Sunday, May 15, 2016


Today I found myself on the downside of what I've dubbed spring migration dwindles. It's essentially the parallel of dwindles in geriatric patients but applied to my experience with birding.

Harris's Sparrow, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co 15May2016
I went back to try and photograph a nice male Harris's Sparrow being seen at Lake Farm Park in Dane County. I should have been elated. The bird perched in nice sunlight, singing at periodic intervals. I felt crushed and crushing on all fronts. Yet the exuberance of seeing my first breeding male in Wisconsin quickly dissipated into the birding dwindles that had taken hold of me earlier in the day, perhaps even last eve.

Harris's Sparrow, no photo awards here. But I like this view of him!
 Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, 14May2016
I couldn't spend much time with the bird this day (long story of bad directions).
Hence my return May 15th for more photos
Great-crested Flycatcher, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Dane Co 15May2016
It all began May 11th. Well maybe before... Anyway I'm starting with May 11th... After a lackluster showing of migrants earlier in May, the winds shifted out of the south Tuesday evening (May 10) into Wednesday (May 11). The floodgates opened and we experienced a mini bird fallout here in southern Wisconsin. I was utterly and blissfully lost in birding the entire day, unable to get enough of seeing the warblers and other neotropical migrants. I hit it hard that day. Photos were hard to come by as the day was mostly misty with poor lighting and there was simply too much activity to pause for photos.

3:48 AM radar 11May2016

Prothonotary Warbler, UW Aboretum, Dane Co, 11May2016

That's not a bird! Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Dane Co, 11May2016

Red-tailed Hawk devouring a small mammal, UW Arboretum, 11May2016
Continued good birding persisted the following day, though not on the dripping level of the prior day. Hung over from the previous day, like a good addict nursing a bloody mary the day after binge drinking, I eased into birding from my measly .2 acre backyard where I was treated to migrants working their way through my little green oasis of mostly native plants and trees. The highlight of my visitors were three Cape May Warblers who remained in my backyard for the hour I nursed myself back into birding.

Cape May Warbler, my backyard, Jefferson Co, WI 12May2016
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, nest building, Bark River Park, Jefferson Co 12May2016
Every day since the mini fallout, I debate with myself as to whether it will be a birding-worthy day. I negotiate the value of sleep versus birding versus work. I follow the birding groups on Facebook checking to see what's around. I go through phases of bird envy and self-loathing for even caring what others might be seeing. I check the radars around 11:00 pm and then again around 4:30 a.m. factoring them into my "to bird or not" decision. But bird I do, pretty much every day.

Barred Owl, Jefferson Co, WI 14May2016
The migrants have continued in spurts, some days better than others. Birds have seemed held up again by the past few days of north winds including a freeze warning last night. The culmination of the obsessive planning, looking, wondering, walking, hiking, driving and other personal trials is taking a toll on my enthusiasm for birding. And the darn wind the past two days, have I mentioned how much I loathe birding in blustery conditions? ANNOYING!

Marbled Godwits (foreground), Jefferson Co, 8May2016
I continue to see new year birds daily. In the past week I've found Marble Godwits, a Willet, and Short-billed Dowitchers in the flooded ag fields in my podunk town in southern Wisconsin. Just yesterday I saw two Whooping Cranes in my home county of Jefferson. I've seen a White-faced Ibis in Dane county, a rare but annually regular bird in the state. I've seen Barred Owls both close and far on several days. My eyes have witnessed colorful warblers at eye level as well as those unfortunate distances high in the canopy (booo warbler neck).

White-faced Ibis with American Coot, Nine Springs, Dane Co, 13May2016
I should be happy. I should be in a state of continued birding bliss. However plain and simple I've hit a brick wall. Maybe it's time for a break. (In the middle of spring migration! WTF?!)

Blackburnian Warbler, comes down for a bath, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, 15May2016
I began this conversation with myself while out today about how I've amassed a shit ton of photos over the past week. I started stressing about processing them, began to question the purpose of taking photos and sharing photos. I went as far as to put the brakes on visiting a state natural area today because it would only mean more photos to process. Ugh.

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, 15May2016
The dwindles. I'm telling you I've got a bad case. Birding and birder exhaustion. As fun as it can sometimes be, there is definitely the fatigue of coping with birder dynamics. The increased socialization (if you want to call it that) with birders during this time of year is equally if not more draining than the birding. But I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy seeing birding friends as opposed to the isolation I experienced this past winter.

Palm Warbler, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, 15May2016
So I ask myself, do I even want to do this anymore? The photos, gobs of photos. Does posting them make me appear more interesting? Does that matter? Nature photos are PROLIFIC everywhere on the internet. I'd like to say I'm doing it better or different, but I'm not. Average. It's all just average. There are some who do this, the blog thing, who are great at it. The whimsy and philosophy of their experiences, their stories, are worth the clouds they float in. To them I say, keep on keeping on. Do what you love. Love what you do. For me, perhaps I should learn how to play an instrument or get back into my art. That might be more compelling. Hmm. Would it?

Veery looking like an antpitta, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, 15May2016
Dwindles, I'm on a roll dwindling. I cannot deny the greatness of the ups. But they do always come with the downs. Birding after all can be an addiction. As such, highs and lows are an inherent risk. BEWARE.
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Dane Co 15May2016

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