April Birds, part 2

Where I left off, I had last seen 10 first-of-year birds on April 13th. It took me until the 20th to see my next FOY’s. And boy, that was an interesting day.

April 20th- The Day of the Laughing Gull
90: Brown Thrasher
91: Blue-winged Teal- seen in the new neighborhood retention pond
92: Osprey- in their favorite nesting spot in Monona
93: Laughing Gull- So obviously this was a fun one…

Laughing gulls are fairly rare in Wisconsin. They prefer the Gulf and East Coasts. This one was spotted by a few birders earlier in the day, who alerted me about it but were not sure of its identity after reviewing their field guides. They charged me with refinding it. I did almost as soon as I got to Nine Springs, but I only got a passing glimpse at it through the scope before I was distracted by two other birders and it flew away during our conversation.

It had been perfectly still before! How dare it! Fortunately another birder found it later and pointed it out to me. It had flown back to its original spot. The field marks looked right for a Laughing Gull, but I studied it for quite a while to be sure. Franklin’s Gulls aren’t common here, but they’re much more likely and the two birds look similar. That’s why the original spotters had assumed it was a Franklin’s at first. However, this bird had black wingtips, and a heavy, slightly-drooped bill. It was for sure a Laughing Gull! It was my state first and I hung around for quite a while to watch it. Other birders came too. Word gets out quickly. The best moment? When it flew right over us and I didn’t even need my binoculars to make it out in good detail.

Old school digiscoping

April 21st- Easter
94: Greater Yellowlegs- see video below!
95: Broad-winged Hawk- two of them over Stricker’s Pond
96: Northern Rough-winged Swallow- 
I feel like I’m seeing more of them than usual this year, though I could just be hanging out at ponds and lakes more.
97: Sharp-shinned Hawk- a low-flying one at Stricker’s Pond
98: Chipping Sparrow- at my aunt’s house during our Easter celebration

I’d suggest watching this in HD. The quality is not very good without it.

April 22- spending the morning at Stricker’s Pond before work
99: Barn Swallow
100: Palm Warbler-
my second warbler species of the year

April 24- birding with my dad
101: Spotted Sandpiper
102: Clay-colored Sparrow
103: Pectoral Sandpiper- a flock of 6 along the North Fork Trail in Middleton
104: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

April 25
105: House Wren

April 30
106: Green Heron

It was a fun month. Out of this second half, the birding trip on the 24th with my dad really stands out. Pectoral Sandpipers and Clay-colored Sparrows are so beautiful. The two hawk species I saw on Easter were amazing. I especially liked the Sharp-shinned Hawk because you almost never see them as clearly as I did. A flash of brown disappearing into the trees? Not this time. It flew over me in the open, and at a low height too. The field marks separating it from a Cooper’s Hawk stood out- it had a small head tucked close to its body and a very squared tip to the tail. Beautiful.

I also took some time to try making videos of birds. They can capture bird behavior in a way photos cannot. My second video is of a pair of Sandhill Cranes tending to their egg. Watching this video, I feel sad. Just a few days after I took it, we got heavy rain and the nest is now underwater. I almost don’t want to post this because it breaks my heart. They put in so much effort for nothing. I hope they build another nest on higher ground.

I get that this is the way of nature and nests sometimes fail, but it’s harder to witness it than to simply know it as fact. The cranes were just doing what they instinctively do, too- they wanted a nest site surrounded by water to help protect their egg from predators. Oh well. Better luck next time, dudes.

Wow… that’s not the highest note to end on. Hmmm… I guess I’m finding it comforting to know that even though this nest failed, Wisconsin has a healthy crane population and one lost egg won’t crash it. I bet I’ll see some colts (baby cranes) soon. I always do. And when that happens, I’ll make sure to get some video or photgraphic evidence of them.

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