Thursday, February 23, 2017

Global Warming Weekend Part 2: Bats

I meant to get part two of my global warming birding weekend posted much sooner, but life and exhaustion have a way of getting in the way.

The unseasonably warm temperatures in the 60s continued through the weekend into the first half of this week. As of today that spring prelude has ceased. Temperatures fell throughout the day landing in the 30s with snow starting to fall as I write.

My primary motivation to complete this entry is really just about this bat.

I get almost as excited about bats as I do snakes. It's crazy to think I was seeing bats in February in Wisconsin. It appears the unseasonably warm weather not only brought an onslaught of waterfowl and few early bird species into the state, it also enticed several bats out of hibernation. Several birders reported encountering bats flying near the Wisconsin River over the weekend. I was among those observers. I found bats at two stops in the Mazomanie area along the Wisconsin River. I have learned the bats I observed are likely Big Brown Bats which are known to fly during warm spells in late winter/early spring. Being one of four of Wisconsin's cave-hibernating bat species they are susceptible to white-nose syndrome and therefore have the designation of being a threatened species. Unfortunately being woke so early from hibernation puts these already threatened bats at risk for starvation.

Other than the highlight of seeing the bats, my Global Warming Birding Weekend included many Greater White-fronted Goose,

FOY Cackling Goose,

Cackling Goose far left with Canada Geese, Dane County, WI

....and an influx of Sandhill Cranes, Red-winged Blackbirds and Killdeer along with more ducks.

Sandhill Crane, Dane Co, WI 
I also engaged in what I call "renegade birding," hiking to a "forbidden" beach in the Mazomanie Unit of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Let's just say I visited what I gather was a historically nude beach that was closed to ALL activity last year in a classic uptight midwestern over-reach of state government.

Mazomanie Beach, Dane County
I had never been to this beach, am entirely opposed to the extreme measure of closing it and wanted to satisfy my curiosity in regards to its birding potential. My clandestine hike to this location yielded my first of the year encounters with Purple Finch and Pileated Woodpecker. No nudists though! In fact no people whatsoever.

Purple Finch, Mazomanie, Dane County, WI
Also for the record, at no point during my walk did I breach any sign indicating "Closed Area" and really only learned of the details of just how forbidden this place is after having visited. Those "Closed Area" signs do exist at the historic access point for the beach which is not the route I used to enter the area.

Mazomanie Beach, Dane County
The serenity of my hike was exquisite. Being alone has its merits some days and is something I've grown more and more accustom to. I shall return to explore this area further. Though next time I plan to focus my exploration on the area further south of the "forbidden beach" where I suspect habitat may be more suitable for finding the rare for Wisconsin, Kentucky Warbler. Stay tuned...

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