Friday, May 31, 2013

May Ends

Nashville Warbler

Another May of birding has come to an end. Migration isn't technically over just yet, but we're well past peak. I think the biggest lesson of this spring has been the freakishly cold weather and how birds responded to it. It hasn't been a problem for the past few weeks in southern Wisconsin, but migratory birds headed for Canada's boreal forest continued to experience weather related hardships into northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. You can read more about what happened on Laura Erickson's blog.

There were several days at Pheasant Branch Conservancy when warblers and other songbirds were searching for insects on the ground. I've seen this before during past migrations, but never the extent that it occurred this spring. On one hand it meant photographic opportunities and incredible views of birds that are usually in the canopy, but I was cognizant to appreciate they were struggling more than usual to find something to eat with the colder conditions.

I visited the conservancy 31 times this month and tallied 145 bird species, surpassing my previous May record of 136 species set in 2012. I missed Connecticut Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher, but found a Pileated Woodpecker, Nelson's Sparrow and Virginia Rail – three species I seldom ever find at Pheasant Branch.

Gray-cheeked Thrush - Dane County

I wasn't impressed with catharus thrush migration this spring. While Hermit Thrush numbers seemed typical in April, I found only one Gray-cheeked Thrush and only a handful of Swainson's Thrushes and Veeries during May. While eBird shows typical migration for Gray-cheeked for the entire state, Dane County was down. Did the birds take a route along Lake Michigan instead of more inland? Did favorable winds push them through in a hurry? Also, what happened to Blue-headed Vireos in Dane County this spring? Their numbers were way down, too. Every migration seems to have a few mysteries.

Digiscoping-wise, I had a very productive season with lots of beautiful images to preserve memories of my spring birding excursions. Sometime in April I switched from using the Swarovski TLS APO adapter to the DCBII with an 18.5mm lens (Nikon 1 V1). The shorter focal length made it considerably easier to track fast-moving songbirds. When I felt I needed more magnification, I simply changed the ocular zoom from 25x to 30x, or even 40x, with only minor loss of detail and resolution. There are pros and cons with each adapter, but I plan to stick with the DCBII for a while.

I'll likely spend more time at prairies throughout June. I bought a new macro lens for my Nikon 1 V1 and intend to do more insect and wildflower photography.

Nashville Warbler © 2013 Mike McDowell

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