Sunday, January 07, 2018

Here we go!

"Here we go! No ... No way! No one ... gonna stop, now go!"

― Jane's Addiction

Pinetum at UW Arboretum

The Townsend's Solitaire that's overwintering in the pinetum at Longenecker Gardens (UW Arboretum) has been eBirded 38 times so far this year. Temperatures today climbed into the upper 20s and lower 30s, so it seemed like a perfect day for winter birding.

I began my day by hiking Pheasant Branch Conservancy. As I expected, the highest concentration of birds was to be found at Conservancy Condo bird feeders. There were several dozen Pine Siskins, but fewer House Finches and American Goldfinches. The overwintering White-throated Sparrow population is slightly higher than average. There were also Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, and the usual assortment of woodpeckers and other winter birds.

Though I searched for the Northern Shrike at the prairie, I wasn't able to locate it. I also found Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and Snow Buntings along Balzer Road, just north of the conservancy.

Back to the solitaire!

Plenty to eat!

I decided to pay the Townsend's Solitaire one final visit. It might be a long time before Dane County birders have another opportunity as good as this for this particular species. As I've written here before, to get this bird on a Wisconsin year list generally means a trip to Devil's Lake and an arduous climb up steep bluffs with slippery rocks.

This is one lucky bird. There is plenty to eat (juniper berries) and good cover should an accipiter fly through. Still, it's amazing this bird (and other songbirds) can endure subzero temperatures while they roost at night. Certainly, some birds probably die during harsh winter weather. But how do you know whether it's this one or that? Given it's rare status in our neck of the woods, this has been the same bird all along since first discovered on December 12th. We know this one is doing just fine.

Eating snow!

Eating juniper berries!

Eating snow!

Some nice portraiture ...

And American Robins, too. Yes―they do overwinter in Wisconsin!

Pondering birding styles this evening, I got a little curious to find out how many species on my 2017's year list (209 bird species) were represented by a single bird. To find out, I ran the "Summarize my Observations" under "My eBird" and then view the Species Totals tab. I counted the rows where only a single "1" tick shows for the entire year.

Here are my 11 singles for 2017:

Surf Scoter (waterfowl scoping Lake Mendota)
Long-tailed Duck (same outing)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (during CBC)
Willet (chased, Stricker’s Pond)
Eastern Screech-Owl (during CBC)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (while looking for flying squirrels)
Townsend's Solitaire (chased, UW Arboretum)
Kentucky Warbler (warbler migration at the creek corridor)
Yellow-breasted Chat (chased, Cherokee Marsh)
Henslow's Sparrow (hike during a wedding reception)
Blue Grosbeak (while photographing tiger beetles)

Of these, three were intentionally chased birds: Willet, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Yellow-breasted Chat, two of which were in my Middleton count circle. The remaining eight were encountered during my regular birding efforts at Pheasant Branch, Pope Farm Conservancy, Spring Green Preserve, and a few other locations. For my 2017 effort, I was a bit under average with 141 total eBird checklists, most of which were in Dane County.

The race to be 1st in Dane County has begun! It's only the 7th day of the year, but some in Dane County have already submitted over two dozen eBird checklists. When we birders begin a fresh birding year, there’s a rush to get out there and start building the new year list. With a few exceptions, most of the birds out there right now will be encountered during spring migration and the remainder of the year. So, why chase with such intensity now, especially when it’s been so cold outside?

Another puzzling thing I’ve observed the past few years involves BIGBY birding. For the uninitiated, BIGBY stands for Big Green Birding Year. This is when a birder focuses on reducing his or her carbon footprint while searching for birds by walking or biking a local patch or area for a year. The problem is, many BIGBY birders still chase throughout the state via automobile; they just keep different lists, thus defeating the whole point of so-called “green birding.” If you want to do a BIGBY year, then do one. But I digress.

I think the greatest challenge is have the highest bird tally in combination with the fewest number of outings. But even then, I know some birders simply skip submitting their eBird observations if they fail to get a new bird during an outing, thus giving a false impression of skill and efficiency. But what if you simply want to bird as often as often as you can? Shouldn’t you? Yes! What if this means birding every day, twice or three times a day? Yes! If an eBirder, though, then I think you should submit a checklist for every outing, and not just those with year birds.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jan 7, 2018 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
28 species

Canada Goose
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Balzer Road, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jan 7, 2018 11:45 AM - 12:00 PM
5 species

Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Horned Lark
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting

UW Madison Arboretum (general), Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jan 7, 2018 12:35 PM - 1:35 PM
8 species

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell

1 comment:

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