Instead, the group, Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year after establishing itself as an often tough-minded environmental voice in the community."

Link: Full Article at Wisconsin State Journal

PBC image © 2010 Mike McDowell

Monday, July 12, 2010

Healing Day


Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are as numerous as I've ever observed at Pheasant Branch Conservancy; their witchity witchity witchity songs dominate the grassland. With worn plumage, the adult males don't look quite as exquisite as they did in spring, but this one wasn't as bedraggled as most I encountered during my stroll.


Rattlesnake Master

I think it would be interesting to experience the seasonal progression and transformation of a prairie from the perspective of a bird. When songbirds return in April and May, the grasses and plants are barely a foot tall; there are few places to hide and perch. But by the time juveniles fledge, it's a veritable micro-jungle; their habitat increases in size by depth. Birds take advantage of summer's growth by perching atop tall wildflowers (especially Compass Plant) when checking for danger or to hold territories.


Red-winged Blackbird


Bergamot

Carried by a gentle breeze, the fragrance of wildflowers is intoxicating. The fields are covered with Black-eyed Susan and Bergamot. Milkweed is doing exceptionally well this summer, which is good for the Monarchs. I like to inspect the plants carefully to see what might be hiding under a leaf. This time my efforts rendered this colorful Ailanthus Webworm Moth.


Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Taking a short break atop the drumlin, I draw in the panoramic scene overlooking the prairie and marsh. At least for one part of this nutty world, everything I can sense with my eyes and ears is as it should be. But then a lone Killdeer call reminds me of fall migration, what it may mean for birds that winter along the gulf and will be arriving soon. What we've done is heartbreaking and unforgivable, but I try to do my best to suppress despair and enjoy the good day that will help progress toward healing.


Song Sparrow

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 7/10/10
Number of species: 49

Mallard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Dickcissel
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

© 2010 Mike McDowell

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Light Pollution: A Growing Problem for Wildlife



Migratory birds are veering off course. Newborn sea turtles are crawling inland rather than moving towards the sea. Nocturnal insects are flocking to the cities. Why all the confusion in the animal kingdom? Artificial lights. Researchers convened to discuss the increasing impacts of light pollution earlier this week at the 24th annual International Congress for Conservation Biology in Edmonton, Alberta.

Link: Full Article from Discovery News

Friday, July 09, 2010