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 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, 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 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.