Red-Throated Loon Quest: Failure!

This afternoon I moved my continuing failing quest to see a red-throated loon during their migration back to the Arctic. My birding location was the Milwaukee waterfront which although it did not yield “said loon”, it did yield a new lifer bird, the Black Crowned Night Heron. In addition, Horned Grebes posed for photographs. Will try again tomorrow morning at sunrise.

Horned Grebe

Black-Crowned Night Heron


Northern Shoveler Hybrid?

Continuing my failing quest to find a red-throated loon along their Lake Michigan migratory route back up the Arctic, today I visited Harrington Beach State Park (just north of Port Washington). This park is a great place to see waterfowl because it sticks out into Lake Michigan, and the shoreline is not developed.

While at the park I met Calvin Brennan who conducts the waterfowl migratory count. Folks like Calvin are to be complemented for their hard work. Via these kind of bird counts, we are able to over time understand migratory patterns which not only tell us about bird numbers, but speak to climate change and habitat loss. If anyone thinks Calvin has an easy task, try staying outside 6+ hours per day from the beginning of March to the end of May … not exactly the best time of year in terms of weather.

Calvin and I saw lots of migrating ducks, and when I took a break to walk over to Quarry Lake I was pleased to find lots of Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, and a couple Horned Grebes. The Shovelers landed quite close to where I was standing behind some pine trees, which allowed me to get close-up images. Inspect the first image. It appears the duck in the rear may be a hybrid. Its wing feathers are blue, rather than green as evidenced in the duck in the foreground. The rear bird also has a head which is a slightly different coloration. I’m thinking possibly a cross with a blue winged teal??? However, I am by no means certain.

Love, Port Washington Style! (video)

I have been searching for red-throated loons this week along the shores and wetland ponds near Lake Michigan. These Arctic birds should be migrating right now back to the tundra lakes. However, my search instead has found HUGE numbers of  red-breasted mergansers in the Port Washington harbor. Oh well … such is the life a birding photographer.

Actually red-breasted mergansers are a cool bird, and with a forecast for clear, calm conditions I visited the harbor at sunrise this morning. Here is the result.

Red-Breasted Merganser (male)

Yes Dear … I hear you! (see 2nd image … perhaps the male is not really listening!!!)

Courting Video

A Foursome …

Now for something completely different … Blue-Winged Teal Love!

Birding with Grandpa!

My six year old grandson is taking over my blog today and posting the bird photographs HE TOOK while birding with me, Grandpa, yesterday morning at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.

It is important to teach the younger generation a love for nature. From an early age all of my grandchildren (four to date) have enjoyed Grandpa’s bird feeders. When visiting, they enjoy seeing from a very short distance (our window seat) all kinds of brightly colored birds about which I am only to happy to point out and give quick mini lectures. Recently I was pleased to learn from my daughter that my oldest two grandchildren, ages 5 and 6, now often talk about birds around their own home. This discovery led me to take the oldest yesterday on a birding / photography expedition. Here are some of my “own ground rules” which I believe led to a very successful outing:

  • Wildlife Drive was a great location for our trip. It allowed us to use the car to see lots of birds, but still get out of the car often enough to “get the wiggles out”.
  • We arrived early, leaving the house at 6:30 am. This early arrival insured birds were active and almost no other cars had disturbed the birds. We often saw sandhill cranes and pheasants less than ten yards ahead of the car on the road.
  • A one way “slow” dirt road allowed Ben to sit up front when we arrived at Sherburne. I don’t think he had ever been allowed to sit “up front”!
  • I gave him a camera and pair of binoculars to use as he desired, with me providing minimal instruction. I wanted him to enjoy the experience w/o Grandpa turning it into a major instructional session.
  • I quickly learning that ducks were not the most interesting bird to Ben. He has seen many, many mallards in his life, and to him the different kinds of ducks were hard to differentiate.
  • Color is important in terms of bird enjoyment for young children. He really liked Bluebirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Meadowlarks.

In total we saw 21 different species of birds. Ben enjoyed keeping a list of the birds. Here are is photographs.