Sunday, January 15, 2017

January Jewels

"Sometimes, when we are far from clocks and schedules, we can still recapture a lost sense of place-based time. On a relaxing camping trip or a long day outdoors, perhaps, we can slip back into the rhythm of the sun."

― Richard J. Borden

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

After missing several days of birding on account of having a nasty cold virus, I felt recovered enough this weekend to go for hikes on Saturday and Sunday at the conservancy. The weather was unseasonably beautiful and it felt great to be outside in the fresh air once again.

Northern Shrike

The Northern Shrike was busy hunting the fields on the south side of the prairie parcel. Though at least one birder got fairly close photographs of this particular bird last week, so far it's been pretty distant whenever I'm there. Not to worry, though. I've certainly experienced my fair share of close encounters with shrikes at the conservancy in the past.

American Robin

Wisconsin birders know that if you look in the right places you'll find overwintering American Robins. I pointed one out to a couple today and they were astonished to learn this bird factoid. Though there are some non-migratory robins, the ones we see in our state during winter are likely migrants from further to our north and this is as far south as they go. Though I'm sure they'd prefer worms, berries will carry them through to spring.


The highlight of my weekend came from a tip I got from Cliff Anderson, who told me about a Merlin perched on a post near the intersection of Pheasant Branch and Balzer Road. We met on the trail near the little springs and it was still a bit of a walk back to my car. I was thinking it would probably be long gone by the time I got there, but I was wrong ― what an amazing and cooperative little falcon! Even a large farm tractor went by and I thought for sure it would fly off, but this bird was determined to enjoy its perch in the sun. Perhaps it had its eyes on something to eat.

Red-tailed Hawk

Both yesterday and today when I got home, this handsome Red-tailed Hawk was perched on a street light just a block away from my apartment. This is a really good time of year to find raptors. Even a short drive along country roads north of Middleton will yield Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrels, and more.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jan 14, 2017 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
31 species

Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Northern Shrike
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell