Announcing our Next Field Trip:

Pheasant Branch Bird Walk!

with Mike McDowell

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Spring migration at Pheasant Branch Conservancy is something to behold: over 200 species have been seen there in May alone! Join us as we explore the park’s creek corridor, a stopover hotspot tucked into downtown Middleton, WI. Local expert birder Mike McDowell will help us seek out Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, and the many warbler species that visit PBC in early may.
This will be the last WYBC outing with Ryan Treves as club leader.

Where: Park at 2376 Park St, Middleton, WI (a dead end) and meet at the Park Street entrance to the creek corridor (map)
When: 6:30am – 9:00am on May 6th, 2018
Who: This free walk is open to young birders 10-18 and their chaperones!
Please RSVP by emailing wisconsinyoungbirdersclub@gmail.com to reserve a spot. In your RSVP, please include the name and age of the young birder(s) attending, a cell phone number, and any allergies.
Extra binoculars and a field guide will be available.
In the event of an inclement weather forecast, an update email will be sent out by May 5th.

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We learned about Raptor Banding!

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Seeing a harrier and six hawks up close, learning about bird banding at the country’s longest-running raptor station, and having cookies — what could be better?

The WYBC had a great time at Cedar Grove Ornithological Research station on October 28th. Record turnout, favorable winds, and a wonderful host made it one of our best events yet. Young birders from Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Appleton all met to observe mist netting, data collection, and the daily life of a bird bander.

One of our favorite moments was witnessing a hawk descend from its migration route above our heads, go into a dive. While it was coming, we heard “Freeze!”, so we all stopped in our tracks. Suddenly, it flew into a net right before our eyes. Tom ran over, untangled it from the net, and discovered that it was an immature male. Amazing!

Many thanks to everyone at Cedar Grove for their amazing hospitality!

Check out the photo gallery below:

Young Birder Feature: Raymie

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Raymie and his sister at Parfrey’s Glen in Sauk County.

Age: 13
Hometown: Appleton

How long have you been birding, and what got you started?

As long as I can remember. While my family wasn’t really what you would consider birders, my Grandma watched birds at her feeders. She taught me the basic backyard birds, and I went from there. I spent a good majority of the time at my Grandma’s house looking through her copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds. I learned to recognize the birds I hadn’t learned from my Grandma from the drawings in the book that I had memorized.I started to draw birds in kindergarten. Eventually I started going to nature preserves to look for birds. Now, I sometimes teach my Grandma a new bird (this spring I identified an Eastern Towhee for her.)

Why did you join the Wisconsin Young Birders Club?

I wanted to get together with people my age that like birding as much as I do.

What is one bird you want to see in the future?

I want to travel around the world and see all sorts of exotic birds and other wildlife. One bird that has always stuck out to me is the Iiwi. This bird is beautiful, and represents Hawaiian birdlife and the conservation that needs to take place on the island chain.

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The Hawaiian Iiwi

Tell us something interesting/funny that happened to you while birdwatching.

I went down to Missouri to see the total solar eclipse. But the trip would have been worth it just for the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. When it was almost to totality, they would fly more like a woodpecker or a finch. That is, they would fly up a little ways, stop flapping and let themselves fall a little bit. They would then start flapping again and repeat the process. I have never seen a hummingbird fly that way before. (Check out eBird’s feature on eclipse birding here!)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t know. I definitely want to work with animals and nature. Ecology is an interesting subject. It would be cool to work in/own a zoo. Environmental education would be cool. I just somehow want to work with animals and nature.

Thanks, Raymie! 

58 Species at Horicon Marsh!

Horicon Marsh is one of the best spots to see birds in Wisconsin. With over 300 species sighted, thousands of birds breeding and many more migrating through, the marsh is a spectacular habitat for shorebirds, waterbirds, and other wildlife from March to November. August can be one of the best times to visit for fall shorebird migration, when one might be lucky enough to spot dowitchers, godwits, stilts, and even ibis.

So when the WYBC headed out to Horicon on August 19th and was faced with foggy conditions, zero shorebird habitat (because of heavy rains), and very little birdsong, this didn’t look so promising. However, with positive attitudes and many pairs of keen eyes, we managed to find 58 species in only a couple of hours. Check out some of the highlights below.

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Spending most of our time in the Old Marsh Rd. area, we were treated to spectacular views of a female Northern Harrier hunting actively over the reeds, as well as a pair of Trumpeter Swans gliding right above our heads. Did you know that Trumpeter Swans are the heaviest native birds of North America?

Later on, we spotted an American Bittern only a few feet from us, using its classic upright stance as a camouflage. American White Pelicans flew above our heads, and Green-winged Teal proved an identification challenge on a nearby dike.

A brief foray into woodland allowed us to pick up Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Warbling Vireo. Towards the end of the walk, observant eyes trained downward spotted this beautiful monarch caterpillar:

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Our last species was a treat – a family group of Black Terns. Black Terns are a state listed breeder, needing pristine marsh in order to breed. We saw at least a dozen! Although we only managed to see 3 shorebird species on the trip, we had a lot of fun. Check out our full species list below, and we hope you’ll join us on the next outing!

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S38717677

Field Trip Report: White River Marsh

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On May 27th, 2017, the WYBC held its first ever collaboration field trip with the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology. Local expert Tom Schultz led the group on a walk through White River Marsh SWA, visiting cattail, forest edge, and prairie habitats. Wendy Schultz and Jeff Baughman joined the group as well.

The trip began at 7am on White River Road. Immediately, a pair of Whooping Cranes serenaded the group from across the marsh. Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren and Willow Flycatcher were all observed in the first few minutes. While learning about the history of White River Marsh, we were wowed by singing Sedge Wrens and Yellow Warblers. Alder Flycatcher as well as both cuckoo species sang from a wooded edge as Ryan discussed the rules of thumb for bird call playback.

A small grove nicknamed the “Oak Island” yielded Yellow-throated Vireo, singing Blackpoll Warbler, two beautiful Scarlet Tanagers, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

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Yellow-throated Vireo

As the weather warmed up, we decided to explore a new habitat along the edges of White River Marsh: grassy fields. There we were treated to displaying Bobolinks, Eastern Kingbirds, and singing Eastern Meadowlarks, though Henslow’s Sparrows were nowhere to be found. The trip concluded at Dead End Road, where Grasshopper Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, and American Kestrel were the last birds of the day.

Though the group was slightly smaller than normal, we all had a good time, seeing a total of 77 species — a new day record for a WYBC field trip!

Full checklist        Photo credit to Wendy + Tom Schultz.

Teen Team Big Day Report

Total Species: 141  Distance Traveled: 173.7 mi  Average Age: 16.7                                    Energy used: less than half a tank of gas!

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On May 13th, the Wisconsin Young Birders Club sent four teens – Josh, Ben, Ryan, and Michael – out on a ‘Big Day’ to see as many species as possible in Dane County. In doing so, the WYBC Teen Team raised $1226 for Bird Conservation efforts in Wisconsin. A big thank you to the Great Wisconsin Birdathon for organizing our fundraiser.

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 The day began at 5:00am at Cherokee Marsh. In the predawn light, the team started the day off strong with wetland species such as American Woodcock, Virginia Rail, Sora, and American Bittern. By 6 o’clock the day list had already risen to 50 species.

Next stop was the Creek Corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Though scattered showers and an overcast sky threatened to halt the team’s impressive progress, the warblers still put on a show: Bay-breasted, Golden-winged, Blackburnian, and Parula were all singing. Along the corridor the team ran into both veteran Madison birder Mike McDowell and a fellow WYBC member, Rowan! However, there was no time to lose — after a brief snack, the WYBC Teen Team was on the road again.

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By 8:30, Josh, Ben, Michael and Ryan had reached the County V Ponds. Through a strong wind, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Short-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Plover, and Northern Harrier were all checked off. Unfortunately, the first major miss of the day, a vagrant Snowy Egret, was absent. A quick scan of the County DM ponds yielded the unexpected rarity White-rumped Sandpiper along with Savannah Sparrow and American Pipit. Their total was fast growing, and the weather held.

As mid-day approached, the team ventured further into western Dane County. Pelicans and Orchard Orioles, plus the day’s only Pileated Woodpecker, were spotted at Indian Lake. Following a beautiful hike up the Oak Savannah of Pleasant Valley Conservancy, the team relaxed for a lunch break while looking over the driftless landscape. Ben practiced his DSLR camera skills on a Red-headed Woodpecker while Josh helped teach Ryan and Michael the finer points of Atlasing. (Was the kestrel we saw carrying food breeding already? Can those two associating Brown Thrashers be called a ‘pair’?)

Although the day’s total was already over 120 species, the team hadn’t finished. Exploring the Erbe Rd. Grasslands payed off with displaying Bobolinks, singing Grasshopper Sparrows and Clay-colored sparrows, as well as a confusing raptor (eventually agreed upon as a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk). Thousand Rock Prairie had Vesper Sparrows, but no Henslow’s Sparrow, Dickscissel or Upland Sandpiper. Ryan also learned that a road indicated public on a map may not really be so public…

It was time to swing back through Madison. Nine Springs was quiet, but keen eyes and a good scope helped chalk Green-winged Teal and Gadwall onto the list. Previously reported Forster’s Tern and White-eyed Vireo were absent from the Stricker’s Pond area in Middleton, though the team was lucky enough to spot an Eastern Screech-Owl and a stock-still Green Heron on the far end of the lake.

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A big thank-you to Ryan’s parents for facilitating a much-needed pit-stop on the edge of Owen Park; nachos, pizza, and lemonade were gone within minutes. Michael’s gaze skyward added Broad-winged Hawk for the day. Though Ben had to head out, Josh, Michael and Ryan set off to Fish Camp Park. There they located Common Tern, Black Tern, and Bonaparte’s Gulls. The day came to a subdued finish at Patrick Marsh: though a previously reported Eared Grebe was nowhere to be found, one female Red-breasted Merganser was the final addition for the day.

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Thank you to everyone that donated – we hope to raise even more next year!

Checklists: Patrick Marsh/Brazee Lake       Fish Camp Park         Stricker’s Pond         Nine Springs               Thompson/Thousand Rock Prairie           Erbe Rd.         Pleasant Valley           Indian Lake            County DM Ponds            County V Ponds            Pheasant Branch         Cherokee 2            Cherokee 1             Ryan’s house

January Young Birder of the Month: Luke

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Age: 15    Hometown: Reedsburg, WI

 How long have you been birding, and what got you started?        

   Somewhere around three and a half years. My interest was first sparked when we did a school project that involved drawing some of the birds that we’d seen. At some point we saw a bird that I couldn’t ID (a recurring problem), so we called a lady we had connections with (my recurring solution) who knew about birds! Of course she was an avid birder, so she invited me to our town’s local bird festival. I got involved with the birding group there, and they got me hooked!

Why did you choose to join the Wisconsin Young Birders Club?        

     I chose to join the club because it provided a great opportunity to meet and bird with more birders, as well as go on awesome field trips.

What is one bird you want to see in the future?      

    Definitely a King Eider! This bird has fascinated me since we visited the St. Louis Zoo years ago. We tried to see the one in Milwaukee, but got there just one day too late!!

Tell us an interesting/funny birding story from your experience in Wisconsin or elsewhere.             My favorite birding story is of a birding day during my first year out. I was just out with the aforementioned group seeing some great birds when we were standing at the top of a small hill. A bird flew right by us; everyone watched it fly by in silence. Long tail, pink underwing— I was just about to make a suggestion when the group leader took the words out of my mouth. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

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Fork-tailed Flycatcher

If you couldn’t be a full-time birdwatcher, what would you want to be when you grow up?   

  A pastor and a dad. (Hopefully all three options can go together!)

Why is birding important to you?       

       Birding is important to me because it’s just so incredibly fun! I love the community that has grown around it and the opportunity that provides to meet awesome people. It’s really cool that you can walk up to random people with binoculars and scopes and start a great conversation.

What is one thing you like to do when you’re not birding?       

   I really enjoy goofing around with my siblings; we have some really great times together.

Thanks, Luke!