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