Thursday, October 14, 2010

A few interesting birds at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (SANC)

Last night there was an interesting program at SANC about the "Bird City Wisconsin" initiative. (SANC is on Lake Michigan, in Bayside). I went there a couple of hours before the program to squeeze in a little birding. My main mission was to find some turkeys and follow them around for a bit. :-)

Some highlights:

* Lincoln's Sparrow. A single individual was moving around in the cattails and brush at the edge of Teal Pond. I had to watch it for quite a bit to confirm the ID as it was very fidgety, and often down in the brush.

* Sora. Pretty sure I heard a Sora calling from the edge of Mystery Pond. The call was four or five notes seperated by maybe one second. It sounded sorta like "wink! wink! wink! wink! wink!".

* Possible Empidonax flycatcher species. I watched the bird for about five minutes. It was perched on a snag and flying out over Mystery Pond, snatching insects. I wasn't about to try to figure out which particular species, especially with the late afternoon light. I'm thinking this is mighty late for Wisconsin?

* Great Horned Owl? The sun was getting pretty low in the sky and the woods were getting kinda dark when I heard this harsh piercing scream. Sounded like a cross between a cat and a hawk. Gave me goosebumps! I heard it a couple more times and then briefly saw the profile of a large owl flying among the trees on the other side of a ravine. Both Peterson and BNA mention that immature Great Horned Owls will make such a screaming noise in the summer and fall. It was a spooky experience, which is fitting what with Halloween just a couple of weeks away.

* House Wren. It was foraging through the brush while I was watching the flycatcher. Got pretty close to me, maybe 2-3 feet away. Fun to watch. Not a rare species by a long shot, but it's most likely the last of the season for me. Probably won't see another one until next spring.

* Grackle. Maybe 30-40 of them, perched in a tree, cackling noisily. I mention them because they made me realize I haven't seen any of these relatively common birds in maybe three weeks. They're not very common on my Milwaukee BIGBY route. When I lived in Indiana they were everyday birds. Sounds kinda weird to be excited about seeing Grackles, but I was.

* Wild Turkey. Mission accomplished! I located three males and followed them around for about half an hour. I've probably mentioned this before, but I love to follow Wild Turkeys and observe their behavior. This time they were stripping small seeds from several native plant species. They would grasp the seed heads at the base and strip the seeds with an upward motion of their bills. Interesting to see such large birds feeding on such small seeds...these were the kind of plants you normally see goldfinches and sparrows feeding on. When I had backyard turkeys in Illinois, I sometimes would see them pecking vigorously on the lawn as if it was a turkey buffet. Then I would go out and look at the spot where they'd been feeding and see only very tiny grass and weed seeds. I think this is why turkeys have spread so successfully in recent times...they can make a meal of just about anything.

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