2019 Birding Updates, Many and Sundry!

TUNDRA SWANS are still in Wisconsin! Several reports from the Wisc. Birding Network indicate there are some 500 tundra swans on the ice and
Water at Madison’s University Bay. One of my favorite scenes is of Swans sliding on ice as they land. By contrast, I had my first report of Tundra Swans arriving at Chesapeake Bay on Nov. 19, 2019.

Sandhill Cranes are also extending their stay in various pockets in Wisconsin!  As of Dec 16  sandhill cranes were reported hanging out in the harvested corn fields near the intersection of Hwy 60 and Rainbow Road just NE of Spring Green, WI in Sauk County.Thank you Donald Maum.

Fred Lesher’s journals are available online at UW La Crosse Murphy Library digital Collection.  Paul and Bernadette Hayes and others have been working
to enter Fred’s extensive historical observations onto ebird.
For example, Fred found a Bewick’s Wren in the La Crosse area in April 1969
(see https://ebird.org/checklist/S34769360)
Scans of the original journals can be found at
https://digitalcollections.uwlax.edu/jsp/RcWebBrowse.jsp;jsessionid=DF2C5CF4
F102FD46DECBADEB4336CF54

Barbara Duerksen
Richland County, WI

SNOWY OWL UPDATE: I post new updates every 10-15 days during November and  I post new updates every 10-15 days during November and December. The latest is up on  2019-20 Update tab at: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/SnowyOwls.html
Ryan Brady Conservation Biologist, Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Dan Jackson, La Crosse Audubon Group

The La Crosse / La Crescent Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Saturday, December 16th    For those who haven’t participated in the past, for the La Crosse CBC, we count all of the birds that we can find on the count day within a 15 mile circle that is centered on the La Crosse County Courthouse.  I divide the circle in 25-30 sections and individuals or teams are then responsible for covering a pre-assigned section on the count day (this year 12/16/17). Yes, we can use help each year to cover all the sections! Please contact Dan if you would like to be on the list for next year.

The Next BACKYARD BIRD COUNT is underway February 14-17, 2020
Here is a great opportunity to participate as a “Citizen Scientist!”  If you have never participated before, and are interested, see the GBBC website to get started and create an account, which you will need to enter data.
http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
Count birds anytime, anywhere, with eBird »

A Christmas Story for Birders….

The Christmas Bird Count has a rather fascinating tie to the Victorian Era and a tradition of the day in which Christmas was sometimes celebrated with a theme of dead birds. What the Heck?? I had many images of birds, both dead and alive in an old postcard collection. Here is what I discovered.

image

So what possessed Victorians to send Christmas and other greetings with illustrations of dead birds? One such card reads, “Sweet messenger of calm decays in peace Divine.”

It may hark back to an archaic English celebration of St. Stephens Feast Day, on Dec 26, when folks went out and killed a robin… or a wren… and saved the feathers for good luck. Often young boys in the village would visit homes and exchange feathers for a treat!

During medieval times, Dec 26 was the only day when a wren, considered sacred, could be killed. In fact, “King Wren” was paraded through the village in its death box…  which may actually date back further to a Druid tradition when the priest-king of the tribe was sacrificed to avert disaster for the tribe. Over time, English robins replaced the wren as the symbol.

But were the Victorians really connecting dead birds to tribal druid kings? According to Chan Robbins from an Audubon Science video on Vimeo, another Christmas tradition evolved in New England before the turn of the century which involved birds and small mammals.

The townsmen on Christmas Day engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns to shoot as many birds and species as they could that afternoon. The resultant pile of feathered (and furred) quarry were sorted by species and counted. The team which had shot the most, won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. So there is the answer to why we have an annual bird count in the middle of our northern winter!

christmasrobin

English robins continue to festoon modern Christmas cards, though they are alive and nestled among poinsiettas and berries!!

With that, I would like to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas season!

Pat

Clinton, IA. Eagle watch Jan 4, 2020

If you have been on Pool 8 watching the Swan migration, you will have noticed that the American Bald Eagles are abundant wherever water is open. Eagle Watches have been a traditional Winter celebration along the length of the Mississippi River. The first of our announced dates is for CLINTON, IA.  The Eagle Watch will be Jan 4, 2020 at Lock and Dam 13.

Booths, etc. will be at Clinton Community College, Iowa.  Bus will run between the two to save parking, etc.  Scouts will have food there to sell.  We will have
coffee, etc. at the Corp. building to warm you up.  David Stokes from WI
will be the guest speaker.  If you would like the flyer, please e-mail astraight4@frontier.com

Eagles on ICE by Richard Middleton

Eagles on ICE by Richard Middleton

Woohoo! Tundra Swans by the thousands this morning!

Had the great joy this morning of seeing thousands of pristine white Tundra Swans along Wisconsin’s Hwy 35, just to south of Goose Island!  The sky was full of flying swans as well as swans filling the ponds.  When I returned 1/2 an hour later, the skies were empty and there were fewer swans on the water.

Tundra Swan

“So where did they go?” I asked another birder who was panning with his scope.

“Did you notice that the wind changed direction and picked up, since 11 a.m. ? That’s what some of them were looking for. They’ve already resumed their migration to Chesapeake Bay.”

I was also curious as to what he saw in the scope. “Any gray cignets (juveniles)?” He said, yes, a few, but indeed most were adults and most were not family groups. The first drop of migrating swans is normally the single swans rather than swans traveling with juveniles.

Finally, make a grand journey THIS WEEKEND along the Great River Road between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dubuque, Ia.  In addition to Swans in the pools north of Genoa, American Bald Eagles are migrating and we are flush with both our resident eagles and the eagles moving down from the north (more on this in a later piece). Remember to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.

BEST Fall color on the AQRichardFall Color will be in its waning weekend the next several days. Oaks are a rich rust color and some of the late coloring trees are still coming into color (it’s all in the genes!)

So hit the road!! There is lots to see! and don’t forget your copy of Discover! America’s Great River Road by River Author, Pat Middleton... your guide to eagle watching, regional history, Treasure Hunting, commercial fishing, and more!!! Order your copy of each of the four volumes which lead travelers from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico by CLICKING HERE!

Discover America's Great River Road, Vol 1 - St.Paul Minnesota to Dubuque Iowa By Pat Middleton

 

 

 

 

White Phase Turkeys

white phase turkeyHere’s a nice discovery for November! Wild Turkeys quite commonly appear in their white phase. Again the white version is not a mutation, or “half domestic”, it is simply a white phase of our familiar turkey.  Use the SEARCH button to see more of our “white phase” collection!  We saw these too at HIDDEN HILLS off Hwy K, near Goose Island. Our toddlers enjoyed seeing the pigs, goats, turkeys, calves, and all!

 

Eagle Report from Prairie du Chien…Pelicans too!

Thank you, Dennis, for a great report on where to see eagles in PDC!

Last evening there were over 200 Bald Eagles roosting in the normal
migration roost site near the Barn Restaurant north of Prairie du Chien
on Cty Rd K.  This roost is in the tree line west of the dry docked tow
boat south of the restaurant.  Very little open water was present for
feeding activity.  The small spring and open water at the Winneshiek
Marina had 12 White Pelicans that were feeding on the few dead shad seen
floating at that location. With the expected rise in the Mississippi
River water level, because of rain and snow melt, open water should be
present around the edges of Gremore Lake.  The water level was at 9.5
feet Wed. This morning it is at 11 feet and is expected to go to 17 feet
by Tues or Wed.  Water goes over the Ambro Road on the north side of
Gremore Lake at 13.4 feet.  With that amount and volume of water river
ice will be moved, or at least raised .  More open water where eagles
can feed on dead shad will be present.   Other sloughs in and around
Prairie du Chien are starting to open as well.  If the eagles and
pelicans move to Gremore Lake as they have in the past the best location
to see the birds is from the riverside parking lot of the Crooked Oar
Bar and Restaurant.  In the past 3 years over 500 eagles were seen on
and near Gremore Lake during the migration stop over they make during
mid-March.

Sandhills in the Valley, March 14, 2019

Every year the day arrives when I can say “spring has sprung in the valley,” Today was that day! 49 degrees. Sandhill cranes, redwing blackbirds, Canada geese, a pair of trumpeters, a turkey vulture, a Valley awash in snow melt.  While it seems late compared to recent arrival dates, a quick review of past Sandhill arrival dates shows that the cranes arrived right on schedule.

March 15, 2009  “Bitter cold night as late as 03/13/09. So cranes waited until we hit the 50 degree mark two days later.
March 12, 2008 “3 Sandhill cranes fly over Goose Island near La Crosse.
March 13, 2008  A Single crane flies, calling, over Coon Creek near Stoddard.   Lots of melting snow in the valley. Temp of 56.7 degrees. ”                           

March 11, 2007 “Sandhill Cranes on the islands off Goose Island Park south of La Crosse. Temps in upper 40s, two weeks after record snowfalls in Western Wisconsin, so lots of snow on the ground. March 12 the cranes are reported along Coon Creek and other valleys off the Upper Mississippi River.”                               

Feb 23, 2005  (a good two weeks earlier than normal!)
March 15, 2003
March 13, 2002
March 13, 2001
    March 16, 1999
March 1, 1998
March 10, 1997
March 13, 1996
March 18, 1993
April 4, 1992
March 9, 1988
March 17, 1987

 

 

Sandhill Cranes Seem to Have Arrived!…. I think!

IMG_0189 Well, this is a first! I’m starting to hear that folks south of La Crosse are hearing Sandhill Cranes… but normally, I don’t release such reports until I confirm for myself that nesting cranes have moved in.

This year, there have been a number of interesting Sandhill Crane reports. So far, I’ve heard of 1) a group of 6 or so cranes who spent the whole winter in Wisconsin 2) cranes gathering in Madison by March 1, and finally a phone call that cranes were calling along Coon Creek south of La Crosse by March 4. But it’s been like -12 degrees, and the few minutes I could stand outside, didn’t happen to be the moments that cranes were calling.  So yes, I think they are back right on time this year. We should all be seeing them as temps warm up this next week! Once the ice begins to break up (not happening yet) Tundra Swans should be moving in.

The Story Behind the Tradition of an Annual Christmas Bird Count! Dead Birds and Christmas Joy…Huh?!

So what possessed Victorians to send Christmas and other greetings with illustrations of dead birds? One such card reads, “Sweet messenger of calm decays in peace Divine.”

image

It may hark back to an archaic English celebration of St. Stephens Feast Day, on Dec 26, when folks went out and killed a robin… or a wren… and saved the feathers for good luck. Often young boys in the village would visit homes and exchange feathers for a treat!

During medieval times, Dec 26 was the only day when a wren, considered sacred, could be killed. In fact, “King Wren” was paraded through the village in its death box…  which may actually date back further to a Druid tradition when the priest-king of the tribe was sacrificed to avert disaster for the tribe. Over time, English robins replaced the wren as the symbol.

But were the Victorians really connecting dead birds to tribal druid kings? According to Chan Robbins from an Audubon Science video on Vimeo, another Christmas tradition evolved in New England before the turn of the century which involved birds and small mammals.

The townsmen on Christmas Day engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns to shoot as many birds and species as they could that afternoon. The resultant pile of feathered (and furred) quarry were sorted by species and counted. The team which had shot the most, won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. So there is the answer to why we have an annual bird count in the middle of our northern winter!

christmasrobin

English robins continue to festoon modern Christmas cards, though they are alive and nestled among poinsiettas and berries!!

With that, I would like to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas season!

Pat

La Crosse Area Plans for Christmas Bird Count 2018

child with chickadee winterThe La Crosse Audubon group will be again sponsor The La Crosse Area Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 15th. Birders who want to participate, can contact Dan Jackson <DanJackson@lbwhite.com>

The La Crosse Area CBC is centered on the La Crosse County Courthouse and extends north to County OT, south to the southern tip of Goose Island, west to Hokah, MN, and east past Barre Mills. (See a map at: http://www.couleeaudubon.org/CBC_LaCrosse.pdf). If anyone lives within the count circle and isn’t available to help with a section, we can also use your help by having you count birds at your own feeder.

The annual Christmas bird count reminds me of the little research I did a few years past into why so many old post cards featured a dead bird. Interesting story which I will relate shortly!!!image image