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.