2014 was the 16th year of this very popular event, so we’ve been at this for a while, and over the years we have learned that nothing can be assumed. Every year has been different, and this one was no exception. Last year, the jaegers provided nearly non-stop action during all three days, while this year this was not the case – several jaegers were spotted, but much greater patience was required!
The morning was sunny and clear, with a light to moderate NW breeze blowing. Some birders began gathering before 7:00 AM at Bay Beach Sanctuary, partly because there was also a Bay Area Bird Club field trip there this morning. Our two groups combined initially for a time, and then separated for a while, before rejoining again later. Early on, a Snowy Egret was spotted along the edge of the big lagoon near the parking area, and was in view for several minutes – but unfortunately some of the folks who arrived a little later missed the chance to see it. Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron and Great Blue Heron were also present, along with several Belted Kingfishers.
The Steering Committee for Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (WBBA2) is establishing a Communications Committee to manage aspects of a project that will span the next seven years.
Capital Brewery is supporting bird conservation with a special event on September 4, 2014 at 6 PM in the Capital Brewery Beer Garden in Middleton.
The weather for the field trip was quite pleasant, if not a little on the cool side – with temperatures in the low to mid 60s, and a slight breeze. Carloads full of birders were beginning to gather along Highway 49 prior to 8:00 AM, and folks were eagerly sorting through the waterfowl and any other birds that could be found. Unfortunately the water along the road on both sides was still quite high, despite the recent spell of dry weather, so there was a conspicuous lack of shorebirds this year.
There were several sizeable groups of ducks on the water, which consisted mostly of Mallards, but careful searching turned up Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Wood Duck, Redhead and Ruddy Ducks, in the company of a few Pied-billed Grebes. Other birds spotted included Trumpeter Swan, Great Blue and Green Herons, Black-crowned Night-heron, and Great Egret, as well as a number of American White Pelicans. Virginia Rail and Marsh Wren were present, but difficult to spot, and a Yellow-headed Blackbird flew over. Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier were seen flying in the distance. The highlight of the morning for many folks (but unfortunately too late for some who left early for the auto tour) was when four Whooping Cranes came flying past fairly close, coming from the southeast and over Hwy. 49, before heading off to the north and then eventually landing well off to the northeast.
Shortly after this we headed a short distance west, and after carpooling in the parking lot, the group drove along the Horicon auto tour. After reaching the entrance to the Old Marsh Road we parked and walked out a ways along the dike. Several Black Terns and Ring-billed Gulls were flying about, and a few birders spotted a Forster’s Tern. A sizeable group of pelicans (36 were counted) soared overhead, and Double-crested Cormorants were perched in a dead tree. An Osprey was sighted flying not far away, and a Sora provided good looks through spotting scopes as it slowly wandered along the edge of some cattails. Further along the auto tour, we stopped near the far end of the boardwalk (near the famous red rock) and Common Gallinules and a few other birds were spotted.
After completing the auto tour we left around 11:00 and headed east along Hwy. 49, then south down Hwy. Z. At the intersection of Hwy. TW and Dike Road was a mudflat where we found Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, and the group had very nice looks at a juvenile Stilt Sandpiper.
Our final destination was the river below the dam at Hustisford, where a Red Knot had been present the past couple of days, and we were pleased to find that it was still present – an adult that was transitioning from breeding plumage. Also there at the site were Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated, Least and Pectoral Sandpipers, and all but the Semipalmated provided very good views. We wrapped up the field trip about 12:30 PM.
Despite the early lack of shorebirds this turned out to be a very nice field trip, with a number of folks getting lifers. Thanks to Jeff Baughman for co-leading.
WSO Field Trips co-chair
Green Lake, WI