This winter I am doing part of my "Big Green Big Year" (otherwise known as a "Bigby") searching for birds along the Hank Aaron State Trail, which follows the Menomonee River, and goes through an area of former industrial "brownfields" in Milwaukee's center. The vegetation along parts of the trail is being gradually restored. The river changes every day; like every body of water, no matter where you live, the light and the weather and the time of day cause the water to present a different face, along with changes in the adjacent land. In a matter of a few weeks, these similar views have dramatically changed.
Since it is winter, the number and diversity of birds is much diminished compared with other seasons. Compared to "Bigbyists" at other latitudes, I am not likely to find a long list of species...and yet there are rewards. Having arrived at these locations on foot, finding fewer species is not a disappointment. The waterfowl found along the river at this season consists of Canada geese and Mallards. A Red-tailed Hawk and American Kestrel constitute the usual array of raptors (although a Cooper's Hawk may occasionally be found here as well). Herring gulls continually forage along this stretch of the river. Both Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon, House Finch and American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, and House Sparrow are common here, but are rounded out by a few more-noteworthy winter residents, including a Belted Kingfisher today. I've expected cardinals, nuthatches, crows and blue jays, but have seen none here this week. All of this is due to change as we move into late February, and the first migrants will begin to appear. That's more than a month away...so we'll see what else shows up between now and then.