To arrive at a 31-year average Birdathon species count of 86 and Bandathon species count of 25, there had to be some years with counts higher than those numbers and some years with counts lower. This year was one of the lower years.
While the weather wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t cooperating on a number of fronts (pardon the pun). The cool temperatures and breezy conditions limited the banding effort to just Saturday morning. With the winds out of the northwest, it felt more like a fall morning for the walk up the valley Sunday.
The 2015 Bandathon got off to a fast start at 6:05 a.m. on Saturday with the first donor species, a male Red-winged Blackbird, barreling into the mist nets. He would prove to be the first of 10 species banded on the morning. The conditions proved to be a challenge -– the birds could see the nets moving in the wind and the cool temperatures were stressing the birds that did get caught. UW-Madison Prof. Anna Pidgeon made the wise decision to stop banding around noon on Saturday and the conditions on Sunday did not warrant unfurling the nets at all. Of the birds banded, one Gray Catbird and one Song Sparrow were recaptures from last year.
For the third straight year, we had the pleasure of a Saturday morning visit from about 25 sixth graders from Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.
The students attended a banding talk with naturalist Dr. Thomas Nicholls, did hands-on banding at the Band-a-Thon and a nature hike with me and Todd Persche from Baraboo Range Preservation Association. They wrapped up the morning with lunch and a Turkey Vulture talk from Lisa Hartman.
Sunday started early! When I arrived at the base of the driveway at 3:55 a.m., Carl and Barbara Schwartz, Bettie Harriman, Anita Carpenter and Marilyn Bontly were setting up lawn chairs (with blankets, of course) and getting ready to start the count. Within the first hour, we had counted 12 species, although some of the “why would you get up that early” birds like Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl were no-shows this year. Walks up and down the road, back to the property behind the nature center, and up the valley yielded more species but, overall, it was a fairly quiet early morning.
At about 8 a.m., approximately 25 birders headed out for the “official” walk up the Honey Creek valley. We had good numbers of singing birds along with quick or distant looks at some species.
The highlight of the hike had to be the really great looks we had at one of the signature nesting species, Louisiana Waterthrush, as we walked out of the valley.
We gathered at the Cox Nature Center to take the final tally: For the day, we had a total of 81 species, including 14 warblers, 7 woodpeckers, 4 thrushes, and 4 vireos.
A BIG thank you to all who donated their time and talents, came to visit and perhaps walk up the valley, or otherwise supported the event. Of course, the biggest thank-you goes to those who made a pledge or a donation. While the weather was cool, the giving was warm to say the least. Through your generosity, we will add over $8,800 to the Honey Creek fund to help maintain and preserve this great property! WSO and the birds of Honey Creek thank you!
Jesse Peterson, Honey Creek Birdathon/Bandathon Coordinator