Saturday, March 04, 2017

First March Portraits

"March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine."

― L.M. Montgomery

Red-winged blackbird

It's March!

Early spring migrants continue to arrive in southern Wisconsin. Last evening I observed a flock of over 200 Red-winged Blackbirds roosting at the North Fork along Pheasant Branch Creek. There were a few Rusty Blackbirds and Common Grackles with them. But if you want to see huge numbers of blackbirds in Dane County, head over to Nine Springs. Charles Naeseth recently told me there were over 10,000 going to roost in the evenings.

American Tree Sparrow

This morning I returned to the North Fork to see if a particular Greater White-fronted Goose was still present at one of the confluence ponds. Though it probably spent the night, I wasn't able to find it. I've photographed this species before, but I was optimistic for a nice close-up portrait. My guess is that it probably headed north at sunrise with other geese. Near the pond, an American Tree Sparrow popped up from the dense grasses, so I quickly snapped a photo of it.

Sandhill Crane

As you can see, we still have snow. Of course, we should still have it. After the unseasonably warm weather completely melted it, winter rallied back and dropped a few fresh inches as well as an overnight dusting covering parts of the trail. The freakish February thaw was just that! I don't know how Sandhill Cranes feel about snow, but this one seemed unruffled about it.

Warmer temperatures will be returning tomorrow and that ought to take care of the remaining snow by the end of the day. No doubt, it'll be a lot easier for American Robins to find food once it melts. The only hint I have with regard to how robins feel about snow may come from their incessant calling. Of course, they'll also sound the alarm when they spot a predator, but I couldn't help sense their clamorous commentary was displeasure at the snow.

American Robin

A few Song Sparrows were present, but they weren't singing. Detecting them from their calls, I found them in tangly twigs near the trail entrance along with a few tree sparrows. Several yards away a Swamp Sparrow announced its presence with a diminutive note. For me, hearing them for the first time of the year is just as exciting as seeing them.

Song Sparrow

On my way out I found a flock of Cedar Waxwings eating berries. We still have most of March to get through. Though we're about to experience another warming trend, Boreas might very well send us another winter blast (or two) to contend with. How will the birds that have already migrated here fare? As food generalists and early migrants go, these birds are among the most durable and will endure.

Cedar Waxwing

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Mar 4, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
31 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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