Sunday, October 12, 2014
I hit the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy before sunrise. Kyle Lindemer was already present, scoping the trail for the Harris's Sparrow. There were dozens of White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, plus a few Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Song Sparrows. Eventually we were joined by Cynthia Bridge, Lindsey Boland, and Sylvia Marek (Dottie Johnson would join us later in the morning). After waiting for over an hour for the Harris's without luck, we decided to check the rest of the prairie to see if there were any other new arrivals.
There was an impressive variety of sparrows in the habitat along the southern slope of the drumlin, including Swamp, Song, Field, Lincoln's, and Chipping. We could also hear the calls of an Eastern Towhee coming from the top of the hill. The big surprise came near where the trail turns north along the eastern slope. I was busy taking landscape photos when Lindsey abruptly called out "Nelson's! I got a Nelson's!" She quickly got the rest of us on the bird and I got a lovely confirming look through my bins. The bird flew a short distance down the trail and I was able to take a crude digiscoped image of it (below). The little orange sparrow then flew across the path and popped out of the brush right where Lindsey, Cynthia, and Sylvia were standing, perching directly in front of them. "Please tell me you're getting photographs of that bird!" I said to Cynthia. She had her 100-400mm right on it and was able to get outstanding photographs of it.
After lunch we went to the creek corridor to see if there was any warbler activity. There were only Yellow-rumped Warblers, but the fall colors were pretty spectacular. While I was busy looking for macro photography subjects, Dottie Johnson found a Red-headed Woodpecker, which was my first of the year, or year bird in birder parlance. Other birds along the creek were Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadees, and other expected species.
With the recent cold temperatures during the night, I didn't expect to find much in the way of spiders and insects, but there were still some around. I found a couple of treehoppers and Peacock Flies, but the macro highlight was finding a couple phiddipus jumping spiders right along the fence where we parked.
Jumping Spider Phiddipus audax
What a fantastic weekend! Awesome birds and wonderful pals to hang out with! With effort and help from my friends, I got three new bird species for the year. Saturday was the Harris's Sparrow, then Sunday a Nelson's Sparrow and Red-headed Woodpecker. What great fun!
Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 12, 2014 7:00 AM - 12:30 PM
All images © 2014 Mike McDowell