forces of nature were at work this morning, as huge sheets of ice
were crumpled and folded just off shore. The bay is now largely iced
over, except for an expanse of open water off the tip of the point.
An enormous flock of Canada Geese were using the open water and the
ice edges around it. A large group of Mallards were dabbling in the
center of the open water, while down the way a solitary Common Merganser
sat conspicuously on the open ice. This behavior prompted us to move
closer to see if the bird was injured or perhaps stuck in the ice,
but we were relived to see him get up and fly towards the shoreline
on the far side of the bay. White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Cardinals
and Dark-eyed Juncos were busy foraging for food, to keep up their
strength during the winter. Both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers were
spotted as well. The skies were quiet except for some incoming geese
and a pair of Ring-billed Gulls. And even on these cold winter mornings,
when nature should seemingly come to a halt, we are reminded by the
familiar calls from members of the Family Corvidae, the Blue Jay and
the American Crow, that life goes on
|A brutal north
wind was blowing, making for difficult birding conditions. A Herring
Gull worked his way carefully through the chilling wind, while ducks
waited out the cold on the bay. At a great distance, a small group
of Scaup could be seen. Nearer to shore were two large groups of Mallards
totaling 125 birds. Not far from them was a small group of three American
Black Ducks. As we humans bundle in our winter clothes it is easy
for us to wonder how the birds can tolerate these temperatures. Though
cold winter temperatures can add stress to the lives of wildlife for
a number of reasons, birds are equipped with down feathers which provide
highly efficient (light-weight) insulation from the cold. Down feathers
from ducks and geese are often used by humans in coats and sleeping
bags. In fact, the commercial value of Eider down was so high at one
point, that some naturalists feared that it was causing a decline
of the Common Eider (duck species not usually seen in Wisconsin).
Fortunately, measures were taken to secure their breeding grounds
and their numbers appear to be back on the rise again. Since my jacket
was not made with down, and I was getting cold, I decided to get out
of the wind, by heading into the forest. As I made my way into the
woods where there was a bustling activity of small birds, the most
prominent of which was
you guessed it
the Black-capped Chickadee.
I also witnessed an interesting behavior for a White-breasted Nuthatch.
He was working his way down the tree in the typical bark-probing fashion,
but when he got to the base of the trunk, he jumped onto the ground
and began foraging in the leaves. This behavior was short-lived, however
and he quickly returned to a tree. A little while later, a male and
female Downy Woodpecker flew into view in a chase style flight pattern.
The morning ended with a great view of a beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker.
|A bitter wind
met us at the point this morning! Ice was forming at the edge of the
water; winter is on its way. This didn't keep us form getting out
to look for birds. We were met with one of the most impressive rafts
of Mallards we have seen yet in the bay. As we were viewing some Lesser
Scaup at a distance, we were surprised with a solitary American Black
Duck flying through. The lagoon was extremely quiet except for a Fox
Sparrow. An unknown species of Gull with unusual head markings passed
high over head, but we could not get a good enough look at it to make
a positive identification. We will keep our eyes pealed! While watching
some Common Mergansers off the point, we were thrilled when 30 Snow
Buntings came cruising in and landed on the ice debris on shore. As
we watched, their numbers grew as another 50 birds joined the group,
making for a truly impressive sight. They spent some time flitting
about on the beach and then, just as quickly as they arrived, they
were off in a flash of white, black and tan. It made for a memorable
|I stepped out
of my car this morning to the angry calls of several American Crows.
I quickly grabbed my gear and moved in the direction of the commotion.
I was not disappointed when I saw an adult Bald Eagle perched in a
tree high over our first Point Count. The mobbing efforts (see Report
from 11-08-02) were meager compared to some I have witnessed in Spring,
but still good enough to lead me to an exciting bird watching experience.
The excitement waned somewhat after this to the more regular visitors:
Mourning Dove, Black-capped Chickadee, and Dark-eyed Junco, but it
was still a great morning to be out at the point! I made my way into
the marsh and was surprised by the beautiful blue wing-beats of a
Great Blue Heron, gracefully lifting off from its hiding place in
the cattails. I could hear a White-breasted Nuthatch calling in the
distance, until the sound was washed out by the awesome noise of a
huge flock of Canada Geese landing in the bay. The shear number of
geese was truly an amazing sight!
|It was a cold
and dreary morning at the Point. Several Morning Doves greeted me
with the whistling of their wings as they departed the area. A solitary
Herring Gull stood sentinel over the bay from his sandy look out.
A small group of Lesser Scaup were out in the bay while a larger group
of unidentified ducks were floating on the bay at quite a distance.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker sat high overhead in a dead tree (called
a snag), while some Dark-eyed Juncos flitted about. I worked my way
into the more forested interior and the Black-capped Chickadees provided
the background music for this particular Bird Count. The most animated
species observed this morning was the White-breasted Nuthatch. They
were extremely vocal giving their "ank, ank" call as they
worked tree to tree in search of insects. Remember to look for Nuthatches
crawling down the tree. Birding Tip: If a bird is moving head first
down the tree in our area it will probably be a Nuthatch (Red or White
breasted) or a Black-and-White Warbler. Only the Nuthatches are present
this time of year. These species are readily distinguishable with
a good field guide.
Rusty Japuntich, long time Pt. Sauble Bird Watcher and Reporter defend
his Thesis this morning, I headed out into the field for a little
late morning birding. American Crows could be heard calling out their
distant harassments, perhaps aimed at some unwanted owl or hawk. Unfortunately
I did not have time this morning to search out the unfolding drama.
(Remember, often, the best way to see birds of prey is to follow a
mob of angry crows and blue jays. The behavior is called mobbing and
is most likely to occur in late spring and early summer, when nestlings
are vulnerable to predatory birds, but it can happen any time of year.
The adults often fly aggressively at the unwanted intruder while making
an alarm call. It can be quite raucous.) Today, however, as badly
as I wanted to see what this was all about, I did not have time. I
made my way out to the bay to check for ducks. Once again the dominant
species was Lesser Scaup. Some Buffleheads were mixed in with them.
Though at a great distance, it appeared as though there were also
some Greater Scaup in the group. A large raft of Mallards could be
seen closer to shore. While on shore, a Blue Jay could be heard calling
in the background, while at a closer proximity, an American Tree Sparrow
was giving its familiar "Tseet Tseet" call. Another observer
reported seeing American Golden Plovers on the exposed mud flats and
Common Mergansers on the inner marsh later that same afternoon.
|It was a sunny
morning at the Point. Herring Gulls and Ring-billed gulls were aloft
on their white and black wings. Black-capped Chickadees and Dark-eyed
Juncos dominated the scene with their presence. Though Golden-crowned
Kinglets are still present in good numbers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet
added a little variety this morning. Though, generally more common,
we have not been seeing very many Ruby-crowned Kinglets at Point Sauble.
Snow Buntings gave a flash of white, black and tan as they passed
over head, while a Downy Woodpecker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker worked
some nearby trees for insects. Green-winged Teals were seen on the
inner pond while large numbers of Lesser Scaup occupied Green Bay.
|A strong wind
was blowing in from the north, bringing cold air and big waves to
the point. The beach count produced little this morning except for
a Herring gull and a single lonesome Canada Goose fighting the wind
(not to mention he was going the wrong way)! Far in the distance,
a small flock of Scaups rested on the rolling waves. I believe them
to be Lesser Scaups because as several birds were landing it appeared
as though the trailing edge of only the secondaries were white (as
opposed to Greater Scaups in which the white coloring of the trailing
edge will bleed into the primaries and not appear as such a definitive
line.) I then moved inland to one of our wooded counts. I caught a
glimpse of what appeared to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk carving his way
through the trees, but I could not say this with 100% confidence.
Golden Crowned Kinglets were seen flitting about low in the bushes
as a Blue Jay called loudly in the distance. The sun began peaking
through the clouds making for a beautiful fall day, but the cold winds
served up a stark reminder of winter's looming arrival.
|It was a beautiful
morning at the point! Canada Geese were plentiful out on the bay,
but there were several other users of that water as well: Bufflehead,
Canvasbacks and Redheads were all seen this morning. A strong western
seiche had pushed the water out exposing mud flats. Three Killdeer
were taking advantage of this by searching the exposed areas, probably
for insects. A White-throated Sparrow was seen near the beach, while
a group of Cedar Waxwings flew by in their hurried pursuit to attack
the next bunch of berries. Another Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was seen
today. All together, 22 different species were seen at the point this
are most active at dawn and again at dusk. In an effort to search
out these species I have started spending more time at the point in
the pre-dusk hours. My efforts were rewarded. First, I must speak
to the most powerful event, and that was the shear number of and the
volume of noise created by the Red-winged Blackbirds in the lagoon.
They formed a constantly flittering and wavelike mass that was truly
amazing to witness. Perhaps in opposition to the power of seeing so
many birds, was a one on one personal encounter with our smallest
species of wren: the Winter Wren. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are still
present and Golden-crowned Kinglets are becoming more numerous. Fox
Sparrows and Song Sparrows are still plentiful. The darkness of night
was approaching, when I heard the familiar call of the Great-horned
Owl telling me that this fine day of birding was coming to an end.
to us! We recorded 29 different species at the point this morning.
The clear blue sky allowed the sun to shine through, while a soft
wind was blowing off the lake. Fox Sparrows were numerous today; we
also saw Song Sparrows. Woodpeckers were well represented today with
a Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.
A Brown Creeper worked his way up a tree, followed by a rapid
jaunt to the base of another tree, where the process was repeated.
Hermit Thrushes weaved quietly through the thick under story, while
their cousins the American Robin were a bit more boldly present. As
we were watching the more familiar of our avian subjects: Black Capped
Chickadees, Blue Jay and Red Winged Blackbirds, we were delighted
to see an Eastern Towhee (sometimes referred to as a Rufous-sided
Towhee). As we were walking out of the woods, our attention was drawn
to a rapid "kek kek kek kek" call coming from a nearby snag.
Our eyes were drawn to the maker of that sound, the smallest of our
Accipiters: the Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was an exciting way to end
a great morning at the point!
|It was a quiet
morning at the point with softly falling rain wetting the landscape.
Persisting through the rain, we did several counts and were rewarded
with a spectacular dive into the water by a Belted Kingfisher. Herring
Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls alike were willing to brave the rain.
As we watched a Great Blue Heron crossing the marsh, a male Ring
Necked Pheasant surprised us by bursting forth from cover near
the marsh edge. Several Mallards were in the area, and the seemingly
ever-present Red Winged Blackbird voiced its presence. We are starting
to see the Dark-eyed Juncos again, and the previous night we recorded
a Northern Cardinal, which we have not been seeing regularly. This
morning, we also recorded a Nashville Warbler. Even with the
rain, it was a great morning at the point!
|The ducks are
back and so are we! We will begin reporting bird sightings at regular
intervals again. A northern front pushed through early this morning,
bringing with it large numbers of birds. Duck species seen today included
Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Canvasback on the bay and
Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal on the interior marsh.
Double Crested Cormorants filled the bay, forming rafts of
well over one thousand birds. American White Pelicans mixed
in with the cormorants gave a beautiful splash of white in the massive
sea of black. A few immature Bonaparte's Gulls flew close by
allowing us a good look, and as we were watching them, we were thrilled
to see a Peregrine Falcon fly into view. It was not the largest
bird of prey in the area however, that honor went to an adult Bald
Eagle flying over the bay. In total, thirty different species
were observed on this windy morning. In addition to these recent sightings,
a number of new species were added to the yearly list over the summer.
The following is a list of those new species observed in the summer
months: Tundra Swan, Green Heron, American Coot, Greater Yellowlegs,
Lesser Yellowlegs, Turkey Vulture, Red-headed Woodpecker, Ruby-throated
Hummingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee,
Rusty Blackbird, American Tree Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Barn Swallow, Cedar Waxwing,
Red-eyed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Chestnut-sided
Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Marsh Wren and Eastern Bluebird. Whew!
That's quite a list!