May's Miracles

"In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence."

― Robert Lynd
Aren't they gorgeous? Baltimore Orioles have been back for just over a week and they're already busily constructing their hanging nests. Birders are busy, too. For the birder, there's no time better than the month of May ― one wants to be everywhere simultaneously, but a choice on where to bird must ultimately be made. For some birders there can be a profound sense of FOMA (fear of missing out) when a "good" bird gets reported on the other side of the county or beyond. For me, I sometimes feel like I need to find all the uncommon warblers like Cerulean, Black-throated Blue, Connecticut, and Yellow-throated, but there's rarely ever a migration I get to see all the Alpha-class Warblers, as I call them. But I always end up finding a good share of them, so why worry about it? No two years are the same.
Though they are just moving through southern Wisconsin, zonotrichia sparrows like White-throated and White-crowned are at peak numbers in our neck of the woods at the present time. While we have parcels of habitat that resemble taiga or boreal forests, these species keep on going. They do congregate and stage at such places before moving on. Yesterday there were so many White-throated Sparrows singing at one part of Pheasant Branch, it reached rather chucklesome levels. My companions and I were all smiles listening to their cacophony of Sam Peabody songs. 
Golden Oyster Mushrooms. Some of my friends would consider this a delectable foraging discovery worthy of harvesting, but whether these fungi, morels, or any other woodland edibles, I leave them for whatever else they're needed for ― they are a part of the living ecosystem and are harbingers of healthy soil, and keep it that way when they rot back into the earth. Yes, they shall stay and decay.
Finding respite along a woodland stream this time of year will often render a foraging catharus thrush, in this case a Gray-cheeked Thrush, Catharus minimus. Of the four members of this genus we see in southern Wisconsin during migration, this species seems to be the most elusive and shy. Of all the American spotted thrushes, the grey-cheeked has the most northern breeding range. Swainson's Thrush and Veery are also migrating through right now, but I'm somewhat concerned about the low numbers of Hermit Thrushes observed this spring ― I suspect a possible winter weather calamity brought their numbers down further to our south.
For wood warblers, at the present time I've seen around two dozen species. The search for Black-throated Blue continues, but it was nice to find a Prothonotary Warbler at the creek corridor a couple of days ago. Though the habitat is inviting, it will likely move on to something a bit more secluded. Still, it wouldn't completely surprise me if a pair were to nest at Pheasant Branch. Other warblers this weekend included Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Wilson's, Golden-winged, and Blue-winged. There's been an influx of American Redstarts and probably the most Palm Warblers I've observed of any past migration. It's good to know that at least some of these species appear to be doing well. 
And no spring Máistir Nádúraí blogpost would be complete without a few wildflowers. Here we have Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), and Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum). I didn't make any tiger beetle excursions this weekend on account of the somewhat chilly weather. I didn't see any Bronzed or Six-spotted Tiger Beetles along the creek corridor, which was a cue that I likely wouldn't find them at my favorite beetle haunts. 
What's this? The Beaver are back! I wasn't sure we would see them return after the flood of 2017. Even when birding is slow, strolling unhurried down a woodland trail can bring one a sense of peace and catharsis. At times, elevated human activity along the Pheasant Branch creek corridor can sap one's cognitive reach toward this tranquil state. Fortunately, far quieter trails off the beaten path still exist throughout Dane County ― such locations are not to be shared for fear of being spoiled.  
All images © 2021 Mike McDowell