Thursday, December 16, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront, 12/16 - Eastern Meadowlark, Long-tailed Duck

I birded my CBC route intensely today, in preparation for Saturday's actual Christmas Bird Count. Veterans Park lagoon frozen solid. Milwaukee harbor iced over. (See: Lakeshore State Park lagoon and the Discovery World harbor were pretty much frozen solid, with small open patches at the entrance to the harbor, and beneath the bridge leading to the park.

Some highlights:

* There was a mass exodus of ducks and other waterfowl when Milwaukee's harbor iced over on Tuesday night. But I discovered today that they didn't go very far. There was a large raft of ducks at the mouth of the harbor closest to the McKinley Marina entrance. I'm estimating 6,000 ducks, and I probably didn't see others because my view was blocked by the breakwalls. In descending order of numbers: Scaup, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddys, Coots, etc. Vast majority were Scaup. Maybe 5-10% Goldeneyes.

* Absolutely NO Mallards behind the art museum (all iced up). This was a first-of-year experience for me. :-)

* Long-tailed Duck. One female. In the open water under the bridge leading to Lakeshore State Park. I first saw this bird Tuesday, but missed it yesterday. Another birder told me she saw it yesterday. I saw it again this morning.

* Eastern Meadowlark. Lakeshore State Park. I've been gunning for this bird ever since two other birders told me about seeing it over the past couple of days. Seemed *really* late for this species. I tend to think of meadowlarks as an insectivorous species. But, in checking BNA Online's range map, southeastern Wisconsin looks to be pretty close to the northern dividing line for year-round distribution. BNA's "Food Habits" section notes: "Main winter diet consists of noxious weed seeds and waste grains (mainly corn), supplemented to some degree with wild fruits." There's all kinds of seeds in the Lakeshore State Park prairie.

* About 200 ducks in open water at the entrance of the Discovery World harbor. Mostly Scaup, Goldeneyes, and Mallards, plus a few Coots.

* Redhead. Same area as above. Seems kinda late.

* Red-breasted Merganser. Same area as above.

* Eastern Bluebird. Several. In some small trees at the north entrance to Lakeshore State Park. First bluebirds I've ever seen in that park, I think.

* A flock of 45 raucous American Crows in Veterans Park. I believe that's the most crows I've seen since I moved to Milwaukee.

* Lots of American Tree Sparrows on the east side of the Veterans Park lagoon.

* 10-15 Dark-eyed Juncos in the flock of tree sparrows.

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