Sunday, May 01, 2011


Prairie Warbler © 2011 Mark Johnson

What a wonderful but unusual weekend of birding at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I had 77 species along the creek corridor trail on Saturday, and 68 on Sunday. It all began with favorable winds from the south that finally opened up the floodgates. All night Friday and into early Saturday morning, millions of birds poured into southern Wisconsin. Then on Saturday night and into Sunday, moderate to strong winds were from the southwest and west. Conditions were primed for an influx of migratory birds, but I never would have anticipated a Prairie Warbler (Saturday) and a Black-throated Gray Warbler (Sunday) would find their way to Middleton's nature conservancy. Fortunately for the WSO Records Committee, the two rarities were extensively photographed by local area birders.

Black-throated Gray Warbler © 2011 Eric Wood

Though I missed the Black-throated Gray Warbler, I was very pleased to see the Prairie Warbler. I probably would have been able to see the black-throated gray, but I was helping a couple of Girl Scouts earn their "All about Birds" Girl Scout IPA (Interest Project Award). I was told about the rare warbler shortly after entering the trail at Park Street. Rather than hurry my group along or make a dash for it, I took my time with the kids and helped them identify birds they had never seen before; for them nearly every bird was a lifer. Despite seeing numerous warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and other songbirds, they were most thrilled by seeing a Great Horned Owl. I've seen Black-throated Gray Warblers in Arizona, so it wasn’t a lifer for me. But it still would have been a nice one for my personal records. However, I'm just glad so many birders are coming to Pheasant Branch Conservancy and telling me it's some of the best birding they've experienced in years. 

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 4/30/11
Number of species: 77

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Solitary Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch


  1. Seem to be a very productive day! Nice pictures!

  2. Mike-

    What a weekend at Pheasant Branch! I birded the conservancy from five to six last night, and missed the Black-throated Blue and Gray, but had a great time anyway, as usual!

    Just out of curiosity, I was wondering how many species of warbler have you personally recorded at Pheasant Branch, and how many have been reported overall? It seems to be one of the best, if not the best, warbler spots in Wisconsin.


  3. Hey Max,

    Me: 34, if you count Yellow-breasted Chat. (This does not count the Black-throated Gray, because I didn't see it).

    Good birding,