Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Pheasant Branch Creek Corridor
This is one of the locations along the Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor where warbler activity has been extremely good. There have been a couple other spots with intense foraging and presumably it's due to an abundance of insects. It's interesting how areas like this changes from one year to the next, but there always seems to be a static hot spot or two throughout spring migration.
Warbler numbers have been so high that many of the rocks along the creek corridor are covered with their guano. It's typically the highest rocks protruding out of the water probably because they make the best perches as the birds seek their next insect. In twenty years of birding the conservancy, I don't recall seeing this before. Naturally, it doesn't mean there has been an increase in the population sizes of these species, but that we have abnormally high concentrations of them this spring in southern Wisconsin. This may be due to the prolonged cold further to the north. I have never experienced so many back-to-back 20+ warbler species days!
Though digiscoping is fantastic for close-up bird portraiture, sometimes I'll photograph songbirds that are much further away. Typically I like to be between 25 and 35 feet for songbird photography, but the above Scarlet Tanager was perched near the top of a tree 60 yards from me. It still makes a nice picture. Likewise, the Wood Thrush pictured below was quite far away, but still renders the essence of a bird in its element in a way that close-up portraiture doesn't reveal.
The four most abundant warblers this spring have been Chestnut-sided, American Redstart, Wilson's, and Magnolia. Having unusually high numbers of birds around increases the chances of obtaining high quality portraits. Knowing how migrations typically go, it will be difficult not to be spoiled by this spring. I've managed to photograph over 20 warbler species this spring. In a typical spring I generally get around a dozen, and that's if I'm lucky!
A couple mornings ago I happened to notice an American Crow turning over stones along the bank of the creek corridor, likely searching for something to eat. After watching it for a couple of minutes, the crow decided to take a break and calmly sat in the sand. The crow knew I was there, but wasn't concerned about my presence. Forgive my anthropomorphizing, but it honestly appeared to be simply taking in the scenery and enjoying the calmness of the early morning sunrise.
All images © 2014 Mike McDowell