Chuck's Birding Report #48

09 February - 15 February 2021

Dear fellow flock of birders,

I hope all of you are going out on these cold days to test your survival skills. It is challenging but can be done. When I got up this morning it was 11 degrees below zero, so I waited until 11:00am in order for the sun to warm up the temps. At 11:00 it was a balmy 2 degrees below zero. I went birding in the Arb and found that if I could stay out of the wind it really wasn’t bad so I just sat in my car - problem solved. Not true, I actually walked about 2.5 miles around the Arb. I did put hand warmers in my mittens which I highly recommend.  

Initially other than a couple American Crows cawing as they flew by it was very quiet. I walked to the Big Spring and found 3 Gadwalls feeding in the shallow waters by tipping up and plunging their heads and necks to the bottom of the outflow. The Great Blue Heron was standing in the water at the end of the outflow on the right behind branches overhanging the water. It looked pathetic without any neck visible and its head completely pointing straight down and tucked into its chest feathers. That’s how I would like to spend my winter.

Along Arboretum Drive there were some birds at a couple feeders. And finally I heard singing. Two Northern Cardinals were singing. I joined in with my whistling rendition of the cardinal’s song. I heard some other bird species start singing and calling too. Sometimes when it’s really quiet I try whistling a bit to see if other birds will join in. To my surprise occasionally it works.  

Just before I entered Gallistel Woods I heard a Pileated Woodpecker calling from Lost City Forest. I’ve been hearing and even seeing the Pileated Woodpeckers more often recently. One of our birders told me that he had seen a pair yesterday. It would be great if they nested in the Arb this year. To encourage them I attached a photo of one to this report. I’m sure that will convince them.

I went out on Icke Boardwalk and heard an American Robin calling down near the shelter. I walked to it and found 4 robins. I captured a photo of one perched on a branch, feathers all fluffed up trying to stay warm. 

As I walked the path to Teal Pond there were three Wild Turkeys walking ahead of me. They walked out on the dock and jumped into the water. No splash was heard because the pond was ice and snow covered. They walked to the edge of the pond and stood motionless while I took photos of one of them. I don’t think they were enjoying the cold.

As an aside if you go out in the really cold weather keep your cell phone tucked way inside and warm. If you don’t the battery will go dead very quickly like mine did today. I had it in my jacket pocket against my heart but that was not good enough. You know the old saying “cold hands warm heart”, well I experienced the reverse of that today, “warm hands (with hand warmers) and cold heart (not able to keep my cell phone alive)”.

So next I went over to Spring Trail Pond (aka the Duck Pond) to see all the birds there. It is a really active area with over 100 mallards in the pond. I counted 166 the other day. Many fly low over the cars to land on the sidewalk across the street, walk up the sidewalk and turn right into a home’s backyard that is filled with all kinds of feeders and corn on the ground for the ducks, definitely an avian food fest site. Other birds that I love to watch around the pond are 10-15 Northern Cardinals, 3-5 White-throated Sparrows, 3-4 Fox Sparrows and one Spotted Towhee (a west of the Rockies bird way out of its normal territory). Photos of those 4 species are attached. Of course there are many House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, and woodpeckers. If you want to see a concentrated number of birds that’s the place to go birding.

My last bird photo is not from the Arboretum but still in Dane County. Lower Mud Lake is totally frozen over now and the Tundra Swan population is down to only a bit over 200 and had been over 500 a few weeks ago. The Tundra Swans are now having to feed in the Yahara River that enters Lower Mud Lake in the northwest corner. It is much easier to get closer views of the Tundra Swans while they are in the river. The attached photo is adult Tundras Swan that are white and young cygnet Tundra Swans that are gray. They are really beautiful birds.

The last photo is an ice crystal pattern I took some time ago around Pond 2 in the Arboretum.

I remain hopeful that spring will come soon.

All good health to you and good birding too,


Wild Turkey

UW-Madison Arboretum, Madison, WI