Sunday, April 16, 2017

A little bit of everything!

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind."

― Luther Burbank

Yellow-rumped Warbler

At this stage of spring migration it's possible to get at least 50 bird species per outing at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, even with modest effort. It's nice to witness an abundance of Yellow-rumped Warblers once again; it's been a few years since I've observed so many. When I first began birding over a couple decades ago, the creek corridor would be decorated from one end to the other with this early spring warbler. Purple Finch songs are being heard each morning near the second bridge east from Park Street. They regularly choose perches high up in the treetops, so they're not always easy to find unless you're familiar with their song.

Purple Finch

While photographing an Eastern Phoebe foraging along the rocky bank of the creek, I happened upon a groundhog sitting perfectly still. What awesome camouflage! Even as I walked away, the stoic marmot maintained an unmoving posture from its clever hideout.


Though Saturday began with overcast skies, I decided to take a trip to Baxter's Hollow to look for spring ephemeral wildflowers. Otter Creek was roaring after a night of storms; I could just make out a Winter Wren song over the crushing current. As I suspected, several Louisiana Waterthrushes were already present and defending territories. I wonder how early they're getting back to Baxter's Hollow.

Otter Creek at Baxter's Hollow

For wildflowers, I found ample Skunk Cabbage, Bloodroot, Round-lobed Hepatica, and Marsh Marigolds.


Eventually, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and lit up the hepatica.

Round-lobed Hepatica

Bronzed Tiger Beetle

On the way home from Baxter's Hollow, I stopped at the Sauk City canoe launch to check out the tiger beetle situation. Sure enough, they were scurrying around on the sand in good numbers. Three species were present: Bronzed, Big Sand, and Festive.

Draba reptans

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Having birded the entire morning, Sunday evening I walked the west corridor because it was just too nice to be inside. There must have been a hatching of Red Admiral butterflies early in the day, as they were fluttering around the entire length of the trail. After a dozen or so attempts, I was finally able to sneak up on one with my macro lens in hand. They seem acutely aware of encroaching shadows, but patience almost always pays off.

Red Admiral

Three Norther Flickers were calling from the aspens. As you can see in the image below, this woodpecker has been busy poking its bill into dirt looking for a morsel to eat.

Northern Flicker

To end my weekend with Nature, I walked out to the confluence ponds and found a lovely Great Blue Heron in beautiful light. I used a conifer to hide behind while it began preening its feathers. Content with the images, I slowly backed away so as not to cause any disturbance. It's nighttime as I write and I imagine the heron is still there right now sound to sleep with its head tucked into its feathers.

Great Blue Heron

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 16, 2017 7:00 AM - 10:30 AM
53 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

© 2017 Mike McDowell


  1. Your Great Blue Heron shots are incredible. Dramatic lighting.

  2. Thank you!

    It was fun photographing it.