Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 9/29 - White-crowned Sparrow (first of season)

I added a new Milwaukee walking BIGBY species today, bringing my total to 144 species for 2010. It's been almost a week since BIGBY species #143. Hopefully things will start to pick up again soon with waterfowl migration.

A few highlights:

* Several White-crowned Sparrows in Lake Park. Various locations. BIGBY species #144. I really like the vividly contrasting black and white stripes on the crown. Perhaps my favorite sparrow.

* Dark-eyed Junco. One bird. In the ravine under the iron bridge in Lake Park. It's funny...I saw a small flock of juncos almost a week ago in Veterans Park and assumed I'd be seeing them regularly now. Today's bird is the first junco I've seen since last Thursday.

* Two Brown Creepers working on the same tree trunk in Lake Park. That may be the first time I've had multiple Brown Creepers in sight at one time.

* At least a half dozen Savannah Sparrows foraging on the rocky shore just to the north and south of Bradford Beach. Maybe the most Savannah Sparrows I've ever had in a single outing.

* Yesterday morning the American Coots behind the art museum were very cranky. They were constantly chasing each other agitatedly. One bird would swim rapidly towards another, and then they'd start skittering across the water on their feet. They rarely flew. They were also calling a lot. I never realized before how comical their calls can sound. The coots have been there for two weeks now. Maybe they're starting to get on each others' nerves. :-)

* Speaking of coots, the water behind the art museum was so calm and clear Monday morning that, in a couple of spots, I could actually watch the coots under water after they would dive. I could watch them go down to the bottom and then come back up with a choice morsel of vegetation. Very cool!!

Finally, a couple of fish highlights:

* On Monday I watched a school of maybe 300 6-inch-long fish swimming in tight synchronized movements. This was at the far north end of the sidewalk behind the art museum. It was interesting to watch the school twist and turn, but still keep in tight formation. At one point they became briefly stuck in a loop, swimming in a circular motion. Made me wonder what dynamics are at play that keeps their movements so coordinated?

* On Monday and Tuesday there were several very large fish swimming near the surface in the same area as the school I mentioned above. Probably not a coincidence? The fish looked like Lake Trout (I could be wrong, but they did have the looks of salmonids). They were easily 2-3 feet long, with the largest definitely 3 feet. They were so close to the surface that their dorsal fins would occasionally show above the surface. On Tuesday I was actually watching them with my binoculars. I believe that's the first time I've ever used my binoculars for fish watching. :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 9/22 and 9/27 - 3 new BIGBY species

It's been pretty quiet lately on my Milwaukee walking BIGBY route. But I did manage to add three additional species to my BIGBY list, bringing the total to 143 species. (What's a BIGBY? See:

I wanted to mention a mammal highlight before I get to the birding highlights. Today I had my second sighting of a Gray Fox in Lakeshore State Park. The fox was out on the lawn at the north end of the park, hunting grasshoppers. It would stand stock still and then suddenly jump up in the air and pounce nose first on some unsuspecting grasshopper. Then it would bolt down the grasshopper and stand still again, waiting for another grasshopper snack to come its way. It was so intent on its brunch that it was oblivious to the occasional passer-by. All in all, it was a VERY neat experience...there's something very special about watching wild predators at work in an urban environment!

I watched the fox for maybe two minutes before I remembered I had my cell phone with me. By this time it had moved farther away. I did manage to squeeze off a quick cell phone shot. Definitely not the best nature photo in the world, but enough to convince myself that I wasn't hallucinating. :-) If you're interested, the photo is here: You'll need to read the description below the photo to find the fox. (I have another photo that shows the fox's coloration more clearly, but it is so well-camoflauged against the background that I would actually have to point my finger at the spot in the photo for someone to pick it out.)

Now on to the birding highlights:

* Dark-eyed Junco (9/22). Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #141. A flock of 6-7 birds to the east of the Veterans Park lagoon. It's a funny thing...I get really excited when I see first-of-year juncos. I try to envision what sort of remote northern areas they've come from. They seem almost exotic to me. But after I see them for a week or so they just sort of fade into the background. :-) Another thing I like to do with juncos is keep track of the last-of-season junco in the spring. You have to pay more attention doing this than when noting the first-of-season junco in the fall.

* Common Loon. BIGBY #142 (9/22). In the harbor off of Veterans Park. Definitely not a cormorant. Haven't seen a loon in quite a while. First ever as a BIGBY bird in several years of BIGBYing. Pretty cool!

* Eastern Meadowlark. BIGBY #143 (9/27). In the northernmost section of prairie in Lakeshore State Park. First meadowlark I've seen since I moved to Milwaukee from Indiana nine weeks ago. Meadowlarks are special birds for me. Back in Indiana I initiated a successful campaign to stop unnecessary mowing of meadowlark habitat on the Indiana University cross country course. If you're interested in more details see: and

* A flock of 10-12 American Pipits at Lakeshore State Park today, 9/27. Not a new BIGBY bird, but the most I've ever seen at one time.

* I've been seeing Red-breasted Nuthatches daily for the past 10-12 days. Back in southern Indiana I'd have maybe two sightings all winter. I'm loving it!

* It took me about three weeks to encounter my first Milwaukee Blue Jay on 8/16. Since then they have been few and far between. But over the past several days the numbers have picked up. In several hours of birding today I encountered maybe 12-15 jays, including three at the same time...I'm assuming they are migrants.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wild Turkeys at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

I made a visit to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (SANC) yesterday afternoon. It's north of Milwaukee, on Lake Michigan. While I'm a member, I'd never been there before. Nice place. Nice trails. Very natural and wild looking beachfront.

While I was walking a trail back from the beach I encountered a small flock of four Wild Turkeys! First turkeys I've seen anywhere since June 18 (in southern Indiana). Too bad I can't count them as BIGBY birds (I drove there).

Wild Turkeys are special birds to me. A small flock of turkeys lived in my neighborhood in Urbana, IL, from 2005-2007. I spent many, many hours observing them. They seemed to accept me as a part of the flock, even though they could be aggressive towards others.

Anyway, I was following around the SANC turkeys yesterday trying to get close enough for some cell phone photos. You have to get REALLY close to turkeys to take cell phone photos. I started making the soothing sounds I used to make with my old neighborhood turkeys, and got really close to the birds...maybe 15 feet away. They also seemed really curious about the beeping sounds my phone made as I took photos. I think this curiosity also helped me to get so close.

At one point, when I was 15 feet away and trying to get closer, one of the turkeys gave me a funny look. I thought "Oh-oh. I've pushed my luck and he's going to come after me." I backed up about ten feet and he resumed foraging.

I know what it's like to be chased by turkeys. A couple of my old neighborhood turkeys came after me once, the only time they'd been aggressive towards me. I took photos while the chase was on, if anyone's interested:

Here are the photos, with my comments:

And here's a photo slide show - larger photos, but without my commentary:


Ontario ornithologist Ron Pittaway has released his new finch forecast for this coming winter (2010-2011).

As he notes in his forecast: "Forecasts apply mainly to Ontario, but neighboring provinces and states may find they apply to them." In other words, his forecast may be of interest to birders in the Great Lakes states.

His forecast is available at:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Milwaukee lakefront, 9/21 - American Pipits, Northern Pintail

I took it easy today...only four hours in the field. I covered the southern part of my BIGBY route: Veterans Park to Lakeshore State Park. Two more BIGBY species, bringing my Milwaukee walking BIGBY count to 141 species.

The two new BIGBY species are:

* American Pipit. At least two birds working their way south along the rocky Lake Michigan shore of Lakeshore State Park. Field marks consistent with pipits. The diagnostic tail-bobbing cinched the ID for me. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #140.

* Northern Pintail. Female/immature, behind the art museum, hanging out with the Mallards, who weren't very hospitable towards their guest. I was just standing there, leaning against the railing, enjoying the warm breezes, when it struck me that one of the Mallards looked "different". Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #141.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 9/20 - two new BIGBY ducks

I swear that my BIGBY birding is coming close to being a full time job. I left home today at 6:45AM and didn't return until 2:45PM. That's right...eight hours of wandering around the Milwaukee lakefront and nearby environs!

It wasn't especially birdy today, but I did have a few nice highlights:

* Three different heron species practically right next to each other along the Veterans Park lagoon. Left to right they were: Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron.

* Best views I have ever had of a Savannah Sparrow. Along the edge of the prairie plantings near the entrance to Lakeshore State Park. Only ten feet away, posing cooperatively. Very strikingly marked sparrow.

* Excellent closeup views of a Red-breasted Nuthatch extracting conifer seeds from cones in a tree to the east of the Veterans Park lagoon.

* Greater Scaup. In the harbor behind the art museum. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #138.

* Green-winged Teal. Several, in the Lakeshore State Park lagoon, hanging out with Mallards. Either females or immatures. They were so small looking that I first thought they were half-grown Mallards. :-) Bigby #139.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Veterans Park, Milwaukee, 9/19/10 - Sedge Wren AND Marsh Wren (both new BIGBY birds)

Part way into my walk this AM it started to rain. I almost cut my outing short, but I had my umbrella along with me and decided to continue walking in the rain. I'm glad I didn't head home, as I picked up two interesting new BIGBY species, bringing my Milwaukee walking BIGBY species count up to 137 species. (What's a BIGBY? See:

There wasn't much of note for most of my walk, other than a flock of at least 200 Canada Geese grazing on the big lawn at Veterans Park, and about ten American Coots behind the art museum.

The heaviest part of the rain hit while I was at Lakeshore State Park. It was kind of cool to look at the Milwaukee skyline in the mist and rain, and watch the storm head out east over Lake Michigan. Just glad it wasn't a thunderstorm. This is NOT the place to be with lightning around. You're out on a peninsula in the harbor, and for most of the time the top of your head is the highest point around. Makes you feel like a lightning rod.

The rains ended just as I hit the south end of Veterans Park. I spent some time scanning the large flock of Canadas in hopes of seeing a stray blue phase Snow Goose or a Cackling Goose. No luck. I then focused on the Veterans Park lagoon. No waterfowl other than the resident Mallards and Canadas. But I did have two nice highlights:

* There's an area on the east side of the lagoon where the grass is never mowed, giving it a prairie-like look that merges into a thick stand of willows and shrubs. I don't imagine it would be worth your while to go out of your way to bird here, but it's a nice location on my BIGBY walks. I kept thinking I was hearing Sedge Wrens calling, but I've been known on more than one occasion to mistake a Common Yellowthroat call for a Sedge Wren. Sure enough, a male Common Yellowthroat emerged from the brush. But then some motion caught my eye not twenty feet away...Sedge Wren posing nicely on the top of a weedy plant! They are very attractive little wrens. Haven't seen one in maybe 4-5 years. BIGBY species #136.

* I've been spending a fair amount of time lately (several hours?) at the far south end of the Veterans Park lagoon. Nice area with cattails, willows, and other shrubs and small trees. Every once in a while it holds some interesting birds. Most of the time lately though it's just been Gray Catbirds, Palm Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows. Today I kept seeing a small bird flitting in and out of the cattails. Every time I'd get my binoculars focused the bird would be gone. After about 25 minutes of waiting patiently I finally got a clear view of the bird. Marsh Wren. After this brief view, the bird more or less disappeared. BIGBY species #137.

I'm assuming both wren species were migrants, as I've not run across either in these areas before.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Milwaukee lakefront, 9/13 and 9/14 - Nine new BIGBY species

Spent a lot of time birding in the beautiful Monday and Tuesday weather. I was out for eight hours yesterday alone, starting at 5:30AM. I located nine new Milwaukee walking BIGBY species, bringing my 2010 count to 135 species. (What's a BIGBY? See:

It's kind of funny how sometimes a simple thing can affect you psychologically. On Monday I saw my first-of-season White-throated Sparrow hanging out with a mixed flock of birds by the Lake Park tennis courts. Didn't think anything about it at the time. Yesterday the WTSPs were all over the place...including a single flock with 30-40 birds, with several singing snippets of their sweetly haunting songs. The presence of so many winter sparrows made my brain shift subconsciously into winter mode, and I was cold for the next half hour or so.

First a couple of mammal highlights, both from Tuesday:

* A bat was sleeping under the overhang above the walkway on the south side of Discovery World. Not sure how it managed to get a grip there...the surface seemed pretty smooth. I'm guessing it was a Little Brown Bat.

* I saw a Gray Fox running through the large white rocks at the Summerfest venue near the entrance to Lakeshore State Park. I'm assuming it was one of the foxes that live at the park.

Here are the Monday bird highlights (an especially birdy day):

* I was serenaded by an Eastern Screech-owl as I walked past Lafayette Place where it heads down the hill to the lakefront. It was in some trees just to the east of a couple of ultra-modern apartment highrises. Kinda interesting contrast...the small owl vocalizing in front of the tall white towers.

* Lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, including one who burst into song by the North Point Lighthouse.

* Six thrush species in Lake Park: Hermit, Wood (BIGBY #127), Swainson's, Gray-cheeked, Robin and Bluebird).

* Five woodpecker species in Lake Park: Flicker, Sapsucker, Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied.* Both nuthatch species, including 3-4 Red-breasted. I don't know why it is, but when I see my first RBNU migrants in the fall, my gut reaction is "chickadee". Maybe it's the black and white pattern on the head. Then, a couple of seconds later, it registers in the old brain.

* Fifteen warbler species. No new BIGBY species, but fun none the less. This is the most warbler species I've ever had in one outing. Most were in a flock by the Lake Park tennis courts: Cape May, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Palm, Bay-breasted, Black and White, Redstart, Yellow-rumped, Nashville, Blackburnian, Wilson's, Pine, and Common Yellowthroat.

* Blue Jay. Only the third one I've encountered in my six weeks birding the lakefront.

* Turkey Vulture. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #128, high overhead.

* Ruby-crowned Kinglet. BIGBY #129. Lake Park.

* White-throated Sparrow. BIGBY #130. One in Lake Park Monday. Everywhere on Tuesday.

* Lincoln's Sparrow. BIGBY #131. South end of Lake Park, where the upper part of the lake bluff is thick with foxtails.

And here are Tuesday's highlights:

* Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. BIGBY #132. Lake Park. As my Peterson's says: "a wash of yellow from throat to belly." Eye ring had a slight yellowish tint as well.

* Brown Thrasher. BIGBY #133. Flew by as I looked for sparrows in the foxtails at the south tip of Lake Park.

* American Coot. BIGBY #134. Four birds behind the Milwaukee art museum. Waterfowl migration has started!!

* Wood Duck. BIGBY #135. Veterans Park lagoon. I was distracted by the harsh sound of a heron's call. I found an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron who seemed a little irritated by the Wood Duck invading its personal space. I never would have noticed the Wood Duck if the heron hadn't been so cranky.

Bernie Sloan

Cooper's and crows playing "tag"

There's a large grassy lawn dotted with a few trees in Milwaukee's Veteran's Park.

Yesterday afternoon there were 4-5 crows hanging out on the lawn, when suddenly a large immature Cooper's Hawk flew out of some trees by the lagoon. It picked out a crow, swooped down on it, tapped it with its feet, and made this loud guttural call. The Cooper's then flew up into a nearby tree.

Not to anthropomorphize too much, but the crow looked genuinely embarrassed that it had been taken by surprise. Its feathers were all ruffled and it was making low muttering sounds.

The other crows acted as if nothing had happened, which surprised me. I expected them to get all agitated and go after the Cooper's. After about a minute, one of the other crows flew up into the tree where the Cooper's was. It was quiet for about 30 seconds. Then the crow burst out of the tree with the Cooper's in close pursuit. Some fancy aerobatics ensued for about 20 seconds. Most of the time the Cooper's was doing the chasing, but once the crow manuvered so that it was behind the hawk.

The Cooper's then flew back up into a tree. Another crow slowly flew past the hawk, as if challenging it to another "game". The Cooper's took the bait and there was another chase. The scenario repeated itself several times.

One by one the crows drifted away, seeming to grow tired of the sport. The Cooper's and the last crow started one final chase and wound up on the ground, rolling around for a couple of seconds. Then the crow left, leaving the hawk calmly sitting by itself up in a tree.

The thing that surprised me the most about this encounter was that the Cooper's and the crows seemed very calm when they weren't interacting. And when one crow was playing "tag", the others acted as if nothing unusual was going on.

It was a fun encounter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photos of sunrise on a section of my Milwaukee walking BIGBY route

My Milwaukee walking BIGBY route is nice because I've been finding lots of interesting birds. But there's more to it than that. The tranquil beauty of an early morning sunrise can be quite the restorative for one's spirits.

Here's an example, captured with just a simple cell phone camera this morning (9/13), at the south end of Bradford Beach:

And here's another cell phone shot taken from water's edge at Bradford Beach as the sun peeks over the horizon:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 9/8-9/9 – Ross’s Goose, Eagle, six new BIGBY birds

Beautiful weather for birding Milwaukee’s lakefront. Cool and crisp, with stunning sunrises over Lake Michigan both mornings. I managed to add six new Milwaukee walking BIGBY species, bringing my 2010 count to 126 species. (What's a BIGBY? See:

Here are the highlights from Wednesday, September 8:

* Eastern Screech-owl. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #121. Heard before sunrise from Back Bay Park.

* Savannah Sparrow. BIGBY #122. Saw it in a sandy patch of tall native grasses and wildflowers at the north end of Bradford Beach. I had seen some movement when I first got there, so I stood there patiently for about 20 minutes and eventually the bird came into view for a bit.

* Lots of Chimney Swifts above the Lake Park bluffs. Maybe as many as 1,000. I was down below the bluffs and had a vantage point where I could pretty much see the whole stretch of Lake Park bluffs from North Avenue to Kenwood. The swifts were swarming like crazy. I’m guessing that the trees at the top of the bluffs are the first to be warmed by the morning sunlight and the insects are most abundant there in the early morning. After a half hour or so they were pretty much gone. Next day I saw one bird.

* There were also about 12-15 Barn Swallows over the rugby field at North Point. Haven’t seen any since.

* While watching the swifts and swallows, some movement out over the lake caught my eye. Adult Bald Eagle, headed in a southerly direction. BIGBY species #123.

* Lake Park was pretty active with warblers (no new BIGBYs) and quite a few migrating Northern Flickers. Also had a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

* There was an American Kestrel hover-hunting over Lakeshore State Park. I always enjoy watching kestrels hunt like this. It made a couple of dives to the ground, but came away with nothing.

* Beautiful Red Fox. It was mousing and insect hunting (even tried to grab a dragonfly) in an overgrown grassy area right east of the Veterans Park lagoon. It was a big fox, and its red and white coat was resplendent in the clear bright sunlight. At one point we stood and looked curiously at each other for a couple of minutes.

* Ross’s Goose. BIGBY #124. Life bird, probable state early fall record for Wisconsin, my best BIGBY bird of the year, and maybe ever. Need I say more? :-)

Here are the highlights from Thursday, September 9:

* Watched two Sanderlings fight on the North Point algae mat. Never seen Sanderlings have an argument before. They would stand toe-to-toe and flap their wings, chest-bumping and vocalizing agitatedly. They did this several times. Each time the bird to my right would eventually back down. Must have been some choice tasty morsels on that stinky spot of algae.

* Hermit Thrush. BIGBY #125. In a Lake Park ravine.
* Gray-cheeked Thrush. BIGBY #126. In a Lake Park ravine.

And two non-nature highlights:

* On Wednesday I walked past the old Edmund Fitzgerald house just north of Lake Park. The ship in Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was named after the guy who once lived in this house.

* On Thursday in Lake Park I stumbled onto the opening ceremonies of the lawn bowling “North American Challenge”, pitting the best lawn bowlers of the U.S. against their Canadian counterparts. They even had a bagpiper. I think that was the first time I’ve ever been serenaded by bagpipes while birding. :-) If you’re curious about this event, see:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My 2010 walking BIGBY goal - 200 species

I've always thought it would be pretty cool to record 200 walking BIGBY species in a year, but I never thought I'd have the chance until now. So I'm setting that as my goal for 2010.

My BIGBY this year is rather unique. I birded in southern Indiana the first seven months of the year. And now I'm birding in southeastern Wisconsin after moving to Milwaukee. I had a lot of birds in southern Indiana that I'll never get here (Blue Grosbeak, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Prairie Warbler, Bobwhite, Grouse, Turkey, etc., etc., etc.). And I've been picking up (or will pick up) species along the Milwaukee lakefront that I never had in my southern Indiana BIGBY (gulls, shorebirds, waterfowl, etc).

Watch...after having made my goal public, I'll probably find out the overlap between my two BIGBY lists is bigger than I thought, and I'll fall far short of my goal. Maybe I should have merged the two lists before announcing my goal to the world. :-)

Bernie Sloan
Bloomington, IN (January-July)
Milwaukee, WI (August-December)

Milwaukee BIGBY species #120

Unlike a lot of people, I have less time for birding on weekends than during the week. But I managed to get out a few times, and added seven more species to my 2010 Milwaukee walking BIGBY list. That list now totals 120 species.

Monarch butterfly migration continues. I had the good fortune this morning to come across a bush in a sunny protected spot that held at least 30 resting Monarchs. I snuck up to within two feet of the bush. Wonderful close-up views. I've decided that I think that the underside of a Monarch's wings are more striking than the orange and black upper side. The upper side has flashier colors, but the underside has more subtle, intricate details. Almost like a stained glass window.

I started out the extended Labor Day weekend on Friday, with a trip to Lake Park. Not much activity at the North Point algae mats (couple of Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings), but I picked up four new BIGBY species up on the bluff in Lake Park:

* Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #114.
* Orange-crowned Warbler. BIGBY #115.
* Scarlet Tanager. BIGBY #116.
* Eastern Towhee. BIGBY #117.

I felt like I'd been ignoring Veterans Park lately, and favoring the Lake Park end of my BIGBY circuit, so I made two abbreviated visits to Veterans Park on Saturday and Sunday. These two visits produced another two BIGBY species. The Veterans Park highlights:

* Willow Flycatcher. BIGBY #118. Hanging out on the southeast side of the lagoon.
* Osprey. BIGBY #119. Heading south over the shore. One of two big highlights of the weekend! I really love Ospreys, but I tend to see them only during migration.
* Two Peregrine Falcons. Not a new BIGBY bird, but I don't think I've ever seen two Peregrines at the same time before. The other big highlight of the weekend! I'm not sure they were actually together, but they were both in the general vicinity of the US Bank building and downtown, looking for pigeons, maybe.

Finally, I made a trip to Lake Park early this morning. The wind was starting to pick up, so it was hard to find birds. But there were a few interesting things, including BIGBY species #120. The highlights:

* The North Point algae mats were in fine shape. Lots of gulls...150+. Lots of shorebirds...40+ birds. But nothing new: Sanderlings, Spotted Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers.
* I'd seen only a couple of Barn Swallows over the past several days. But this morning there were 12-15 foraging over the grassy area just south of the water filtration plant.
* Maybe 150 Chimney Swifts flying around above the bluff.
* BIGBY species #120 (Veery). I was at the top of the bluff and some brief motion caught my attention in the woods. I waited for a bit. My patience paid off.

Bernie Sloan

Mississippi Kites in northern Illinois

For several years now there have been Mississippi Kites nesting and breeding in Rockford, Illinois. To give you an idea of how far north this is, Rockford is only 20 miles away from the Wisconsin state line.

While Mississippi Kites are known to breed in Illinois, their Illinois breeding range is in far southwestern Illinois, 300 miles south of Rockford.

This year it looks like there's been a kite population explosion in Rockford (see following e-mail). I'm wondering if this is the farthest north breeding site for Mississippi Kites in the U.S.?

--- On Mon, 9/6/10, Larry Balch wrote:

From: Larry Balch
Subject: IBET Kite explosion in Rockford
Date: Monday, September 6, 2010, 9:19 PM

We can now confirm the existence of 4 juvenile kites in Rockford. We have found two nests, and know the approximate location of a third. We suspect the general location of yet another nest from which no young have yet been found.

On Monday, 29 August, 9 kites were seen by a knowledgeable couple, soaring in circles together above their large back yard. They and we have been seeing one or two kites in their yard for most of the summer.A brief summary of the juveniles we've found:

Kid 1: Found in nest 8/13 4 blocks north of Bloom School, and 2-3 blocks east. Not seen there 8/15. Found on ground 8/16. Seen walking/hopping across lawn 8/17. On the same day it apparently continued across the street to a bush where it spent the next 4 days. First seen flying, a distance of 50 feet, on 8/22. Not seen again until 8/28, 1400 feet from nest. Not seen since.

Kid 2: Found 9/1 about a block directly south of Bloom School. Easily distinguishable from Kid 2 by plumage differences. This bird was very active, often flying 100 to 150 feet between different perches. Fed by adults. Seen again late 9/3 very close to where originally seen. Not seen since.

Kid 3: Found afternoon of 9/5, about a block directly south of Bloom School. Again, easily distinguishable from both Kid 1 and Kid 2 by plumage differences. This bird apparently sat in exactly the same spot for the next 19-20 hours before dropping to a lower branch today. The intersection around which Kids 2 and 3 have been seen is about 550 feet from last year's nest.

Kid 4: Found around 9:30 this morning near its nest, well northeast of Bloom School, and about 580 feet from the nest of Kid 1. This bird was seen to fly about 15 feet later, without leaving the tree.Single birds were known to have fledged from known nests in both 2008 and 2009, both near Bloom School. We did not suspect the existence of other young birds in either year.

Further details will be posted at later tonight.

Larry Balch
Winnebago County

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Milwaukee shorebirds & warblers - BIGBY species #105

Early yesterday I walked to Milwaukee's Bradford Beach, North Point, and Lake Park. All three areas are near Lake Michigan.

I found five new BIGBY species, bringing my Milwaukee walking BIGBY total to 105 species. I started my Milwaukee BIGBY on August 3, after moving from Bloomington, IN. As an aside, my 105 Milwaukee species is by far my highest species count ever for the month of August, BIGBY or non-BIGBY. Very cool!

Bradford Beach was a washout. A couple of people had dogs fetching stuff in the lake at the north end (dogs-allowed section) of the beach, so I didn't bother to look there.

At North Point the algae mats had shifted so that they covered a much smaller area than usual. But I had much better shorebird variety than the past several trips...five species:

* Spotted Sandpiper. Two birds.
* Semi-palmated Plover. Three birds
* Least Sandpiper. BIGBY species #101. One bird.
* Semi-palmated Sandpiper. BIGBY #102. Two birds.
* Sanderling. Several birds.

Up on the bluffs at Lake Park I encountered several waves of warblers along the length of the Locust Street Ravine Trail. Quite a few birds! I was able to identify 11 warbler species. If the lighting had been better (it was cloudy, or maybe high fog) I may have been able to ID a few other species. Here are the Lake Park highlights:

* Eastern Phoebe. BIGBY species #103. Two or more birds.
* Blue Jay. One Bird. Only the second Blue Jay I've seen so far in Milwaukee. Not a new BIGBY bird, but maybe my favorite bird of the day. :-)

The Lake Park warblers:

* Black-and-white Warbler. Maybe a half dozen. I think they are my favorite warbler. No bright flashy colors, but the vivid contrast of the bold black and white markings is striking.
* Palm Warbler.
* Magnolia Warbler.
* American Redstart. Many.
* Cape May Warbler. BIGBY #104. One bird.
* Northern Parula. BIGBY #105. One bird. Hadn't seen one since I left southern Indiana.
* Tennessee Warbler.
* Blackburnian Warbler.
* Blackpoll Warbler.
* Black-throated Green Warbler.
* Chestnut-sided Warbler.