Statewide Birding Report as of October 17, 2019

Weekly birding report

October is a good time to spy the mouse-like winter wren sneaking around fallen logs and low brush in Wisconsin’s woodlands. Photo by Ryan Brady.

Fall met winter this week as snow flew across many northern locations over the weekend. Sunday was especially birdy in northern counties with many sparrows, kinglets, robins, and yellow-rumped warblers, many feeding lower than usual due to the cold. A surprising diversity of 10+ warbler species were seen, as well as late house wren among the more expected winter wrens. Perhaps most unexpected was an adult male ruby-throated hummingbird visiting a feeder in far northern Bayfield County following 3” of snow. Also of note there were tallies of 450 dark-eyed juncos and 11 Harris’s sparrows along the Lake Superior shore. Numbers of most species dropped dramatically by early week following a big migration out of the region on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, juncos surged south, many central and southern birders seeing their first this week. Good numbers of white-throated and white-crowned sparrows were also reported, as well as some fox sparrows and eastern towhees. Backyard birders also found a few pine siskins all the way south to the Illinois border and northern cardinals continuing to feed young at feeders, marking the last of 2019’s breeding activity. Farther afield, American robins, hermit thrushes, and both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets were common in many areas. Species lingering in small numbers across the south included eastern phoebe, eastern wood-pewee, yellow-throated and blue-headed vireo, chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, and various warblers.

Major seasonal shifts were evident though. Tens of thousands of canvasbacks have reached the Mississippi River near Lake Onalaska, and the first tundra swans have arrived there as well. Other late-season arrivals this week included American tree sparrow, snow bunting, short-eared owl, and golden eagle. Expect the first northern shrike and rough-legged hawk anytime now. Sandhill cranes have begun to stage in good numbers, best perhaps being several thousand reported at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Burnett.

Among this week’s rare finds were cattle egret, yellow-throated warbler, and parasitic jaegers in Douglas County, an ibis species in Sauk, late Bell’s vireo in Milwaukee, Franklin’s gull in Racine, and a suite of good finds in Ozaukee that included a Swainson’s hawk, parasitic jaegers, pacific loon, marbled godwit, and 28 American avocets. Mild weather should make for enjoyable birding conditions through the weekend and especially on Sunday. Winds turn west after a rainy Monday statewide so be ready for new birds mid-week. 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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