Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring Birds in Winteresque Surroundings

Birders throughout the Midwest have been lamenting the slow-coming spring. Many of us worry about how the cold temperatures will affect the birds' ability to feed and survive. A Say's Phoebe, a vagrant from the southwest, arrived in Ashland County during snowy twenty degree days a week or so ago. It was only seen for a day or two. Hopefully, it was able to find a more suitable climate, but it's possible that the bird perished.

More of us are just impatient--we can't wait to view our favorite spring migrants or a rarity, and we wish for prettier backgrounds when photographing warblers. In the southern portion of Wisconsin, at least all of the ice has melted from Lake Michigan. Insects like flies, bees, dragonflies, and even butterflies have been seen sporadically over the past view weeks. Yesterday, I was caught in swarms of midges (thousands upon thousands--and many of them were copulating, making for reliable snacks for passerines):
Birds like my FOY White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrows, a few Northern Flickers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and two Brown Thrashers, dined on the midges:

The above photos give the allure of spring since the grass is full and green. However, the trees are so bare, and elicit that winter feel, as evidenced by this photo of a male Northern Cardinal an American Goldfinch (only the sparse leaves and breeding plumage of the goldfinch indicate spring):
Then, there's the additional concern of how pollution and litter affect our birds. I spotted my FOY Sora Rail on Wednesday at Grant Park in southern Milwaukee County, but seeing the litter all around it made me feel unsettled and amazed. Birds go through so much to sustain themselves.
After seeing the Sora, I encountered this ridiculously tame raccoon, who approached me in the manner that mallards that are used to people feeding them do, without any trepidation. I wish that people would not feed wildlife.
However, in the midst of the chilly, gloomy days, signs of spring ARE here. There's a pair of House Finches building a nest above my porch light, and I've seen a robin and Canada goose sitting on nests, plus a pair of chickadees cleaning out a nest hole. I do hope that they all reproduce successfully and are able to feed their young.

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