Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Wisconsin Autumn

Like a flip of the switch, the weather dramatically changed in both Arizona and Wisconsin.  Arizona was hot until the onset of Pacific hurricanes brought much needed rain to the desert. And cool temps! Summer is gone. In Wisconsin, I could sense that bird migration was still happening. 

And for the first few days there, I followed up on theories and was rewarded with a couple nice birds like Blackpoll Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, Ovenbirds and Black-throated Green Warblers.  Then the weather changed overnight and the migration faucet was shut off. 

Red-breasted Nuthatch
The first few days were intense as I birded most of the time.  I couldn't help it.  I had been trapped these last two months inside my house in Arizona.  When I experience perfect birding weather, I take the time to enjoy it.

Nancy spies a Red-bellied Woodpecker
While there, I met up with friend and naturalist Nancy Gill and new friend Travis Moore. Together we explored a new hotspot along the lakeshore in Sheboygan.

We find a tree hut at the park
While we didn't find our target bird, I was just happy to be with friends and birding again in amazingly cool weather.  I got to wear my jacket and even use my umbrella!

Yeah, fall back east is amazing.  But it's more amazing in Wisconsin and in other places like Maine and Minnesota....or Upper Michigan!  The trees were already turning color.

But like all fun things, it ended too fast. I tried memorizing the landscape before all the leaves fell.  And I do believe winter is going to be a doozy this year for my Cheesehead peeps.  I'll be back in June with Ms. Kathie Brown next year when it'll be warm(not hot) again. 

The real reason I flew home was to hang out with family and also take care of some family business. Life is full of transitions. 

Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary
Over the years, I've taken you all to these amazing locations.  I never have to travel far in the state because the Lakeshore has it all when it comes to eastern birds.  Almost every location is a good birding spot.  Take for example my parent's home.  We had a random Purple Finch and late Ovenbird come through the yard. Their yard made the rare bird alert!

My Mom was babysitting my little nephew and nieces.  So we went out each day and had some fun.  J-man wanted a pair of binoculars like his uncle so he had a pair to help assist me with my counts. 

Of course we saw lots of other things. 

There were lots of deer and squirrels. 

And even a Bald Eagle!

But J-man was so focused on using his binos that he forgot to put them down.....

Now a Myrtle Warbler won't attack. 

But a grouchy Canada Goose will!

At one point, I had to intervene.  He put his binos right up to a Canada Goose who wasn't having any of it.  Next thing I know, the goose was on top of J-man.  I separated the two.  My mother was laughing.  I think she got the shot of the charging goose.  And if you're reading mother, I think you should put that pic in the family calendar.  It's the shot of the day:)

Chaos ensued when we gave him corn.  This little fellow is fearless.  The geese however were having fits. 

I was geeking out with sparrows.  This sparrow above, the White-throated Sparrow, isn't one I get to see often.  It's one of my favorites.  Meanwhile I see a flock of Sandhill Cranes fly into the zoo. Again, J-man is feeding deer.  And in a moment of shock, I saw the cranes go right up to him to eat the corn out of his hands!  Their eyes narrowed like a velociraptor as they towered over our little guy.  If a goose can do some damage, imagine what an angry crane could do?!

They are such spectacular birds. 

I counted my American Black Ducks while J-man fed the birds.  Mom snapped pics.  American Black Ducks are absolutely beautiful.  That little purple in the wing is such a knockout color. 

Boys are curious.  He just wanted to pet the goose but the goose got up and moved.  

During my in between moments, I walked out in the dense fog, or rain, or super windy conditions alone.  I love Wisconsin birding.  It's quiet and I like it.  Sometimes I wish the weather had been more cooperative, but I can't complain.  

Woodland Dunes in Two Rivers
I remember growing up wondering what there was to do.  It was SO BORING!  I had to be an adult to understand just how many amazing things surround me when I'm home.  Things regular people don't see. 

The colors of the tree were brilliant.  And in the sunlight, the trees glowed. 

I went back to Woodland Dunes to say good-bye to Bernie.  I think he heard me because he sent me a late Sedge Wren for me to observe out in the open. 

Right by the barn where Bernie and I first met after all those years away from my hometown, a Sedge Wren hopped about the reeds. 

They should have all been gone by now, but one remained.  It has taken me years to see this tricky bird.  Sure, I've heard it.  But on this day, I'd be granted this amazing view. 

The bird stayed with me for several minutes listening to the clicking of my camera.  It hopped around in the fog and I dared not take my eyes off of it.  I don't know when I'll ever see one again like this so I made the most of my observation. I put the camera down and just watched as it fed and hopped around the swamp. 

On other days, we took the kids on field trips and had a blast. 

On my final day, the coldest and windiest of them all, I went to go find Doc.  He's such a cool guy.  Everyday along the Manitowoc lakefront, he takes a walk and birds. 

It's amazing we found each other at all with the thick pea soup type fog!

And even though it was foggy, I found a strange Pectoral Sandpiper feeding in the dog park casually strolling along in the grass. 

Note the difference between intelligence and stupidity.  On the left, Doc wears a smart hat to protect his head and ears from the cold winds.  On the right, the doofus with the beard, me, is about to catch a cold.  And I do.  And I still have it! When will I ever learn?

Like everything in this life, it goes by too fast.  Now I'm back in Tucson needing to burn off all that delicious Wisconsin food I ate.  There is so much going on and I do get tired at work.  Living two lives is not easy. I'm working on my last big trek for the year and it should be something very special.  I've done some birding with friends from out of town.  And we'll be heading down to Mexico by the end of the month.  Every waking moment is used to plan something.  Until next time....


  1. a very interesting post Chris J-man is so cute and I think he is going to follow his uncle as a bird watcher

    1. I so hope so! That kid is a cutie. A stinker...but cute:)

  2. I like that Nuthatch at the beginning and the Sandpiper also. Lovely post.

  3. Chris, I love your enthusiasm for life. Your nephew is adorable. Hopefully he will take after his uncle. It seems like you have him started on the right path. What a great find with the sedge wren. Perhaps we can find it again next summer when I am there with you!

    1. That would be awesome. I know we'll hear it:) That's a pretty sure thing for that area.

  4. Nieces and nephews are such fun! Margaret is right, J-man will take up the birding habit from you. Another enjoyable post. Peace and vote blue.

  5. Delightful visit! We were visiting NE Illinois and got out before the weather changed from hot and wet to cold! Having sold our condo we are now permanent Florida residents. I must admit I will miss the crisp air and the fall colors.

    1. The fall colors and weather are wonderful, but it is nice to return to a warmer climate afterwards:) Winter in FL or AZ is wonderful.

  6. What a wonderful collection of pictures. J-man is adorable. I think he needs to grow into those binoculars but he seems to be doing pretty well with them. Love the picture with the fog. Cute Sedge Wren.. good shots.

  7. A wonderful post Chris - it sounds like you had a marvellous time with your family and your nephew is adorable. The autumn colours are so beautiful and I love the carved pumpkin :)

    1. Hello! October is such a beautiful month in Wisconsin. I'm looking into a trek to Wales soon. I'm getting closer to that very British trek:)

  8. I am sure you appreciated Wisconsin weather after the oppressive heat of Arizona (I have no idea how you live there!). It’s great to see youngsters getting involved with nature. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to spark a lifelong interest.

    1. Thankfully the weather is cooler now....and it has been raining! So glad for the cooler relief!

  9. Hello, Chris, wonderful post and photos from your Wisconsin trip. Your nephew is a cutie, it is great to see him enjoying the birds. Your trip to Mexico sounds great too. Enjoy your weekend. Happy birding.

    1. Thank you Eileen! Time flies so quickly. I'm trying to ready for the next trek. Birding is always so much fun.


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