Sunday, March 20, 2016


"In the winter you may want the summer; in the summer, you may want the autumn; in the autumn, you may want the winter; but only in the spring you dream and want no other season but the spring!"

― Mehmet Murat ildan

Eastern Phoebe

I celebrated the Vernal Equinox early this morning with a walk along the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Recently returned, a few Eastern Phoebes were singing near bridges (they love to nest underneath them) and theirs were the first songs I heard when I stepped onto the trail.

Though it was a chilly morning, the corridor resonated with avian activity: songs of cardinals, chickadees, finches, sparrows, and juncos in every direction. I listened carefully for other new arrivals, but my hearing became drowned out by a mobbing murder of crows and a thug of jays. Yeah, I know it's 'band' or 'party' but I think 'thug' suits them better in this situation.

I launched my investigation...

Eastern Gray Squirrel

The scolding Gray Squirrel seemed to know what the trouble was all about.


Safe in a cavity, the raccoon couldn't have cared less and was busy cleaning its feet.

Great Horned Owl

Carefully scanning through the tree branches, I eventually found the source of the corvid cacophony ― a Great Horned Owl. And from the look of its bloody talons and bill it had recently taken a conservancy critter for breakfast. Eventually the jays and crows moved on and I'm sure the owl was very grateful for that!

I followed the corridor trail out to the confluence ponds. For the fourth year, a pair of American Kestrels have taken up residence at a utility pole along the road. The ponds were a little quiet, but there were Green-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, and Canada Geese. A Belted Kingfisher rattled through at one point. I haven't seen any Tree Swallows yet this year, and I suppose that's a good thing because the nighttime temperatures are still pretty cold.

Willow Catkins

After my walk at the creek corridor, I headed over to Pope Farm Conservancy to check up on the Eastern Bluebirds. Lucky for me, there was a male and female near the parking lot. I followed the pair along a fence line as they hunted for whatever insects they could find in the grass.

Eastern Bluebird

Breezy with partly cloudy skies rendered rapidly changing lighting conditions, but their blue color was stunning either way.

I've also been making regular visits to the Lake Street boat launch on Lake Mendota where there has been pretty good diversity of waterfowl. So far this migration cycle I've found Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Loon, and more.


Red-breasted Merganser

Hooded Merganser (female)

Hooded Mergnaser (male)

April is just right around the corner! To be sure, April and May pass too quickly for me and I'm sure many other birders would agree. Naturally, it's on account of time spent on the trail. Sometimes I ponder what's more exciting: is it Spring or the anticipation of Spring? It's almost as if a moment's contemplation of it is like a singularity of thought that ultimately expands into a universe of those two months.

Enjoy the ride!

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Mar 20, 2016 7:00 AM - 9:15 AM
41 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

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