Friday, June 24, 2011

It's like a Time Capsule

I recently came into possession of a near-mint condition 1961 edition of Wisconsin's Favorite Bird Haunts by Sam Robbins (thanks Ben!). Last night I paged through the Dane County section and was surprised to learn a few things about the avifauna from 50 years ago; it's like reading a time capsule on birds. In the section intro Robbins writes:
"The city of Madison is especially favored as a haven for birds because of its lakes and marshes. Its natural setting and large wilderness areas owned by the state combine to concentrate the birds."
Fortunately, this remains true today. I've observed 268 bird species in Dane County and around 220 at Pheasant Branch Conservancy alone. We're lucky to have places like Cherokee Marsh, UW Arboretum, Owen Park, Nine Springs, Picnic Point, and other great places to watch birds. Some places had different names:
"No doubt one of the most productive marshes near Madison has been Hammersley's marsh (area "J"), now slated to become part of a new real estate development project. In addition to the ducks and rails, a great variety of shorebirds annually visit this marsh. Willets, Knots, Wilson's Phalaropes, and Hudsonian Godwits have been seen here in recent years."
Today area "J" is Odana Marsh, now adjacent to a golf course. The present habitat is unlikely to attract any of these particular shorebird species, but it's still a songbird hotspot during migration. The last time I had a Red Knot in Dane County was at Nine Springs almost a decade ago. Both Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits are occasionally reported there (Nine Springs) during spring migration.

Then there was this surprise:
"The general vicinity of Hoyt's Park (area "F") attracts the Bewick's Wren,despite the recent platting of the general area. Its song can be heard here in the early spring most years."
Bewick's Wren!? I didn't know they had been regular visitors to southern Wisconsin! I checked Birds of North America online and found that there haven't been any breeding records here since 1966 (Robbins 1991). Perhaps in another 50 years my blog will be a kind of time capsule as well. I wonder what changes there will be by then?

Bewick's Wren courtesy of USF&WS National Digital Library


  1. I'm amazed when I read the changes in New York State between our first breeding bird atlas in the 1980s and the second in the 2000s. The differences over 50 years must be even more extreme. I'm glad that eBird exists now so information like this will be even more readily available to anyone with an internet connection and people can really dig in and find trends as they occur.

  2. are THE Birdman...thanx for entertaining us.