Statewide Birding Report - November 27, 2018

Brisk northwest winds, cold temperatures, and freezing water bodies led to a busy week for bird migration. Perhaps most notable was the exodus of sandhill cranes and arrival of peak numbers of tundra swans, especially on Saturday November 10 when large flocks of cranes could be seen overhead across southern and central counties as they began their trek to wintering grounds in Florida. Good numbers still remain in some places, however, such as the Horicon area. Thousands of tundra swans reached traditional haunts along the Mississippi River, the Brownsville (Minnesota) overlook south of La Crosse providing the best viewing of 2,000-plus birds. Hundreds can also be found on Madison area lakes, with smaller numbers elsewhere, including flocks overhead often detected flying east or southeast toward wintering areas along the mid-Atlantic coast centered around the Chesapeake Bay. Forecasts of mild temperatures and dry conditions should keep them here over the week ahead so get out and see the spectacle while you can!

Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year, largely due to poor seed sources across the eastern boreal forests of Canada. (Data courtesy of - Photo credit: ebird
Evening grosbeaks are on the move this year, largely due to poor seed sources across the eastern boreal forests of Canada. Click on image for larger size.(Data courtesy of credit: ebird

Elsewhere, an impressive report from Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County on November 12 was highlighted by 2,500 mallards, 2,500 Canada geese, 235 tundra swans, and other species. More than 1,200 and 500 common mergansers were tallied in Shawano and Brown counties, respectively, only to be outdone by thousands of red-breasted mergansers continuing daily along the Lake Michigan shore, including an incredible count of over 25,000 on November 10 from the water bird watch at Harrington Beach in Ozaukee County. Back on land, some short-eared owls are being seen at typical grassland/wetland hotspots such as Richard Bong State Recreation Area and Buena Vista Marsh. Snowy owls continue to trickle in, at least 10 now tallied statewide. Reports of northern shrikes were somewhat common this week, while pine siskins have begun visiting feeders in small numbers. Evening grosbeaks are staging a large southward flight in the northeastern U.S. A few flocks have been reported in Wisconsin, mostly in the north woods but as far south as Fond du Lac, and feeder watchers should keep an eye out for this showy species that was once far more common than it is now.

Various sparrow species continue even well to the north, including fox, white-crowned, white-throated, song, and American tree, to name a few. Other lingerers found this week included Swainson's and hermit thrush, gray catbird, great egret, and a northern waterthrush. Baltimore orioles were photographed in Juneau and Waukesha counties. Other rarities found this week were a yellow-throated warbler in Dane, black-legged kittiwake in Ozaukee, varied thrush in Lincoln, and a frigatebird species photographed in Dane, marking only the fifth known record of this seabird in Wisconsin. Find out what others are seeing and report your finds at Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland


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