Sunday, January 23, 2011

Milwaukee, 1/20/11 - Barrow's Goldeneye(?), leucistic Scaup, etc

I've decided that I'm now in birding's "winter doldrums" in terms of seeing new species. I'm two species shy of 200 species for my 12-month Milwaukee BIGBY (8/1/10-7/31/11). But every day I'm seeing pretty much the same usual suspects. I'm pretty much tapped out on duck and gull species...I don't think I can come up with any new ones. I'm thinking I'll probably have to wait for spring migration to hit the 200 mark...maybe some shorebirds I missed this fall?

But the "winter doldrums" aren't all bad. There's less of a drive to push for the next new species, and more time to simply enjoy and appreciate the birds that *are* around. Kinda relaxing...

Some highlights from Thursday, January 20:

* Barrow's Goldeneye(?). Lakeshore State Park. I posted an email about this bird Wednesday afternoon. I called it a "possible" first winter male. But after hearing from someone off-list who had also seen this bird and also ID'd it as a Barrow's, I feel a little more confident with my ID. The bird was sort of hanging out by itself, loosely associated with three female Scaups. Oddly enough, it's not a new 12-month BIGBY bird. I saw a female Barrow's off of Bradford Beach on 12/15/10. Guy from Germany found it, had it in his scope, and let me take a look.

* Leucistic Scaup. Female. Body was a light brownish color, the color of coffee with a lot of cream. Head was a little darker brown. Very different and interesting looking bird.

* Several hundred ducks in the open water at the entrance to the Discovery World harbor (this is where the leucistic bird was). Mostly Scaups, but with a fair number of Goldeneyes. At one point almost all of them took off abruptly and headed south. After looking around a bit I saw one of the resident Red Foxes down on the rocks. That must have been what spooked the ducks. Most of the birds eventually returned, but more gradually than they left. One thing I've noticed about Scaups is that they seem to spend a fair amount of time flying back and forth between different parts of the lakefront. A couple of birds will take off, and several dozen will follow. Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

* Got another good look at the Meadowlark in Lakeshore State Park. Still can't decide on Eastern or Western. Hopefully it will stick around until spring, when its song will give it away (if it's a male, that is). Lots of "if's", I guess.

* Eight Northern Cardinals at the same time. Someone has been putting out sunflower seed along the ramp that leads down the bluff from Prospect Avenue. Most Northern Cardinals I've seen at once in a long time.

* Fifteen Northern Juncos in this same area. I believe that's the most I've seen at once since moving to Milwaukee.

* A male/female pair of House Finches. Nothing exotic, but the first ones I've seen since maybe the CBC. Can't wait til they start singing their spring songs.

* Very brightly colored male Purple Finch. Beautiful bird. Same area as the cardinals and juncos.

* Forty House Sparrows, in some bushes near Ogden and Humboldt, on my way to the grocery store. I know this seems like an odd thing to report, but I don't see many HOSPs when I'm birding along the lakefront. And I rarely saw them at my Indiana home...even at my feeders. Because of this, they look very strange and exotic when I see a decent-sized flock. :-)

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