Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Back in the Saddle

I want to claim I'm back in the saddle with birding...beyond the damn pneumonia. For the most part that's the case. However the last time I was out for any substantial amount of time which was nearly three hours at the onset of this cold front enveloping Wisconsin, I paid for it with increasing coughing and congestion.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, 26April2017
I am determined to persevere and not allow some silly pneumonia to interfere with spring migration. As it is, moving out of my house during spring migration is throwing a huge wrench in the works. The moments I find myself out in nature are more precious than ever right now. Every incidental observation is even more golden...

Prairie Trillium, Aldo Leopold Center, Monona, Dane Co.
Columbine, Rock Lake, Jefferson Co, 25April2017

As mentioned a cold front moved into southern Wisconsin last week Wednesday. Temperatures have been tanking with frost projected for tonight. Winds have mostly been from the north and the radar has been looking fairly bleak over the past week...

April 29, Zero-dark-thirty radar. NO BIRDS!

April 30, Zero-dark-thirty radars
Despite the grim outlook, a nice assortment of new arrivals have been found in Wisconsin. While warblers and other songbirds have been sparse, a few new species seem to be reported daily in small numbers including Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Parula, Wood and Swainson's Thrush. None of which I've seen yet this year in Wisconsin...

Palm Warbler, Lake Mills, Jefferson Co, WI 25April2017

For now I have to settle for continued crushing looks at Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Dane Co, 1May2017
My favorite species seen in recent days are the Smith's Longspurs found by a local intrepid birder, Steve Theissen. I've dubbed him the "Sparrow Walker." This guy seems to locate interesting longspur and sparrow species on an annual basis. He has this passion for walking random weedy fields and turning up goodies for the rest of us to chase.

Smith's Longspur, Stoughton, Dane Co, WI 28April2017
This most recent goldmine of Smith's Longspurs (up to 7 were reported) was found in some random dandelion field in an industrial park in Stoughton. Friday after work I made the trip in the rain to see these birds. I spotted three of them trying to blend in like spent corn cobs. Other birders also found LeConte's sparrow which my less than Jedi birding skills did not detect.

Smith's Longspur, Stoughton, Dane Co, WI 28April2017
During this dreary weather spell, shorebirds seem to be all the rage. Sexy large beasts such as Willet, Godwits and Avocets have been found along Lake Michigan in impressive numbers. Inland, dowitcher's have been plenty, along with a recent influx of a few Wilson's Phalarope.

My own little patch of flooded shorebird and waterbird habitat has been hosting a Cinnamon Teal and five Black-necked Stilts along with a variety of other shorebirds.

It's that time of year when it's becoming more and more challenging to keep up with all the change. Each day brings more excitement in the form of new arrivals or more stunning looks of some favorites that have been here for a few weeks.

Marsh Wren, Aldo Leopold Center, Dane Co, 30April2017
I was grateful that this curious FOY Marsh Wren struck a pose for me.

So it's here and the best is coming. This is what we anticipate every year. The high season for birding. I look forward to the wonderment of all of it. Time to sleep so I can make time for the birds!

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