Sunday, March 4, 2018

24-26 February 2018: Spring is springing!

We've had some less-than-ideal weather lately, with freezing rain and a fair bit of wind. My studded tires are fine on ice, but it's the other road-users I'm worried about! Then weekend of the 24-25th was pretty breezy, so I did a quick birding trip around town and then worked so I could take Monday off. 

The quick trip involved a stop at the Onalaska Cemetery, which hosts a variety of conifer trees that are otherwise very scarce locally - thus there's the potential for some locally interesting birds. The Pine Siskins were singing up a storm - the first time I'd heard them sing this year. Then of course there was a male singing away in our yard when I got home! 

Pine Siskin modeling the abundant spruce cones at the Onalaska Cemetery
I picked up one first-of-green-year species at the cemetery: Golden-crowned Kinglet (#45). Then I swung by Irvin Fishing Hole on the Mississippi River - there's not usually a lot of waterbirds at that spot, but it was one of the only patches of open water in the area. That day there were three Hooded Mergansers (#46). 

The weather was a whole lot nicer on Monday. Temperatures got up into the 40s F, it was sunny, and there was only a light breeze. I headed out for a longer trip to the agricultural area around the town of Trempealeau. We'd gotten about an inch of snow on Saturday, which was still blanketing the fields, but the roads were (mostly) clear for biking. I was hoping the snow would push birds out onto the roads. I feel like a broken record when I keep saying that I'm looking for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs and Northern Shrikes... but I'm still looking! They'll all leave for the year in another month or so, so if I don't break the pattern and find them soon, I'll have to wait and try again in the fall. 

Horned Lark picking seeds off a weed in a soybean field. Weeds are important!
In the meantime - spring sprung! I biked around the fields for a few hours, and by the time I started heading home, all the snow had melted. FOGYs included Canada Goose (#47), Killdeer (#48; a new spring arrival), lovely views of a male Northern Harrier (#49), and Eastern Bluebird (#50). When I was nearly home, a Ring-billed Gull (#51) flew over, looking forlornly at the ice-covered lake (or maybe I was the one looking forlornly at it...). Gulls pretty well clear out of here for the winter, unlike other, more fortunate areas of Wisconsin, so a gull is definitely a sign of spring.

I don't really have a sense for how quickly I "need" to be accumulating species this year. Last year (my first year here) I birded only occasionally until later in March. There are lots of common species that I'm not too worried about adding as soon as possible - I'm more worried about those darn buntings and longspurs! Still, it was nice to break 50.

This trip was 46 miles in total, which was about double the length of any other ride I've done this year. I bike almost every day (14 miles round-trip to work in addition to birding), but longer rides are definitely a different beast. The route was almost entirely flat, so I knew I could make the distance. I'm still getting used to my new bike, which I got last October, and figuring out how to make it work over longer distances. Biking has never hurt my back before, but that's becoming an issue on long rides on this bike, so I'll have to work on my riding position and see what I can do about that! Otherwise, I felt fine but tired when I got home - the headwind on the way home was annoying, but never so bad that I wasn't sure whether I would make it! Definitely nice to finally get out for a good long ride.


  1. Sore back/knee - might try lowering your saddle 1/4" Ross

    1. Thanks so much for the suggestion, Ross - I know nothing about back pain on bikes because I've never had to deal with it before. I had a knee problem (top of knee) in the past where a saddle that was too low was a contributing factor, so I'm always afraid to lower my saddle. Definitely worth a try in this case, though - thanks!