Sunday, April 30, 2017

April Ends

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."

― Henry David Thoreau

Wood Duck (female)

Each April bird migration in southern Wisconsin is a little different from the last. One of the yardsticks I use to measure migration is the number of warbler species observed along the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy at the end of April. Here are the 12 warbler species observed so far this year:

This doesn't include species observed at the conservancy by other birders: Blue-winged Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, and Northern Parula. With nearly the same effort in 2014, I tallied just six warbler species by the end of April:

Compare the above with the late April warbler explosion of 2013:

So, you never quite know what you're going to get and that's part of the fun of birding. Thus, for whatever it's worth, I would call 2017 slightly above average.

Wood Duck (male)

While seasonal counts are interesting, the best part of birding is simply being outside with the birds and absorbing the transition from brown to green. At this juncture it looks like we may have a pretty mature tree canopy by the time peak migration occurs, increasing the difficulty of viewing and photographing the tiny songbirds. I'll at least know when they're present from their songs.

Pheasant Branch Creek Corridor

I can always hope for a repeat of 2014's amazing ten days of warbler watching, but such songbird fallouts are rare at the conservancy. Prior to the most recent one, I think it was 2002 when cold weather in May rendered the creek corridor into a veritable aviary of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers. However, such cold snaps can be hard on insectivorous birds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Once again, northeast winds have been stalling migration for the past several days. Under such conditions, it's not uncommon to find the same set of migrant birds at the same locations from one day to the next. For example, a Black-throated Green Warbler has been hanging out at the last bridge before Parmenter Street for three days and two Ovenbirds have been singing from the same locations east of Park Lawn since Friday. Neither species nests at the creek corridor, so once conditions improve they'll continue their northward journey.

Least Flycatcher

Even when the birding is somewhat quiet, as it has been the past few days, there are always other photography subjects to work with. A patch of trillium on the forest floor will do nicely. There's a certain tranquility I experience when photographing wildflowers. Naturally, it's nothing at all like the frustrating challenge that tiger beetles pose. But whether it be a bird, a bug, or blossom, each subject I choose to photograph rewards me with a type of peace that comes from shutting out all other worldly distractions. It's temporary, to be sure, but so is everything I photograph.

White Trillium

White Trillium

Prairie Trillium

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 29, 2017 6:23 AM - 9:25 AM
54 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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