Monday, July 18, 2011

The First Migrants

Least Sandpiper

It's hard to believe at this time of year fall bird migration has already been underway for a few weeks. Genetically honed and adapted to Earth's natural cycles, shorebirds like the Least Sandpiper began leaving their Canadian breeding territories in late June, just after the summer solstice. I first noticed a few southbound shorebirds last week (Least and Solitary Sandpipers). Not far from my apartment, there's a drainage pond with good shorebird habitat where I can view and photograph these spectacular migratory birds. Though they've come far already, they still have a long way to go.

Tall St. John's Wort

Given the rather uncomfortable hot and humid weather this week, I probably won't spend much time outside. Before it got to warm yesterday morning, I went birding at Pheasant Branch Conservancy via bicycle and found 67 species (mostly by ear). The prairie has reached its summer apex and is adorned with wildflowers like Bergamot, Tall St. John's Wort, False Sunflower, and Purple Cone Flower. It's a beautiful sight, I just wish it wasn't so hot out!


There are still Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts singing, but their songs have become slightly less emphatic. I noticed that an Indigo Bunting was singing only fragments of his full song. I saw Eastern Kingbirds and Baltimore Orioles feeding their recently fledged young. Dickcissels are still singing along Deming Way, creating a lovely grassland rhythm from Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparows, and Eastern Meadowlarks.

Song Sparrow

"As a species, we are most animated when our days and nights on Earth are touched by the natural world. We can find immeasurable joy in the birth of a child, a great work of art, or falling in love. But all of life is rooted in nature, and a separation from that wider world desensitizes and diminishes our bodies and spirits. Reconnecting to nature, nearby and far, opens new doors to health, creativity, and wonder. It's never too late."

Richard Louv - The Nature Principle

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jul 17, 2011 8:00 AM - 9:45 AM
67 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed 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
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2011 Mike McDowell


  1. Hi Mike, I noticed Common Raven on your list. Just wondering how common they are in Dane county? I believe I saw one in the winter a few years ago. Great blog, and amazing photos as always. Looking forward to seeing my lifer clay-colored sparrows soon at PBC.

  2. Hello.

    That was an eBird data entry error on my behalf. I zero'd it out, but I see it stuck somehow. Off I go to eBird to see why it's still there. List edited to reflect that fact that I did not see a Raven at PBC!


    Mike M.

  3. What a good day of birding. Nice to get five swallow species in one day! Yes, it does seem strange that fall migration has started when it is still so hot out. Funny to think that passerines will start heading south in a matter of weeks.

  4. Enjoyed the close up pictures. Makes me want a scope :-)