Sunday, December 20, 2009

Last day of fourth season

I started this blog a year ago, but I am not finding the time to keep it up anymore. I will continue to scribble phenology notes in a notebook, but probably won't get around to writing about them online.

Here's wishing you a Happy Winter Solstice for tomorrow, and good times observing nature always!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Loons are back on Lake Monona! I think I saw them on Saturday, but I went again on Sunday with binoculars to makes sure.

Male red-winged blackbirds seem to be back in the neighborhood after being missing for two months. I see them everyday by Wingra Creek now. Are these are summer residents (back from hiding), visitors from further north taking a long break here, or a continuous stream of new migrants everyday stopping and taking a short break before flying even further south?

I saw my first White-Throated Sparrow of the fall in our backyard on Sunday, Oct 18.

Also on Sunday, where Rowell St meets Lakeside St, I saw a huge flock of birds on the power lines, making a lot of noise. They were a little smaller than robins, and had heavily streaked chests. Their bills were long, thin and sharp. From looking at the bird books, the only thing that I found that is similar to what I saw are female red-winged blackbirds. I'm not entirely convinced that my identification is correct though. (10/26/09 - In retrospect, these probably weren't female blackbirds at all. Maybe starlings?)

I also saw some kind of grebe on Monona Bay. I think it might have been horned grebes, but again, I'm not really sure. There were also shovellers, coots, gulls and lots of geese on Monona Bay. And also one heron! It is a fun time to look on the lakes. All kinds of visitors!

I have been noticing that there are still many trees with all green leaves! I had always thought that most trees had leaves that had at least started to turn, if not already turned and fallen by this time of year. But, I guess not! I'll have to observe this time of year next year and see if the middle of October is always this green, or whether this is an anomalous year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

First Frost

We had our first frost and first freeze Friday night (Oct 9th). It fell to 27F. Then we had another night in the 20s Saturday night. We also had our first few snowflakes on Saturday, Oct 10th! It is cold. I hope we still have an Indian summer coming. My memory of last year is that it didn't happen. Once it got cold, I don't remember it getting warm again until April!

I have been seeing Robins now and then, and also Red-winged Blackbirds. Lots of birds moving around. I assume they are migrating, but maybe they are our local birds who are suddenly visible and audible again. I feel I am hearing and seeing lots of birds I don't know too, but I never get a close enough look to tell for sure.

I heard a Robin singing feebly today, and a woodpecker drumming! I've read that birds will occasionally confuse this time of year for spring (since it has the same amount of daylight). But maybe these birds were just practicing for next year.

I saw my first Junco of the fall on Saturday, Oct 10 in our yard, but I haven't seen another one since. I also saw what I think are grebes on Monona Bay on Saturday. I also saw lots of gulls and geese. I am trying to keep track and see if the gulls migrate, or if like the mallard ducks, they stick around for most of the winter. I haven't seen any loons yet. I am waiting eagerly for them to come through.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Autumn Equinox! (one day late)

This is the time of year I feel slow, so my posting for the Autumnal Equinox is a day late. My other excuse is that it rained record amounts for Sept 22 in Madison yesterday, so I couldn't really take any pictures. Of course, I don't care for my pictures from today that much either, so I'm just left with a late post with not so good pictures!

This is the season for asters. We found lots of different varieties of them at the Arboretum. I don't think I can name them, and it would take me more time than I have to figure them out.


Recently, I noticed this flower all over our backyard:

I had never noticed it before this year. I looked it up, and I think it is Devil's Beggar's Ticks (Bidens vulgata or Bidens frondosa). It produces some nasty burs in the fall, and I certainly have gotten lots of those on my clothes in the fall! I was glad to solve the mystery of those sticky seeds because every year I did wonder what plant produced them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) in the neighborhood has been gorgeous for a week or two.

I saw this Northern Flicker in our backyard today. It is only the second time I have seen this bird, and only the first time I have gotten such a close look at it! It must be migrating somewhere. I love the spring and the fall for all the birds that stop by here that don't ordinarily come to our yard.  A week ago I saw a hummingbird in our yard for the second time (the first time was in the spring).

I have been seeing lots of robins in our neighborhood for the past few days. I think these are ones that are migrating, not our usual resident ones. Here's wishing them a safe and good trip!

We are having the first rain of September right now! The plants will be happy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Have the birds gone?

We were in Montana from Aug 20 to Aug 27. Since we've been back, I haven't seen wrens or robins in our neighborhood. I saw lots of robins at Westmorland park today. I wonder if these were birds passing through, or robins are just gone from our neighborhood (and all the other places I regularly visit in Madison), but are still around in other parts of Madison.

There were a few barn swallows left at the end of August, but in a few days, they too disappeared from our neighborhood.

I had never noticed before how early the birds leave our neighborhood.

I am seeing more of the birds that stay -- chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers and goldfinches. I even heard a chickadee singing as recently as 3 days ago. I am paying close attention to see if the chickadees ever do stop singing before I start noticing their singing again in December.

I was surprised to notice today that leaves are already turning color. Fall is just around the corner!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bird Mysteries

I hadn't realized that it has been almost a month since I last posted! Time flies, as do birds, of course. And it seems like some birds have flown, and I sure hope they are on course.

I saw very few Red-Winged Blackbirds starting 2 or 3 weeks ago, and I have not seen a single one since August 3. I don't know if they have started migrating yet, but they certainly aren't around Wingra Creek anymore. It seems strange that the birds would go at the peak of the Wisconsin summer abundance, but I'm sure they know what they are doing.

I have been thinking of Brown-headed Cowbirds a lot this summer. I saw more of them this spring than I ever have before, but then suddenly, sometime in June, I stopped seeing them. Since cowbirds don't build their own nests and lay their eggs in other birds' nests, I wonder what they do all summer.

I have been keeping my ears open for the song of chickadees. In the past couple of weeks, the frequency of their song has decreased, but I still hear them now and then. In fact, I heard one this morning. I want to see how long they stop singing for since they start singing again so early (December was when I first heard their fee-bee.) Or maybe they keep on singing through the year. I am trying to see if I can find out.