Sunday, November 03, 2013

A foggy morning!

It was a chilly sunrise with dense fog blanketing low-lying areas. Only a faint outline of the drumlin was visible when I arrived at the prairie. Within minutes, a heavier fog rolled in and reduced visibility to mere yards. For a while there was perfect calm and no shadows.

To wait out the fog, I stationed myself at the small hill near the parking lot and almost felt like it was the extent of the universe. Of course, it was illusory; I could hear various songbirds on essential errands and bugling Sandhill Cranes as they prepared to depart the marsh.

The prairie was covered with frost, giving everything a hoary monochromatic appearance. It remained in this form for an hour or so, but eventually the sun reemerged and began to render a little color to the fields. Before the fog burned off, there was enough time to photograph a naturally filtered sun, revealing several sunspots.

And then something unexpected happened ... a fog bow to the west! It was rather mesmerizing, actually.

Once the light was restored, I set my sights on a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos a short distance from the hill where I was standing. Closely observing them, I could see they were alternating between eating seeds and nibbling on frost to quench their thirst.
Dark-eyed Junco

After visiting the juncos, I walked the perimeter of the prairie to see what other birds were present. There are still dozens of Fox Sparrows, though I didn't see the leucistic one today. Every so often I heard the rapid seep-seep-seep of American Pipits and the chuckling calls of Lapland Longspurs as they flew over.
Fox Sparrow

Most of the White-throated Sparrows have moved on, but there are still many White-crowned Sparrows on the trail that runs adjacent to the agricultural field. Perhaps the most abundant bird at present is the American Tree Sparrow. Even though they just arrived, there is little respite; they'll be pursued by hawks and shrikes throughout their winter stay at the conservancy.
American Tree Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

One by one, or a few a time, bird species become seasonally absent from the conservancy. For the first time since early spring, my conservancy birding visits are yielding species counts in the thirties. It's probably still possible to get forty or more, but I would need to include the creek corridor, confluence ponds, and the north fork marsh. In a couple weeks it'll be twenties and thirties until late March. The long wait begins.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Nov 3, 2013 6:30 AM - 10:30 AM
33 species

Canada Goose 
Ring-necked Pheasant 
Sharp-shinned Hawk 
Cooper's Hawk 
Red-tailed Hawk 
Sandhill Crane 
Ring-billed Gull 
Mourning Dove 
Red-bellied Woodpecker 
Downy Woodpecker 
Blue Jay 
American Crow 
Horned Lark 
Black-capped Chickadee 
White-breasted Nuthatch 
American Robin 
American Pipit 
Lapland Longspur 
American Tree Sparrow 
Fox Sparrow 
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow 
White-throated Sparrow 
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco 
Northern Cardinal 
Red-winged Blackbird 
Rusty Blackbird 
Common Grackle 
House Finch 
American Goldfinch 
House Sparrow 

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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