Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Late Winter Birding

American Tree Sparrow

By watching and listening to birds, you can sense spring is just around the corner. Sunday's mild weather was perfect for a late winter hike through Pheasant Branch Conservancy. As the Earth revolves around the sun, it's our planet's axial tilt that makes our home star appear to climb toward the zenith; days are getting longer and birds begin to respond to the change.

Tufted Titmouse

When birds are exposed to sunlight for longer periods of time, certain brain cells trigger a series of hormonal reactions telling them to find a mate, which they do by singing. Sweet trills from Dark-eyed Juncos and melodic songs of American Tree Sparrows filled the woods along the northern section of the creek corridor. Tufted Titmice emphatically sang their cheerful peter peter peter songs from suitable perches.

Barred Owl

A roosting Barred Owl perched high in a tree warming itself and thawing icicles that formed on its breast feathers sometime during the night. I've seen this particular owl fish the creek before, which is my guess how it got some of its feathers wet. A few times the sleepy owl preened, using his beak to carefully pluck the icicles. The afternoon temperature would eventually rise above freezing, so what the owl was unable to remove certainly melted by mid-day.


There wasn't as much activity on the east side of the conservancy, but that may have been due to the presence of a Cooper's Hawk that zipped through. Though other birders have spotted Sandhill Cranes in southern Wisconsin, the Pheasant Branch cranes have yet to return. I’m sure they’ll be back any day now.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Feb 24, 2013 8:00 AM - 11:30 AM
28 species

Canada Goose
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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