… and I almost forgot to write about it.
Like many March months that I have experienced, this March was a combination of slow birding times interspersed with birding moments of great excitement.
When I am able to get good pictures of birds, even the “normal” birds, I forget to be antsy about waiting for the unusual birds. Thus, this little Black-capped Chickadee made me very happy as I wandered about looking for rarities.
Similarly, I had great fun watching a crow harass a wintering Rough-legged Hawk.
My first “chase” of March was to try to see one of the Long-eared Owls that I was told were wintering this winter near Milwaukee. I understood the location to be known to some birders, and possibly to vary from year to year, but information on the birds’ location was deliberately not widely disseminated. Suffice it to say once I learned about it, I drove down there on March 4th, found the wooded area, and slowly walked in on the very icy trail. Not a bird was to be seen, until suddenly I saw one, then another and then a third Long-eared Owl, all quite close together! They were all apparently sleeping and never moved. I was very quiet, just aiming my camera, and leaving the area. I love owls!!
I was also glad to re-see the Carolina Wren that I had first seen in Wausau in late February, when I went back again on March 10th, where I found in singing high in a street-side tree.
On March 11th, I drove east to the Lake Michigan shoreline area to bird alone for a while and then to join a WSO (Wisconsin Society for Ornithology) field trip on the 12th. The weather was very cold (about 10 degrees with a strong wind off the mostly frozen lake). Highlights included my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year on the 11th and two Harlequin Ducks seen both days, as well as the amazingly hardy Wisconsin birders on the field trip.
As the month progressed, Sandhill Cranes, which I first saw on March 5th, began to be more and more evident, usually seen flying over or standing hopefully on ice-covered lakes.
Ross’s Geese, clearly less common here than Canada Geese, were sporadically reported on the rarity lists, usually only one seen at any one place, and usually seemingly disappearing shortly thereafter. At least that was my experience as I drove a couple of long trips to the south and east without finding a Ross’s Goose where they had been reported. Then I was happy to see another report of one west of Wausau, where I had not yet birded, and so I went off to Dunn County on March 19th. Dwarfed by a large flock of Canada Geese, I finally found the lone Ross’s Goose foraging in an old corn field.
A few days later, someone reported a Little Gull on Lake Wisconsin, south a few hours’ drive. There was another scheduled WSO field trip coming up soon that included that area. I decided to drive down early, worried that the gull would disappear before the field trip. I was joined on my first hunt for the gull by two other birders (Mary K and Anne M). We were able to find the Little Gull, which was still present the next day for the field trip. It was absent when the three of us first got there, but when seen it was typically flying near the causeway with the similar sized Bonaparte’s Gulls. Its rounded black underwings were clearly visible, leaving no doubt as to its identity.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are increasing in numbers across the US. In the 90s when I drove from Madison to Wausau to visit my parents, one of my birding side-trips was to find one of these doves that had been reported at a farm. I had not seen another one in Wisconsin since we moved back last May, but had been regularly looking for one since then. Although I was able to see one in a neighboring county in February, I kept hearing that they came to feeders in a town just a short distance from Wausau. I tried many times to find one, but did not succeed until March 28th. I believe there were two of them going into this spruce tree and then flying away and returning, maybe building a nest.
I conclude with the photo above, taken mid-month, of a Short-eared Owl hunting one morning over a friend’s prairie back yard in southern Wisconsin. As I said earlier, and say often, I love owls!