Well, I’ve finally gotten around to writing about spring migration…just in time for the beginning of the end of summer! I had intentions on writing much sooner (in fact all the photos were uploaded on June 20th), but if you missed all my excuses for not blogging about it sooner, please reference the following blog post as I try and justify my inherent procrastination: Alive and Kickin’!
As the bulk of my birding in May takes place at one place – High Cliff State Park – I thought I’d do a review of the month by focusing on that location and a few of the surrounding ponds. If you’re not familiar with High Cliff SP, it’s located on the Northeast corner of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake. Situated on limestone cliffs, the bluff makes for excellent warbler viewing. At 170 feet above the lake, the bluff affords viewing at the top or above the tree line, meaning no nasty warbler neck, although it can be a different story on the Lime Kiln Trail which runs between the bluff and the lake (this is where Stuart started a count of migrating Baltimore Orioles with the results tallying 55 in approx. 90 minutes!).
Of course viewing is only as good as the birds at a location and this is another area where High Cliff shines. Two things make this a micro-migrant trap. First, when the migrants hit the south end of Lake Winnebago they filter up one of the shorelines and the east shoreline seems to be the one they prefer. By the time they reach the north end of the lake, most come right through High Cliff or over the bluff as they journey north. The second reason this is an ideal spot is lake flies! Journeying thousands of miles – some with many more miles to go – the neotropical migrants time their flight with the outbreak of lake flies. This is a huge source of protein. How huge? Trillions of lake flies!! Don’t believe me? Checkout this article and photos from our local paper: Lake flies return to Lake Winnebago.
So how productive was High Cliff this spring? Over 9 days, from May 3rd through the 16th, I tallied 99 species, including 23 warblers (I managed to miss Wilson’s Warbler this spring). Normally I would have birded 20-23 days at the park during May, but this year I was off to the Dakotas at the end of May (blog posts on that trip still to come).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other events from this spring at High Cliff. First, I had the privilege of leading a contingent of birders from the Heckrodt Birding Club on a birding hike. Although it was windy and temps were low, we still had a productive morning, including outstanding views of a Black-throated Blue Warbler. We not only tallied 18 warbler species for the morning, but I believe everyone saw just about every bird!
The second memory, which I’ll always remember, was getting the chance to take one of my great friends out birding with me for the first time. Before buying my house, I spent 2 years living with Beatty and he got to know my love for birds by watching me run out the door to chase a rarity, leaving before down day-after-day during migration to bird before work, or sitting with my laptop looking at bird porn (that’s bird photographs – get your minds out of the gutter!). My birding interests rubbed off on Beatty and soon he was describing birds to me that he’d seen while frisbee discing. Well, this past spring I finally got to take him out and show him the magic of migration and the beauty of the warblers, tanagers, buntings, and grosbeaks. At the end of June Beatty moved to Colorado to start a new career; my going away gift to him was a Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America. I still get text messages of bird photos from him, but I’m proud to say he’s now IDing birds on his own (one of his most recent IDs was an American Dipper!).
Ok, let’s get onto some birds. A little caveat here – I purposely didn’t take my camera with me on a number of days in the field. Leaving the camera behind, especially when the birding is heavy, is a nice sort of freedom; the job goes from trying to get a good photo to enjoying the birds in their natural habitat. So while I had a chance at some other great photo opportunities (like the Black-throated Blue Warbler), I chose to be in the moment and just watch. Do I miss not having those photos? NOPE!
Now kickback and enjoy some photos from the spring migration in Wisconsin:
Lunch anyone? Found this Osprey in a nearby field enjoying a fish lunch.
There ya go, my spring migration recap of High Cliff. As always, I hope to be back sooner than I actually will be. And as appreciation to you dear reader, the woodchuck below wishes you adieu. Until next time, whenever that may be, Bird It Up!