Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Solitary Sandpiper

The major drought this summer has made the days crawl along for me, but we've finally been getting much needed rain. Droplets are pelting my bedroom window as I type. While recent high temperatures have evaporated much of my motivation for birding and digiscoping, I have noticed that bird song is diminishing during my morning bike rides through Pheasant Branch. Many songbirds are beginning to disperse before the onset of migration. But already the first fall migrants are moving into southern Wisconsin and beyond. In fact, just last weekend I spotted my first southbound migratory bird at the conservancy - a Solitary Sandpiper - foraging at one the confluence ponds near Deming Way.

Should we really call it fall migration, though? It's still only the middle of summer. But birds reckon seasonal intervals in their own way and it's time for some of them to move on. Some species have incredibly long and arduous journeys ahead of them. For example, a Solitary Sandpiper that breeds in the boreal forests of Canada or Alaska might spend the winter in central or South America. Perhaps the sandpiper I saw at the North Fork pond on Saturday flew into Wisconsin overnight from Ontario or Manitoba.

I like to picture in my mind the incredible view these migratory birds must witness under a starry dome during nighttime flights when skies are clear, occasionally passing over the city lights below them. Being among the first fall migrants, this is a great time of year for me to catch up on my shorebird observations because there isn't competition with wood warblers at the creek corridor just yet. The Market Street pond where I like to digiscope shorebirds was nearly dry before the recent rains refilled it. Right now, though, it's a little too high for decent shorebird habitat. I'm not complaining! I love the rain and I'm aware of a few other places around Middleton it will create small ponds where I might be able to find a few shorebirds.

Solitary Sandpiper © 2012 Mike McDowell

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