A Travellerspoint blog

July 2014

Day 4: Last Full Day in Western Wisconsin

overcast 80 °F

Today was my last full day spent with my aunt and uncle in the La Crosse area of western Wisconsin.

I went birding with my uncle at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and other nearby places from 10:30am-2:45pm and we saw some neat birds, 68 species in total.
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We spent the bulk of our time at Trempealeau attempting to photograph Black Terns from a narrow isthmus that separates two large lakes, both which are major feeding areas for the terns, in the Mississippi River Valley. Photographing these terns is an easier-said-than-done feat because they are birds about the size of doves that move erratically through the air a few feet above the water at super high speeds. You will just have to read on to see if I did manage to photograph them at all.

While patiently (?) waiting to get a good photo of the Black Terns, we saw some other neat birds, including the ones pictured below:

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN:
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Singing male ORCHARD ORIOLE:
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Pair of AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES:
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Just as we were about to head back to the car, woefully accepting that these terns were just too darn fast to photograph, I spotted one BLACK TERN from a good distance away...and it was flying towards me! I hurriedly turned on my camera, focused in on the bird, and with a lot a bit of luck, I captured this half-decent shot:
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The rest of our birding for the day was relatively quiet although we added a few species to our day list, which is attached below my signature.

Bird-of-the-day to the obliging (for this species at least) BLACK TERN that finally tolerated getting its picture taken.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow my mom will pick me up and we will drive to the remote and beautiful Madeline Island in Lake Superior north of Wisconsin, where the diverse array of interesting boreal bird species awaits me!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 674 Species (no life birds today)

68 species:

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
BLACK TERN
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
BROWN CREEPER
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 17:52 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Whooping Cranes!

semi-overcast 75 °F

Today I saw two WHOOPING CRANES (life bird #674), and Whooping Cranes are an endangered species, given the fact that their current wild population is under 300 birds, and possibly still declining. There are two breeding populations in the world. One is comprised of a couple hundred birds in Canada and the other is just under ten birds in Wisconsin. Today I saw two Whooping Cranes at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in western Wisconsin, which means I saw about one fourth of the Wisconsin population and about one hundredth of the total Whooping Crane population, even though it was just merely a fleeting glimpse of two fly-over birds.

Here is an extremely crappy photo, the best I managed, of the second crane disappearing in flight behind a tree:
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Even though, photographically speaking, it was disappointing, the experience of seeing one of the rarest birds in the world fly overhead is an invigorating and unforgettable experience.

I birded Necedah with my aunt and uncle from about noon to 4:15pm. Other than the cranes which we saw within five minutes of entering the preserve, we looked for and found other goodies, as well, such as the birds I photographed below.

A beautiful male SCARLET TANAGER at the tippy-top of a large tree:
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EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE:
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Female BELTED KINGFISHER:
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The second best bird species today were the 13 federally threatened RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS (the most I have ever seen at one time) that we saw at the refuge. Here is a photo I took of an especially photogenic one:
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It was a fantastic outing and a great experience to see the mega-rare WHOOPING CRANES, which will have to be the bird of the day.

Tomorrow will be my last full day spent birding with my aunt and uncle in the western Wisconsin area, and then I will drive up with my mom to the pristine Madeline Island, which is part of the Apostle Islands chain, north of mainland Wisconsin in Lake Superior.

The full species list for today is attached below my signature.

Stay tuned and, as always, good birding!

Henry
World Life List: 674 species (1 life bird today: Whooping Crane)

64 species:

Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
WHOOPING CRANE (CRITICALLY ENDANGERED and a LIFER for me!)
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
COMMON NIGHTHAWK (this evening)
Chimney Swift
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
PILEATED WOODPECKER
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
COMMON RAVEN
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Common Yellowthroat
NASHVILLE WARBLER
American Redstart
CAPE MAY WARBLER
CANADA WARBLER
Yellow Warbler
PINE WARBLER
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 15:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 2: Birding all day long!

sunny 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:
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On the other hand, we did find DICKCISSELS:
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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:
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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:
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Then we got out to see what was around and I found this EASTERN TOWHEE:
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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"):
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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!
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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:

GREAT EGRET:
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Female FIELD SPARROW:
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NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS:
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And finally, here's a photo I took of our national bird to round off the evening:
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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!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 674 Species (2 life birds today: Black Tern and Louisiana Waterthrush)

83 species:

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
SORA (FOY)
COMMON GALLINULE (FOY)
SANDHILL CRANE
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
BLACK TERN (lifer!)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
PILEATED WOODPECKER
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (lifer!)
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (FOY)
Field Sparrow
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
DICKCISSEL (FOY)
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 20:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wisconsin Trip: Day 1

overcast 60 °F

Today I started a week-and-a-half long birding tour of Wisconsin. These first four nights I will spend with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Mory, who are also birders, at their home in La Crosse, which is in western Wisconsin along the Mississippi River. Then, I will stay with my mom while she teaches at a music camp for a week on the beautiful, secluded Madeline Island, which is part of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior north of mainland Wisconsin.

This afternoon I took the crowded, loud, five-hour Amtrak ride to La Crosse, which involved shivering constantly because of the AC which resulted in the train car temperature being about 50 degrees, as well as listening to an extremely bratty young boy bicker with his at-her-wit's-end mother in the seat ahead of me.

Anyway, I saw a few good birds from the window of the train including a family of SANDHILL CRANES, a few BALTIMORE ORIOLES, and this female BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (rare for Wisconsin), which I managed to photograph from my seat while the train was parked at the Columbus, Wisconsin station stop.
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Then, once I arrived at La Crosse, my Uncle Mory picked me up and we saw some interesting wildlife at various locations, including three odd GREAT BLUE HERONS that were perching at the top of a pine tree, as well as the Red Fox kit and the RED-TAILED HAWK pictured below.
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Then, I had a gourmet chicken dinner with my aunt and uncle at their house and we spent a quiet rest of the evening together.

Tomorrow my aunt, uncle, their birding friend Bruce, and I will head to to Whitewater State Park and Bryce Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin to find awesome birds such as Louisiana Waterthrushes, Yellow-throated Warblers, and Dickcissels.

So stay tuned, and good birding as always!

Henry
World Life List: 672 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 20:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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