Sunday, February 8, 2015

Week 5 1/2: An exercise in telling time

Sheesh. I'm already behind in trying to briefly chronicle each week of 2015. Add to that, we've barely entered this year and I'm already experiencing confusion with counting up to 4. I noticed my last post from January 29th was titled "Week Three." WRONG. That would be week four. Time is moving in a warped half speed as we plod into February, a generally boring bird month in Wisconsin. Better get hopping on my home projects! Before long, spring will come calling and turning my life upside down.

Snow fall Pheasant Branch Conservancy Feb. 3
January 30th I watched another nice show by the local Short-eared Owls at Jefferson Marsh. There has since been a considerable amount of snow. I wonder if the birds are continuing to hunt the marsh or if they've moved on? Other southern haunts continue to hold this species, so I suspect they may still be in the area. However, at Jefferson Marsh, more snow means snowmobilers using the trail that runs through the marsh, so perhaps the owls have left due to this disturbance.

February 4th I spent a little time gulling at the Kohl's outlot in Johnson Creek, WI. It's on my way home from work and keeps me entertained for birding during the winter doldrums. I finally found some adult Kumlien's Iceland gulls loafing in the field with the usual Herring Gulls.

Glaucous gulls continue to occur in small numbers here as well.

February 5th I found myself at Pheasant Branch Conservancy after my dentist appointment in Middleton. The open water of the springs of the conservancy tend to concentrate what I would consider a nice variety of Wisconsin winter passerines. This American Robin was enjoying a fruity snack on a chilly day.

The Great Horned Owls of the Creek Corridor at Pheasant Branch were also present. One was sunning itself in the opening of this tree cavity while the other sat camouflaged in a nearby cedar. These were my first of the year Great Horned Owls.

With more snow, the field birds of winter have been drawn to the roadsides for easier viewing. Horned Larks and smaller numbers of Lapland Longspurs have been easy to come by while Snow Buntings have thus far been nonexistent this year.

Horned Lark, Jefferson County, WI
I say February is a boring birding month in Wisconsin. I should clarify that statement. Relatively boring appears to be the case in southern Wisconsin. Up in the north the Common Eider continues along with sightings of Red Crossbills, Evening Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings. Two possibly three Northern Hawk Owls continuing in the state and just yesterday a report with a photo of a Boreal Owl emerged from Oneida County! And finally a Gyrfalcon, a nemesis bird for me for certain, was found in Superior this past Monday. It was actually captured by a bander and determined be an old bird originally banded in 2003. Apparently it made annual visits to the grain elevators in Superior through 2007 and has not been seen since until this most recent recapture. A pretty incredible story and a tempting to bird to chase. However for now, I will remain resolved in my promise never to chase a Gyr again.