A group of 19 birders gathered in the UW Lot 60 parking lot on this chilly morning, when the temperature hovered just above freezing. After introductions and orientation to this field trip, sponsored by the Audubon Society, we spent a good hour admiring the diverse waterfowl in University Bay, at the nearby boat launch. Five of the participants brought spotting scopes, which they shared freely with the rest of the group. Rafts of Buffleheads, Canvasbacks, Coots, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Canada Geese cruised the Bay, while Ring-billed and Herring Gulls flashed white wings overhead. Throughout this stop and the ones that followed, Quentin Yoerger quietly announced the presence of less obvious birds, including an American Black Duck and a Pied-billed Grebe, and trained his scope on them for us to see. University Bay had the largest numbers and the most diverse species of our 9 stops around Lake Mendota (7) and Lake Monona (2). Yoerger explained that the Bay is both sheltered and shallow. Waterfowl can reach the Bay’s bottom more easily, and consequently dine with less effort. The second largest population was at Middleton’s Lake Street boat launch. There we saw a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a nearby oak and a juvenile Bald Eagle fly by. Most of the enthusiastic group traveled with Yoerger to the 9th and final stop, at Olin Park, where we were treated to our 39th species for the day, a Pied-billed Grebe floating next to John Nolen Drive. We had hoped to see migrating Tundra Swans, which normally converge on Lake Mendota when the smaller surrounding lakes freeze. We were not in luck. A few days ago swans congregated by the Tenney Park Locks and numbered in the thousands at Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary. Since then, the last of the November snowfall and ice had melted, giving the birds open fields for foraging, and made the smaller, outlying ponds available again. Friends host, summary and photos: Doris Dubielzig
Quentin Yoerger’s bird count, where “X” means “present, but no specific count”:
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