Thursday 3 July 2014 79 °F
As the title of this post suggests, I was out birding in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota today from 7:00am-8:15pm with my uncle Mory and his birder friend Bruce.
It was a beautiful day with sunny skies and temperatures in the seventies, and the birds were evidently enjoying the pleasant weather (for a change!), as well. The effect of the recent rainstorms is felt heavily in the Mississippi River Valley because the water is quite a few feet above flood stage and every low area is filled with water. If water levels get any higher, it could inflict significant damage on the local economy.
Anyway, we had an outstanding day of birding with 83 species, 2 lifer--well, read on to learn more!
Our first birding stop of the day was at a prairie just across the street from my uncle's birder friend Bruce, who would be birding with us the entire day. Our main targets at this stop were Clay-colored Sparrows and Dickcissels, which would both be FOY's (first of the year birds) for me if I found them.
We didn't find any Clay-colored Sparrows at this location, but we did find this GRASSHOPPER SPARROW:
On the other hand, we did find DICKCISSELS:
Then we all hopped into my uncle's car and we started driving to our next birding destination.
What happens when you have a car with three birders inside? Frequent unanticipated stops will be made. This time, I was the one who spotted these six SANDHILL CRANES, which happened to be the only time we would see this species today:
The next unanticipated stop was at an entrance to a state park, which happened to have a good amount of bird activity in the trees. I took this photo of a male EASTERN BLUEBIRD from inside the car:
Then we got out to see what was around and I found this EASTERN TOWHEE:
And this male RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (the throat on this bird looks dark, but in the proper light, it glows a brilliant ruby color, hence its name "Ruby-throated"):
Our second actual planned stop of the day was at a beautiful scenic preserve called Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, which is a mosaic of pristine grasslands, wetlands, and forest communities right on the shores of one of the most gorgeous stretches of the Mississippi River:
Our target species for this refuge was the Black Tern, a bird that tends to flit a few feet above marshes but about three hundred yards out from the shore. Since I did indeed see this bird (usually from a far distance), it was life bird #673 for me! Because of its shy habits, however, this was the best photo I managed of a BLACK TERN today:
While scoping out the terns we met two other birders who informed us of an area where they had just seen rare Grasshopper Sparrows. On the way out of the refuge, we stopped by the place they told us to look and sure enough we heard one GRASSHOPPER SPARROW singing clearly (our only CLAY-COLORED SPARROW of the day was singing at this location, as well), but sadly we didn't see either of them.
After a quick lunch at Pizza Hut, our next birding stop was Whitewater State Park, a beautiful preserve nestled between the bluffs on the western, Minnesotan side of the Mississippi River:
Our target bird for this state park was the rare LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Wisconsin is at the far northern end of its range, as its name suggests), which we managed to find and photograph quite easily (especially when compared to my other lifer of the day: those shy Black Terns!). It was my second and final life bird of the day!
On the way back to our "home base" for the week at La Crosse, Wisconsin, we decided to take a long, last final birding stop back at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. We saw some neat things there, including the following:
Female FIELD SPARROW:
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS:
And finally, here's a photo I took of our national bird to round off the evening:
Thank you to Uncle Mory for driving Bruce and me around this entire day, it was some of the best birding of my entire life!
Bird-of-the-day will be shared by my two life birds I gained today: Black Tern and Louisiana Waterthrush.
The full list for today, a whopping 83 species in total, is attached below my signature. Stay tuned, because tomorrow I will be in for some more hard-core birding with my aunt and uncle here in Wisconsin and Minnesota!
World Life List: 674 Species (2 life birds today: Black Tern and Louisiana Waterthrush)
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN
Great Blue Heron
COMMON GALLINULE (FOY)
BLACK TERN (lifer!)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (lifer!)
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (FOY)