Sunday, July 30, 2017

Washburn County, Wisconsin: A Great Place For Eastern Birding

Washburn County, Wisconsin, or the State of Wisconsin in general, is an awesome place.  There are many things to do there.  Perhaps Wisconsin is best known for it's epic dairy farms and dairy products such as ice cream, cheese, milk, cheese curds, and more.  Here, four people wander through Shell Lake and Spooner, Wisconsin to get free ice cream that the local banks hand out on summer Fridays.

Wisconsin is also known for it's fishing.  Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskie, Small and Largemouth Bass, you name it!

Another epic thing are water related activities.  Boating.  Rafting.  Canoeing.  You got it!  There are lakes and rivers everywhere.

What's really cool is that I have family in Washburn County, Wisconsin, and that's why I was there.

My Grandma lives in Wisconsin.  Pearl DeBardeleben and my Grandfather, the late John DeBardeleben, resided in the Spooner/Shell Lake area in Washburn County.  For this reason, I've always loved this place.  My aunt Tabby lives here as well as many second cousins and other relatives of my Dad's.  We were here for a family project, and there was a lot of work involved.  The family time was epic.

Wisconsin also has it's good birding too!  And I, Tommy D, love birding in this state.  Lots of birders do too.

Remember my post about Wisconsin's Warblers and the fact that I lifered on three of them during my recent trip:  Blackburnian, Canada, and Mourning Warblers?  I did add another lifer in Wisconsin, and that was a heard-only Black-billed Cuckoo.  My brother Tyler and I went back after I heard it to try and relocate the bird and to get a visual of it, but it simply wasn't meant to be.  With a Black-billed Cuckoo though, I'll take a heard-only.

In Washburn County, there were an assortment of birds away from the life birds.  Many of them were classic birds from the east, and I will feature them on this post.  Whether what I saw or not, it was cool to bird in a County that I've always wanted to bird in.  In the week we spent and in the limited time I had for birding, I recorded 105 species in Washburn County.  And it is a County that is heavily under-birded!

Things got really fun on the drive up and once we entered into Washburn County.  This Bald Eagle was scavenging on a road killed deer.  Ooohs and aaahs filled my family members voices.

The local Brown Thrasher was an awesome sight once we started working.

Sometimes, Sandhill Cranes were seen in the area's fields..

Here's the Eastern Kingbird, a classic eastern bird that haunts roadsides.

Yellow-throated Vireos are fairly common in northwestern Wisconsin.  They are loud and are heard a lot more than they are seen.  A few times on the trip, I found myself face-to-face with one.

Truly impressive were the numbers of the Veery throughout Washburn.  They were everywhere.  And so were their epic songs.

A lone Trumpeter Swan made it's home at a series of wetlands called Tozar Springs just off of the Yellow River.  We drove by this place several times daily, and every time, this Trumpeter Swan was there.

One of the most abundant birds in the east is the Red-eyed Vireo.  You can't go anywhere without hearing one!

An amazing highlight happened when I got to see this Broad-winged Hawk roadside.  It was the first time I've really gotten to see this small buteo well after catching glimpses of a few on this trip and having brief looks at two separate Arizona migrants.

The Song Sparrows in the north look a lot different than the ones in the southwest, that's for sure!

Here's a crappy shot of an Eastern Bluebird, another classic eastern bird.

I heard and saw and few Eastern Towhees on the trip.  One of them was very cooperative for my camera, and these are the best pics I have obtained of this species.

Scarlet Tanagers were pretty scarce while I was up there, but I managed to catch this striking bird at a distance.  After all, this was my 500th life bird which I saw for the first time last year.

This male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in song sure was a welcoming sight.

The cat-like sounding Gray Catbird was very common on the trip.  There were a few times individuals would perch out in the open for me.

Striking male Indigo Buntings were also a common sight, especially along the sides of roads or in forest clearings.  I couldn't go anywhere without seeing these guys.

A few times on the trip, I heard the breathtaking song of the Wood Thrush.  This song doesn't sound like anything we should hear on earth, and it all comes from a medium-sized brown bird with black spots on it's front.  Prior to this trip, I caught one glimpse of a Wood Thrush as it flew away from me.  This time, my patience in hoping to see one well prevailed, and I got good looks and decent photographs of this singing male on territory.  These are my first Wood Thrush photographs!

The common and well-known Blue Jay is loud and can be heard everywhere in the East.  Despite the common audio, these birds don't readily show themselves much.  This individual was the only one who gave me a chance to view it on the trip.

This female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was right outside my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Larry's cabin.  Another classic bird of the east..

As you can all see in a nutshell, this place is awesome for birding.  If you haven't seen my Wisconsin Warblers post yet, it's two posts back in the archives.  Washburn has it's warblers, and a lot of them at that.  I hope to return to this awesome place again soon for family, for all the fun mentioned above, and of course, for the birds too.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Birding: The True Royal Ternout

Hey everyone.  I've been very behind in this birding blog of mine lately.  It's been getting harder and harder for me to keep up on it.  Call it laziness, maybe even say it's because I'm really busy.  Maybe it's a little bit of both.  Maybe it's because I've decided to lean towards observing other wildlife rather than just birds all the time. I have really come to love odes over the last two months.  And maybe it's because I have limitations on going far away places right now.  And maybe it's because the Phoenix area typically has three good birds at this time of year which are Least Bittern, Ridgway's Rail, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  And maybe that occasional vagrant.  As I've been intrigued by all wildlife lately, all it took was a text message to remind me that birds are still by far in first place.  A rare bird in Maricopa County at that I thought was only remotely possible someday.

Wow, Dale, wow.  Dale Clark is a friend of mine, good birder too.  I was at work when I received his text message, and I was stuck there for the rest of the day (which would include well after dark).  There was no doubt it was a Royal Tern.  Do you all know how rare that is?  Well, in Arizona's previous birding history, one known Royal Tern in 2006 circled Willcox Lake and I don't think it ever landed.  One lucky observer was there, and the rest wish they would have been there.  On July 23rd, Dale found this bird near his home in Chandler, Arizona, and I thought it would be another repeat of the 2006 scenario.  After all, Dale found the bird in the morning, it quickly flew away, and then, it didn't come back the rest of the day.  Dale, who loves others to be able to see such rarities, kept on checking throughout the day without any additional luck.  After a storm blew through the entire Phoenix area, I thought, "Yeah, that tern is for sure gone".  I played my XBox after a long day of work and decided to forget about it.  On a better side note at the time, the Phoenix Suns are the best team in the NBA on X Box and Kawai Leonard is the star of the Suns.  

On July 24th, I heard my text message alert go off at 6:38 A.M.  I knew it was most likely something that was birding related.  I rushed to my phone after getting out of bed.  Sure enough when I looked at my phone, it was Dale.  Dale said, "The Royal Tern is back at same spot!".  Within 10 minutes, I was out the door and had a 45 minute drive ahead of me to Chandler.  The location the bird was at were at a series of ponds right outside of the Sun Lakes Community, near the intersection of Riggs and Old Price Roads.  Rain clouds filled the sky, and at times, it was raining well.  Traffic had good mercy on me, and I was able to get to the spot quicker than I thought I would get to it.  This area of Riggs and Old Price Roads can be very good for birding.  It is Dale's patch, and he visits the ponds on a regular basis.  The area has hosted 170 different bird species, and Dale has an incredible number of 165.  There are a few ponds, fields, and some trees bordering the ponds.  But this time, Dale had a mega Arizona rarity on his hands and one that every birder in Arizona wants to see.  For me and the Maricopa County birder that I am, I was thinking more of how awesome it was that it was a Maricopa County record.  

I arrived at the spot at 7:40 A.M. and found Dale.  On the west side of Old Price Road about 1/3rd of a mile north of Riggs Road, was the pond where Dale was seeing the Tern.  The bird flew off once while I was speeding up to the location, but then returned after a few minutes.  As I drove up Old Price I saw Dale, away from the pond.  He told me the bird was there at the pond, but he kept away for awhile to kindly assist others, such as me so I would be able to see it.  I looked to where Dale pointed and there was the Royal Tern, just sitting out in the open.   I drove up adjacent to the bird, who was about 100 feet away from the road.  Before returning back to where Dale was, I took some shots of Maricopa County's latest addition.

I went back and visited with Dale after getting my first good look and we eventually went back up adjacent to the Tern.  Good grief!  The rains picked up, and we started to get poured on.  I rarely say this, but I loved the rain in this time span because it was keeping the bird down.  Birds don't like to fly when the rain is pouring.  It wasn't long before birders started to pile up and chase this remarkable discovery by Dale Clark.

Prior to this outing, I have only seen Royal Tern in San Diego, California and a little north of San Diego, too.  It's a large tern that is slightly smaller than a Caspian Tern but larger than Elegant Tern.  The size of Royal Tern approaches Caspian Tern, but it is noticeably slimmer with much more slender wings and more of a slender bill.  The age of this Royal Tern is a 1st year bird.

A huge thanks goes out to Dale Clark for finding this bird, and not only for finding it, but for assisting me and many others in hopes that they would get it too.  The Royal Tern remained at the pond for most of the day on July 24th, allowing dozens of thankful birders to see it and appreciate it's vagrancy away from the coasts.  I spent an hour and 45 minutes watching this awesome discovery, and a neat bird I don't see often.  Most of the time, it sat at the farm pond west of Old Price, but a few times it flew a short distance into the Sun Lakes Community on private property.  Thankfully, it spent most of it's time at the pond where it could be viewed publicly!  I'll close this post with a series of more pictures that I took of the Royal Tern...

Royal Tern with Green Heron

Royal Tern with Great Blue Heron