Sunday, May 04, 2014

What a weekend!

White-throated Sparrow

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 Warbler

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.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

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.

Black-and-white Warbler

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.

Townsend's Warbler! 

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.

Red Fox

And what was the fox's reaction to this new attention?

Oh, geez!

Blue Jay

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?

Wood Duck

White Trout Lily

White Trout Lily

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
May 4, 2014 
75 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Solitary Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell


  1. Love the photographs of the fox!

  2. The photo of the warbler in flight is amazing as well!