Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Bridge Bird

Singing Eastern Phoebe

Does every Eastern Phoebe have its own bridge, or does every bridge have its own Eastern Phoebe? This was the question I put to Wisconsin bird enthusiasts on Facebook this morning before heading out to Pheasant Branch Conservancy. And, like the day before, there was an Eastern Phoebe singing at every bridge along the creek corridor trail. Nearly 2 to 1 who answered my poll question picked every phoebe has it's own bridge; probably because it makes sense that the bird selects its habitat. Bridges must be too inviting for a bird that has a natural predilection for overhanging cliffs and boulders in moist, shady grottos. In fact, I think the only place I've ever seen an Eastern Phoebe nest in a natural feature is Parfrey's Glen State Natural Area. When you visit there and observe the habitat, it just makes sense that phoebes would nest under the overhanging rocks.

One of several bridges at PBC - perfect for phoebes!

It's greening up quickly. This spring is just plain weird. There's no other way to think about it, really. Even if the lows were the highs, we would still be around 20 degrees above average normal temperatures for March. Ordinarily, I don't see blooming Bloodroot until the middle of April, but there were dozens upon dozens of them opening up along the trail this morning. Normally the high temperature for mid-March runs in the forties, but it's been in the upper seventies and low eighties for about a week.


I know some of you are thinking anthropogenic global climate change is to blame, and it very well might be. But this current extreme makes me think that this has to be a fluke with the combination of the freaky jet stream pattern (making it warm) and La NiƱa (making it dry). Well, it is true that one scientific prediction of global climate change is more extreme weather. Oh, what the hell do I know. I'm not a meteorologist or climatologist. I should just stick to writing about birds so I don't upset anyone. That said, an easy prediction I can make for birding is that it's going to be a difficult May in southern Wisconsin if you don't know your bird songs; leaf-out is sure to be super early.

Cedar Waxwing about to take off

Despite it being so warm, it's still a great time of year to visit a local natural area and witness the phenological changes taking place, even if things seem a bit out of sync at present. That said, the timing of migration for most birds depends on the length of daylight. As far as my bird observations go, I haven't seen too many early species, but there are a lot of interesting reports on eBird right now. I see one report of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Waupaca and Whimbrel in Kenosha. Interesting if true!

Hazlenut - male catkins

Hazelnut - female flowers

All images © 2012 Mike McDowell

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