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.

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