Statewide Birding Report as of December 5, 2019

Weekly birding report

Large numbers of waterfowl are being seen at Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary in Columbia County. Photo by Arlene Koziol.

Bird activity generally remains slow at both field and feeder statewide. The biggest exception is in the south where large numbers of sandhill cranes continue. Hundreds were seen roosting or migrating south at various locations such as the Spring Green area of Iowa County, lower Wisconsin River near Baraboo, and vicinity of Horicon Marsh. Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary is hosting large numbers of waterfowl, including thousands of mallards, geese, and swans that on December 1 added up to an estimated 53 tons of birds…literally! Learn more here. Other impressive waterfowl counts were 20,000+ canvasbacks at Pool 9 of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge in Crawford County and 250+ northern shovelers at Nine Springs in Dane.

Raptors are showing well where snow cover is reduced or absent. Look for red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, and American kestrels in open habitats. Cooper’s and a few sharp-shinned hawks are common visitors to backyard feeders, while bald eagles remain widespread due to mild weather and lack of ice. Snowy owls continue to arrive in modest numbers. While you can find one anywhere in the state eastern Wisconsin has featured more sightings, particularly from counties like Oconto and Outagamie to Green Lake and Ozaukee.

The north woods received significant snowfall this week but it changed the birding landscape very little. A few waterbirds like goldeneyes, mergansers, kingfishers, and herring gulls continue, while songbirds remain few. Notably scarce or absent are redpolls, grosbeaks, purple finches, and red-breasted nuthatches. Showing well are blue jays, American goldfinches, woodpeckers, and cedar waxwings. A varied thrush in Price County was only the second recorded this fall. Other rarities across the state this week included Townsend’s solitaire in Columbia and Eurasian wigeon in Vernon. Next week should feature similar birding activity except for a shot of arctic air that is likely to freeze more water bodies and push out some ducks and cranes. Help us track bird movements by reporting your sightings to Good birding!

– Ryan Brady, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist

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