First week of 2015

Back-to-back days of snow (Saturday & Sunday) – now it’s starting to feel like January in Wisconsin. The dead brown grass has, at least temporarily, given way to a few inches of fresh snow!!  For those of us who do winter activities such as snowshoeing, this is a welcome sight. Unfortunately, following the snow was Mother Nature – and she seems to be a bit pissy! The high…repeat high for Wednesday is -1 and it looks like we’re stuck in single-digit temps until Saturday. So with unfavorable birding temps a cup of tea and a quick weekend recap follow.

Saturday was the monthly meeting for the Northeast Wisconsin Birding Club (NWBC). Club member Neil gave an informative and as usual, funny presentation on birding Texas during the winter. As he’s also a photographer, Neil builds his presentations around his photos taken over the years and they are always a treat.

Neil giving a presentation to the club. Trust me - there really is a great bird photo on the screen!
Neil giving a presentation to the club. Trust me – there really is a great bird photo on the screen!

Since I had plans on Sunday, I decided to bird after the meeting event though conditions were less than ideal.  As a birder, gotta love the beginning of the year when almost any bird can be a new year bird.  Added a Blue Jay, a flock of 20 American Tree Sparrows, and a distant Rough-legged Hawk almost immediately.

IMG_2859 PROCESSED
Rough-legged Hawk; An overcast sky and a distant bird make for tough photography conditions.

I finished the day by adding 6 new year birds including my target bird for the day, the Snowy Owl. Thanks to an irruption – an event in which Snowy Owls come south from the arctic in large numbers – finding a Snowy Owl in Wisconsin this year has been easier than finding my first Robin of the year!

Snowy Owl; tough conditions for photos, but thankfully with more than 255 individuals in Wisconsin this winter, I should have ample opportunities for better pics.
Snowy Owl; tough conditions for photos, but thankfully with more than 255 individual Snowy Owls in Wisconsin this winter, I should have ample opportunities for better pics.

With the snow on Sunday and friends set to arrive for a cigar and some pool in the afternoon, I birded from the windows over my morning coffee. Nothing unusual to report, but the pair of White-breasted Nuthatches have returned (up until Jan. 1st I’d only seen one). Also had a Northern Cardinal try the peanut and suet feeders which was new – normally cardinals prefer some sort of platform feeder.

One final note: I’ve been studying they birds of Costa Rica in preparation for my trip. Thanks to members of the bird club who have been there before, I have a host of learning materials including flash cards, books, and bird sheets, not to mention my own field guides. Came across the two flash cards below – ahhhh…..these are two different species!!!  To make matters more interesting, digging through my field guide I found three, yes three, other similar looking species. In the field guide the slight differences in shades of color and size are noticeable, but what about a 2 or 3 second look when you catch it 25 feet away flying through foliage??? Thankfully, the gentleman who wrote my field guide is also our tour guide!

Can you name these two DIFFERENT species?
Can you name these two DIFFERENT species?

Ok, that’s it for now. Scroll down to see the names of the birds in the photos above. Bird It Up!!

Bird on the left: Great Kiskadee

Bird on the right: White-ringed Flycatcher

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