Sunday, October 07, 2018

RBNU Irruption!

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Overcast skies and rain prevailed for nearly the entire weekend, nevertheless I managed to get in a few hours at the prairie. Conditions weren't suitable for photography, so we'll talk about something else that's happening right now: The Red-breasted Nuthatch Irruption of 2018. For the uninitiated, an irruption is a massive migration of birds to areas where they aren't typically found, often at a considerable distance from their normal ranges. Most autumns, Red-breasted Nuthatches withdraw from the northernmost areas of their range, while southern populations make irruptive movements in alternate years often coinciding with a poor conifer seed crop.

We can see how how 2017 was a fairly normal September for RBNUs:

September 2017

But this September far many more RBNUs have come down from the boreal forests of Canada to the United States, predominantly on the east cost:

September 2018

I figured something was up a few weeks ago when I started hearing their neyk neyk neyk calls just about everywhere I went when I was outside. They've been in the courtyard of my apartment, near stores and restaurants, and many of my birding friends are reporting more of them at their backyard feeders. Last weekend I found several of them at the prairie where I typically don't expect to find them. I informed Gail Smith, who lives near the prairie, to be on the lookout in her backyard. Sure enough, a short while later she told me she saw two of them coming to her feeders. It'll be interesting to see if they stick around all winter or keep moving south.

As you can see below, Wisconsin was covered by clouds all weekend. This morning at the prairie I saw my first Fox Sparrow of the season, plus nine other sparrow species. (Juncos and towhees are sparrows!) So far this fall there hasn't been anything rare at the prairie, so perhaps next weekend's weather will blow in something unusual.

I did pick up a new species for Pheasant Branch. This Eurasian Collared-Dove was the 240th bird species I've observed on this parcel of land, but how excited can one get over an exotic species?

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Oct 7, 2018 7:30 AM - 9:30 AM
49 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Red-winged Blackbird
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow

© 2018 Mike McDowell

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