Monday, June 25, 2012

Late June at Pheasant Branch

Sandhill Crane 

It was early Sunday morning at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. A pair of Sandhill Cranes ambled through the tall prairie grass and bugled loudly as I came around the corner of the drumlin trail. I was the intruder and accepted the scolding without any indignation and waited for them to cross the trail before continuing on to the top of the hill. They were a beautiful sight!

Purple Prairie Clover

The prairie is in peak bloom. Wildflowers are thriving despite the lack of rain. There's Purple Prairie Clover, Rattlesnake Master, Purple Coneflower, Bergamot, Culver's Root, Black-eyed Susan, Hoary Vervain, Compass Plant, Lead Plant, Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, and more. Chicory may be non-native (though naturalized), but I love the way it accents the other wildflowers of the prairie.

Lead Plant


I observed the Yellow-breasted Chats carrying food to their nesting area over the weekend. Hopefully they're not feeding Brown-headed Cowbird chicks. I don't believe that's the case because I'm not hearing cowbird begging calls whenever the chats return with food. The male enters the nesting area from a variety of access points, so I'm not positive on the exact location of the nest.

Yellow-breasted Chat

The male's behavior has been fairly predictable. He'll sing for a few minutes before going off to catch food. He's often gone for several minutes at a time. When he returns he often gives a few calls (see this video) before heading down to the nest. One time I saw the male bring her food. While both birds are pretty skulky, the female is far less gregarious than her mate; I rarely see her outside the nest area. We probably only have a few more weeks with the chats, as they become almost impossible to find by the middle July when they stop vocalizing. Most of the time I hear them first, and then see them; a silent chat is a very stealthy being.

Common Yellowthroat

While waiting for the chat, I've been able to get a lot of other bird portraits. Haven taken a few hundred photographs of this Common Yellowthroat, I feel like I've gotten to know him over the course of the past few weeks. He doesn't seem to mind my presence at all.

Common Yellowthroat

There are three male Common Yellowthroats within earshot of one another, but they don't seem to have any territorial concerns. Each one has distinctive molt and plumage characteristics that I use to tell them apart.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jun 24, 2012 6:15 AM - 10:15 AM
64 species

Canada Goose 
Wood Duck 
Ring-necked Pheasant 
Great Blue Heron 
Red-tailed Hawk 
Sandhill Crane 
Spotted Sandpiper 
Ring-billed Gull 
Mourning Dove 
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
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 
Barn 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 
Brown Thrasher 
European Starling 
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat 
American Redstart 
Yellow Warbler 
Yellow-breasted Chat 
Chipping Sparrow 
Field Sparrow 
Savannah Sparrow 
Song Sparrow 
Swamp Sparrow 
Northern Cardinal 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 
Indigo Bunting 
Red-winged Blackbird 
Eastern Meadowlark 
Common Grackle 
Brown-headed Cowbird 
Orchard Oriole 
Baltimore Oriole 
House Finch 
American Goldfinch 
House Sparrow 

All images © 2012 Mike McDowell

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