Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 11/10/10 - Sanderling, Surf Scoter, Snow Buntings

I walked the north half of my Milwaukee BIGBY route today. Another day of not-too-good air (Air Quality Alert). See the following photo for an example: This photo has a vaguely post-apocalyptic look to it. :-)

No new BIGBY birds, but some interesting highlights:

* The lake was pretty rough today ( Not sure why...the breeze was pretty calm.

* Lots of algae at North Point. See: The algae has even created a calm lagoon to shelter the ducks from the rough surf:

* Six Snow Buntings were flying up and down the rocks at McKinley Beach. They look rather exotic in flight at close range. They briefly landed on the rocks not ten feet from me. They didn't seem to be bothered by my presence.

* There was a lone Sanderling foraging on the algae mat at the far south end of Bradford Beach. I haven't seen a Sanderling in six weeks, so this was a pleasant surprise. It's always fun to watch them "chase" waves.

* A couple dozen Buffleheads were calmly riding the surf just off of Bradford Beach. It's interesting how they can ride up over the crests of breaking waves without seeming at all concerned.

* There was about a 50-50 mix of Mallards and Gadwalls right near shore off of North Point. They were either napping or foraging in the lagoon created by a wall of algae. See: for another view of this lagoon.

* A Surf Scoter was working the surf just south of the rugby field by the water treatment plant. I'm not sure what it hoped to find...the waves were pretty rough, and there probably was no visibility under water what with the algae and churned up sand.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, 11/8 - Thayer's Gull, Dunlin

What a beautiful day for birding, or for just sitting on a park bench and soaking up the sun!! Had two new MilWALKee and combo BIGBY species. My MilWALKee BIGBY count is now up to 173 species, and my 2010 combo BIGBY count stands at 213 species.

Some highlights:

* While walking alongside McKinley Marina looking for waterfowl, I noticed another unfortunate sign that winter is drawing closer:

* Thayer's Gull. Very cool adult bird! It was perched on a wooden piling in the lake just off of the Bradford Beach parking lot. Great close-up views. MilWALKee BIGBY species #172. 2010 combo BIGBY species #212.

* Dunlin. Nervously working the extensive algae mat at the far south end of Bradford Beach. I say "nervously" because there was a steadily increasing number of people walking the edge of the beach in the nice weather. The bird gave up when someone came along with a dog. It flew out over the lake. Maybe the same bird that John Idzikowski saw later in the afternoon at North Point? MilWALKee BIGBY species #173. 2010 combo BIGBY species #213.

* Steve Lubahn reported a possible Pacific Loon off the shore of Lake Park near the rugby field and the water treatment plant. I didn't notice any loons while I was in that general vicinity today, but there were LOTS of Buffleheads, several Coots, maybe a dozen Gadwalls, a couple dozen Mallards, several Common Goldeneyes, and at least one Bonaparte's Gull mixed in with the Herrings and Ring-billeds.

* I walked back home through Lake Park and saw several Pine Siskins on a tree on the golf course.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Milwaukee lakefront, 11/4-11/5 - Three new BIGBY birds, first of year snowflakes

Ran across three new MilWALKee BIGBY species over the past two days. My list of MilWALKee BIGBY species now stands at 171. Two of these birds were also 2010 "combo" BIGBY species, bringing that count to 211 species.

Highlights from Thursday, 11/4:

* Wilson's Snipe. Flushed from the south end of Veterans Park lagoon. MilWALKee BIGBY species #169.

* Common Nighthawk(?). This seems REALLY late! I was by Discovery World and heard what sounded exactly like a Common Nighthawk "peenting" as it headed south. Couldn't make visual confirmation. The only other bird I know of that can make a sound like that is a displaying American Woodcock, and I'm pretty sure they only do that in spring. Not sure what to think.

* American Coot numbers seem to be gradually declining. Where I used to see hundreds, I'm now seeing dozens.

* Saw the largest flock of Canada Geese I think I've ever seen on the ground. 600+ birds just north of Veterans Park. The orange-collared goose from Hudson Bay is still hanging around. It's been there since at least October 11. There were also several Cacklers mixed in, although they weren't as small as the one I photographed earlier this week.

Highlights from Friday, 11/5:

* First really wintry day I've experienced this fall. And I saw several first-of-season snowflakes! I was out for 3+ hours with the temps in the mid-30s, and wind chills in the mid-20s. Lake Michigan was pretty rough, with some pretty big waves. I remember thinking "you could almost surf on these waves". Right on cue, when I got to Bradford Beach there was someone in the surf with a small (maybe 8-foot) board, trying to catch some waves. It chilled me to the core just to watch! This photo might give you a sense of how rough the lake was:

* Lots of duck activity off of Bradford Beach and North Point. Both Scaup species, Buffleheads, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Ring-necked Duck. And, of course, lots of Mallards. Given the weather conditions, I was surprised by how much flying in and flying out was going on. There was quite a bit of turnover as I watched. I was also surprised to see sleeping ducks riding the rough surf with heads tucked under their wings.

* Ring-necked Duck was MilWALKee BIGBY species #170, and 2010 combo BIGBY #210.

* Black Scoter was MilWALKee BIGBY species #171, and 2010 combo BIGBY #211.

Bernie Sloan

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bradford Beach/North Point, 11/2 - Ducks, Snow Buntings

Covered the northern half of my Milwaukee BIGBY route today...

No new BIGBY birds, but some interesting highlights none the less:

* Snow Buntings. Had a fair number of flyovers along the lakefront. Almost stepped on one near the edge of the Bradford Beach parking lot. I was walking along when my eye detected some motion on the ground at my feet. Snow Bunting. It was hunkered low to the ground in short grass with one eye cocked towards me, checking me out. It was only five feet away at most, the closest I've ever been to one of these birds. After eyeballing me for about five seconds, the bird ran a short distance and then flew to the shoreline rocks. Pretty cool!

* Lots of ducks off of Bradford Beach and North Point. Nothing new, species-wise, but good numbers. There was a raft of 40-50 ducks just out of binocular range, bobbing up and down in the waves off of Bradford Beach. I saw them just enough to think it might have been a mix of scaups and scoters. Closer in, off of North Point, there were quite a few Buffleheads, and by far and away the most Common Goldeneyes I've seen so far this season. And along the shore there were dozens of Mallards.

Also saw two signs of winter, one of them literally a "sign" of winter:

My 2010 BIGBY list now has 209 species

What's a BIGBY? See:

What's a combo walking BIGBY? See:

On October 19 I recorded my 200th combo walking BIGBY species for the year: Bufflehead.

Since then I have added nine more species to my 2010 BIGBY list:

* Henslow's Sparrow - #201
* Mute Swan - #202
* Surf Scoter - #203
* Snow Bunting - #204
* Greater Yellowlegs - #205
* Gadwall - #206
* Franklin's Gull - #207
* Cackling Goose - #208
* LeConte's Sparrow - #209

I'd really like to hit 220 species by year's end. That would be a great personal accomplishment...220 species of birds seen while walking from home.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Oddly quiet on the Milwaukee lakefront today (11/1)

I walked the southern portion of my BIGBY route today (Veterans Park and Lakeshore State Park). It was very quiet, both literally (the easterly breeze kept the city sounds pretty much at bay) and figuratively (not many birds).

The coots and geese numbered in the dozens, rather than the usual hundreds. The Mallards behind the art museum made themselves pretty scarce. Even the ubiquitous gulls were few and far between. I found myself wondering why.

There were a few highlights:

* Cackling Goose. See my earlier posting.

* Two Hooded Mergansers.

* One Pied-billed Grebe.

* Several Snow Bunting flyovers.

* An interesting mixed flock of American Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos. The most juncos I've seen this fall.

* Two accomplished European Starling impressionists. One was doing a cardinal, the other was doing a robin.

* A wildflower without access to a calendar. Apparently it doesn't know this is November...and Wisconsin! See: Looks like a coreopsis species?

* And, finally, a spruce tree with a bumper crop of cones. See and

Cackling vs. Canada Goose - Size comparision photos

I was strolling through Milwaukee's Veterans Park early this afternoon when, lo and behold, I ran across my nemesis bird again (Cackling Goose). This bird has been in the park since at least Friday. I saw it Friday morning on the big lawn east of the Veterans Park Lagoon. Paul Hunter's duck watch group saw it late Saturday afternoon in the same general area, and I saw it again today, by the lagoon, a little north of the paddleboat rental shed.

Remembering that I had my cell phone with me, I decided to try to take a few photos to document the size differential between the Cackler and the Canadas. The Cackler was a little skittish, and not as tolerant of human presence as the Canadas. In fact, when I stopped to watch, three Canadas walked up to within two feet of me looking for a handout.

Anyway, I couldn't get real close to the cackler without it scooting away. I stood there quietly waiting for the Cackler to get close enough to me and my cell phone, and for it to get close enough to a Canada for a size comparison.

Here are a few photos. Remember, I used a cell phone, so they aren't close-ups, but I think they do the job of demonstrating how much smaller the Cackler is. In fact, at one point a passerby said to her companion: "Look at the baby goose!" :-)