Saturday, April 14, 2018


"Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom; faith in oneself is the rain that cultivates a hero to endure the storm, and bare the genesis of a new world, a new forest."

― Mike Norton

This blog had a blogiversary on February 23rd and I totally forgot about it. So, for thirteen years I have been writing about the birds of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. To be sure, there are other minor subjects I enjoy blogging about: tiger beetles, cool diptera (flies), astronomy, wildflowers, etc., but birding at my neighborhood conservancy has been the primary objective for gathering and publishing content on this blog.

I believe I previously mentioned I first began hiking Pheasant Branch's trails in 1986. I lived in an apartment on Amherst Road in Middleton and meditatively explored nature to reduce the stress of my computer programming job. No camera. No binoculars. No field guide. I didn't know the names of most things, but I've always been a good observer. Wow―32 years. If I can do that again I'll be 84 years old. Should I live so long, many people I bird with now will be long gone. I've already said farewell to a few, but George Austin is dearly missed. His enthusiasm for birding made it exciting for everyone around him.

Hermit Thrush

Nowadays it's a completely different experience. Long durations of intimacy with nature have been replaced by shorter moments punctuated with a multitude of interruptions. The birds still come and go, but there are far more non-birding trail users to share the conservancy with. Dottie Johnson and I refer to them as Muggles in the J.K. Rowling sense. Perhaps the most Muggle-y thing a Muggle has ever said to me was "There's wildlife in here?" Yep. There truly is. That's what I've tried to show on this blog for the past decade-plus.

On account of today's totally crappy weather, I had the creek corridor trail pretty much to myself. Dressed in layers plus rain gear, I hiked my usual route and counted the birds. As I generally do, I detected their presence by listening for their calls and songs.

Eastern Phoebe

I found an Eastern Phoebe perched on a skinny twig shooting up from the middle of a pond. Watching it through my spotting scope, I could see it was catching some kind of midge. While small numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers are present, I have yet to hear one sing this spring. So far it's been their recognizable "chep" calls only!

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The lighting was extremely poor for digiscoping, so I didn't take very many bird photographs. Soon, there was more rain and falling temperatures ... and then sleet. Despite the challenges of this outing―and all the visits that preceded it―there is always something to bring me peace of mind at the conservancy. With no sunlight there are no shadows, and sometimes that is a very good thing.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Apr 14, 2018 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM
44 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Lesser Scaup
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell

1 comment:

  1. Very nice to read your observations and memories on this, the recognition of your "blogiversary." Most who read your blog will recognize your observations and experiences and your humorous description of some.