Thursday, February 17, 2011

Milwaukee Lakefront, 2/15-2/16 - Two new 2011 BIGBY species

I walked the southern portion of my BIGBY route on Tuesday and Wednesday, adding one new 2011 BIGBY bird each day. My BIGBY count for the year is now 57 species.

What a difference a day can make on the lakefront. On Tuesday there was a lot of open water in Milwaukee Harbor. Yesterday the harbor was jammed shut with ice floes. Here's a "before" picture from Tuesday: http://bit.ly/fhf30z (the dark line in the middle of the photo is ducks, mostly Greater Scaups). And here's an "after" photo from yesterday, taken from pretty much the same spot: http://bit.ly/fDhUlz. I'm thinking the ice must have come from the Milwaukee River, which flows into the harbor? On Tuesday there were thousands of Scaups in the harbor. Yesterday I could only find six.

Some birding highlights:

* Mute Swan behind the art museum (Tuesday). 2011 BIGBY species #56. Here's a photo of the swan asleep on the ice: http://bit.ly/fkKCi4.

* Horned Lark (Wednesday). 2011 BIGBY species #57. A slow but steady trickle of flyovers above Lakeshore State Park, plus one on the rocks.

* On Tuesday a flock of at least 1,000 Scaups flew by at close range. Interesting sound with all the wing-whistling.

* There's been an influx of Mallards this week. Not that long ago I could find only a few. Tuesday and Wednesday I recorded at least 200. Most were sleeping on the ice, but this one was eyeing me suspiciously: http://bit.ly/h6Mivt.

* I think I'm seeing an increase in Ring-billed Gulls. A sign of spring?

* The crows look like they've found a new sport: harrassing gulls on the ice. There were several crows tormenting gulls. They would land on the ice and walk up to a gull cawing racously until the gull flew off. One bird would actually yank on a gull's tail feathers if the gull tried to ignore it.

* Saw a Red Fox AND a Gray Fox in Lakeshore State Park. Too far away for decent photos. Interesting that I see them out in broad daylight fairly frequently, since Red Foxes are usually diurnal hunters and Gray Foxes are usually nocturnal hunters. I have a new theory about this "abnormal" behavior. I've been seeing coyote tracks in the snow in the park, and I've read that foxes tend to avoid coyotes. Maybe they're active in the daylight because they're less likely to run into coyotes at that time of day? Just a thought.

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