Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WisBigby 2010 coming to a close

As 2010 winds down and we look forward to a new year of green birding, congratulations go out to Scott with an amazing 234 bird species seen without the use of fossil fuels!  It was a great inaugural year for WisBigby and Tim and I are looking for any suggestions to improve the experience for all in 2011.  Just drop one of us a line.

Happy New Green Birding Year!!

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: http://bit.ly/dyaADK.

* 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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront - Four new BIGBY species

My computer was in the shop for some repairs, so I haven't had much in the way of e-mail access. Just wanted to give a quick BIGBY update. I added four new 2010 Milwaukee walking BIGBY species last Thursday (10/7), bringing my Milwaukee count to 151 species. I added these four species near the beginning of my walk and had visions of a big day dancing in my head. No such luck, though...nothing new for the rest of the day. But it was still a very nice day for a walk.

Here are the new BIGBY birds:

* Fox Sparrow. Milwaukee walking BIGBY species #148. Near the entrance to Lakeshore State Park.

* Vesper Sparrow. BIGBY #149. Near the south end of Lakeshore State Park.

* Lapland Longspur. BIGBY #150. At south part of Lakeshore State Park. This was also species #197 in my 2010 "combo" BIGBY list. My goal of 200 species for 2010 isn't far from reality! (What's a "combo" BIGBY? See: http://bit.ly/a2HhKW).

* American Tree Sparrow. BIGBY #151. Saw several more of them later in my walk.

Bernie Sloan

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Hey guys,

I hit a couple of nice pockets of warblers yesterday at Lake Kegonsa State Park. I finally found a Bay-breasted Warbler for my list!! I had one flock that was probably better than anything I had all spring. Still need Olive-sided Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo and a few warblers (Black-throated Blue, Pine, Orange-crowned).

To the woods!

Andy P.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My 100th Milwaukee walking BIGBY species

I started my second walking BIGBY of the year on August 3 after moving to Milwaukee from southern Indiana. My 2010 Indiana BIGBY list ended with 152 species.

Yesterday I recorded my 100th Milwaukee BIGBY species. Palm Warbler.

I've summarized my sightings in the following blog posts:


Bernie Sloan
Milwaukee, WI

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Hey folks,

Things have obviously slowed down on the BIGBY front for everyone with the end of migration/heat of summer. I'm writing from Dayton, OH, where I'll be spending the next couple of years. My current living situation isn't looking terribly friendly BIGBY-wise, especially after living along Lake Michigan for the last two years; my apartment complex is surrounded by a couple of busy highways and interstates that could make biking a bit of a risky proposition. Still plenty of time to explore though.

I figured now was as good a time as any to write up my BIGBY highlights as my BIGBY run, at least for the purposes of this friendly 'competition', officially ended on June 1. All in all, I had an absolute blast with it. I gave things a half-hearted run last year, and even in a shorter time frame managed to tack on about 25 additional species. I'm definitely thinking of "what ifs" for the 2010 season... with some luck in the fall, 200 might have been a possibility!!! I can get wordy, so I'll try to condense my year as much as possible.

My main mode of transport was my bicycle. I pedaled roughly 250 miles, with my longest trips being a couple of adventures to Schlitz Audubon, and a March trek to Havenwoods SF. Interestingly, I had zero birds at Schlitz that I didn't pick up elsewhere, and my only Havenwoods bird was an American Kestrel. Still, I really enjoyed exploring these two spots, and had I not visited, then most likely a Spectacled Eider would have been loafing off of the shore at Schlitz on every day I decided to stay in. My 'miles walked' were all accumulated when I would spot new year bird while running. Similarly, my "other" miles are the result of a Merlin I saw near the UEC over the Milwaukee River while cross-country skiing at the start of the competition.

With my mornings almost always free, I was able to get out and bird quite a bit this year. While I didn't manage to spot anything terribly rare, and my lifer Whimbrel never did appear on my CGI adventures, I lucked into a couple of personal highlights along the way:
  • Snowy Owl- I've never had one 'sneak up' on me unexpectedly, until one tried landing atop a lightpost in front of me at Lakeshore State Park. Easily one of the most personally memorable birding experiences I've had.
  • Gulls- A stretch of warm weather in March provided a great chance to study gulls on the quickly receding ice at McKinley Marina in relatively comfortable conditions... I doubled my BIBGY gull number from last season, including several at very close range.
  • Prothonotary Warbler- A new WI bird for me, and easily the coldest weather I've ever seen one of these in, surprising me in Locust Ravine in late April, right after I had seen my first Palm Warbler of the year.
  • American Bittern- Shocked to see this bird multiple times over two days in Locust Ravine, with a chance to study this bird like I've never had, even if it was in the wrong habitat.
  • Spring migration at Lake Park- I was lucky enough to be able to bird Lake Park all but one day between April 27th and May 10th, and pretty regularly after May 17th. It was pretty neat to watch the progression of migration walking the exact same trails every day; I'll never forget the struggles of April 29th (no more than 3 or 4 YR and Palm Warblers), then arriving on the morning of the 30th and immediately hearing a Black-throated Blue, which would be joined by 10 additional warbler species.
Good luck to everyone the rest of the way!!! I've been following the listserv as much as I can over the summer... I definitely am upset about missing Dickcissel and Mew Gull at Lakeshore!! Would have been great and potentially rather easy adds to the tally!!! Can't wait to see how everyone finishes out!


*Quick edit, as I was a bit confused... while I started writing this two weeks ago, I'm just now getting around to finishing/posting... so really date of 8/15 is more accurate*

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wow, blog entries have seemed to hibernate with the summer. Of course, i'ts been way way way too long since I've added any species. But with fall migration I sense the activity is going to pick up again. Gotta go grease the bicycle chain and check the air in the tires.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer tic!

Hey Folks,

Despite many miles of biking to and from work and around McFarland, I haven't added a species in a long while. Last night on the east edge of town I finally heard some food-begging Great-horned Owlets! #176. #200 will be tough but it's still my goal.

Andy P.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Hey folks,

Took advantage of the nice weather and biked down to the CGI today. Nothing particularly rare (was hoping for a hooded gull of some variety), but quite a few good shorebirds hanging around totaling 11 species, in addition to 5 species of duck, and all six swallows. A White-rumped Sandpiper was very cooperative, foraging in a puddle close to the ferry fence. A pair of Ruddy Turnstones flew in off the lake while I was scoping, and in true CGI fashion, a Black-bellied Plover literally appeared from nowhere in a small puddle I was scoping as I glanced down at my guide. I have no idea where the bird could have come from, as I had scanned the area pretty thoroughly beforehand. I was pretty excited to pick up a drake American Wigeon as well, as I had figured that the window on that species had closed. Still a decent collection of waterfowl, with single female Northern Shoveler and Hooded Merganser briefly seen (viewing of the waterfowl pond was pretty heavily obstructed, I think it is very likely the males were here as well). Really a shame this spot isn't managed for wildlife, who knows what else it would pull in with some real habitat.

An Olive-sided Flycatcher and a few Mourning Warblers highlighted a morning walk through Lake Park today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cuckoos and Flycatchers

Originally, I'd planned to bike down to the CGI after birding Lake Park, but the fog is making that trek seem less profitable. Still, a great morning of Bigbying, and after traveling out of town last week (and being pretty busy catching up/working this week), I had quite a few later migrants to add to the year's tally. Lake Park was pretty busy this morning, with loads of Wilson's, Magnolia, and Blackpoll Warblers around, with a handful of Tennessee and a couple of Mourning as well. Both cuckoos were present as well, with a Yellow-billed Cuckoo first spotted in a tree above the soccer fields. Soon after, a Black-billed Cuckoo provided good looks as well. I was surprised to see a Common Nighthawk flap out of the mist. There are good numbers of Red-eyed Vireo throughout the park, along with at least 4 Philadelphias.

After birding Lake Park, I decided to make a detour and swing by the UEC. I was rewarded with a cooperative Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. At least 2 Alder Flycatchers were calling along the river here as well. Additional highlights included a Red-headed Woodpecker and another cuckoo, who took off as I raised my 'nocs, evading identification.

As always, great morning to be out! The fog made viewing difficult at times at Lake Park, but it was very active. Though I've been away for a bit, it seems as though there has been a heavy influx of flycatchers, with the two mentioned above, along with many Least, Great-crested, and Pewee calling today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Birds

Hi Folks,

I biked to the UW Arboretum this morning to do a field trip with others. No migrants!! I did pick up Tufted Titmouse and Black-billed Cuckoo. At picnic point I managed a singing Prothonotary warbler which I expected to miss for the year.

I'm slowly working into shape to bike some serious miles in search of tougher birds...I gotta make Scott work!

Andy P.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Snipe. Yes. Spotted Sandpiper. No. Goshawk? Sweet Revenge.

Here's a condensed version of the "Goshawk Extreme Dash."

Text message from TIVA "goshawk at RP. No lie"
Phone conversation ".... follow the crows."
Run. Scramble. Climb. Slip. Mud. Balance. Peer.
TIVA: Oops

(For full disclosure, the GHOW was beautiful and worth every bruise).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Update from Madtown

Hi Folks,

I've been racking up the bike miles lately - and figuring out that a better, more comfortable bike would make this easier! Tomorrow - canoe birding.

I picked up Caspian Tern, Orchard oriole, willow flycatcher, wilson's warbler today. Still no owls and very few raptors!

Andy P.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What a week!

What an awesome week it has been for birding in Milwaukee! Exactly one week ago, I birded Lake Park, and only could find YR and Palm Warblers. Since then, Lake Park alone has given me 35 FOY birds!

Once again, I am pretty impressed by the birding in Milwaukee. I feel pretty fortunate to live where I do. With easy access to Lake Park/Vet's/Lakeshore State Park, it's really easier for me to BIGBY than it is to drive to these same locations to bird. The variety of birds that pass so close to my current home is astonishing, and I've really enjoyed being able to witness it this year. Over the last week, I've been able to tour Lake Park all but one day, and each day has provided at least a couple of new goodies and surprises (and, as was the case last Friday and yesterday, loads of new arrivals!!). A White-eyed Vireo at Lake Park yesterday was especially exciting, as six of us were able to share the bird as it cooperatively foraged beneath us in Locust Ravine.

On Monday, I also made a run at the CGI. I was not a Milwaukee resident during its 'heyday', but even the decline of habitat over the last couple of the years is very noticeable and pretty sad; really a unique lakeshore habitat. I got down there later than I wanted to, with the sun dropping and the wind whipping; but as usual, it still produced a good variety of shorebirds, including three Phalaropes frantically spinning in the easternmost impoundment. I did not get a satisfactory ID on all three birds, though one striking female Wilson's stood out, and the clear underwing of a second made two for that species. A Peregrine swooped down in front of me at the impoundment as well, spooking up two Pectoral Sandpipers that had been hidden before. Definitely looking forward to a few more return trips to this spot! Very hopeful that it will grant me the lifer Whimbrel I've been hoping to see here since I first became a Brew City resident!

Is anyone planning on doing a Big Green Day? Depending on how the weather matches my work schedule the second half of May, I'm definitely planning on making a run or two. Another outlet for our BIGBY obsessions!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another Glorious Day

Excellent day beginning with banding on the island in Washington Park, just a few blocks away from one of my old schools. I much prefer sitting on the island with geese hissing away at me, than sitting in a hot classroom with 36 frustrated students. While at Washington Park, I got my first glimpse of a Parula Warbler, and I hoped to replicate the event while on a true Bigby to Lake Park. The wind was amazing this afternoon, so Maria and I took to the ravines and found many Northern Waterthrushes, a Veery, a Gray-cheeked as well as lots of Palms and Yellow-rumps. Near the warming house we spotted a Blue-headed Vireo and a Magnolia. There were more species observed, but I must admit to total happy, sunburnt exhaustion and I think it shall be another early night. (All the better to rise early tomorrow for more Bigbying!) Kudos and thanks to Tim Vargo (TIVA) for thinking of this challenge, and Owen (our own OWBO) for getting us on the web!!!

Catching Up!

Hi Folks,

I did a bit of Bigbying today. Golden-winged Warbler woke me up at the house this morning and I decided to bike to work by way of Lake Farm Park, Nine Springs, Olin Park, etc. I got some of the shorebirds including Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope and 15 species of warblers!

Andy P.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Recap

Hey folks,
Finally getting a chance to recap what has been an awesome weekend! Had the chance to bird quite a bit the last three days, and it's been awesome. Friday was the day for FOY warblers... I was lucky enough to pick up 6 new additions, including great looks at a male Black-throated Blue with Robin and Maria in Locust Ravine. I biked to Schlitz after that (I think I mentioned my obsession with Scoters as a teenager... old habits die hard, and the report of a Black a day earlier was too much to resist)... unfortunately, the weather turned, things were much quieter, and my 25-ish mile pedal was not rewarded with any new BIGBY birds, though a very pale gull working down the shore caught my eye... definitely the first Iceland Gull I've ever seen when I was in shorts, a consolation prize I was pretty pleased with!
On the way back from Schlitz, I was able to find one of the Great Horned Owls at Estabrook (thanks Robin for the heads up!!!). I gambled that I had a little time before the weather hit and passed my apartment, heading a little bit south to Vet's Park, adding the Black-crowned Night Herons that returned earlier in the week. I decided to make a sweep through Lakeshore State Park as well, and was surprised to see 13 Willets huddled on the beach there. The skies opened up, though I managed to get home before getting too waterlogged.

Saturday morning, the crowd of 40+ birders gathered for the Lake Park Bird Walk was perhaps as impressive as the parade of new migrants that morning. Saturday was less about warblers, with Black-and-White being the only new pickup (really shocked at how elusive this species has been this year). Highlight was definitely the Piping Plover at Bradford, a new Wisconsin bird for me, and the first time I've seen this bird away from its breeding grounds.

While the influx of new species was a little slower this morning than Friday and Saturday, the flow of migration was still very evident at Lake Park, with a noticeable increase in the number of Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, and Black-throated Green Warblers. A Yellow-throated Vireo over the Lake Park Bistro bridge was particularly cooperative. I made a run at Maria's Least Bittern without success, but got a Green Heron as a consolation prize and bird 120 for the BIGBY run.

Overall, what a fun weekend to be out! Really enjoyed every moment I had out there, also enjoyed meeting a few of you all out and about this weekend! Can't wait for things to really take off here shortly!

Good birding!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

GHOW nestling

Bigbying is the best. I don't know what I did before this! Ran into Owen and Anne down at the lakefront today and we found 5 Black-crowned Night Herons and Owen helped me find my Coot.
This is a picture a friend took of the owl at Estabrook Park.

I am Robin. I am a bigbyic.

the weirdness factor

So I was sitting last night thinking about the weirdness of it all - as of last night, I still had not gotten a Killdeer - but I had a Piping Plover. Weird. As of last night, I didn't have a Red-tail Hawk or Kestrel - but since I joined BIGBY I have a Peregrine and a Bald Eagle. Also weird. And I can't find a Cedar Waxwing or a Tree Sparrow to save my life. And I'm wondering how I'll get all those ducks I know so well but have (I'm afraid) moved on. Maybe a trip to the CGI tomorrow???
Mostly I'm trying real hard to catch up before I go East for a few days to collect my daughter from college and attend my niece's wedding. So I'm working hard at this when I can, while I can. And it's fun.
Looking for the Willets reported in Lakeshore Park today I got my Killdeer, so things are a little less weird. Didn't get the Willets, but biking by the lagoon north of the MAM I noticed something and went back to check it and found a Least Bittern, a beautiful, adult bird, in the cattails, which was really, really cool.
...and a little weird...
....but I'll take it.
I love this time of year.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Thrush City in Florida!

Hi Wisconsin Bigby-ers! I just wanted to let you know there are plenty of migrants around the Tampa area and they are coming north! I just had a singing Scarlet Tanager, Blue Grosebeaks but only Blackpoll Warblers. The best bird was a Dickcissel which is very unusual for our area.

I plan to kayak after some birds and bike 6 miles to the park on the beach for some shorebirds. I'll try to get some photos to add to the blog.

Happy Birding!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

GHOW nest thanks to Al, and Black and White Warbler

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

you can see a lot just by looking...

Bird banding at UEC was canceled today due to the cold and wind and I decided to take the time I would have spent doing that and walk to Lake Park and continue my frantic efforts at catch-up-BIGBYing and stalk the elusive American Bittern (which I believe I must have walked past at least TWICE while birding with Tim Vargo yesterday). While looking for the equally elusive Palm Warblers in the trees above the Locust Street Ravine, just to the north of the bridge over the ravine road I heard a commontion above me, looked up and was starled by a low flying Bald Eagle being mobbed by three or four crows - what a marvelous surprise! Paul Hunter, who was birding in the ravine itself , also saw it.
You just never know...
Oh, no Palm warblers, did find a Pine Warbler.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Locust Ravine rocks!

Before leaving home for Lake Park this afternoon, I FINALLY saw my first Blue Jay of the year fly over the yard making the typical Blue Jay racket. Hey, if you had structural blue coloring, you'd make a racket too. Plus, have you ever heard them mimic a Red-tailed Hawk? Dead ringer.

At the end of two hours combing through Lake Park's Locust Ravine (long after Tim and Maria had departed) I was lucky enough to find the American Bittern that Sam discovered yesterday. What a beautiful bird! She was doing her absolute best to look like a stump (above), and for the multiple groups of kids that walked past her without noticing, she may as well have been. It's always so strange to see bitterns in the utterly wrong habitat during migration. Who could forget the Least Bittern that was perched 40 feet up in a tree at Riverside Park a couple of years ago? These are the best looks I've had at these secretive denizens of the marsh. I hope this bird got enough rest and refueling (what was she eating in this ravine?) because the last I saw of her after she was flushed by a man and his dog, she was leaving Lake Park headed to the southwest. Maybe she'll spend a few days along the Milwaukee River Greenway.

The ravine was exceptionally birdy tonight, producing four new Bigby birds in addition to the bittern (Red-headed Woodpecker, Field Sparrow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Eastern Towhee). I do love to see the Red-headed Woodpeckers return to Lake Park each year. If more local parks and small woodlot owners would leave snags standing rather than compulsively cutting down each and every "hazard tree," this declining species of savannas would be in better shape. As it is, it was one of four Species of Greatest Conservation Need (along with American Bittern, Field Sparrow, and Brown Thrasher) in Locust Ravine tonight--once again highlighting the importance of migratory bird stopover habitat in an urban landscape. If only there was a Citizen Science research project that was examining the importance of such sites to migratory birds...

high water on the Menomonee River - and a few birds, too

The Menomonee flows into downtown Milwaukee through a valley that was wetlands - extensive marshes - 200 years ago. During the build-out of urban Milwaukee, the valley became heavily industrialized, and much of the valley landscape was "brownfields" by the late 1980s. One of the world's largest and busiest railroad yards was here a century ago. But the valley is undergoing a resurgence of both new industry, and at least a thin ribbon of green habitat for wildlife along the River. The Hank Aaron State Trail follows the river through this burgeoning industrial resurgence, and you can ride or walk along that ribbon of greenspace. It's one of the few greenspaces near where I live, so I headed there today - the river was exceptionally high from this weekend's heavy rains. The urban runoff flows over an awful lot of impervious surface to end up in the river - and heavy rains make the water level rise over a foot in depth very quickly. The normally muddy/gravelly river bank was inundated, making it difficult to find food for some birds. New BGBY species for me (to add to my very abbreviated list! - none of these except the goldfinch ever appear in my neighborhood) were Green Heron, Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-tailed Hawk, Barn Swallow, N. Flicker, Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Am. Goldfinch, Brown-h. Cowbird, and Downy Woodpecker - all common species to most of the BGBY participants, but not present in very urbanized environments...EXCEPT along and in this ribbon of green adjacent to the river.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

White-throat, white-throat, white-throat, bittern?

Hey folks,

Biked up to Lake Park around 11:30 AM today. Things definitely got off to an intersting start when I ran across a Wild Turkey on the way along Terrace Ave, south of North Avenue. At Lake Park, I was surprised to see a huge increase in the number of birds compared to yesterday. When I first arrived, I lucked into a pretty good-sized migrant flock. Mostly YR Warblers, with a few Palms and single Pine and Nashville Warbler. The flock also included two Blue-headed Vireos. A pair of RB Nuthatches remained near the warming house long after the flock had departed.

Definitely a huge influx of White-throated Sparrows, with a couple of Field mixed in here and there. I would (very) conservatively estimate 200 individuals in the three hours I was at the park, with birds in every area of cover and several flocks of 30+ birds seen throughout. Also quite a few more Brown Thrashers, at least 10 (up from 1 yesterday), and easily 15 Eastern Towhees (I had none yesterday). Hermit Thrushes still numerous, but only managed one Winter Wren in Waterfall Ravine.

I was working south through Locust Ravine with my eyes on the ground, picking through the WT Sparrows (hoping for maybe a Harris', or perhaps a Louisiana Waterthrush working the creek), when an American Bittern flushed off of the west side of the ravine. I froze, and backed out, looking for a birder I had run into earlier. While he had disappeared, I fortunately ran into Judith Huf, and together we searched for the bird. We scoured the ravine, and even looked along the easternmost bluff (the direction the bird had originally flown), with no luck. We were heading back towards the feeders to try that bluff further when we spotted the bird in a tree, near the wooden bridge by the warming house. The bird was hunkered down in the wind, but would raise into a camouflage pose whenever a passerby would pass underneath (it was about ten feet up, two or three feet off of the path). I've never done much digiscoping, but with a little practice, I was finally able to get a decent picture on my cell phone through my binoculars. I worked throughout the rest of the park for about an hour, and when I returned, the bird had dropped into the ravine, tucking next to one of the footbridges in the ravine between the two feeder stations.

Definitely a good day to get out! Love this time of year!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


If you would have told me two months ago when this started that Blue Jay would be my 91st bird of the year, I would have called you crazy... until it took until April 23rd for me to finally grab one. Other highlights on today's rainy, cold walk included quite a few Hermit Thrushes, numerous White-throated Sparrows, Brown Thrasher (92), and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mismatched boots, but a great time

Maria and I spent the day bigbying. We met at Lake Park warming house at 7:30 a.m. in search of Maria's elusive GCKI and, of course, the fabled prothonotary warbler (no luck there). We wove our way through the park and down the waterfall ravine to the lake front. Maria was clicking off new birds left and right, and I got a Blue-winged Teal, Forster's and Caspian Tern. I was fortunate to have Maria who helped me ID a Lincoln Sparrow down near Summerfest grounds. (Almost pitching into the lake as I wobbled on the rocks along the shore). On our way back, we had a glorious view of a Belted Kingfisher at the lagoon, and the humble and endearing white domestic duck who has taken residence in front of the Calatrava. The high point was spotting a juvenile Greater Black-backed Gull on Bradford Beach among Herring and Ring-billed. The bird was huge. It reminded me of a Great Dane hunkered down among whippets.

Later, as I was repositioning bluebird nest boxes in Lake Park, there was a Red-breasted Nuthatch in a pine tree. Again, I could not count him as I had walked home, gotten my car and tools and DROVE back to the park. Rats.

Oh, and the title refers to the fact that early this morning I managed to put a different boot on each
foot and consequently spent the day mis-matched but gloriously happy.
Here's a condensed version of the Snipe encounter that Robin posted below.

I have my bin's trained on a Song Sparrow.
Robin: Hey, are you looking at that Sandpiper?
Me: What sandpiper?
Robin: Right there on the riffraff or whatever you call it.
Me: You mean the Sandpiper that's a Snipe?

(For full disclosure, I actually did have to consult Sibley's because it's so rare that I see a Woodcock or Snipe in full daylight, so I had to make sure)

Lake Park

Took about 1.5 hours in Lake Park today. No luck relocating the Prothonotary. Definitely a more active park this morning though compared to yesterday. Best spot was the bridge north of the Bistro. Many YR Warblers, joined by a pair of Pine Wablers (88). Also had a singing Winter Wren (many other silent wrens throughout) here, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch (89) working the brush along the bottom of the ravine. On my way out of the park, had my first Chimney Swift (90) pass over; most likely the sky will be littered with these guys in a few days.

Anxious for the floodgates to open; looks like there has been heavy migration activity the last few nights south of us. Looks like the wind won't help us out much until next weekend as well.

Good birding!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golden (Frozen?) Swamp Warbler

Hey folks,

I birded my typical 'loop' today, biking through Lakeshore, Vet's Park, McKinley, and Lake Park. While numbers are certainly dwindling, there were still 10 duck species present, though many species represented by very few individuals (1 Redhead, 4 BW Teal, 3 C Goldeneye, 5 Bufflehead, 4 Ruddies). I was caught off guard by a Forster's Tern (83) that swooped in front of me at McKinley before landing on one of the dock posts, allowing me to sharpen up some pretty rusty Tern ID skills (let's just say that a peculiar shadow that made the Tern's bill appear quite black had me on edge for a little bit). The northern edge of McKinley Marina to Lake Park gave me my first (thousand?) Bonaparte's Gulls (84) for the year.

From this point, I headed into Lake Park. The feeders at Wolcott Statue had a pretty decent sparrow collection, including a female Eastern Towhee (85). Lots of Winter Wrens and loads of Hermit Thrushes throughout the park. Finally tracked down my first Palm Warbler (86) as well.

I was doubling back through the Locust Ravine around 6 PM, ready to head home, when a flash of yellow caught my eye. I was very surprised when my binoculars revealed a Prothonotary Warbler (87) bathing in the creek. Definitely a bird I'm used to seeing during the summers growing up in southern Ohio, and not a bird I thought I'd ever see amongst Juncos with temps in the low-40s (and a new Lake Park bird for me as well!!!). The bird was south of the feeders of the northern end, in a puddle beneath an 8-foot snag just off of the trail in Locust Ravine. After about one minute I lost the bird, and worked the length of the ravine for another hour, but failed to relocate it. Sorry about the Twitter post, totally forgot to sign my initials! I'm planning on birding Lake Park tomorrow morning, I'll post if I luck into it again!

Can't wait for things to truly begin picking up shortly here!!! May 9th was a big fallout last year... that's just over two weeks from today!!!

Sandpiper morphs into Snipe

Quite an exciting and thought provoking day today. In short, the new birds today were Rough winged Swallows, Palm Warblers and Wilson's Snipe. The Snipe is what later prompted a long internal debate.

Background: I had been looking for the dratted Spotted Sandpiper. Owen had seen it. Tim had seen it. Maria, NEW to this entire thing, HAD SEEN IT. I had not. I was determined. I got up early and walked the west bank from Locust to North Avenue dam searching for that bird. I saw gnatcatchers, Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Cooper's Hawk ... all were dismissed as NOT being the Spotted Sandpiper. Everything I saw fell into the "Yeah, yeah seen it" category.

I joined the UEC crew on the east bank of the river and continued with them. Downy - seen it. I was focused on finding the Spotted Sandpiper. Suddenly, I noticed Tim focusing on a point on the west bank. I was sure he had spotted it, so I swung the glasses around to scan. There it was. It wasn't the gnatcatcher, thrush, warbler, hawk or woodpecker. It wasn't a Mallard, Canada Goose or sparrow. Therefore, it had to be a Spotted Sandpiper. I wanted to see it, and I saw it.

I saw what I wanted to see, and it wasn't until Tim, upon my exultant hoop and hooray, focused on it and said, "Wait!" that I really saw what I was looking at. It wasn't anything like a sandpiper. Not in the slightest, and yet I had been so determined to see that sandpiper that I ignored what the bird actually looked like in order to fit my expectations. It actually was a Wilson's Snipe - quite an exciting bird to spot. Yet, what really made an impression and occupied my thoughts for hours as I walked through Lake Park and the East Side was that initial "seeing what I wanted to see, what I expected to see, and not what was there. "

This Bigby has generated a lot of musings and taught a lot of lessons. Expectations can change reality. Being so wrapped up in what you want to see can blind you to what is there. The physical time and effort in moving from one birding spot to another has given me a great deal of time to mull upon what I am seeing, and what I am missing. I think, with the slower pace and the increased effort, I may also be learning to actually see and not just look for the next bird.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Well, I just joined and I'm hustling to pick up all the winter-ish birds and early migrants I've been seeing but haven't seen in a "green" way. I'm frustrated that after seeing perhaps dozens of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Golden-crown Kinglets that I can't find either after WALKING to the same places....guess I should have started this earlier...hope when I try to pick up a Scaup and Goldeneye tomororw there are some around...dubious...and Owen - where exactly was that Wood Duck yesterday???

Quick Update

I biked up to Schlitz on Thursday after about two weeks off the 'Bigby' trail due to travel/work schedules. Nothing too extraordinary (would have loved to have run into that Mocker seen the next day!!!), but did pick up a number of FOY birds, including two Wild Turkey, my target bird for the trip. Definitely looking forward to my next pedal up there!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Black Scoter!

Hi Folks,

Maggie and I tandem biked to Lake Waubesa tonight and just about the only bird on the lake was a black scoter! Nice!

Andy P.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Peer pressure made me do it...

Okay, I'm in. Haven't had time for this before, still don't, but I'll give it a go.
Too bad birds in mist nets won't count!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Awakened this morning to the song of the Eastern Towhee. Now this is the easy way to Bigby!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back from Colorado!

Hi Folks,

I've updated my species totals after a few productive drop-offs/pick-ups of the kids through the McFarland park system. A bit surprising is how many House Wrens I heard this morning! I need to get the bike out this weekend....so many birds to get....

Andy P.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FOY Bike Ride

I couldn't pass up this weather, so went in to work late after taking my bike out for the first time this year. I biked 12 miles and managed to get 9 new BIGBY birds, including three FOY: white-throated sparrow, towhee and ring-necked pheasant. I also ended up with some serious chafing - I'm thinking of investing in one of those gel seats for my Pewee Herman-type bike.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dream List

Since this has started, I have found the need to also keep a mental list of birds inhabiting my dreams. Currently, the list includes the Belted Kingfisher, American Woodcock, Golden crowned Kinglet and last night's entry: the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It seems that the target bird of the day becomes achieved at least in my dreams.

Monday, April 12, 2010

you're all on the "cutting edge"...

You know that you are in on something at the "cutting edge" when you see interest from others in your activities, but when you realize that you have to explain what you're doing, and why.
I've searched and found very few Green Birding sites other than those already linked on this blog. What percentage of birders do "green birding"? I think we'll need a poll to answer that question.

No species to add to my very short list - way too many hours of work, and unable to find even 30 minutes to walk around the neighborhood - but I'm enjoying reading what everyone else has found thus far. Mainly only Common Grackles, Mourning Doves, a few House Finches, and (no, I don't want to encourage them, but they're here anyway) House Sparrows at my feeders. This neighborhood has no native tree species whatsoever, and very few of the tiny yards have gardens worthy of the name. But maybe I'll see some flyovers in the coming weeks.

Most North Americans still have yet to fully grasp the importance of improving backyard habitat - but in the UK, the Song Thrush (a species quite similar to our Swainson's Thrush) nowadays nests primarily in gardens. Because the forests are...(think about it).
Got out on Saturday around 11:15, biked 23.5 miles north and west of Sheboygan. With the strong wsw winds I figured the potential for a migrant push was good. The winds did not disappoint, I had a good raptor flight today. Traveling west of Sheboygan near Howards Grove I encountered an adult Bald Eagle. From there headed north to the Manitowoc county line. Added 11 new species for the day. Highlights being 2 Vesper Sparrows on Rangeline Road, 60 Bonaparte's Gulls (100's later on the lake), Tree, Barn and Rough-winged Swallows. I have a spot for Purple Martins, but they had not arrived yet. The final leg of my trip was along CTH LS from just north of the Whistling Straits golf course south to Sheboygan. The lake was actually pretty quiet as far as waterfowl is concerned. But the raptor movement south of Whistling Straits was good. Added Merlin, Northern Harrier, and a possible Swainson's Hawk. Still doing some more research on that id. It may have been an immature bird. My id would have been entirely based on "jizz" and shape?? I wasn't comfortable with that. Oh well. Certainly enjoyed myself. Nexrad Radar looks good for the next couple days, hope the weather cooperates.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mirror Images and Bino Bras

Where Robin headed north today, I Bigbyed south along the lake in a near mirror image of her route. The trio of Barn Swallows (63) that had joined the Tree Swallows over McKinley Marina were my first new birds of the day. As I posted to our Twitter feed three Ruddy Ducks (64) were diving with 19 Horned Grebes in the harbor near Veterans Park and the Art Museum. One was a male in full breeding plumage with an eye-popping blue bill. I finally had a Pied-billed Grebe (65) and great looks at Lesser Scaup (66) in the Lakeshore State Park lagoon. Also finally saw my first Yellow-rumped Warbler (68) of the year above the Wolcott Statue in Lake Park. A Chipping Sparrow (69) was one of the few non-House Sparrows at the Wolcott feeders. In Locust Ravine, I was nearly run down by some maniac on a bike. The maniac turned out to be Tim. I suspect he was trying to knock off the competition.

The new birds were all great today, but the real highlight of the day came while I was sitting on the shoreline rocks sorting through the hundred or so ducks napping and diving off of North Point. From the bike trail behind me I heard, "Hey look, that guy's got a harness for his binoculars! Oh man, you know when you got a harness for your binoculars, you...[inaudible, except for accompanying laughter]." As the group was just moving out of earshot, the last comment I heard from the same sharp-eyed commentator on the human experience: "he's lookin' for ships!" Ships? Really? Do people watch ships? Live and learn.

Alright, I admit the binocular harness isn't exactly fashionable, but at least I don't look like this guy.

In search of new Bigbys (Bigbies?)

Left early this morning and walked! Today I saw three new species: Yellow rumped Warblers at Lake Park and along the Milwaukee River, Eastern Bluebirds at Lake Park below the pavillion, and a Tree Swallow flying over the Lake Park golf course. The total list of species seen is below:
Canada Goose
Red-breasted Merganser
Cooper's Hawk (pair at Downer Woods)
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown Headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Itchin' to Bigby

After four excruciating days of Winter 2.0 here in Wisco,  the winds have swung 180 degrees and are bringing us the biggest movement of spring migrants so far this year. Lace up those walking shoes and pump up those bike tires Bigbyists--there will be plenty of new arrivals this weekend!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sun again

After the depressing retreat in the weather, my spirits lift at the sight of sun. I've been thinking about the whole experience of birding and one of the ongoing conundrums is how to answer the inevitable query, "Seen any interesting birds?" This question gives me great pause as I wonder how to answer it. First of all, is the person looking for detailed information on unusual sightings? Is it a serious question looking for information, or just the "How ya doing?' throw away line. If it is the latter, then the person may be quite taken aback by a long discussion of what has currently been occupying my thoughts, such as: "Why are Brown Creepers so uninterested in my presence and will often let me watch it from a foot away?" or "What made all the Robins take off at once when I saw and heard nothing?" or "Why is that Crow following me?" (That last query will probably cause the fellow hiker to back away from me quite quickly). But, to be honest, all birds are interesting. I am quite taken every spring with the determined and upright Robins and I love watching the Rock Pigeons (is that the latest nomenclature) launch themselves off roof peaks. I agree with Sam that when one takes up birding, one always has something interesting to watch. So, I am off into the sun, as I have a date with the pair of Belted Kingfishers on the riverbank.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hatfields vs. McCoys?

Great bird walk in Washington Park this morning. 7 Double-crested Cormorants circled over head lower and lower and lower until landing in the west end of the lagoon and FEASTING! They just stocked the lagoon, and like popcorn I would see birds pop down, pop up with a big fish, gulp it, go down again. Sometimes the fish were too big, it would fall out of their mouth, then down they went.

They only must have been in the pond for 15 minutes then they were gone.

Among the DCCO's was a tiny duck, in very poor lighting, but then saw the golden rear patch and the white spike up front, and clearly came into view for a nice Green-winged Teal. 2 new birds.

Then the ugliness really started when Vic found out that Barb had biked and all her birds would be on the BGBY list and his wouldn't. Decades of friendship almost came to an end. But an after birdwalk trip to Amaranth with bakery and coffee temporarily returned harmony.

Purple Finch

Added Purple Finch this morning at the bird feeder and caught up on my list from the last week. The rain and my work schedule is killing me!

I'm leaving tomorrow for Colorado so I'll be in catch up mode next week!

Monday, April 5, 2010

My 2 biggest enemies

Work and the weather. I've been super busy at work, and the past couple of times I've built in extra time to "explore", the weather told me otherwise. I was about to head to the lakefront now, but t-storms on the way. I'm falling behind!
I'm always a little amused when people ask me, "So, when exactly do you go birding?"... when one of the best things about it is that you are really always able to be birding, at least casually. Once you're hooked, you're always at least aware of what's going on around you. Today was definitely a good example of that... while I was not able to really get out and bird, I was able to see quite a bit as I jogged through Lakeshore and Veteran's Park. The lagoon at Veteran's held a Pied-billed Grebe (though unfortunately not the Northern Shoveler I saw driving by the other day), while Horned are now the dominant species on Lake Michigan. LSSP had a couple of Tree Swallows (68), and a few lingering divers, including what I believe was the WW Scoter present for over two weeks now (no 'nocs to confirm). Two Belted Kingfishers were working the shoreline as well. A couple of hawks were also migrating along the lakefront, including 2 Cooper's and 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk (69).

All in all, eight species of ducks (+1 probable), two grebes, and two accipiters... definitely a great day to be out and 'not' be birding!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

More new arrivals

As I had expected, we got an influx of FOY birds on Thursday, including eastern phoebe, tree swallow and yellow-bellied sapsucker. On Saturday I added a yellow-rumped warbler, and today brought golden-crowned kinglet and chipping sparrow, plus my first BIGBY great blue heron. That brings me to 48, all from my yard so far. If I can only get some time on my bike when the winds are less than gale force....

Phoebes, Sapsuckers and Creepers

Took advantage of the sun and walked to Lake Park, then through Downer Woods and back to my house along the river. Chuck is right. The Eastern Phoebes are everywhere. In Lake Park I saw the Winter Wrens again, the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, E. Phoebes as well as many Brown Creepers. Downer Woods had three Hermit Thrushes, E. Phoebe, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Downy and N. Cardinal. It wasn't until I was heading back home, going west to the Milwaukee River right at the old Linneman's (spelling) water park in Shorewood that I spotted my two new Bigby birds, a lone Double crested Cormorant high up heading north and a wonderful Turkey Vulture tilting low right along the river. There were a lot of Hermit Thrushes, Brown Creepers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. One lone Cooper's Hawk flew east over the river into the UEC grounds and two loud and brash Belted Kingfishers were flying along the west bank. All in all, it was a lovely walk although it got a tad chilly towards the end as I am still determinedly wearing shorts. Owen, how did you get your route posted in the blog? RDS

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A little late...

Had a chance to get out and bird quite a bit Thursday afternoon. Definitely a major change from a few days earlier. Started at Lakeshore State Park where a pair of Blue-winged Teal (63) flushed by an aggressive Mallard led me to a flock of 13 more individuals hidden amongst the rocks (WW Scoter was still present as well!!!). Veteran's Park gave me my first Northen Flicker (64) of the year. I got a later start than I had hoped, so I passed on a lakewatch, though still small numbers of most of the divers around. Lake Park was very active, with good numbers of Eastern Pheobe (65), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (66), and GC Kinglet. I also had a couple of Winter Wrens (67), including my first bird at the first wooden footbridge north of Ravine Road... interesting personally as I have had my first Winter Wren of the year at this exact bridge 5 out of my 6 springs in Milwaukee. We'll see if my 'Blue-headed Vireo Tree' can make it four years in a row this year. Also found the head of a young crow on the trail here, assuming it is the work of a Great Horned Owl. UEC was fairly birdy as well, and felt more 'noisy' in my opinion. Spent a lot of time working the East Bank trail as it grew dark, but no luck with any herons/owls.

Great day to be out!!! I'm hoping eventually I'll run into some of you out there, we are certainly working a lot of the same locations!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lakefront birding

The competition's getting hot! I added a big chunk of birds yesterday, including Blue-winged Teal & Gadwall, and the almost white-winged scoter that I keep trying to turn a female goldeneye into.

Then I see Owen added an even bigger chunk of birds and is up by ONE. I need to find more work excuses to get to the lakefront. Maybe build a UEC at Lakeshore State Park?


Not much time to BIGBY but I did pick up sapsucker yesterday in the winds and my first pheobe of the year this morning in the yard.

Andy P.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Great Blue Herons and no RHWO

Lots of walking today, and good results. I had hoped, however, to get the RHWO (is that the right abbreviation?), but I still have not seen it at Lake Park. Bill, do they winter elsewhere?
It was lovely seeing the Great Blue Herons flying overhead at UEC. It made my wearing shorts from this point on seem like a not too dumb decision. I am so totally ready for winter to be gone.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Member - McFarland update

Hi Folks,

As Owen mentioned I'm joining this effort from McFarland, WI. The kids and I were able to find Golden-crowned Kinglet and a flyover Common Loon this morning in the driveway...so I've cracked the 60 mark!

My Bigby birding will be primarily in McFarland and along the Yahara River system..which I can access across the street. I'm already planning a May canoe trip to Lake Farm and Nine Springs to pick up shorebirds!!

Andy Paulios

Picking up the Gauntlet

Greetings fellow Green Birders! In case you don’t know me I live in northern Manitowoc County, in a mostly rural landscape with my birding partner and wife Patti. Our home is located 15 miles west of Lake Michigan, and 15 miles south of Green Bay, so we are a bit off the beaten path for many migrants. However, we have some good habitat, even if it is in small patches, and our bikes put us within striking distance of some pretty good sites. If you want a closer look at where I live, plug this into Google Earth or maps: 44°18'26.13"N 87°51'39.51"W. My most recent arrival here was fox sparrows a few days ago; I expect new birds tomorrow.

Here they come!

Last night was the first good-sized movement of the spring migration, as seen in the radar image on the right. The arrival of new birds was evident on my walk down to the Milwaukee lakeshore this morning. Along the Oak Leaf Trail I had my First-through-Ninth-of-the-Year Brown Creeper (45) and one Eastern Phoebe (46). In the young woods and shrubby areas surrounding Juneau Lagoon was a pair of Northern Flicker (47) and on the lagoon itself was a lone Gadwall (48).  A single male Northern Shoveler (49) was paddling around McKinley Marina while one intrepid Tree Swallow (50) wheeled overhead. Best of the morning, though, were the close-up looks at six Horned Grebe (51)--five males in beautiful  breeding plumage and one female--very near the seawall by the War Memorial Center.  Hoping for my first Yellow-rumped of the year on the walk home!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

While I did not find any unexpected or rare birds while out today, I definitely had one particularly satisfying addition to my BIGBY list.

For almost 15 years now, I have participated in a big day competition in NW Ohio. By far, the most frustrating bird each year is the Belted Kingfisher (and I would guess that any birders here in Wisconsin who have undertaken a "Big Day" might agree). It isn't a particularly rare bird, a possible find on just about any body of water. It's easy to find when present, with striking colors, medium size, and a noisy rattling call. However, it is spread so thin that it is nearly impossible to pin one down to a specific location. Last year, with over 25 top-notch birders participating, only one team found a Kingfisher. We missed the bird, leaving us one species short of our target. Making matters worse, on the way home the next day, I saw not one, but three kingfishers before I hit the Ohio-Indiana border (less than 75 miles).

Since the BIGBY stretches over half of the year, I figured that eventually I would come across one, but I still let out a huge sigh of relief when I stumbled across my first Belted Kingfisher (60) of the year today at the Veteran's Park lagoon.

The article that kicked off the madness

Thought I'd post the Urban Ecology Center newsletter article I wrote that led to the craziness of the Extreme Green Birding Challenge:

What Color is your Bird-watching?

Tim Vargo, Manager of Research and Citizen Science, Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee

Many of us like to look at birds, in part, because of their striking colors. A cardinal in February brings a brilliant flash of red to a white landscape, while a male Wood Duck in breeding plumage looks as if he came straight from a color-by-number book. But my focus for this article isn’t on the color of birds, but of their watchers. Literally speaking, birders shouldn’t wear white or other brilliant colors that may scare away birds, but that’s for another day. Today, I’m going to focus on the figurative colors of birdwatchers and the impact of their actions.

The color green has come to symbolize nature and ecologically-sensitive issues (green products, green buildings, etc.). Birding would seem to be a “green” hobby - and often it is - but consider the following examples:

Many birders are “listers,” engaging in personal or competitive goals of maximizing the number of bird species on their life list (or state or county list). Joe Birder decides that he needs the Fluff-breasted Sneezlehort on his life list, so he gets on an airplane and flies many thousands of miles to East Sneezle Island, not considering the huge carbon footprint his actions entail. Or consider Sally Birder who just saw an Endangered Lesser-rumped Syrup-sipper at Riverside Park. She posts her sighting on the Internet and hundreds of people get in their cars to see this bird (again the carbon footprint), which then gets harassed day and night until it leaves.

Both Joe and Sally mean well, but they may want to look at a couple of resources that could help them understand the broader impacts of their actions. First, the American Birding Association put together a Birder’s Code of Ethics www.aba.org, which sets guideline to ensure bird safety and well-being. Second, there is a growing green-birding movement started by Sparroworks in Canada. Green or carbon-neutral birding focuses on lists generated by human power with the associated benefits of reducing greenhouse emissions, increasing exercise and coming to know and appreciate the birds in your own neighborhood.

So for 2010, I am going to create a BIGBY (Big Green Birding Year) list to see how long of a bird list I can generate from my home without using extra fossil fuels. Luckily, I just moved to the Washington Park area, which is an excellent spot for birds. I can also add to my list by biking to local green spaces including Riverside Park, and if it’s a work day, I will also get a dollar from our Eco-buck program. If you don’t know what Eco-bucks are, inquire at the Urban Ecology Center.

If you would like to join me in creating your own BIGBY list, please visit www.sparroworks.ca for guidelines. There are 3 categories: the walking BIGBY, the self-propelled BIGBY (add bikes, canoes, etc.) and the public transit BIGBY. If you’re up for a bit of healthy competition shoot me an e-mail, and I’ll accept a friendly wager involving baked goods or a canoe trip.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, birding is a 100 billion dollar industry with 50 million birders in the U.S. alone. If even a small percentage of them considered using more people power to get to the birds (or carpooling or public transit or fuel-efficient vehicles), the color of birding would turn a much deeper shade of green.

For more information on green birding or to pony up a wager with Tim, contact him at x116.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Milwaukee Lakefront

I too birded along the Milwaukee lakefront today. First stop was Lakeshore SP, where the female White-winged Scoter remains. Lakeshore has been particularly good to me thus far this year (WW Scoter, Harlequin Duck, and Snowy Owl), and I'm hoping that the inlet will give me another gift or two before waterbird migration winds down. I then turned into the wind and biked north to McKinley Marina, where I found some of the gulls Owen ran into earlier in the day. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was particularly cooperative, sitting no more than 20 yards off the shore. The NE winds made duck-watching particularly difficult on the open water, though I did luck into a male Ring-necked Duck (56) for my first BIGBY pickup of the day at North Point. I swung through Lake Park on the way home as I was beginning to lose light, and found a Fox Sparrow (57) at the Wolcott statue.

For me, one of the more rewarding aspects of the BIGBY has been picking up birds that are species I have previously driven many miles chasing. More than anything, I'm really appreciating how "birdy" Milwaukee is. Growing up in southern Ohio, to me, scoters always had a mystique about them... I took countless trips to local reservoirs or the Ohio River hoping to catch one, generally missing... it's one thing to drive a 50-60+ mile round trip to see a bird, but it's even more frustrating when you drive that distance and miss! Being able to see these birds within a mile or two of my apartment in Milwaukee is quite a treat. Similarly, I've seen fallouts at Lake Park that rival anything I've experienced at the world famous Lake Erie migrant traps. I am leaving Milwaukee in a couple of months, and will definitely miss the easy access to so many great and varying bird habitats!

Sunday Stroll

I also took a stroll this afternoon to see if I could find some new BIGBY birds. Like Robin, I was encouraged by reports of recent spring arrivals in the area. It was a classic late March Wisconsin day--bone-chilling cold in the wind and layer-stripping hot in the sun behind shelter.

I started the walk with Anne and Po and, seven plus miles and three hours later, I arrived home by myself (Anne and pup headed home around the four mile mark) with five new BIGBY birds: of the hundreds of gulls at McKinley Marina, I was able to pick out one second-year Glaucous Gull and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull; the raft of scaup off of North Point produced a few Lesser Scaup; a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets were flitting about in Lake Park's Locust Ravine; and a pair of beautiful bright blue male Eastern Bluebirds were feeding on the ground in one of the ball fields at Lake Park.

Looking for a site that has a virtual pedometer that I could use to determine how many miles I walked today, I came across MapMyWalk. After signing up for a free account, I was able to map my route and easily produce the map above.  Click on "Route" on the map and on the MapMyWalk page that comes up, click "Watch Course Flyby Video" and hang on to your hats. Supposedly MapMyWalk even calculates your carbon offset for walking/biking rather than driving, though I haven't been able to find the "Green Stats" section of the site yet. They've even got an iPhone app, Robin!  Overall, very cool site--I highly recommend it for all you BIGBYists out there.

Yes to the glorious Golden Crowned Kinglet

After reading Chuck's post about Estabrook Park, I ambled down to the river and north to Capitol Drive. Before I had reached Capitol I was able to add Brown Creeper, Golden Crowned Kinglet and Eastern Phoebe. It was remarkable how a week has changed the park. The Common Grackles are everywhere as are the Red-winged Blackbirds. I am still looking for my Kingfisher, though.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

belated but ready to begin

As a new (belated start) member of the WI Green Birding Challenge, I'm "signing in", and wishing you all a very fulfilling Green Birding Year. It will be a challenge to find many species in my area - we'll see what happens!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I have been grounded, so to speak, due to a bad back. This has not prevented me from enjoying the antics of the yard birds, however. I have had a lot of fun watching a pair of Downy Woodpeckers courting, I assume, with great tail flaring and sky pointing. They have been chasing each other from one box elder to another. I took a short walk yesterday and, although there were no "new" bigby birds, I did get to watch a Red-bellied Woodpecker work around an old stump of a tree at Lake Park and see a Cooper's Hawk clear out the feeder area in one swoop. I still have not seen a Belted Kingfisher along the river, although I had spotted one by now last year. At present, I will leave the glories of scoters, wood ducks and fantastic gulls to the more abled.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

1 step backward, 2 steps forward

To ease the pain of my lost bird, I added 2 this morning at Washington Park. 3 GORGEOUS wood ducks, and a brown creeper.
Owen - thanks for putting this together. Early on Noel said that at least Vic's bird #'s wouldn't be going down. But..... mine went down because of that confounded Chamber's Island meeting on Monday.

It caused me to stay at work late, and I didn't have a bike light, so I had to drive the Prius home. Which negated the Eastern Meadowlark I had entered earlier that morning. AND on my bike ride home the next day I found your white-winged scoter and a beautiful Horned Grebe, and I can't count either of them cause I drove to work. Sigh........

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Joyous BHCO!?!

I've never been so excited to see my first Brown-headed Cowbird of the year, which I spotted while walking the dog in my neighborhood this evening.  The excitement didn't quite compare, though, to the first spring female White-winged Scoter I saw in the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park on Thursday (right, photo taken with phone camera through bins).  Click the "BIGBY Hotspots" tab above to see lists of birds reported to eBird in the last week for some of our favorite Bigby hotspots.