Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On the Cusp...

Apparently March was the unmentionable month this year, a blog-free month shadowed by three weeks of illness. March seemed nearly lost except for my last exquisite visit with the Northern Shrike of Goose Lake Drumlins SNA.

Northern Shrike, Goose Lake Drumlins SNA, 21March2017

Once again, and for the last time of the winter, I witnessed this bird's delightful serenade...

But that was March 21st and we are now in the thick of April, eagerly awaiting the promise of more spring migrants. This past Friday, a four day spell of warm weather commenced. Taking advantage of a day off from work, I spent much of Friday outside visiting various locations mostly in western Dane County. The mix of birds I encountered felt like a peculiar clash of winter and spring species.

My first-of-the-year birds for the day, Field Sparrows, Eastern Towhee and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were consistent with my early spring expectations. These species along with the kinglets are some of the traditional earlier arriving passerines in Wisconsin.

Field Sparrow, Perry-Primrose BCA, Dane Co, WI 

Blooming ephemerals were further evidence of spring...

Hepatica, Blue Mounds SP, Dane Co, WI 
And all the snow was long gone from the southern Wisconsin landscape.

Perry-Primrose BCA, Dane Co, WI
Yet oddly enough, at one of my last stops of the day, the Perry-Primrose Bird Conservation Area, I spied a shrike perched in the prairie. Here in southern Wisconsin, we are in a window where Northern or Loggerhead Shrike is possible. My heart skipped a beat with visions of Loggerhead Shrikes dancing in my head. Without my scope, I would need to approach the bird with stealth to get a satisfactory look to be certain of species. Loggerhead Shrike is rare but regular in Wisconsin and would be a golden year bird for Dane county. However, Loggerhead, this bird was not. I had found yet another Northern Shrike, a revered species to find on any bird outing.

Northern Shrike, Perry-Primrose BCA, Dane Co, WI
This bird marks the fourth Northern Shrike I've found in southern Wisconsin this year. The others were encountered at the previously mentioned Goose Lake (10 times! between 1/24-3/21/17) as well as Jefferson Marsh (1/6/17) and Shovelers Sink (2/19/17). April 7 marks the latest date I have seen a Northern Shrike in southern Wisconsin. I associate this species with the tundra-like conditions of mid-winter. So it seemed rather strange to encounter one on such a balmy spring day. Yet there before me, another Northern Shrike perched on my fictitious non-existent soul...

Reflections of winter were further intensified by a Rough-legged Hawk hovering above. The presence of these two species gave me pause. Perhaps winter is not done with us? Surely it must be.

Rough-legged Hawk, Perry-Primrose BCA, Dane Co, WI 

More northerly climates are beckoning these birds for breeding. And while I'm certainly eager to get on with the thrill of spring, these reminders of the few graces of winter 2017 are a fitting finale to the passing season.

Transitions indeed...Spring is upon us and soon, with bittersweet emotion, I will be moving from the home I've known since 2005. The paperwork has been signed. The process is set in motion...and I have yet to figure out where I'm going...

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