Sunday, April 07, 2013

Early April at Pheasant Branch!

Eastern Phoebe

What beautiful weather and birds! Phenological patterns seem just a little late, but a delayed leaf-out bodes well for seeing and photographing birds. I scoured parts of Pheasant Branch Conservancy for several hours today, including the south creek corridor, confluence ponds, and the North Fork marsh. I never made it to the prairie, though. I didn't think I would tally 60 bird species, but that's what I got. Still, when I left the field I couldn't help but feel as though I had missed something.

Brown Creeper

I didn't see any American Tree Sparrows today, but no doubt some are still around. Also, I know from other reports there are American Woodcock at the prairie parcel, but I didn't expect to find any during daylight hours. Eastern Phoebes are taking up residence near wooden bridges that cross the creek. There's a Carolina Wren I usually hear singing before 8:00 a.m. at the second bridge east of Park Street. I wonder if this is the same bird that I was seeing last fall.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

The most interesting observation today was the numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging on or close to the ground. Carefully watching them through my spotting scope, I could see that they were catching tiny insects on patches of snow. Kinglets are insanely difficult to digiscope, but I managed to get a few acceptable shots of the lively little sprites.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Eastern Towhee

Near the large cottonwood trees on the west trail, I heard a familiar reee call belonging to an Eastern Towhee emanating from the dense tangle of fallen branches. I sat on a tree that had fallen during the December blizzard and waited for the towhee to make an appearance. I knew it would only be a matter of time. Sure enough, the bird popped into the open and made his way to higher perches, singing at each stop.

Eastern Towhee

Wilson's Snipe

I followed the trial all the way west to the confluence ponds. Near the end of the trail is a marshy area called the North Fork. This is the location where there were over 30 nesting Marsh Wrens last summer. There are no wrens yet, but plenty of Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds. In addition to a few Tree Swallows, I saw my first Barn Swallow of spring. At the big pond there were Buffelhead, Hooded Mergansers, American Coots, Lesser Scaup, Mallards, and over a dozen Northern Shovelers.

Northern Shoveler

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Apr 7, 2013 7:00 AM - 2:00 PM
60 species

Canada Goose 
Wood Duck 
Northern Shoveler 
Green-winged Teal 
Lesser Scaup 
Hooded Merganser 
Turkey Vulture 
Northern Harrier 
Cooper's Hawk 
Red-tailed Hawk 
American Coot 
Sandhill Crane 
Wilson's Snipe 
Ring-billed Gull 
Rock Pigeon 
Mourning Dove 
Great Horned Owl 
Belted Kingfisher 
Red-bellied Woodpecker 
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 
Downy Woodpecker 
Hairy Woodpecker 
Northern Flicker 
American Kestrel 
Eastern Phoebe 
Blue Jay 
American Crow 
Tree Swallow 
Barn Swallow 
Black-capped Chickadee 
Tufted Titmouse 
White-breasted Nuthatch 
Brown Creeper 
Winter Wren 
Carolina Wren 
Golden-crowned Kinglet 
Eastern Bluebird 
American Robin 
European Starling 
Cedar Waxwing 
Louisiana Waterthrush 
Yellow-rumped Warbler 
Eastern Towhee 
Vesper Sparrow 
Fox Sparrow 
Song Sparrow 
Dark-eyed Junco 
Northern Cardinal 
Red-winged Blackbird 
Eastern Meadowlark 
Common Grackle 
Brown-headed Cowbird 
Purple Finch 
House Finch 
Pine Siskin 
American Goldfinch 
House Sparrow 

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell


  1. I think you mis-labelled some of this kinglet photos ;)

    Nice photos, as usual, though!

  2. Hi Alvan,

    Thanks for the edit/catch! I must have had Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the brain, in hopes I would find one (or two) in the dozens of Golden-crowneds yesterday. I'll bet I find one this morning!

    Mike M.

  3. Just stunning photos. How in the world did you manage to get such shots of these extremely lively and most beautiful creatures. Chapeau !