Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Surges!

"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks."

― John Muir


Song Sparrow

Beautiful weather and special places provided great opportunities for nature photography over the weekend. Both mornings began at the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy where there was an increase in the numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers, plus a couple of Pine Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, a single Blue-headed Vireo, and a few Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

On Saturday afternoon, Dottie and Mark Johnson and I decided to check out Baxter's Hollow in the Baraboo Hills for spring ephemerals. I wasn't surprised to discover that Louisiana Waterthrushes were already there. Two males were zooming up and down Otter Creek, aggressively exchanging territorial songs. Further up, a Winter Wren's song serenaded us as we photographed Round-lobed Hepatica, Spring Beauty, and Bloodroot under beautiful blue skies.

It was refreshing to spend as much time outside as we wanted, rather than the few morning or evening hours during the work week. It's raining now and the temperatures are going to cool down this week, but I suspect songbirds will still press northward. I will be there to meet them!


Eastern Phoebe


Field Sparrow


Purple Finch


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Muskrat


Bloodroot


Bloodroot


Dutchman's Breeches


Dutchman's Breeches


White Trout Lily 


Mayapple


Otter Creek at Baxter's Hollow


Battlegrounds for Louisiana Waterthrush


Round-lobed Hepatica


Spring Beauty


Yellow Trout Lily


Bloodroot


Wood Frog

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Apr 19, 2015 6:15 AM - 10:45 AM
65 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More!

More Bloodroot!



More Yellow-rumps!



Most of the Yellow-rumped Warblers I've been seeing are not quite finished molting into their breeding plumage. Note the brown highlights here and there. In another week most of the males will look like this.









More sparrows!


Chipping Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


Vesper Sparrow

And ... and ... I guess maybe this is why the Great Horned Owls moved?



Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Apr 14, 2015 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM
63 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sora
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Early Spring Colors


Yellow-rumped Warbler

The first Yellow-rumped Warblers have been moving into southern Wisconsin (and beyond) over the past week. At Pheasant Branch Conservancy we've not yet seen large numbers of them, but around a dozen were present today, plus a Pine Warbler. I wonder what the next warbler species will be ... perhaps Black-and-white or maybe Louisiana Waterthrush. More warblers are on the way.


Wood Duck (female)

Wood Ducks originally arrived at the confluence ponds a few weeks ago, but some have now made their way into the creek corridor; a few will likely nest there. Wood Ducks are generally wary of people, so it can take a bit of planning to get nice portraits of them.


Wood Duck (male)

Bloodroot became my first spring ephemeral.


Bloodroot


Interesting bark lichens.


American Robin

The confluence ponds along Deming Way have been attracting geese, ducks, grebes, and coots. This is also a good spot for swallows. So far I've seen Tree, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, Cliff, and Purple Martin. This Pied-billed Grebe was fairly close to the shore, so I decided to get a few photographs of it.


Pied-billed Grebe


Tree Swallow


Savannah Sparrow


At the prairie & savanna

From the parking lot along Pheasant Branch Road, I used my spotting scope to see if I could detect any open Pasque Flowers. Sure enough, I was able to see some from over 500 yards away. On my way up the hill I came across a breeding ball of Garter Snakes. What a sight! In addition to the ball, there were dozens of others slithering all around me. The sound of them moving through the dry leaves and grass rendered a constant hiss. Lucky for me I'm not ophidiophobic.


Breeding ball of Garter Snakes!

And the Pasque Flowers...


Pasque Flower







Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Apr 12, 2015 6:45 AM - 12:15 PM
67 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Amazing Blackpoll Warbler!

http://www.birddigiscoper.com/blog518141a.jpg

Sometime during my early years of birding, my mind was blown when I first learned how far birds can fly during migration. Some terns and shorebirds fly thousands of miles to get from one part of the globe to the other, or that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. Long-distance migration was one of the alluring facts about birds that added to their mystique, appreciation, and respect.

For several decades the fall migration route of the Blackpoll Warbler was hypothesized to cover a substantial portion over the Atlantic Ocean during their journey to northeastern South America. By using miniaturized geolocators, we now have irrefutable evidence that the Blackpoll Warbler is one of the songbird champions of long-distance migration, making a 1,700 non-stop flight. An amazing feat especially when considering this warbler weighs a mere 12 grams!

Link: Biology Letters (PDF)

Link: Article from Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Blackpoll Warbler © 2015 Mike McDowell

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Excavators at work!



Black-capped Chickadees are busy excavating nest cavities; they're not putting anything inside yet, but using their beaks to remove rotted wood. Both the male and female participate in removing substrate from the prospective cavity, and they may work on more than one site. Only the female works on building the nest and she usually selects the final site.

Chickadee cavity excavation is a great photographic opportunity to get nice portraits. The process is easy to follow. Each chickadee (male and female) takes a turn inside the cavity and fills its bill with tiny wood chips. When one leaves, its mate is quick to enter the cavity and take over the excavation. The bird with the full beak often keeps returning to the same branch to deposit the chips.

Upon landing...



Lean over...



And drop!



Just after the deposit, the chickadee will face the cavity before returning, but it will wait on its perch if its mate is still digging inside. Usually you'll only have a few seconds to take a few exposures of the perched chickadee as they are extremely efficient and hard workers!





About 100 yards away another chickadee pair were busily excavating a cavity. You can see from the two sites the type of cavity the creek corridor chickadees seem prefer. There are rotted stumps and logs all along the bank which make perfect sites to incubate eggs and raise their young. It's been my observation that the chickadees only select logs that are well above the highest potential waterline when the creek floods after a big storm.



While photographing the chickadees, a Winter Wren stopped by to see what the chickadees were up to. Though I missed photographing it, the wren tried to enter the cavity pictured in the above photograph, but one of the chickadees quickly chased the wren away. The wren popped up again on a nearby branch and I was able to take a quick shot before it sped off into the dense tangle of sticks and logs on the other side of the trail.



Another interesting bit of chickadee behavior I observed today was watching a pair of chickadees inspect a nest-in-progress of a Northern Cardinal. The female was bringing in nesting material and this caught the attention of the chickadees. With the female cardinal present, one of the chickadees sat in the nest and remained there for a few seconds. Eventually, the female cardinal chased it out and the two chickadees returned to their excavation efforts. Perhaps eye-balling the cardinal's nest for future material to stuff into their cavity?

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Apr 5, 2015 7:15 AM - 10:45 AM
57 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell