Saturday, June 9, 2018

9 June 2018: Ridgetop Bobolinks

Last year I only ever saw one Bobolink in La Crosse County - a bird that I happened to pass on a group bike ride. So this year, I was pleased when a number of Bobolinks were reported just 6 miles from where I live. I tried to go see them each of the last two weekends, but was foiled by approaching thunderstorms both times! The Bobolinks are up on an open ridgetop - not a good place to be biking in a thunderstorm.

Today I finally made it up there. While close to home, the route involves one of the steepest climbs in the county, rising 500 ft in one twisty mile. I took it slow so I could listen for cuckoos along the way, or so I told myself!

I heard the first Bobolink (#204) within five minutes of reaching the top of the ridge, and counted 16 over the next 2.4 miles! That's pretty good for around here.

There was lots of singing and displaying in every grassy field, and their distinctive song is still playing in my head.

There was a chance of thunderstorms again today, so I'd planned to bike a loop, with the last 2/3rds being lower and much less exposed. I heard the first rumbles of thunder just as I was approaching the far end of the ridge - perfect timing! I dropped down a nice long, smooth descent - a perfect grade that allows plenty of speed but doesn't require riding the brakes, unlike the road I'd come up, which is pretty awful to bike down. I picked up a couple of Dickcissels (#205) in the valley, which I'd hoped for, but only in an optimistic, maybe-there's-a-chance, wouldn't-that-be-nice kind of way. Last year we had lots of Dickcissels due to a drought in the core of their range in the Great Plains prairies. Unlike many birds, Dickcissels are perfectly happy to move when conditions are better elsewhere. This year they seem to be sparser in Wisconsin, but maybe still more common than typical, from what I hear.

I was biking straight west on that leg of the loop, and had a great view of the approaching thunderstorm, which looked dark and downpoury. I made a beeline for a park in the town of Holmen and took shelter just as the first big raindrops started to splat on the pavement - but the sky was already getting lighter as the storm dissipated. I continued after a few minutes along a sheltered trail; it was a warm rain and there was little thunder. Still no cuckoos, though...

I stopped at the bike shop on my way home, and then discovered my rear tire was going flat. My tires are at the end of their life, so I picked up a new one as long as I was at the bike shop and changing the tire anyway... and then got a new tube when the valve busted on my already-once-patched spare .(I hadn't been able to find the hole to patch the tube that had just gone flat.) Very convenient timing for a problematic flat tire!

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