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: http://bit.ly/cn3cbv).
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: http://bit.ly/cAvWsE.