Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend at the beach. Literally. (Pt 1)

This weekend was the first major birding trip I've taken since I got home.  Fri evening, I drove to Riverside Park in Milwaukee where I camped for the night. Arising at O'dark thirty the net morning, I walked down to the Urban Ecology Center to meet the banding crew for that morning. We loaded up as people slowly trickled in. Then we walked down to the banding site. 
The area around the center was loaded with White-crowned Sparrows. As we walked down to the banding site, we heard good numbers of White-throated Sparrows calling.  
Arriving at the site, we set about setting up the nets. The mist nets consist of two metal poles staked to the ground with the net stretched between them.  Placed against a backdrop of woodland, they are nearly invisible when viewed straight on. 
After the nets were up, we sat down to wait. We would check the nets at 20 min intervals to see if anything had flown into them.  The trees around us were dripping Kinglets but not very many birds appeared to want to fly into our nets. In all, we caught only 4 birds that morning. 1 Swamp Sparrow (that we caught twice), 2 Song Sparrows and 1 Winter Wren. 

After the banding concluded (due to the wind picking up), I birded my way back to the car. Coming up almost empty handed, I hopped in the car and headed over to Lake Park. 
Lake Park proved to be the most productive of the entire day.  Keeping the wind in mind, I walked along the edge of the hill. I finally succeeded in finding a mixed flock. It was mostly Kinglets of both species but I did manage to pick out an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Gray-cheeked Thrush.  
Dropping down into the ravine, I found another flock. This one more diverse. 
Fitting among the leaves low in the ravine, I spotted a Redstart, Nashville Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, 2 Winter Wrens skulking in the creekbed, a lone Blue-headed Vireo, Chestnut-sided Warbler and another host of Kinglets.  
Arriving back at my car, I headed south along the lake.  Warnimont park was dead and the lake was empty so I moved on. Sheridan park was also just as dead. It only picked up a bit when I reached Grant Park. Despite the city surrounding it, Grant park was easily the largest park I've visited along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Birding was slow here too but I did manage to find a flock of White-crowned Sparrows as well as both Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes.  Scoping the lake was, again, useless since the only birds in view besides Ring-billed Gulls were Cormorants. 

Wind Point in Racine provided my 4th species of warbler for the day. A lone Palm Warbler hunting insects in the long grass.  
A little frustrated, I again turned south. This time right into the dark rain clouds that were looming ever so close.  By the time I arrived at Winthrop Harbor, it was drizzling.  I decided to call it quits for the day and headed to Illinois Beach State park for the night.  
Arriving at the park, I set about finding a campsite. 

In all, everywhere I went, there were Kinglets dripping off the trees but almost nothing else. 
It was one of the slowest days I've had for quite a while. 

Continued in part two.  

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