Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Winter Woods

"It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary."

~ David Bailey

Cedar Waxwing

Today might end up being my final Pheasant Branch bird outing for 2012, but I'm going to try and hit it one more time on Saturday or Sunday. The temperature was only 10 degrees Fahrenheit when I hit the trail this morning. On account of the cold temps and it being Christmas, I was a little surprised to see quite a few other people out there. Nearly everyone I met commented on the beauty of the snow covered trees. It really was spectacular.

The lighting was much better today, but I know from experience that it's a tad difficult getting sharp digiscope results when it's so cold. Still, the calm conditions and bright sun made it a great day to bundle-up in layers, walk the trails, count the birds, and survey the aftermath of Thursday's big blizzard; lots of trees had fallen from heavy snow.

That's the spot!

Bird-wise, it was a story of expected winter species. But there were a few changes since the Madison Christmas Bird Count on the 15th. I was unable to find the White-throated Sparrows that had been hanging out behind the Conservancy Condos and the Sandhill Cranes finally left the marsh the day after the winter storm. I already miss hearing their bugling calls. I found over a dozen Pine Siskins, but no redpolls. There was a flyover Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle, a few Cedar Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and White-breasted Nuthatches.

At one point a Cooper's Hawk flew in and scattered the finches, juncos, tree sparrows, and other songbirds in all directions. The fire-eyed raptor chose a high perch to survey the area for any lingering birds that might become its next meal. Quite a menacing looking bird!

After birding the trail system north of Century Avenue, I headed over to the creek corridor to see what I might add to my day list. The only birds I found there were Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, a few Dark-eyed Juncos, and two Brown Creeper. No owls! But the neat ice formations attached to rocks at the creek crossings caught my eye, so I spent some time photographing them.


After a few hours of admiring the winter woods, my toes were starting to feel numb. I decided to head home to warm up with some Tazo Vanilla Rooibos tea. Have you ever felt that peculiar sense of accomplishment after a long winter walk? Compared with spring and summer, it's much more of a production in terms of preparation and then removing layers once you're back inside. It's a great feeling!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Dec 25, 2012 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
26 species

Canada Goose 
Cooper's Hawk 
Bald Eagle 
Red-tailed Hawk 
Rock Pigeon 
Mourning Dove 
Red-bellied Woodpecker 
Downy Woodpecker 
Hairy Woodpecker 
Blue Jay 
American Crow 
Black-capped Chickadee 
Tufted Titmouse 
White-breasted Nuthatch 
Brown Creeper 
American Robin 
European Starling 
Cedar Waxwing 
American Tree Sparrow 
Dark-eyed Junco 
Northern Cardinal 
House Finch 
Pine Siskin 
American Goldfinch 
House Sparrow 

All images © 2012 Mike McDowell


  1. Beautiful sceneries you have there Mike. Thank you for sharing these lovely images.
    Best regards, Sjerp