Monday, March 5, 2018

Eagle Report for 3/5/18

Spring is Coming!

It's been a longtime since I posted on the blog and for that I apologize.  The new Bald Eagle Nest Watch program here in Wisconsin has kept me busy and the rental house's backyard has been extremely quiet for birds.  I have never had to throw out bird seed because it has sat so long but that is what I had to do with the lack of activity around the feeders.

As the calendar turned to March,  it started to feel a lot more like spring.  Some of the Bald Eagle pairs have officially started the breeding season and they are busy incubating eggs.  The above male is a member of one of those pairs.  He sat for me for a little while then flew over to the marshy area to grab some nest material and to take it back to the nest.  The nest can get pretty stinky with all kinds of half eaten prey and the eagles add their version of "potpourri" to help with that problem.

This is presumedly a younger pair since they didn't actually lay eggs last season.  If all goes well for the young couple, they should have baby eaglet(s) to take care of by the end of March.  Younger and less experienced eagles are a little what I call goofy.  They don't quite have the routine down and forget to incubate eggs, protect young eaglets from predators, start the season too soon or too late...etc.  This pair seems to be on the right track so far...

A few miles to the South, a more experienced pair are also busy incubating egg(s).  This was a beautiful sunrise from their territory.  This pair have been very productive for at least 5 years.  They have fledged close to 10 eaglets in those years.

 If you look real closely, there is a white head just visible in the nest.  This pair has been known to be a little sensitive to humans on foot so I have to keep my distance to not disturb them.  It will be interesting to compare the two nests as we progress through season.  They started incubating eggs both around the middle of February.  Hopefully with some luck, both pairs will be productive and fledge the next generation of eagles into the world.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Bird Lifer

Snowy Owl

I'm not much of a chaser of rarer birds but, when I heard that two Snowy Owls were seen about 20 minutes away from me,  I had to give it look.  I had seen Snowy Owls in captvitiy but never in the wild and I was excited to see these striking birds in action in their natural habitat.  This year is shaping up to see a big influx of Snowy Owls down from the Arctic.  Many have already been reported throughout Wisconsin but this was the first report that was close to me.

I walked the natural preserve for a little while and I caught a glimpse of a large white bird flying over the fields.  Amazing!  It had to be Snowy!  Maybe, that would be the only glimpse I get but it was amazing regardless.  I decided to try another area of the preserve where most of the Snowy Owls had been seen.  I parked on the side of the road and I decided to take a walk through the prairies to see if I could relocate the Snowy I had seen.  By that time, the sun was right in my eyes and I decided to grab my sunglasses before walking any further.  I turned back to walk back to my car to grab them and this is what I saw...

Yes, I had stupidly parked right under a telephone poll where a Snowy Owl was perched.  I guess it's possible it landed there while I was walking the other way down the trail.  Sometime it's better to be lucky than good!  

  I observed and photographed the owl for a awhile through my long telephoto lens and binoculars.  At one point it was dive bombed by a Sharpie or Cooper's Hawk.  It most likely is a young male since it is mostly white.  Females tend to have more heavy black streaking.  After awhile, I figured it was time to go and leave this guy alone.

I slowly walked back to my car as not to spook him.  I took one last pictures of him giving me the stare down right before I jumped into my car and I slowly drove off.  He remained on his perch and I was relieved not to disturb this beautiful bird.  

Unfortunately,  I had gotten too close on accident.  Snowy Owls are very popular birds to chase by photographers and birder.  Sometimes on the quest for the best shot/view people stress and disturb these birds.  Always keep your distance and refrain from posting exact locations of birds like Snowy Owls.  Enjoy these striking birds from a long lens or binoculars.  



Monday, November 13, 2017

Raptors, Raptors and more Raptors!

Most of my weekend mornings, I am scouting for Bald Eagle nests for the upcoming Bald Eagle Nest Watch.  It is fun to discover new nests and I love exploring new areas around Dane County, Wisconsin.   I had finished up looking for another nest and I was headed home when I saw a sign for Indian Lake County Park.  I decided to check it out and I'm really glad I did.

So, the first raptor is technically not a raptor but a songbird.  I saw it right away when I pulled up into the parking lot.  A striking grey bird with a raptor-like reputation.  The Northern Shrike was flitting around in the trees and bushes.  It perched long enough for me to take a not so great shot but it was awesome to see this honorary member of the raptor family.

I walked around the lake for a little while and I kept thinking, "what a good spot this would be for a Bald Eagle."  Pretty much on queue, I noticed an adult landing on perch with what looked like a fish.   He eventually finished his meal and then headed across the lake to perch where I got this distance shot of him.

On the way back to my car, I saw yet another raptor.  At first, I thought it might be a Red-shouldered Hawk like the above one from my old New York backyard but no luck.  It turned out to be it's more common cousin the Red-tailed Hawk.

I thought the raptor fest was over and I was about back to my car when I saw another raptor.  What luck!  A beautiful female Northern Harrier was hunting over the grasses near the lake.  She circled the  area a number of times looking for prey in the grass but then headed over the tree line to hunt elsewhere.

What a great morning with my favorite group of birds and my first opportunity to photograph a Northern Harrier!  I will definitely be stopping off at Indian Lake County Park again.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Getting Ready to Migrate

Our backyard in the rental house here in Wisconsin is very slow on bird activity.  I have only got a few Morning Doves, and House Finches showing up to my feeder.  I got to say, I'm missing all the activity, we had in our New York backyard.  I guess you don't realize how lucky you have it until you move.  I  will have to go out and find the birds at local nature preserves for now.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a treat at one of those local nature preserves.  Right down the trail these two Sandhill Cranes flew in.  Cranes are a pretty rare sighting in the Albany, NY area but they are all over the place here in Southern Wisconsin.

Especially right now, when they are getting ready to migrate.  I have seen fields with more than a dozen cranes hanging out and fueling up before their trip.  The endangered Whooping Crane sometimes groups up with their Sandhill cousins but I haven't seen any yet.

These large, loud and kind of goofy looking birds are so much fun to watch!  Happy Birding and enjoy the migrants that are heading though your area.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

First Weekend of Birding

Hello Wisconsin! 

I couldn't help myself.  I had to reference "That 70's Show",  A sitcom taking place in Wisconsin.  The first weekend of birding since we moved to Madison, WI was good but very buggy!  It was great hunting for the swallows, Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Wood Pee-wees that I saw but a little uncomfortable for me.  

One of the highlights of last weekend was the numerous Common Yellowthroats.  I don't recall ever seeing this bird in NY but I have only been looking for warblers for about a year.  The male's striking "black mask"  contrasted with his "yellow throat" is beautiful.  They did make photographing them a challenge since they are pretty much constantly in motion.  

This Veery gave me the eye while foraging on the path with its' cousin in the thrush family the American Robin.

This Red-winged Blackbird gave me his best angry face!

Here is another shot of the Common Yellowthroat.  On top of all that, I found my first Wisconsin Bald Eagle nest.  The Eagle Report will live on!  Happy Birding and I hope to chronicle more of my new experiences in Wisconsin.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Feathers on Friday for 7/14/17

Scarlet Tanager

Happy Friday and first Friday spent in Wisconsin!  The last few weeks that we were in New York, I had two male Scarlet Tanagers and at least one female in my backyard.  Here is one of them looking for berries.  

He grabbed an unripe berry and popped it in his beak.   

He gave me a curious look and flew away to enjoy his berry in a more private area of the yard.   Have a great weekend and Happy Birding!  

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eagle Report for 7/2017

End Of Another Season

This report is a few weeks late but with moving to Wisconsin, I have been very busy!  We finished up the season in the Capital Region of NY with all eaglets fledgling in late June or early July.  The above two were very busy taking care of three eaglets.  Three eaglets is pretty rare and the food supply needs to be good enough to support their ever-growing appetites.  

Here are the three taking in late May.  One of three had a very eventful fledge...

I went out to the nest in late June to check on the three eaglets.  They were extremely active.  The three were flapping, jumping and taking mini-fights above the nest.  The smallest of the group(probably a male) went out on a small branch and started flapping hard.  He flapped so hard, he fell off the branch and luckily, a lower pine branch broke his fall.  Here is a poor shot of right before he fell.  He tried to hop up to the nest but there wasn't enough room to get through the branches.  Soon after that one of the adults returned to the nest with a fish.  The newly fledged eaglet missed a feeding but it appeared he was unharmed by his fall.  My guess is the other two probably fledged later in the day.  The next visit there was no eagle activity around the nest.  They had probably moved up or down river from the nest. 
The adults continue to feed the fledglings for at least a few weeks until the eaglets venture out on their own.  They must learn how to scavenge, hunt for themselves and master the art of flying.  
The first year for a eagle is very hard with only about 50% surviving to see their 2nd birthday.  Best of luck to all the fledglings!  

The end of season is always a little sad and exciting.  This year is even more bittersweet as I move to a new area of the country and say goodbye to the amazing Bald Eagles of the Capital Region.  The eagles of Dane County Wisconsin will have a tough act to follow but it will interesting to compare them with the eagles of Colorado and New York that I have observed previously.