Thursday, July 19, 2012

Art gets his chat!

Early one Friday morning in June, Art traveled all the way from Shawano to see the Yellow-breasted Chat at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. He met his friend Larry in Appleton and the two shared the ride for the rest of the trip. Art is 85 years old and has been a birder for over 40 years, but Yellow-breasted Chat somehow managed to elude him during his decades of Wisconsin birding. Since the chats at Pheasant Branch were being regularly reported, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to add one to his life list. What Art and Larry didn’t know is that the climb to the top of the drumlin isn’t necessarily an easy one, especially under sweltering temperatures.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy, prairie and savanna parcel.

I was already at the site the morning they Art and Larry chose to visit the chats. Actually, I knew Larry was coming because he emailed me requesting specific directions. However, I didn’t know about Art until Larry told me a friend of his was unable to make it up the hill. Sad, I thought. I met Art on my way down the drumlin when I had to leave for work and told him the chats were present and not that much further away. Art told me he was simply unable to make it the rest of the way up the hill. He said it would be a lifer for him, which only fueled my determination to help him see it. As someone who enjoys sharing birds with other birders, this was a vexing situation for me. He was so close to his nemesis Wisconsin bird and there just had to be a way. I stayed with Art for a few minutes until I had to get going so I wouldn’t be late for work.

Later that day I got an idea, made a phone call, and sent Larry an email:
Hey Larry,

If you and your friend want to try for the chat again, I got permission from the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy to drive my car up to the top of the drumlin.

Just let me know...

Good birding!

Mike M.
A few days later Art and Larry repeated the southward journey to Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The three of us met at the prairie parcel parking lot with my car already on the other side of the gate, ready to take us up to the top of the drumlin. The trails are wide enough to accommodate vehicles because that’s how restoration volunteers haul their equipment around the prairie. Naturally, I had never driven my car on any part of Pheasant Branch, so I took it real slow.

Art (far right) gets his chat!

The male Yellow-breasted Chat began singing within a few minutes of our arrival. It took a while, but Art eventually got to see the female chat perched in the thicket and the male make a flight up to one of the oak trees. Larry, who saw the birds a few days before, said he got an even better look this time. A week later I got a nice card from Art thanking me for the effort in helping him see and hear his first-ever Yellow-breasted Chats!

All images © 2012 Mike McDowell


  1. That was very cool of you to go the extra mile for this guy!

  2. Thanks Mike!

  3. This is such a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it and thanks for helping the gentleman get his lifer! This epitomizes the joy of birding!