Thursday 31 December 2015 26 °F
This post will be split up into two parts; the first part being the usual narrative & photos of the day and the second being my birding recap of 2015. Hope you enjoy it, and have a happy New Year!
Today my Uncle Mory and I birded a few places near La Crosse in western Wisconsin in search of two target birds: Lewis' Woodpecker and Northern Saw-whet Owl.
In the morning, we drove to a farm in Galesville, WI where a rare Lewis' Woodpecker has been reported recently. This is a species native to the Rocky Mountains of the western USA and this is only the fourth time one has ever been recorded in Wisconsin.
Upon arriving, we immediately found the LEWIS' WOODPECKER with its diagnostic Christmas colors - red and green - which is an uncommon color pattern in birds. This bird was the most aggressive bird at the feeders (even though it didn't actually take any seeds while we were there), frequently chasing off Red-bellied Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees. Here are my photos of the bird:
We then headed to Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge where I found these distant flocks of waterfowl on the little open water remaining in the area.
CANADA GEESE with a few TUNDRA SWANS mixed in:
We then drove to a nearby state park where there were a few other birds. Here is an adult BALD EAGLE:
Small flock of HORNED LARKS on the road in front of us:
After a delicious lunch of chili and relaxation back at their house, my Uncle and I drove to a place called Breidel Coulee Road in hopes of finding Northern Saw-whet Owl, a tiny owl species that has been reported there recently.
On the way, I spied an even rarer bird flying over a distant field which then landed in a tree across the field. It was a GOLDEN EAGLE, a very very uncommon bird for Wisconsin! Distinguishing field marks from an immature Bald Eagle are that this bird has a "golden" look to the back of its head (characteristic of a Golden) and lacks the characteristic white breast patches of a juvenile Bald. It was also a HUGE bird with a gigantic wingspan, slightly bigger than a Bald Eagle which supports my identification.
A flock of CANADA GEESE flew over:
Then, I heard some strange warbling sounds to my right and saw a huge flock of 41 (!) WILD TURKEY on the edge of the nearby woods. Here is only a small part of that flock:
Despite driving along Breidel Couldee Road for almost 45 minutes and periodically stopping and playing the Northern Saw-whet Owl recording, we could not coax one to come out and therefore missed this bird. The rare Golden Eagle; however, more than made up for this miss in my opinion, especially since I had heard my life bird Northern Saw-whet Owl earlier this year with Eric Walters back in November.
It was a great day of birding with two Wisconsin rarities found in one day! The bird-of-the-day for me will be the Golden Eagle since I found it without knowing I would even see one, and runner-up to the already-known Lewis' Woodpecker, even though it is a slightly rarer bird for Wisconsin. The full bird species list for the day is attached below.
PART 2: 2015 RECAP
"The Year of the Owl"
First, I would like to give a massive thank you to everyone who has helped me have these unbelievably wonderful birding experinences, especially Mom and Dad, as I could not do it without them. As I am posting this, it is literally 11:55pm and with these last few minutes of 2015, it saddens me that another absolutely fantastic year is drawing to a close. This year I gained 179 life birds for my world life list including 12 owl species and 2 former nemesis birds, the Resplendent Quetzal and the Great Gray Owl.
Since this year was a stellar year for finding owls with 12 species in total, I will first list the owl highlights of the year and then I will list other avian highlights from the year.
- *January 1: Snowy Owl w/Uncle Mory at Buena Vista Grasslands, WI
- *May 22: Barred Owl heard calling on our former Michigan property
- *June 4: Great Horned Owl (GHO) photographed at Morton Arobretum, IL
- *July 29: Great Horned Owl (GHO) photographed on Mt. Baldy, ID
- *August 7: Lifer Long-eared Owl @ Silver Creek Preserve, ID
- *August 9: Northern Pygmy-Owl heard w/Ryan Anderson near Stanley, ID
- *August 13: 3-owl evening in ID with Poo W-P & Maria Allen, we have GHO & my lifer Barn & Short-eared Owls
- *August 14: Conquer nemesis bird Great Gray Owl w/Kathleen, Poo, and Maria and hear lifer Boreal Owl same evening in ID
- *August 15: Western Screech-Owl lifer w/Ryan Anderson near Hailey, ID
- *August 16: GHO & Western Screech-Owl w/Poo Wright-Pulliam near Hailey, ID
- *August 17: GHO flies across road on way to airport before flying home from ID
- *August 22: GHO seen on Illinois Young Birders field trip near Kankakee, IL
- *September 23: Photograph Barred Owl for first time at Morton Arboretum, IL
- *November 1: GHO w/Suzanne Coleman at Fort Sheridan Preserve, IL
- *November 15: 3-owl evening w/Ryan Anderson at IBSP, IL with GHO, E Screech, and lifer N Saw-whet Owls
- *November 29: GHO found and photographed for first time ever in backyard (IL)
- *December 29: Amazing Great Gray Owl photo ops w/Uncle Mory & Bruce at Sax-Zim Bog, MN
- *December 30: Great Gray & Snowy Owls in MN & WI w/Uncle Mory & Bruce
- *March 21: Lifer Long-tailed Duck at Monroe Harbor, IL
- *March 29: 1st day of Arizona trip, best birds are Hepatic Tanager & Arizona Woodpecker
- *April 3: Elegant Trogon seen w/Dad in Madera Canyon, AZ
- *May 6: Rare hybrid Lawrence's Warbler photographed in backyard, IL
- *May 9: Rare Snowy Plover (lifer) and dazzling array of warblers at Montrose Point, IL
- *May 23: 2 of my then-favorite birds, Cerulean & Hooded Warblers, photographed at Yankee Springs SP, MI
- *June 2: Connecticut & Hooded Warblers photographed in Chicago area, IL
- *June 19: Touring Field Museum, IL bird skin collection w/Nick Minor
- *July 11: Finding Northern Parula & Summer Tanager w/new birding friend Jonathan B
- *July 15: First day of Costa Rica trip, BEST trip of my life!
- *July 16: Finding 72 species in 1 morning w/guides Alexa & Mario in La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica
- *July 19: Finding new favorite bird, RESPLENDENT QUETZAL, w/Mario @ Curi Cancha Reserve, Costa Rica
- *July 27: First day of Idaho trip where the highlights are the OWLS, see above
- *September 27: Costa Rica class reunion at my house, IL
- *December 13: First day of trip to Florida & Emerald Princess cruise
- *December 18: Finding Kirtland's Warbler on Eleuthera, Bahamas w/Dad
- *December 26: First day of trip to Wisconsin & Minnesota where highlights are the OWLS, see above
- *December 31: Finding 2 rarities w/Uncle Mory, Lewis' Woodpecker & Golden Eagle, on last day of year
Bird-of-the-year goes to the RESPLENDENT QUETZAL I saw on July 19, with that species automatically going from nemesis to favorite bird due to its sheer...well...resplendence. This bird was seen with my fantastic guide Mario Córdoba and a select group of the Costa Rica class in the Curi Cancha Reserve near Monteverde, Costa Rica. Runner-up for that award goes to the GREAT GRAY OWL, my other past-nemesis which is now my second-favorite bird. This bird was seen by me on three days this year: August 14 near Stanley, Idaho with fantastic birders Kathleen Cameron, Poo Wright-Pulliam, and Maria Allen, and also on December 29 & 30 at the Sax-Zim Bog in northeastern Minnesota with Uncle Mory and Bruce Bartel. Thank you to all of these people, and again to Mom and Dad, for helping me see these astoundingly special birds.
Happy birding & owling and I hope 2016 brings you peace and plentiful birds (and owls):
World Life List: 887 Species (179 life birds in 2015)
24 species + 3 other taxa today:
Wild Turkey (41!)
American Tree Sparrow