On June 24th I biked a 40-mile loop in search of several species, all of which were fairly long shots. Somewhat unexpectedly, a pair of Purple Martins (#206) flew over on my first stop - they're sparse around here, and I don't know of anyone who has a martin house, so I was glad to finally come across a couple. There was also a rather out-of-season American Wigeon at that marsh - apparently the first-ever June record in eBird for La Crosse County!
|Male American Wigeon in eclipse plumage|
From the marsh, I biked through farmland for 45 min or so. I was hearing Dickcissels everywhere, after barely hearing two a couple weeks prior - that species is one of our latest-arriving breeders.
|Distant Dickcissel at New Amsterdam Grasslands|
|Also distant, but a good bird! Henslow's Sparrow|
A few days later, I biked out to Coulee Experimental State Forest (12.5 miles from home). I'd been there a couple times in the spring, including on my Green Big Day, but both visits had been rushed. This time I planned to spend all morning there, and I really enjoyed watching all the breeding activity - it's fledgling season!
|Fledgling Chipping Sparrow|
|I didn't get to see the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chicks in this cavity, but I sure could hear them! Both parents were busy feeding them.|
|Fledgling Ruffed Grouse! A whole family spooked up in front of me, and this guy landed very close at eye level. I moved on quietly after snapping this photo.|
I also saw, but didn't get a chance to photograph, a little clumsy fledgling Blue-winged Warbler with basically no tail, begging incessantly at its parent; and a very loud and extraordinarily upset female Wild Turkey. I was thrilled to finally get good views of both a male Cerulean Warbler and a female Hooded Warbler - both those species were heard-only lifers for me last year. The female Hooded was acting very suspicious, but didn't offer enough to confirm that she had a nest or chicks. I contributed all my sightings of breeding activity to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, which conveniently accepts data through a special eBird portal.
Oh, and how could I forget? I also heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (#208) for my year list - finally!
My most recent trip (July 8th) was a 29-mile ride through some of the same areas that I'd hit on June 24th, still hoping for (but not finding) American Bittern, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Black-billed Cuckoo. But I did come across a Red-headed Woodpecker (#209)! Last year they were around that general area, but they're not necessarily site-faithful from year to year (they follow the acorn crops) and I hadn't come across them yet this year. On that day, I was biking along and glimpsed a bird as it flushed ahead of me on the trail. The bold white secondaries with a black border were pretty unmistakable, but that was about all that I saw, and I hate identifying birds by process of elimination! I moved very slowly past the spot where I'd seen it land... and then out it came, chased by a robin, to perch for a moment in full view, just a few trees down the trail. Alas, it didn't stay long enough for photos, but they sure are gorgeous birds!
That day was the first time in about a month that I'd been bothered by mosquitoes. Small flying insects have been shockingly sparse compared to last year, but we seem to be entering a midsummer peak (which did not happen last year - they peaked in early June and then disappeared in mid/late July). I'm very relieved for the sake of all the birds that are trying to feed their chicks, and maybe start a second nest... but there's a couple of spots on my daily commute where I wouldn't mind having a full face shield!