Friday, October 1, 2010

Early signs of waterfowl migration, plus TWO gray foxes in Milwaukee's Lakeshore State Park

It was a relatively quiet morning on the southern part of my Milwaukee walking BIGBY route. No new BIGBY birds, but still some nice highlights:

* TWO gray foxes were seen in Lakeshore State Park. More details at the end of this note.

* There's a spruce tree full of small cones east of the Veterans Park lagoon. This tree seems to be a magnet for chickadees, nuthatches, etc. Quite a few species on it today. Sort of looked like a Christmas tree festooned with passerine ornaments.

* The American Coot numbers have increased behind the art museum. For the past two weeks the count has been at a steady 10-12 birds. This AM I'm guessing there were ay least 60 coots (counting coots can be a challenge since they're constantly diving underwater and popping back up). Maybe a sign that waterfowl migration is ready to kick into gear?

* The Common Goldeneye population behind the art museum has doubled, increasing from one to two birds. :-) There's been a male hanging out there since early August. This morning there was a female goldeneye swimming and diving with the coots. Interestingly, the male goldeneye was nowhere near the female. Normally he hangs out in the area where the female was this AM. Today he was farther north in the harbor, near Veterans Park. Wonder if this new goldeneye is a harbinger of additional birds that might be coming in with this weekend's cold front?

* Lots of Palm Warblers foraging in the prairie area of Lakeshore State Park. They flew up and down and in and out of the prairie enough that I didn't attempt to count them. They didn't seem to be fazed at all by the foraging Gray Fox (the fox seemed more interested in grasshoppers).

As I noted earlier, TWO gray foxes were seen in Lakeshore State Park today. I was tracking one at the south end of the park, trying to get close enough for cell phone photos. A woman stopped and watched with me for a bit, and then headed north. She came back 10-15 minutes later to tell me she'd seen another one at the north end of the park. I was following "my" fox that whole time at the far south end of the park, so there definitely was a second one to the north. Here are a couple of cell phone photos of "my" fox: and

While these photos are clearer than the one I posted a week or so ago (you can actually tell its a gray fox this time) they're still nothing to write home about. But I was shooting blind because the sun's glare washed out the view screen, so I guess they're not all that bad. I need to get me a digital SLR. :-)

One final note on these foxes. From what I've read, Gray Foxes are nocturnal animals that like forested, brushy habitat, away from human habitation. Lakeshore State Park is a 17 acre tract in an urban area with a frequent human presence. No trees. The tallest vegetation is probably goldenrods. Interesting.

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