Friday, December 28, 2007

Kickapoo CBC pics

Here's some pics I took during the CBC yesterday.

First this RN Pheasant:

Then some Horned Larks showed up:

Bobwhite Habitat. but no Bobwhites:

a small snowed in valley:

One of the 3 Bald Eagles we found:

The road into Biscuit Valley:

The Road going back out:

A beautiful winter Sunset to end the day:

Happy Birding!

Kickapoo CBC 12/27

Barb Duerksen and I did the Kickapoo CBC yesterday. All in all we had a fun day. It started a bit slow but picked up after a little while. Our first bird of the morning was a Turkey, calling from the woods. Our last birds were two Great-horned Owls.
Below is our results by county.

Time spent Owling: 2 hours (0600-0730 & 1630-1710)
Time spent birding: 9 hours
Total time: 11 hours.
Weather: Cloudy in the morning-Clearing in the afternoon.
Temp: morning low: 25 Daytime High: 35
Wind: NW@ 5-10 MPH. Dying down by late afternoon and evening.

Vernon County Results: 28 Species
132 Turkeys
41 Am Crows
47 cardinals
10 White-breasted Nuthatches
20 Chickadees
99 Juncos
18 Blue Jays
18 Mourning Doves
39 Gold finches (and our only species of finch that day)
12 Red-bellied Woodpeckers
6 House Sparrows
44 Starlings
8 Horned Larks
11 Red-tailed Hawks
1 Rough-legged Hawk (our only one of the day)
1 Rock Pigeon
3 Downy Woodpeckers
21 Tree Sparrows
2 Pileated Woodpeckers
1 RN Pheasant
1 Flicker
1 Song Sparrow
1 Am Kestrel
2 T Titmouse
3 Harry Woodpecker
2 Bald Eagle
1 N Shrike (Hooray!!!)
2 Great-horned Owls

Monroe County results: 18 Species
218 Starlings
118 House Sparrows
23 Cardinals
95 Juncos
6 Red-bellied Woodpeckers
42 Crows
9 Blue Jays
110 Rock Pigeons
17 Mourning Doves
10 Chickadees
2 Downy Woodpeckers
2 Hairy Woodpeckers
1 Am Kestrel
5 White-breasted Nuthatch
24 Horned Larks
19 Am Tree Sparrows
5 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Bald Eagle

Interesting, we found a total of 28 species. There were no species found in Monroe county that we didn't find in Vernon county.
Late in the day, we ran into (or rather, they ran into us) Noel and Seth Cuthright. They had found 2 Golden Eagles that day. (I still need one for this winter.) Maybe I need to go hang out in their count area for a day.... Hmmm......
Anyway, we had a good day. If not a long day.

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!! It's the whole subject at the feeders today! (feeder chat)

It's Christmas already?

You bet it is. Mmmm, look at all this food. Yummmy!

Whew, gotta get all these presents home.

Christmas?? It's Christmas?

I don't think it's Christmas. I hate Christmas. Away with ye.

What? you really mean it? it is? and it's a party day??

Alright! I'll go get the guys.

Let's have a party!!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Birding and weather Fri and Sun.

I went out birding on Fri. There wasn't much around though. it was pretty foggy. Visibility up on the ridge was down to about 100yds or less. I found most of the winter species. 4 flyby Horned Larks were the highlight.

We recieved about 8.5" of snow last night. The weather is currently snowing, blowing snow and winds 10-25mph. not fun weather. The feeder is popular right now. Besides the three Downy Woodpeckers, my resident female leucistic Cardinal is sitting on my feeder.

Also this Downy Woodpecker

Well, not much else going on. I'll finish that post about Warbler ID sometime this week.
If I have a chance to go skiing, I'm going. Other than that, nothing until the Kickapoo CBC on Thurs (unless something rare shows up of course.)

Happy Birding and Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Identification of N American Wood-warblers.

Warblers. They're a group of birds that many people struggle with. If you think about it though, they're really easy. Here's how I do it:

So, your first step is IDing a Warbler. The question then comes up, what is a warbler?
Warblers are small insectivorous birds of the family Parulidae that live mostly in woodland or woodland edges. They are generally not any bigger than 6-8". Sometimes being smaller than 3". They are active foragers and have many strategies for catching insects and larvae, including flycatching;most glean insects directly from branches, as vireos do. They are generally easiest to ID in the spring when they are in full breeding plumage. When fall comes around, they lose their spring colors and become drab and plain, making them more difficult to ID.

So now you know about Iding the family. What about species?
Once again, divide the birds into different groups. Start by dividing them into Warblers with wingbars and warblers without wingbars. Now you have two distinct groups. The warbler family and sub-families are divided into 18 genera in N America. I will be focusing on the major genera and mostly eastern warblers. The genera I will be focusing on will be mostly Dendroica, Vermivora, Wilsonia and Oprornis warblers because these are the biggest groups and are the most easily recognized.

Now take your "warblers without wingbars" group and separate the Oprornis Warblers. The 4 Oprornis warblers are Mourning, Connecticut, MacGilivray's and Kentucky Warblers. These warblers are easy to ID in any season because fall plumage is very similar to spring plumage. Within this group, only Mourning and Connecticut are difficult to tell apart. Connecticut though, has a bold, complete, white eye ring. This feature is probably the best one to use to tell them apart.
Oprornis warblers are medium size, rather chunky looking warblers that prefer brushy woodland habitat. usually with some source of water nearby. The best way to ID these birds is to learn their songs. You almost never actually see them since the tend to stay deep in the undergrowth. In fact, usually the only way you know they're there is because you heard them. Connecticuts have a distinctive "tip tupa teepa tupa teepo". Kentucky warblers sound more similar to Carolina Wrens or Ovenbirds with their warbled "churree churree churreee". Mourning warblers sound similar except that they say Churree churree churree" with a whistled "to meet you" at the end.

Anyway, back to warblers. I could write a whole essay on differences between Oprornis warblers.

(to be continued.......)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Learning bird Identification.

I recently posted the following to MNbird (the MN bird listserve). The original question was about how to learn to ID birds.


Jim, Sharon and all,

You can't learn all the birds from one source. Some birds you learn
from your field guide, some from workshops, some from being out in the
field, some from experts. The information is out there in many forms.
The work you have to do is piece it all together.
There is a lot of memorization and retension involved.

One thing I think all birders should learn is ID by GISS. General
impression of size and shape can help immensly. One thing you can
study is silhouettes. How does the bird look to you? is it big? small?
thin? bulky? chunky? Does it have a long tail or short?
9 out of 10 times though, you're IDing by GISS when the bird is in
flight. so you have to ask, how long are the wings? are they thin? are
they pointed? or are the short rounded and broad? How fast are the
wingbeats? are they regular? Does the bird fly in a straight line or
does it fly in a wave pattern like a Goldfinch?

These are just some of the questions that go through my head when I
see a bird and attemp to ID it. All I can say is Practice practice
practice. Spend as much time in the field as possible. It's the only
way to really get to know the birds.

Above all, Do NOT try to ID the bird in the field by field marks
alone. There are many many factors involved in ID just from the
bird's suroundings that can make your final ID much easier. Many
times, you will not see enough of the bird to ID from just it's field
marks. Learn to recognize which birds live in certain habitats. that
will help a lot in knowing which birds to expect there.

Sight ID just has to be memorization. Not just retension of what you
think a bird looks like, it has to be memorized to a point that you
know without thinking.

If you want to learn Warblers, I highly reccomend getting the Peterson
field guide to Warblers. It has a plate which shows all the undertail
patterns. Each pattern is slightly different. No two are exactly
identical. 9 out of ten times, that's all you see anyway. just the
tail. Anyway, I could go on forever about ID by sight but I have
other things to touch on.
ID by sound. I suggest that instead of trying to just plain memorize
all the different calls and songs, look at learning to ID by sound the
same as learning a new language. That's all it is anyway. It's
practically the same thing. Be able to hear the subtle differences
between an Ovenbird and a Kentucky Warbler at long range. Be able to
note that the Ovenbird is more warbly than the Warbler. Listen to CD
recordings and pay attention out in the field. One of the best ways to
learn new bird songs, is to track down the bird that's singing. If it
is possible, when you hear a bird that you don't know, track it down.
The song will register much better that way than if you had just heard
the song on a CD.

Now, let me give you an example of IDing by sight and sight alone and
field marks alone. Shorebirds. Here's what you need to do for
Shorebirds. First off, divide the birds into groups. Your first group
should be birds like Turnstones, Dunlin, Willet, Avocets, Godwits,
Solitary Sandpiper, ect. birds that you know are easy for you to ID.
The second group is birds that are a little harder. Pectoral
Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, ect. birds that a harder than the first
group but are still IDable about half the time.
Your third group should be all Peeps. Least, SemiP, Baird's
sandpipers, ect. Birds that are either hard or just plain unIDable to
you. now, take your third group and divide them up the same way. then
figure out which birds stand out above the crowd. birds that are built
differently or have longer bills or legs or are colored differently.
If you do this, and keep dividing them, you will learn to recognize
almost all of the different shorebird species. Each one is different
in some way. It's up to you to find the differences.

Now, the final step in ID,
take everything that you learn and put it together.
Now, you have a bird to ID. Use the process of ELIMINATION. The bird
is small? warbler or sparrow sized? immediately rule out crows,
hawks, gulls, herons, ect. all the large birds. In one of his books
on birding, Pete Dunne tell a story about the importance of size in
ID. It goes something like this:

"There was one instance in england that I recall, a woman had called
the local bird organization to ask a question about a bird she was
seeing in her yard. The local bird expert answered and asked her to
decribe the bird. So she gave the field marks and noted especially
that the bird had a Red face. The man suggested that she had a
Goldfinch (European Goldfinches have a red face). She replied that she
did not think the bird was a Goldfinch. So he asked her to describe
the bird again. Again, he concluded that the bird was a Goldfinch. She
insisted that the bird was NOT a Goldfinch.
Intrigued, he decided to visit and see for himself. When he arrived,
he found to his amazement, a 4 foot tall Sarus Crane standing in her
He said later, 'She had forgotten to mention the bird's size'."

So there you go, size matters. After that, then look at the bird's
general field marks. Is it a Sparrow? a warbler? a Wren? What is the
habitat around it? is it marsh? field? woodland? you get the idea.
Anyway, go through and rule out the possibilities one by one.
eventually, you will end up with only one possiblity.
If you rule out ALL the possibilities, start over and see if there's
anything you might have missed. Do this twice. If that doesn't work,
then go to the experts. If that doesn't work, go to the big experts
(people like Pete Dunne and Kenn Kaufman and David Sibely). And if
that doesn't work? Start thinking about what you're going to name
this bird.

Everyone sees birds differently and everyone has a set way that works for them.
These are just some of the methods that I use regularly.

Happy Birding! --Chris W, Richland County WI

Monday, December 17, 2007

Frosted trees and more sketches.

I didn't have much birding time today. Got up too late.

The trees were all frosted on the way to school this morning.

I also did some more sketches today:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

on the trail of the Bohemian Waxwing.

Barb Duerksen called me today to tell me that Bob Hirschy had found a Bohemian Waxwing during the RC CBC yesterday. She then asked if I wanted to go after it. (now what kind of a question is that to ask a birder like me?) lol of course I wanted to go after a life bird. Anyway, we took off ASAP. The bird had been seen in a cemetary on Cty JJ north of Gotham in Richland County.

Upon arriving, we scoured the entire cemetary for about half an hour. Not only did we not see THE waxwing, we did not see ANY Waxwings. We did find about 30 Cardinals among some of the other winter birds there.

We then checked the bridge at Gotham and went back West up the river from there. Then took 80 N out of Muscoda to 192 where we checked the corn fields on Town Hall Rd. Then we took the back route home to 171 through Boaz.

Along the way, we found some Horned Larks

On WIS 80, we found our consolation prize of the day. A lone Northern Shrike!! My 5th for the season and the county!

Among the other birds we found were:
Rough-legged Hawks
Red-tailed Hawks
1 lone Cooper's Hawk
Horned Larks
1 Kingfisher
Mourning Doves
about a dozen Bald Eagles
Most of the usual winter species

I will be checking as often as possible for the Waxwing. but trying to locate a single bird in the WI river bottoms is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Even looking for a flock of Waxwings is difficult. Hopefully the Bohemian will turn up.
There is a bit of skill involved.....

Friday, December 14, 2007


4 Common Redpolls appeared at my feeder at about 3:20 this afternoon!!!!!!
That's a new bird for the county AND the state!!!!!
They're right on schedule too. about 3 weeks after the first reports from Madison.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hawks and Kestrels.

On the way to Madison today I observed the following species and numbers:

8 Kestrels
a dozen or so Bald Eagles
6 Red-tailed Hawks

Also stopped at Olbrich Gardens in Madison since I had a concert there today.
They currently have a G scale train exhibit going on. It was less than I expected it to be but some of the small houses in the background were interesting.

The conservatory has some interesting bird species living in it. Canaries, Waxbills. Diamond Doves and Ground Quail to name a few. All were raised captive though.

Their collection of Orchids was also interesting.

Happy Birding!