"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
― Henry David Thoreau
Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended, the evenings are dark by the time I'm finished with work. As such, a sunny morning without obligation is all the more cherished. While the warm light just after sunrise has its visual moments of appreciation, I prefer to conduct bird photography about an hour or so later. A chilly morning brings the birds out to feed with less concern over my presence. There is a feeling of promise in the crisp air.
The Prairie of Pheasant Branch Conservancy
The long shadows retreated and I began my hike around the prairie...
American Tree Sparrow
American Tree Sparrows continue to arrive and can now be found in just about every mixed sparrow flock throughout the conservancy. White-crowned Sparrow numbers have dropped a little with more immature birds present than adults. I was pleased to find a single Savannah Sparrow and Eastern Towhee, but there were no Lincoln's, Field, or Chipping Sparrows just like last weekend. I ponder their current location for a moment.
There are still Swamp and Song Sparrows around and a small number of them will overwinter. However, they'll soon abandon the prairie for the small springs close to the Conservancy Condominiums. There they'll have ample food, water, and cover to endure the snowy season. Having said that, I have heard we're supposed to experience a comparatively mild winter. It will be interesting to see what stays.
Sprightly Dark-eyed Juncos occupy nearly every habitat type available at the conservancy, sometimes together in small flocks, but I occasionally happen upon a solitary bird. This one has a messy beak from recently feasting on prairie plant seeds.
Beyond any doubt, the showy Fox Sparrow is my favorite November emberizid. There's something about their rich burnt orange and russet, white highlights, and a touch of gray that embodies the fall migratory songbird. Stunning as they appear, their fall songs are just as sweet to the ear as they are during spring migration.
When I arrived at the north side of the drumlin, I was a little surprised to see a stunning display of lingering fall colors. Very soon, though, these will also fade and fall, then the entire savannah will be devoid of leaves until springtime. I pause to take in the scenery and then snap a few photos.
While photographing the fall foliage, a Fox Sparrow popped out on a branch just dozen or so feet away from me. I slowly backed up, popping the lens off my camera and mounting it on my scope while moving. You can tell from the dirt on its feet and beak what this sparrow has been up to. It hopped over to an adjacent branch and the wind from behind blew up a skirt of feathers.
All better now...
I heard the high-pitched plaintive calls of Cedar Waxwings coming from above, so once the Fox Sparrow returned to the ground to resume foraging, I aimed my lens at them. There were several dozen waxwings in the flock. I carefully picked through them with my binoculars to make sure they were all Bombycilla cedrorum. You never know when a Bohemian Waxwing will show up!
Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Nov 7, 2015 7:30 AM - 11:30 AM
American Tree Sparrow
All images © 2015 Mike McDowell