Monday, April 03, 2017

It's April!

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything."

― William Shakespeare

Cooper's Hawk

New bird species will be arriving almost daily from now until the end of the third week of May. For southern Wisconsin, April is a transitional month as some winter birds are still present while the first Neotropical migratory birds begin to return. For those who have learned from elders in the birding community, we acknowledge that spring migration isn't what it once was, but it's still one of Nature's most spectacular events.

Meanwhile, resident songbirds of the creek corridor will be contending with a Cooper's Hawk family once again. Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Northern Cardinals are typically the first birds to sound the alert when an accipiter is spotted. The ferocious Cooper's Hawk scans the habitat for movement, but many songbirds instinctively know to sit perfectly still to avoid detection. To the benefit of the songbird community, such sentinel birds will keep sounding alarm calls until the threat has moved on.

Northern Cardinal

Eastern Phoebe

Wood Fungus (Coriolus hirsutus

Bufflehead (female)

Bufflehead (male)

Tree Swallows have returned to the confluence ponds along the North Fork. During the next two months I'll be spending most of my birding time hiking the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy looking for warblers, flycatchers, vireos, and more. A huge wave of Golden-crowned Kinglets moved through about a week ago and we're just beginning to see other migrants like Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Phoebes, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Tree Swallow

Goose Pond

Dottie Johnson and I went to Goose Pond to see the Brant that's been hanging out there for the past several days. The last time I observed this species in Wisconsin was 2004 in Manitowoc with Jesse Peterson. The goose was preening and sleeping among other geese on the far side of the east pond, so I wasn't able to get photographs of it. This was a unique opportunity to observe Canada, Cackling, Greater White-fronted, Snow, and Ross's Geese in the same area.

Once back in Middleton, I went to the prairie parcel simply to enjoy the beautiful weather. I sat at the wooden platform next to the parking lot. Without much effort, I digiscoped a few sparrows that were curious about my presence.

Song Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

And look who has young! There are two owlets, but the second is snoozing behind the adult.

Great Horned Owl nest

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 1, 2017 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
51 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell


  1. Thanks so much! I'll be off to Goose Pond in the morning.

  2. Saw the geese you mentioned this morning at Goose Pond and Tundra Swans but even people with scopes could not find the Brant. In the afternoon I got very lucky and saw a Winter Wren along the creek at Pheasant Branch north of Century Ave.; I often hear them up in Door Co. but rarely see them. Saw a Hermit Thrush in the same vicinity. So happy to have spring again!