Thursday, May 18, 2006

From the Field: Birding Lake Park in Milwaukee

Bet you thought the next post would be from California, right? GOTCHA! I will post a California report when I have time to upload the photos, but as soon as I landed at O'Hare I had to high-tail it up to Milwaukee for work.

Today one of my meetings ended early and I was able to do a bit of local birding at a nice little lakefront park not too far from downtown Milwaukee: Lake Park.

For an hour or so of drizzly urban birding, I was rewarded with a nice selection of warblers, some that I haven't seen yet this spring because of my travel schedule.

I started out with the gimmes: American Crow, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Chimney Swift, and a couple of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. Then a few warblers were found on top of the bluff: American Redstart (male), Blackburnian (male)(yeah!), and a couple of Yellow-rumpeds.

I headed to the Ravine-to-Locust Street trail. There were very strong winds blowing out of the west, and while the bottom of a steep ravine is probably not the best place to be when it's raining, I figured the shelter would hide a few more species. I was right. The first sightings in the ravine were of a pair of Chestnut-sided Warblers (both male) and a Swainson's Thrush. A Wood Thrush popped up, followed by a couple of Indigo Buntings, a Chipping Sparrow, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. More warblers: female Common Yellowthroat, a Magnolia, a Nashville, and a Palm.

Finally, I reached the playground area, where there was a noisy group of at least three and possibly as many as five Red-headed Woodpeckers.

That was some nice "found" birding time, and if I'm lucky, I may be able to hit this spot again in the morning. (It's either that, hit a few closer parks, or look for window kills in downtown Milwaukee. Decisions, decision.) The nice thing is that I got plenty of "lakefront looks", ie up-close-and-personal views of warblers that you can often get in Chicago's great lakefront parks. The second nice thing is that most of the warblers were male, and there are still Palms and Yellow-rumps around (typically early migrants in Chicago), so spring migration really has some legs still. If we aren't seeing a lot of female warblers yet, warbler migration may even extend into early June.

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