Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Weeks Two and Three 2015: Gulls, Blow Downs and a Owl

It doesn't seem like I've been birding that much, but when I look back on the past two weeks, I guess I have...sorta. As with most Januarys the thing to do if you're a birder in southern Wisconsin is find a dump or nice parking lot/outlot for gulling to pass the time...well that and chase rare owls (and bait them and/or repeatedly flush them trying to get a photo if you're real dick).

There's a Thayer's in there...
I happen to have a dump within 15 minutes of my house that attracts a nice variety of gulls during the winter months. Now gulling at the dump or in my case the outlot near the dump, is not much a nature experience, but I do enjoy the study of these birds during Wisconsin winters when there are a paucity of species to see in the state. However, I will tell you I've grown rather impatient with the whole Thayer's vs. Iceland nonsense. Any birder who takes photos to confirm on ID on these tricksters is met with scrutiny when submitting photos for feedback. "Did you get an open wing shot?" or " Hmm, I'd really like to see an open wing to be certain." Meanwhile those who bird without cameras go around cavalierly assigning species to these birds. When you're a member of good ole boys of club in the birding world, your word and what you saw is good as gold. Well I will never be a member of that club, but I am quickly migrating toward membership in the Fuck-it Club with these gulls. I simply refuse to spend an hour waiting for wing spread when I'm 99% sure from head shape, bill shape, mantle color, and amount of white and shade of blackness on the folded wing, that most of the gulls I'm looking at are Thayer's. Call me lazy. I prefer impatient, but I've decided once I get my Thayer's and Iceland for the year, all these gulls will simply go down as Thayer's/Iceland...unless it's an entirely obvious plumage... This was not the rant I was planning when I started writing this, but C'est la vie.

That's pretty much all this bird did...I say Thayer's

In recent weeks, the outlot by Kohl's offered all the regular Great Lakes gulls I can get reasonably hope to find this season. On January 16th I struck a sort of Gullapalooza. It was actually a GlaucousGullapalooza where I tallied a minimum of 12 birds! 

The Great Black-backed Gulls were gathered for a meeting as well, an uncommon species to find inland.

I also found my first-of-the-year Lesser Black-backed Gull (too tired to process a photo).

And finally the gem of the day this Kumlien's Iceland Gull...

On January 11th, I visited Observatory Hill State Natural Area to see the uncommon but regular annual visitor to Wisconsin, Townsend's Solitaire. This SNA really deserves its own blog post given it was one of John Muir's favorites, but alas that will have to wait.

I'm my way out of my driveway to see the solitaire, this Cooper's Hawk was perched above keeping watch on my feeders.

This past weekend took me to Burnett County on my second, third and final expedition to find the American Three-toed Woodpecker that's been seen on and off in a blown down bog off of  Bents Rd. FAIL. However the surroundings were serene, gray, monotone with the croaks of Common Ravens and nasal flight calls of Common Redpolls piercing the silence of winter. In other words, it was perfect (minus the part about missing the target species).

Common Redpoll

As a consolation prize, a couple of roadkills along Hwy 77 north of Danbury yielded an unexpected three Golden Eagles. They're another uncommon winter visitor to Wisconsin, one I've missed the past two years.

Finally, enroute back to southern Wisconsin, I decided to stop in Polk County to try for the recently sighted Northern Hawk Owl. Success. What a fine little owl. So dangerously unwary of humans...and no I didn't harass this visitor to get this shot.

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