2015!!!

Happy New Year indeed!! As I was battling the last grips of a head cold on New Years Eve, I decided to stay home, rest up, and finish my recovery. My last hours awake during 2014 were spent with my good friend Neil deGrasse Tyson and his brilliant series Cosmos. If you haven’t seen the series, I HIGHLY recommend you rent it from your local video store, download it from the Apple or Google store, or do what I did and check it out for free from your public library. It’s a must watch!!

Ending 2014 with Cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Ending 2014 with Cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

After nearly 10 hours of blissful rest, I awoke to 2015 and in a matter of 5 minutes added my first 8 new year birds! Nothing unusual in my yard although I had two firsts; first time I’ve seen a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches and first time I’ve seen one drink from my water feature, in this case, my heated birdbath. Complete list of my first new year birds below. Spent a good part of the morning parked in front of my windows reading and watching the birds at the feeders.

In the afternoon, I headed to  Heckrodt Wetland Reserve. My target species were the two different phased Screech Owls that have been seen there recently and if the birding gods were looking down, a Purple Finch. When I arrived the feeders were extremely quiet thanks to a nearby Cooper’s Hawk looking for lunch.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk can sometimes be confused with Sharp-shinned Hawk (Sharpie’s) as they are similar in color and small male Cooper’s can be the same size as large female Sharpies. Cooper’s Hawks have a much flatter head, a pale nape, and a longer tail. If you are unsure of what you have, but can get a good view of the tail, you can easily tell the two apart. Sharpies have a square tail – this is due to all the tail feathers being the same length. On Cooper’s, the tail is fan-shaped – this is due to having longer center tail feathers and shorter outer feathers. In the picture below you can see the fanned tail on the right and if you look closely at the tail on the left, you can see how the feathers looked “stacked” due to the difference in length.

Left: noticed "stacked" tail due to different lengths of outer and inner tail feathers. Right: The fanned tail of a Cooper's Hawk
Left: noticed “stacked” tail due to different lengths of outer and inner tail feathers.
Right: The fanned tail of a Cooper’s Hawk

At Heckrodt I met up with the president of our bird club (Northeast Wisconsin Birding Club – link to your left sidebar) Stuart and our field trip coordinator Todd to search for the screech owls. No luck today although we did find one of their roost spots so I’m hopefully for my next try.

Heckrodt - Lopas Pond
Heckrodt – Lopas Pond

The rest of Heckrodt was fairly quiet with the exception of 4 flyover Bald Eagles (1 adult, 3 juveniles).

The deer at Heckrodt have no fear of humans causing Todd to comment "They're missing the wild in wildlife."
The deer at Heckrodt have no fear of humans causing Todd to comment “They’re missing the wild in wildlife.”

A quick stop at Waverly Beach to checkout Lake Winnebago revealed some more Bald Eagles on the ice and a spectacular view. Temps maxed out at 27 degrees today with winds in the 14-17 mph range.

Lake Winnebago - Bald Eagles
Lake Winnebago – Bald Eagles
Lake Winnebago
Lake Winnebago

The final stop of the day was at Shady Lane with Short-eared Owl (SE Owl) as the target species. While waiting for the light to fade, I noticed a bird perched far out in a tree. Perched with it’s back horizontal to the ground, instead of upright like a Red-tailed Hawk, I watched the bird take to the wing and glide low over the field flashing it’s white rump and long square tail – a Norther Harrier. Then, with about 10 minutes left before darkness, Stuart spotted a SE Owl low over the sumac. The owl never got more than 3-4 feet over the sumac, constantly ducking down and hunting, and all told, only really showed for about 20 seconds, but alas, it was enough to get an ID.

The moon shinned brightly while we waited for the last of the days light to fade and the SE Owls to come out.
The moon shinned brightly while we waited for the last of the days light to fade and the SE Owls to come out.

All in all, not a bad first day of the year. 17 species, 10 yard birds, a relaxing morning with some coffee and a book, and some birding time spent with friends.

Stuart scoping a distant hawk at Shady Lane.
Stuart scoping a distant hawk at Shady Lane.

How did your 2015 start out? Have you seen Cosmos? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

As always, Bird It Up!

2015 new year birds in order seen – * denotes seen in yard:

  1. Goldfinch*
  2. Mourning Dove*
  3. House Sparrow*
  4. American Crow*
  5. Black-capped Chickadee*
  6. Dark-eyed Junco*
  7. White-breasted Nuthatch*
  8. House Finch*
  9. Downy Woodpecker*
  10. Northern Cardinal*
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. Bald Eagle
  13. Hairy Woodpecker
  14. Canada Goose
  15. Red-tailed Hawk
  16. Northern Harrier
  17. Short-eared Owl
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