Sunday, May 04, 2014
What a weekend!
After a week of dismal weather, the sun was out most of Saturday and part of Sunday. We sure earned it! Though it doesn't always look like much to even the trained eye, the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy contains remarkable wild gifts from Nature. Though I never made it to the prairie or North Fork marsh, I saw 75 different kinds of birds today. On a day such as this it may have been possible to find close to a hundred bird species.
Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were foraging low and White-throated Sparrows serenaded trail hikers with their lovely boreal songs. I counted over twenty White-throats at one spot along the trail. There were at least a dozen warbler species at the conservancy, including Black-throated Green, Nashville, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Orange-crowned, Yellow, and Black-and-white. However, the biggest "warbler surprise" came when I received a phone call from Dottie Johnson.
After spending some time digiscoping Black-and-white Warblers, I headed back toward Park Street from the west side. Dottie had called me earlier asking which side of the corridor to bird (it's bisected by Park Street). I told her that I thought there was more songbird activity east of Park Street. Having gone in that direction, a few moments later she called to tell me that they were looking at a Northern Parula. Not having seen one yet this spring, I quickened my pace.
A few moments later I got another call from Dottie. What she told me didn't initially register because I asked her if she still had the parula. "There's a Townsend's Warbler!" she repeated in exhilaration. "What!? I'll be right there!" I replied. I crossed Park Street and briskly headed down the sloping path that hooks to the left at the bottom before the first creek crossing. As soon as I got to the edge of the creek bank, I saw around thirty birders with their binoculars all aimed in the same direction. David La Puma, who originally found the vagrant warbler, quickly got me on the bird. Though a couple people had already documented the sighting with photographs, I wanted a picture of this lifer.
Certainly not one of my best bird photographs, but its identity is obvious! As birders were busy watching the Townsend's Warbler, a Red Fox was watching the birders; it was a couple of American Crows that alerted us to its presence. At first someone said the crows were cawing at a cat, but I immediately recognized the critter below the corvids as a fox. Birders who already got good views of the rare warbler walked over to admire this beautiful creature staring back at us.
And what was the fox's reaction to this new attention?
I spent the rest of the day walking up and down the corridor trail with friends hoping to relocate the Townsend's Warbler, but it wasn't seen again. Perhaps it moved to another part of the conservancy or left entirely. I'm so grateful that I got to see this western vagrant, as I missed the Black-throated Gray Warbler that visited the conservancy briefly back in 2011.
What an amazing couple of days! I took more than 1,000 photographs over the weekend. With so much potential blog material, I wasn't sure what to share. So, how about a Blue Jay, Wood Duck, and some fresh Trout Lilies?
White Trout Lily
White Trout Lily
Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
May 4, 2014
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
All images © 2014 Mike McDowell