"The earth has music for those who listen."
― George Santayana
In the middle of a business park on the far west side of Madison, there's a little oasis a block away from my apartment along Deer Creek. I don't know if it has a name, but but I can't recall a time I've been there when it's been anything other than tranquil and quiet. Remarkably, it all begins as a narrow path behind an office building.
Deer Creek meets Pheasant Branch Creek at the confluence pond along Deming Way in Middleton. Until I discover if it has a name, I'll simply refer to to it as Deer Creek Pond. Visiting this spot is a nice break from the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, which is often full of joggers, bicyclists, dogs (mostly on leash), and other sources of distraction from the tranquility of the woods and its critters.
Though it's a small patch of habitat (~10 acres) compared to Pheasant Branch Conservancy's 500, I've observed an impressive variety of birds here over the years: hawks, owls, waterfowl, a variety of warblers, sparrows and other songbirds, even a Northern Shrike a few years back. I don't visit the spot nearly as often as I probably should, especially during spring and fall migration.
I spent an evening there a few days ago and found a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows singing and foraging along a line of shrubbery. They were a little curious about me, but went about their business after I sat down in the grass about 30 feet away. While photographing the sparrows, I heard the songs of a Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler. There were Wood Ducks on the pond and a Belted Kingfisher rattled through a couple of times.
Seeee zree chidli chidli chi-chi-chi teew!
The surprise of my evening outing was finding a Great Horned Owl. Actually, an American Crow found it first and alerted me to the possibility of a nearby hawk or owl by its antagonistic cawing. However, the crow's heart must not have been in it; the corvid flew off after only several seconds of harassment. The owl was now alert with its eyes glowing toward me in the golden evening light.
Great Horned Owl
Meanwhile, the warbler parade at the creek corridor is underway. On Saturday morning my group of birders found 16 warbler species including Golden-winged, Blue-winged, American Redstart, Ovenbird, and a single Tennessee Warbler. While species diversity has increased, the number of individuals is still somewhat unimpressive. When are they coming? This week should be revealing. Will spring migration 2016 be a bit of a dud, or have the masses of neotropical songbirds been waiting to come north from forests to our south? Either way, the tree canopy is quickly filling in with leaves ― it's going to be tough seeing birds let alone get photographs of them.
We will have to bird by ear!
Dottie Johnson and Sylvia Marek
Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 7, 2016 6:15 AM - 10:45 AM
Great Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
All images © 2016 Mike McDowell