The sunshine brought out about a dozen people to our early spring migrants walk led by Friends board member Dane Gallagher and Friends host Anne Pearce. We were greeted at the Picnic Point entrance by singing song sparrows and spotted one in the grass in front of the stone wall. A great sign of spring!
While much of Lake Mendota is still frozen over, University Bay's open water hosted a raft of waterfowl. Luckily for us, the nearby ice kept the birds closer to shore, so we could see many of the ducks well without a spotting scope. A few stops along the Picnic Point path provided great looks at a variety of waterfowl, including American coot, lesser scaup, redhead, bufflehead, canvasback, and ring-necked ducks, in addition to the familiar mallards and Canada geese. Off in the distance, we saw two common loons, and even further away was a pair of common mergansers. We kept our eyes to the ice and the sky in hopes of seeing a bald eagle, but we did not see any today!
Back on land, there were American robins and common grackles searching through the leaf litter. In one sunny spot, sheltered from the north wind, we were greeted by several black-capped chickadees, including a pair that were going in and out of a tree cavity, possibly building a nest! We also had a very cooperative golden-crowned kinglet flitting around at eye level right next to the path. We watched a red-bellied woodpecker searching for food in the crevices of shagbark hickory bark and a few downy woodpeckers working along some twigs. Later in the walk, we happened upon a white-breasted nuthatch and talked about how they also search for insects in tree bark, though unlike their woodpecker friends, they do it with their heads pointed down!
While we enjoyed the sunshine and birds, the cold wind and icy lake definitely had people wishing for the warmer part of spring to arrive soon. Before we know it, we'll see even more birds and the spring wildflowers will add some more color to the forest floor. Report and photos by Anne Pearce.
The 4th Sunday of the month Madison FUN Bird and Nature Adventure at UW Lakeshore Preserve was led by Chuck Henrikson with help from Friends board members Signe Holtz and Paul Noeldner. A diverse group of about 30 people including some families with kids gathered at Pucnic Point, and about 10 more joined later to enjoy looking and listening for Winter Birds. Expert birder by ear Charles Naeseth joined the group along the way to help with the search.
After a fairly slow start quite a few species were seen and heard and pointed out by various members of the group, including a 7 year old boy and his brother who loved chasing down the trail after flashes of feathers with kids binocs in hand to see what kind if bird was flitting in the bushes. Several people in the group spotted a Northern Flicker and a Coopers Hawk that swooped by overhead at treetop height. The tinkling call and partial sighting of a Brown Creeper also grabbed their attention. One person reported seeing an American Robin at the Preserve before joining up with the group. Everyone enjoyed walking back along the ice covered Lake Mendota shoreline and helped scan distant jagged upthrust ice ridges for reported possible Snowy Owls. A couple likely looking large white bird shaped lumps actually took flight but proved to be Herring Gulls. Report Paul Noeldner. Friends host Signe Holtz.
The highlight of the day was a beautiful Barred Owl (Strix varia) perched near a known previous tree hollow nest site where its mate may already be brooding eggs that will hatch in about a month.