Sunday, January 17, 2016
Creaky Trees and Crunchy Snow!
Pheasant Branch Conservancy ― Frozen!
I met Mark, Dottie, and Sylvia at Craftsman for lunch today and wasn't sure whether or not I would want to endure the -20 windchill weather afterwards. But with a hot meal and coffee in my belly, I decided to go for it. Mark and Dottie are both getting over a cold virus and Sylvia had another obligation, so it was just me, creaky trees, crunchy snow, and the conservancy's birds.
Near the Conservancy Condos there was the usual assortment of chickadees, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers, and sparrows. I found a Common Redpoll at one feeder, but not as many Pine Siskins compared to my previous visit. There were Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but I didn't see or hear the Northern Flickers today. Sparrows were American Tree, White-throated, Song, and Dark-eyed Juncos.
In the deepest part of the woods I found a flock of American Robins ― a few dozen in all. Feathers puffed, all were using perches in the sunlight to keep warm. I noticed by walking more slowly they were less likely to be disturbed by my presence, so I took my time to find a nice spot from where I could get a few portraits of them.
American Robin ― Feather check!
American Robin ― Settling in.
There were lots of Northern Cardinals going about their business, but a few were perched out in the open to collect the sun's warmth. Soon the males will start singing early mornings, which is one of the first phenological changes that can be detected with the present assortment of winter birds at the conservancy.
The overwintering Gray Catbird appears to be doing just fine. I observed it foraging in a small springs, which doesn't freeze no matter how cold it gets. The catbird was flipping over vegetation and finding things to eat, perhaps small invertebrates of some variety. When I went through the area again, though, it was back eating buckthorn berries.
After my walk through the woods, I went to the prairie to check the big springs. On my way there I spotted a Northern Shrike, but it was too far away to photograph in the dogwood patches to the south. You can see in this photograph that despite the super-cold temperatures, there's a veritable oasis for the ducks and geese. With the water temperature at 50 degrees, it renders a sauna-like atmosphere to help the birds survive winter's chill.
Waterfowl at the Conservancy sauna!
Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jan 17, 2016 12:30 PM - 3:15 PM
American Tree Sparrow
All images © 2016 Mike McDowell