Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ornithological research news

If you're looking for some good reading, see the research page of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Lots of excellent articles on a wide array of ornithological research done by the Center's staff.


Similarly, see the research page of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to see what they're working on.


See the website of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, here. More good work.


And lastly, see the science page at the website of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. Many fine projects are taking place there also.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

bird conservation news, etc.

Read a fine new report, aimed at the new transition team for the incoming presidential administration, and produced by the American Bird Conservancy, and the National Audubon Society, here. There are a number of reasons this report is particularly worth reading; one is that it presents an excellent overview of the scope of conservation challenges that exist right now, and it summarizes some bird population information, and avian ecology issues extremely well in just a few pages. Highly recommended!


Read the latest news from the Boreal Songbird Initiative here.


If you've never visited any of these, check out the websites of the Biodiversity Project, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Project .

Monday, December 15, 2008

BirdLife Int'l. news, other alternative conservation-related news

Read the latest BirdLife International news, here.


Tom Schultz, WSO Vice President and Co-Chair of Field trips, sent me an excellent weblink to an umbrella organization of sportsmen-and-women who are working to reduce climate change. The website does a stellar job of explaining the issues; highly recommended: click here.


The latest Audubon at Home webpage is here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

alternative birding news

New publications from the staff of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center can be found listed at this link.


Here are the latest Am. Bird Conservancy headline stories:
Western Bluebird Reintroduction Second Year Successes Monday, December 08, 2008 11:10:52 AM
Man-made Sandbars on the Missouri a Boost for Terns and Plovers Friday, December 05, 2008 12:10:22 AM
Critical Area in Costa Rica Protected from Development Thursday, December 04, 2008 2:35:22 AM
Pilot Hi-Tech Study Searches for Rare Hawaiian Birds Wednesday, December 03, 2008 9:30:33 AM
ABC Flagship Species to be Covered by the Endangered Species Act Tuesday, December 02, 2008 9:45:33 AM


Recent Smithsonian white papers on the coffee/bird conservation connection are available here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

emerging threat to boreal forest bird populations

An emerging threat to birds lies in the development of Canadian tar sands. Read about these factors:

Tar Sands Mining Destroys Boreal Bird Habitat
Tailings Ponds From Mining Trap Birds in Oily Waste
Tar Sands Drilling Fragments Bird Habitat
Tar Sands Water Withdrawals Harm Wetlands and Water Habitats
Tar Sands Toxins Weaken and Kill Boreal Birds
Beyond Alberta—Impacts of Tar Sands Pipelines and Refineries

in a new report based at the following link:
Natural Resources Defense Council report

Sunday, November 30, 2008

new literary bird journal

The LBJ: Avian Life, Literary Arts is a new journal aimed at readers interested in good writing and birds. If you enjoy fine creative writing as well as articles, art, and poetry about birds, you'll find much that you'll admire in these pages. The first issue, Fall 2008, Volume 1, Number 1, is just now finally available. In this first outing, there are six nonfiction offerings, by Mike Freeman, Maureen Scott Harris, David Gessner, Julian Hoffman, Colette LaBouff Atkinson, and Douglass Bourne. Two pieces of fiction, twenty-two poems, artwork by Barry Kent McKay, and a set of excellent book reviews round out the selections here.

These writers are adept at focusing on the details of the natural world, and spreading light on those topics birders are already curious about. Folks for whom birding is not already a passion (or maybe an obsession?) will also find a deep well of images and ideas worth savoring.

See a pdf of the current issue's Table of Contents here, and the journal's website, here.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

conservation news

Latest headlines from the American Bird Conservancy can be found at their website.

News from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is here.


Bad news for North Atlantic seabirds..."Analysis of this year's seabird breeding data on RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) coastal reserves shows that Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea and Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus – more commonly known as Arctic Skua - have had a terrible season, with virtually no chicks reared to fledging in the far north of the UK. " Read more at the BirdLife website.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Redpoll Numbers Fluctuate - 40 Years


A reflection on past winters came up today on the Wisconsin BirdNet. Jerry DeBoer recalled the years when redpolls and some other winter birds seemed to him to be more numerous in southern Wisconsin. This graph shows how Common Redpoll numbers have fluctuated in Wisconsin over the past 40 years. Remember the vertical axis shows "birds-per-party-hour" - this is an excellent way to visualize these data. The numbers across the horizontal axis are count years (as they are identified by N. Audubon - thus, count 107 is the 2006-7 CBC). It's been a reasonably-true (at least much of the time) statement that redpoll numbers show a two-year cycle -- higher one year, lower the next year --but this does not always hold. The gradual difference in amplitude of these changes does seem to indicate that numbers on Wisconsin CBCs are generally lower than they were, four decades ago. Or were several of the late 1960s just banner years for this species?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

continuing decline in Evening Grosbeak population

In a new paper published in The Condor, entitled WINTER SURVEY DATA REVEAL RANGEWIDE DECLINE IN EVENING GROSBEAK POPULATIONS, coauthors David N. Bonter and Michael G. Harvey detail the ongoing decline of this species. For many decades a common species in winter in the northern third of Wisconsin, this species has declined considerably in numbers here and across the northern United States and southern Canada. Explanations range from diseases, habitat alteration, fewer infestations of spruce budworm in the boreal forest region, coupled with the possible effects of climate change. The folks at Cornell who work on this have a webpage on this, too, and it points toward the same conclusions; see it here. Very worrisome; this is a much-beloved bird species. There is evidence to suggest that the larger populations we've noted here in the past 50-70 years may have only been a recent phenomenon, and that they were formerly less common in the Great Lakes states and New England anyway. Winter in Wisconsin is not the same without these colorful, big-billed sunflower seed gluttons. Of course things are always changing with bird populations, and anthropogenic effects often seem to greatly accelerate the changes that might occur in any case.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Carbon Dioxide Already in Danger Zone

Carbon Dioxide Levels Already In Danger Zone, Revised Theory Shows
Citation: Open Atmospheric Science Journal, Volume 2, 217-231 (2008)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2008) — If climate disasters are to be averted, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) must be reduced below the levels that already exist today, according to a study published in Open Atmospheric Science Journal by a group of 10 scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

The authors, who include two Yale scientists, assert that to maintain a planet similar to that on which civilization developed, an optimum CO2 level would be less than 350 ppm — a dramatic change from most previous studies, which suggested a danger level for CO2 is likely to be 450 ppm or higher. Atmospheric CO2 is currently 385 parts per million (ppm) and is increasing by about 2 ppm each year from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) and from the burning of forests.

"This work and other recent publications suggest that we have reached CO2 levels that compromise the stability of the polar ice sheets," said author Mark Pagani, Yale professor of geology and geophysics. "How fast ice sheets and sea level will respond are still poorly understood, but given the potential size of the disaster, I think it's best not to learn this lesson firsthand."

The statement is based on improved data on the Earth's climate history and ongoing observations of change, especially in the polar regions. The authors use evidence of how the Earth responded to past changes of CO2 along with more recent patterns of climate changes to show that atmospheric CO2 has already entered a danger zone.

According to the study, coal is the largest source of atmospheric CO2 and the one that would be most practical to eliminate. Oil resources already may be about half depleted, depending upon the magnitude of undiscovered reserves, and it is still not practical to capture CO2 emerging from vehicle tailpipes, the way it can be with coal-burning facilities, note the scientists. Coal, on the other hand, has larger reserves, and the authors conclude that "the only realistic way to sharply curtail CO2 emissions is phase out coal use except where CO2 is captured and sequestered."

In their model, with coal emissions phased out between 2010 and 2030, atmospheric CO2 would peak at 400-425 ppm and then slowly decline. The authors maintain that the peak CO2 level reached would depend on the accuracy of oil and gas reserve estimates and whether the most difficult to extract oil and gas is left in the ground.

The authors suggest that reforestation of degraded land and improved agricultural practices that retain soil carbon could lower atmospheric CO2 by as much as 50 ppm. They also dismiss the notion of "geo-engineering" solutions, noting that the price of artificially removing 50 ppm of CO2 from the air would be about $20 trillion.

While they note the task of moving toward an era beyond fossil fuels is Herculean, the authors conclude that it is feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II and that "the greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable."

"There is a bright side to this conclusion" said lead author James Hansen of Columbia University, "Following a path that leads to a lower CO2 amount, we can alleviate a number of problems that had begun to seem inevitable, such as increased storm intensities, expanded desertification, loss of coral reefs, and loss of mountain glaciers that supply fresh water to hundreds of millions of people."

In addition to Hansen and Pagani, authors of the paper are Robert Berner from Yale University; Makiko Sato and Pushker Kharecha from the NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute; David Beerling from the University of Sheffield, UK; Valerie Masson-Delmotte from CEA-CNRS-Universite de Versaille, France Maureen Raymo from Boston University; Dana Royer from Wesleyan University and James C. Zachos from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Citation: Open Atmospheric Science Journal, Volume 2, 217-231 (2008)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

my favorite book of this year: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This book is absolutely wonderful. Barbara Kingsolver is first and foremost a very skillful writer. But that's not the whole reason this book is extraordinary. Beyond her skill is the intimate link to a very immediate and real story of her family, their relatedness to the land, and the choices she and her family made about how they would live for an entire year, eating only local foods, especially those foods that they could grow or raise on their Appalachian farm. Every page is a revelation, even for those of us who may have been aware of some of these facts for years. If you read this book because I recommended it, I will know that I have passed along a rich gift to you. I could not recommend another recent book that is as truly a "joy" as this. Reading, here, is like eating something very good for you - but it is that and much more.

the last weeks of autumn

************************************************************************* ********************************************

Maybe one can be healed by what one sees. Can I save these images in a place where they act like the wind I felt on my skin? And what about the peregrine and the flock of snow buntings that flew close enough to see without optics? Can those images be saved there, too?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

new book - how to manage your land to help birds

If you have land that you'd like to manage to help birds, a new manual is available that will help you learn effective ways to do exactly that. "How to Manage Your Land to Help Birds", by Vicki Piaskowski, Kari Williams, Gil Boese, and Paula Brookmire, is the product of a decade of hard work by Birds Beyond Borders-Aves Sin Fronteras, a long-term project of the Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Inc. and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. How do you get a copy? There are two ways: the entire book is downloadable, or you can make a point of attending one of Vicki's talks around the state, where she gives them away. Production and publication of this book was funded by a grant, making it possible to give copies away. Learn more about the book, and about Birds Beyond Borders, by going to the website, here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

father and daughter in the new prairie

Just recently my daughter and I spent part of a day broadcasting seeds in the prairie on the family farm. My good friend Joel collected these seeds (compass plant, other prairie forbs) from his own prairie plantings. The best part of prairie restorations is that one sees results in only a few years. What this means, of course, is that Hannah will see what she planted, in only a year or two.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

in praise of a veteran Wisconsin ornithologist: Charles Kemper, M.D.

If you've been around Wisconsin birding and birders a pretty long time, you probably know this guy. If you're relatively new to birds and birding, maybe you don't. Charles Kemper, M.D. has been an ornithological guiding light and mainstay in western Wisconsin for more than a half-century. He's a retired country doctor who along the way has also been editor of the Passenger Pigeon (quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology), a former president of the Inland Bird Banding Association, and the long-time investigator of TV tower kills of migrant birds. If you received a copy of the just-published Christmas Bird Count issue of American Birds, look on page 32 for a great article by Charlie, summarizing 55 years of memories on the counts he has organized, participated in and compiled. It's fine reading. Three cheers for you, Charlie Kemper; here's hoping that there are many years of birding yet to come for you!

Friday, October 31, 2008

smoky gold tamaracks


Look back in Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" to see what "the Professor" said about smoky gold. It's the season of high color for that wonderful deciduous conifer, the tamarack, Larix laricina - the golden tree of autumn bogs and swamps.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

MCAMMP study sites, continued

Warnimont Park is one of the eight MCAMMP study sites, in this case one of those located along Milwaukee County's lakeshore. Warnimont, like its neighbor Grant Park, has a well-developed system of wooded ravines. It is used by many migrant birds during both spring and fall migrations. See more about the MCAMMP project here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

the light is coming through


Standing in the light of God is where I always said I wanted to be.
Why do I forget that I have already received this gift?
Why do I endlessly worry, and fail to see it all around me?
This light goes on, falling right here,
whether I am attentive or not.
May I finally awaken, and truly open my eyes and see it.
Grace surrounds me; I open my hands and heart
and mind to accept it.

another great conference, and a superb volunteer

The Citizen-based Monitoring Network hosted another great conference this weekend, in Onalaska, WI. Saturday's list of presentations, with a banquet and keynote speaker on Saturday evening were capped by the now-annual awards for projects and volunteers who have done fantastic work on many types of monitoring projects. MCAMMP won an award for Project of the Year last fall, and one of our volunteers (Lynn Ratkowski) received a Volunteer of the Year award last fall as well. This year another of our volunteers won this award - that's remarkable in itself. But the volunteer in question deserves some additional praise. Jenn Callaghan not only does a superb job on MCAMMP, but she also volunteers LOTS of hours on two other citizen science projects at Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center. All in all, that's just an amazing feat. Congratulations, Jenn! Jenn's pictured above, surrounded by students visiting the MCAMMP banding station.

Witnessing her receiving this award were a few other special people who work on this and a host of other related projects: Tim Vargo and Jesse Hill of UEC, and Owen Boyle. Tim, Manager of Research and Citizen Science at the UEC, is one dynamic person who leads or directs dozens of projects going on at the Center. Jesse is a weekend educator at the Center. Owen is Southeast Regional Ecologist for the Wisconsin DNR, and an exceptional scientist and researcher. Tim and Owen and I, along with Chris Lepczyk of the University of Hawai'i, (another extraordinary ecologist/ornithologist, who wasn't here tonight) have worked together on MCAMMP and other projects for several years, and I can't praise them enough - I'm grateful to know them and work with them.

The conference continues tomorrow. To learn more about the Citizen-based Monitoring Network, go to the website

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

autumn magic

The colors I have seen in the past week speak for themselves; there is nothing to add, nothing I can say that could adequately describe their beauty.

bird conservation news, other items

Read the latest news on bird conservation topics from the American Bird Conservancy at this link


Want to see a Saw-whet Owl up close? Attend this Saturday's OwlFest at Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers. It's a great place, and you can support their activities by attending and donating - check them out at this link.

Monday, October 6, 2008

So, how many are there, anyway?


If you peruse the Partners in Flight landbird population database, you can find out how many individuals of a certain species are estimated to be in North America. How about Red-winged Blackbird? 190,000,000 (and that's less than there were a few decades ago, when they were the continent's most abundant species). How about some other common species?
American Robin: 310,000,000
Black-capped Chickadee: 34,000,000

What about some declining species?
Cerulean Warbler: 560,000
Golden-winged Warbler (with a much smaller geographic range): 210,000

If you're interested and want to query the database yourself, go to this page, and read the how-to.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

looking down and up at autumn


When this season is upon us and I am in a woodland or forest, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking down at the ground, and up into the canopy. I never grow tired of this visual activity.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rusty Blackbird flocks in autumn

*************************** It's time to start watching for and reporting autumn Rusty Blackbird flocks; please remember that this is North America's fastest-declining species, and reporting numbers helps to monitor this species. Report your numbers to eBird, and read more about this species at this link, and especially this one. I found 10 of them mixed in with a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings yesterday in northeastern Fond du Lac County. The entire group was doing the "rasp and clack" symphony; now, THAT was pretty cool.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

MCAMMP study sites, continued


Next in the series of photos of MCAMMP study sites (see this link for info about the MCAMMP project) are these. These photos were made in our Root River site, one of the 4 riparian sites. This is by far the least disturbed site I know of in Milwaukee County. I can't tell you where it is, but if you want to see it, a guided tour can be arranged...

today in the garden - colors!

I spent a bit of time helping Leah in the garden today. She was getting the gladiolas ready for storage. Some are still in bloom, but most are done. We also dug some potatoes and picked other vegetables. I included a photo of chard above, just because I love the color of this plant.

farm building progress, late September

The old farm building being moved and renovated on Leah's family's farm has shown more progress - the "knee wall" is now completed, and the building has been made 24" taller. This lower wall section is bolted in place, the sill is bolted to the concrete foundation, and any tall person can walk inside without having to stoop. Leah's brothers and nephews have done a tremendous amount of work, and there is a lot more work yet to come - but it is coming along very well. Lots of nailing. The jacks used to lift the building have been removed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act

Please let your senators and representatives know that you want them to support this bill. Read more at this link.

Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin has done a lot to assist bird conservation and make it move forward, and he deserves our thanks. But the job isn't done. Go to the link above to send a message of support.

MCAMMP study sites

If you've been reading here for a while, you may know about the MCAMMP project (see this page, if you have not seen the story of the project). Here are a few photos in the first in a series of posts describing the MCAMMP study sites. All of the sites are in Milwaukee County. Some are in upland deciduous woods, while others are along streams (riparian sites). The one shown here is in Greenfield Park, in a beautiful upland woods. Greenfield's woods is less overtaken by invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn than some other county park sites. It also has some magnificent older trees, and a well-developed subcanopy. More to come...

on the farm: building progress

After the farm building was moved weeks ago, additional work has been done. In the first photo above, you can see the new "knee wall". Below that, you can see one of the 20-ton jacks used to raise this building high enough to move it, and then to insert that "knee wall" - thus making the building 24" higher. Those few words do not capture the work this entails! More details to come.

on the farm: autumn flowers


Leah among the goldenrods...

early fall color, foggy mornings

At this point in autumn, only some color changes are evident. But they are among my favorites, especially that of woodbine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The thickets along roadsides where I often stop to do avian surveys have it in abundance.
Some other roadsides are bathed in fog, another favorite early autumn phenomenon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

learning lessons from the arctic

This past summer, a group of 100+ political, business, and religious leaders met in Svaalbard in the Norwegian arctic. They learned about climate change. Read their group statement here.

Then, read the list of participants here.


See a bibliography on birds and climate change, including recent publications, at this Partners in Flight webpage.

Friday, September 19, 2008


...but don't touch it! It's poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), found in swamps and bogs. This one was found in one of my favorite places, the Cedarburg Bog, in Ozaukee County, WI. As you can see, it is highly colored in autumn.

more good reading

Would you like to read a REALLY fun book about where to find birds in Wisconsin? Well, you don't have to look far, because there's another superb choice available now. All of This and Robins Too: A Guide to the 50 or so Best Places to Find Birds in Wisconsin, by Steve Betchkal, is certainly such a book. Steve's humorous and very informative book, in Steve's own words, is most assuredly NOT meant to replace the well-known Wisconsin's Favorite Bird Haunts. (A new edition of that excellent and very successful guide is in the works at present, and should be available next year). But it has much to recommend it, and I give it an unqualified endorsement. Steve is a very witty guy; you'll find not only directions to great places, and reasons why they are great, but also a laugh on almost every page. Who doesn't need a laugh these days?

Steve focuses on groups of birds that he can help you find, but this is not a book devoted to the rarest species occasionally found in Wisconsin.

Dozens of excellent maps are found here, along with carefully-worded directions to the sites, and suggestions for the best time of year to visit each location.

This is a great book. Contact Steve at gonebirding88@hotmail if you want more info. Or call him at 715-832-7359.

I have found a few things in the book that I'm going to discuss with Steve. See if you can help him improve the next edition(s) - that's part of his challenge to you. And there's a "message" to this book, too...but I'll let you discover that for yourself, by reading it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

searching in the mist...


I spent Friday doing a bird survey in Buffalo County, Wisconsin, northeast of Fountain City. These Driftless Area hills and valleys were partly shrouded in mist for much of the morning. But many raptors, woodpeckers, flycatchers, bluebirds, swallows, thrushes and other songbirds were eventually seen and heard among these magnificent valleys. Among them were three individuals of a species I now seldom find in most of the rest of Wisconsin: the Red-headed Woodpecker. RHWO have declined greatly in many areas, to perhaps only 30% of their numbers of a century ago.

Read more about these birds here. Although some habitat restoration in certain Midwestern areas has led to local increases in this species population, much remains to be done. Declines are still evident, proof of which is simply shown in a graph of breeding bird survey data for WI - see the graph here.

good reading

One of the most influential books I've ever read was published back in 2003, but I'm still talking about this book and re-reading sections of it.

Win-Win Ecology, by Michael Rosenzweig, (Oxford University Press) is a powerful tool for explaining the philosophy of a different way of looking at the natural world today: reconciliation ecology.

Highly recommended; see more at this link.


Read Scott Weidensaul's excellent blog, here.

Again, highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

the future of birding?

In a few words, birding has a very limited future without a greater emphasis on conservation. Whether you are an experienced birder, or someone who has only recently developed an interest in studying birds; whether you are a "casual" birder, or someone who is much more serious about birding, I recommend the excellent overview of conservation topics to be found at this link on the American Bird Conservancy website.


Closer to home, have you looked at the website of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative lately? Very worthwhile, with lots of resources. See it here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

news from BirdLife International, Big Bird Year, etc.

See BirdLife International's news page, here


Now that Malkom and his parents are done with their Big Bird Year adventure, see how it turned out

agriculture and...birds

Agriculture and birds...yes, of course there is a connection. What farmers do about CRP will affect birds in many ways. And if you're concerned about birds, you should be concerned about the future of agriculture in every larger sense of the word. What America's farmers do every day affects wildlife in nearly every county, in every state.

Some good reading sources:
The Center for Rural Affairs

Pesticides and Birds

Audubon - Agriculture and Birds

Monday, September 8, 2008

beyond birding

You can make your birding count for larger purposes. It's a worthwhile goal: help convince land managers that your favorite birding spot is worth restoring and preserving. How can you do this? Choose a site or sites and do long-term record-keeping, utilizing eBird and a protocol that remains the same over time. In other words, measuring distance, area, and effort help to make the data more than just a collection of lists. Oh, yes; there's one more thing: for it to really have value, it is important to actually count individuals of each species you detect. MCAMMP is already working on this on eight study sites in Milwaukee County; read more about it here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

moving the building

If you've been following the saga of the renovation and moving of a building on my wife Leah's family's farm, here is some video from the latest part of this adventure. After the new concrete foundation was poured some weeks ago, the inside of the building was braced in several directions. This Saturday (the 6th of September), a crew of folks gathered to jack up the building, put it on huge timbers (which were 17-18 feet in length), and put rollers made of sections of pipe under those timbers. You can see various aspects of the project below.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

how many broods for Wisconsin songbird species?

While doing a set of early fall/late summer bird surveys these past few weeks, I was struck by the number of species of passerine birds that were/are still on territory(or at least still singing) as of this date. This made me wonder how many Wisconsin passerines have multiple broods, and are still engaged in that aspect of their annual cycle in late August or even early September. Using the Breeding Bird Atlas and a variety of other references, I tracked down the following information:

1) A fair number of WI passerine bird species have multiple broods.
2) A good percentage of Neotropical migrants that breed in WI have only one brood (not surprising given their brief stay in WI each summer), but some do have more than one.
3) Some permanent resident species have only one brood, even though they do not need to leave on migration.
4) There is still a need for more research on this aspect of some species’ annual cycle; in other words, we simply don’t know for certain how many broods are raised by some species.

I am finding some Eastern Wood-Pewees and Red-eyed Vireos still singing this week and many more last week. What's going on? These two species both probably have only one brood, (but this is not certain for the pewee). Why would males still be singing now if they had completed their nesting cycle? I have not yet found an answer to this in the literature.

Utilizing this as a framework for questions, I developed a set of lists (not exhaustive lists, to be sure) for some relatively common species, with this information. There's a lot more to learn.

One brood

Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Purple Martin
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Chestnut-s. Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
American Redstart
Mourning Warbler (probable)
Scarlet Tanager

Multiple broods (number)

Eastern Phoebe 2
Barn Swallow 2
House Wren 2
Sedge Wren 2
Marsh Wren 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Wood Thrush 3
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 2
Brown Thrasher 2
Cedar Waxwing 1-2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Field Sparrow 2
Chipping Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 2
Grasshopper Sparrow 2
Henslow’s Sparrow 2
Vesper Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 1-2
Northern Cardinal 2-3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1-2
Indigo Bunting 2
Red-winged Blackbird 2-3
Eastern Meadowlark 2
Western Meadowlark 2
Common Grackle 1-2
American Goldfinch 1; occ 2

Number of broods is unknown or uncertain

Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing
Veery (probably 1, but?)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Waterthrush

Friday, August 29, 2008

a Spruce Grouse for Wayne and his grandson

You may recall a while ago when my friend Wayne Rohde mentioned his Spruce Grouse adventure on the Wisconsin Birding List. Well, Wayne's my guest blogger here, today...so let's let him tell the story in more detail:
A Spruce Grouse for Boompa
By Wayne Rohde

As I type, I hold in my hands my cherished third edition of Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds.

It’s a personalized guide. And a very personal guide.

Long ago, when I was in high school, I attached little colored tabs to the 60 plates of bird paintings, scattered here and there throughout the guide. It was my attempt to more easily and quickly navigate my way around the field guide. This book, the birder’s “Bible,” also sports a plastic cover, designed to afford it a measure of protection against all sorts of hazards – like falling in the creek more than once. Its discolored cover now bears several scars and cracks, and not a little Scotch tape. To say it’s well-used is an understatement of understatements.

My Peterson is inscribed with a brief and simple note from my Uncle Dave & Aunt Neva, in the distinctive cursive of my Uncle Dave – the one who introduced me to birding:

To Wayne, Don, & Lynn
Good Birding!
--- from Neva & Dave

I carried this guide with me when I found my first Savannah Sparrow on my parents’ Green County farm in July of 1968, just one year after I started watching birds. And this treasured book has traveled far and wide with me to all sorts of special places around the state.

To this day I continue to enter the first sighting of every species I’ve ever seen or heard in its “My Life List” section. The next to last such entry is for the Blue Grosbeak I observed and photographed this past May in Rock County, during one of the WSO preconvention field trips.

Most entries list only the month and year, but several also include the initials “DB” – an indicator that my Uncle Dave was with me when I came across some of the birds for the first time. In point of fact, on such occasions he was undoubtedly the one who spotted and identified the “new” species - such as Great Blue Heron and what were once called American Egret, Baldpate and Marsh Hawk in April of 1969 (undoubtedly all at Horicon Marsh). All told, DB appears next to at least 15 species.

Other names appear as well – such as Dr. Weir next to Rough-legged Hawk and (what was once called) Hungarian Partridge (I’m told Dr. Weir, himself a birder, is the one who delivered me; perhaps his love of birding rubbed off on me the very day of my birth!), Daryl Tessen next to Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Tom Schultz next to Thayer’s Gull, and Noel Cutright next to White-winged Crossbill. One of my favorite memories is of my first encounter with a Stilt Sandpiper east of Walworth in August of 1999; next to this line I’ve recorded the simple words, “with Jessica” – a reference to the fact that my daughter Jessica was with me at the time. What a treat!

Just moments ago, as I reviewed my notes, I noticed that I saw my first Common Loon in Canada, back in 1972, and my first Bohemian Waxwing in Door County in March of 2001.

In a way, then, my field guide serves as a sort of diary. Perusing the various dates and notations jogs my memory, and helps me piece together quite a host of memorable events from days gone by.

It’s no wonder that the page after my uncle’s greeting I’ve filled a page with my name, postal address, phone number, and email address … followed by these words in “caps”


Fast forward to late June of 2008…

Our family was eagerly awaiting a July two-week camping outing north of Rhinelander, and my mind raced with visions of finding Spruce Grouse and Boreal Chickadee (birds I’d never yet seen), as well as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Connecticut Warbler, LeConte’s Sparrow, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Whip-poor-will, Gray Jay, Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak (birds not yet seen in 2008).

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers proved plentiful, as did Winter Wrens at our campground of choice: Fort Wilderness. While there I also happened upon Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, and Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green and Pine Warblers – northern birds seen during spring migration, but not since. I awakened to the squawks of juvenile Common Ravens each morning. I could live for such mornings.

An early morning trip to Thunder Marsh north of Three Lakes netted me Lincoln’s and LeConte’s Sparrows (I absolutely love the song of the former bird, while the latter is but a dry, almost inaudible, insect-like buzz), and an afternoon outing to the Giant Pine Trail in the Nicolet Forest added the elusive Connecticut Warbler to my year list (I discovered it in dense underbrush, as it walked along a fallen log). I also came across a Ruffed Grouse while traveling between Rhinelander and Three Lakes. The grouse walked right in front of our van, and I quickly lowered the window to snap a photo of it, before it crossed the ditch and disappeared into the nearby woods.

Yes, I love Wisconsin’s Northwoods! And I was ecstatic that my grandson Oliver gladly accompanied me on a July 6 afternoon when we walked the trail to Cranberry Point at Fort Wilderness.

Oliver and I stopped now and then, to play detective, just as my Uncle Dave and I paused years ago, to investigate this or that. When we arrived at “the Point,” Oliver ran to the end of a small pier, and sat there watching reflections in the water. It was a hot Sunday afternoon, and just the type of lazy summer day to “take our good old time.” So we poked along, pausing frequently … Oliver, to enjoy his newly-found walking stick … and I, to capture any scene I deemed photo-worthy (my Canon 28-135mm equivalent lens was perfect for such walk-about photos). Neither of us was in a hurry. We had nowhere to go.

But all good things must end, and we finally made our way back down the trail toward civilization – where we heard the distant sounds of people enjoying the sand beach along Spider Lake.

And that’s precisely when Oliver yelled, “Boompa! What’s that chicken?”

“Chicken?” I thought to myself, “What’s a chicken doing out here in a place like this?”

But almost immediately I saw what four-year-old Oliver had seen: a grouse.

Miffed that my camera only had a short lens on it (instead of the 110-480mm equivalent which I normally use for bird photography), I aimed and shot. Then I shot about four more times, and “bingo,” the grouse vanished in the dark woods.

“That,” I told Oliver, “is a Ruffed Grouse!”

As we made our way the 100 feet or so to where the grouse had been, I scanned the forest with my binocular, hoping to relocate it. And, to my surprise, I was successful! But something didn’t look quite right: particularly the rusty-tipped tail, and the generally blackish background coloration of the bird. Could it be…?

There was only one thing to do: get back to the camper as quickly as Oliver’s stride would allow (I’m not sure his feet hit the ground!) to view enlargements of the bird on my camera’s LCD.

Yes, that’s when I conclusively determined that the grouse Oliver had spotted was a Spruce Grouse! Yes, a SPRUCE GROUSE!!! A prize find for any Northwoods birder! A “lifer” for me!!!

About two hours later that same afternoon I received a cell phone call, while walking the shoreline of Spider Lake, that my Aunt Neva had just passed away – pretty much at the same time Oliver found me my Spruce Grouse. Sunday afternoon, July 6, 2008.

My Uncle Dave passed away some 15 years ago. But I’d like to think that the love of birds planted in me over 40 years ago lives on, not only for my daughters, but also for my grandson Oliver … who often reminds me of that special day about two months ago: “Hey, Boompa! Remember when I found that Spruce Grouse?”

Do I remember?

How could I forget?

I couldn’t wait to get home, take Peterson’s third edition from the shelf, and write next to Spruce Grouse the words, “July 2008 – spotted by Oliver – the dream lives.”