Statewide Birding Report as of November 8, 2019

                                   Weekly birding report

Tundra swan migration is in full swing. Look and listen for them along the Mississippi River, at Horicon Marsh, or even over your own backyard from now until ice up. Photo by Mory Jahangir.

Brrrrr! Winter has wasted no time infiltrating Wisconsin, bringing persistent cold and intermittent snow to many locations. It comes as no surprise, then, that the bird of the week was the tundra swan, an iconic species known for reaching the state just ahead of ice up. Formerly known as whistling swan, they are often heard before seen, their higher-pitched calls offering the best cue for distinguishing them from the increasingly common trumpeter swan. Flocks even vocalize while migrating overhead at night, providing one of nature’s finest audio experiences.

Numbers of tundra swans increased around this state this week, including places like Highway 49 at Horicon Marsh and Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County. No place, however, can rival the swan spectacle offered by the mighty Mississippi River. Tens of thousands stage there each year and numbers have now swelled into the thousands. Among various viewing locations, try the Brownsville overlook (Hwy 26) on the Minnesota side and the Shady Maple overlook on the Wisconsin side (Vernon County). Although birds come and go daily, good numbers should remain until ice up before moving to wintering areas along the mid-Atlantic coast. While there, expect to see excellent numbers of many other waterfowl species and plenty of bald eagles.

Birding was otherwise fairly slow this week. Feeder activity has generally been uneventful except for resident species and during snow events, which unusually have been limited to southern counties so far. Unfortunately, the Ontario-based “Winter Finch Forecast” appears to be ringing true across Wisconsin as well with no confirmed sightings yet of redpolls, evening grosbeaks, white-winged crossbills, or bohemian waxwings. American goldfinches and pine siskins are present but tree seed crops are excellent and generally keeping them from backyard feeders for now. Some flocks of sandhill cranes are finally on the move, and good numbers of hooded mergansers were found in several locations, including a nice group of 150 in Vilas County. Birders also noted ground-foraging, open-country species like American pipit, horned lark, and snow bunting.

Rare birds were again few, best being a California gull in Douglas county, but otherwise highlighted by some surprisingly late finds such as Baltimore oriole in Fond du lac, ruby-throated hummingbirds in Bayfield and Dane, black-throated blue warbler in Sheboygan, pine warbler in Portage, black-and-white warbler in Marinette, and field sparrows in several locations. The week ahead? More of the same! Whether on the Mississippi, along Lake Michigan, or at any of our great wetlands and lakes in between, get out and enjoy all the waterbirds before ice cover moves them along. And as always, find out what others are seeing and report your finds to Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist

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