Saturday, June 04, 2011

To the Prairies!


Summer is still a few weeks away but it sure feels like it's already arrived. Yesterday, temperatures were in the mid-90s with high humidity to boot. The memory of our unusually cold spring has been baked away!

Biking home yesterday from work, I discovered a few singing Dickcissels along Deming Way. They weren't there Thursday, or the day before that. It's one of my favorite grassland species and a bird I'm grateful to have frequent observations of throughout June and July during my bike rides. In reference to spring's beauties, John Clare said, "The careless observer would laugh at me … he does not give himself the trouble to seek them out." If only the developers knew what they are wrecking along Deming Way. Would they care? Wisconsin is open for business, don't you know.

It's pretty hot again today, so I went birding before conditions became uncomfortable. As many of my longtime readers know, during June I tend to retreat from the creek corridor at Pheasant Branch and do more birding and nature photography at local prairies. For the most part, birdsongs are more insect-like but there is still a lot of interesting and colorful avian diversity to behold, plus prairies are adorned with ground fireworks in the form of wildflowers and fascinating insects.


I chose Pope Farm Park in the Town of Middleton, which is located less than two miles west from my apartment. It's a very lovely spot and Spiderwort was in bloom today. As a prairie restoration in progress, it's quickly becoming quite the sparrow factory. A few days ago I was surprised to hear a Henslow's Sparrow singing there. But a birder I know who monitors the bluebird trail has found them during breeding season at the park in the past. Other emberizids included Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and Chipping Sparrow.

Flying for stretches at a time, I saw a few newly arrived Dickcissels that seemed to be looking for the perfect spot to claim. I also heard an Orchard Oriole calling from one of the large Oak Trees. There isn't a huge variety of bird species there, but what is there is special and grassland species need all the help they can get in the form of new habitat.

All images © 2011 Mike McDowell


  1. Mike -

    It was great to see you at Pope Farm today. I like the description as a "sparrow factory." I will no doubt be checking it this summer for Henslow's.

    I wonder if Pope will ever be used by Upland Sandpiper, Grasshopper Sparrow, or Red-headed Woodpecker. They are all species I wouldn't be too surprised to find there in the future.

    Good Birding!

  2. Update: I just saw on eBird that someone had a Grasshopper there on 6/7! Eight sparrow species might nest there! Go figure.

    - Max