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Spring bird migration spurs great excitement
From the valley
EM_031121_spring bird migration
BIRD MIGRATION was visible on radar the evening of March 9, as early-season migrants winged north overnight on southerly tail winds ahead of an approaching cold front with rain showers.

RISING SUN - If you’ve looked outside this week, you might have noticed a little something different. 

The spring migration has begun. 

Every day when I get home from work, I have to provide Thatcher with a detailed report of what kind of birds I’ve seen in my travels for the day.

Today’s count for Tuesday, March 9 includes:

• Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 Red-winged Black Birds. Also known in our house as “MOM! Remember that bird that attacked you once?” 

• Three Tundra Swans

• Two Mourning Doves

• One elusive Robin

• One Blue Jay

•Two Sandhill Cranes

• Three Starlings

• And some mallards 

Honorable mention also goes to the possum that I saw rambling down my road, looking slightly tired and disoriented after his long winter’s nap. 

Prior to my son latching on to birds as his adolescent obsession, I probably wouldn’t have kept such close notes of all of my sightings. Leaving it at simply, “oh, huh, look there’s a robin.” 

But we’ve found that birding has somewhat brought us together in a funny way as a family. 

Sometimes on Sundays, when it’s Mom’s ‘Sleep in Day’ Chasca, Thatcher, and Waylon will venture out and about looking for different feathered friends. Thatcher and I too, have taken sweetheart adventures as he calls them, to places like Lynxville to check for Tundra Swans, only to be delighted in spotting a Common Goldeneye, that might have been a Bufflehead. 

I was reading onbirdwatchersdigest.comabout the spring migration and I really enjoyed this statement: “In some ways, springtime in Wisconsin is like that one relative found in many families: the one who frequently shows up late, sometimes makes a scene, but who bears such charm and gifts that all is forgiven.”

I would certainly agree with the author in this sentiment. Even after the short, albeit intense at times, winter we just experienced. 

The story went on to also share their feelings about the spring migration. 

“While many consider robins to be the state’s official harbingers of spring, other species compete for the title. Red-winged black birds return to Wisconsin in late February and early March, singing their cong-la-REE as they gather in large numbers in area wetlands.” 

The White Throated Sparrow is also touted as one of the exciting signs of springs. However, I have to admit, being an amateur eyed bird watcher, I have trouble distinguishing them from all of the other little various brown sparrows that bombard our seed feeders. 

We like to spend our dinner time moments, pouring over the Birds of Wisconsin Field guide in hopes of learning a tip or trick to seeing some of the more elusive birds that our state has to offer. 

Recently, I saw on our property the majestic but secretive Pileated Woodpecker. We’ve always been visited by the Downy, Hairy, and even Red Breasted variety but this was a first to see up close. I attribute reading the book to being able to accurately report my findings rather than just announcing “I saw a gigantic woodpecker on the treeline!”

At our previous home, we were treated with quite the delight of seeing a Whippoorwill up close and personal on several occasions. The little bird would often sit in our driveway and utter its repetitive call. Often scaring the living daylights out of both Chasca and I, if we had to run outside to our car or for any other reason, disturbing the bird and causing it to flutter up into our face before awkwardly taking off. 

Perhaps one of the most exciting sightings that we have on our list of goals for the year is to see some owls. Also at our previous house we could hear several owls, hooting back and forth throughout the night, but never were we able to see them. At our new home, although we have many small song birds, we have no Whippoorwill and are yet to see an owl or hear them often. 

Thatcher along with his dad and I have concocted the plan that we will attempt to build an owl nesting box to hopefully attract a family to brood here with us. 

An article on www.thespruce.comexplains that having the right nesting box can attract owls, particularly the barn owl to your yard for years to come. 

“Despite the fact that barn owls are one of the most widespread owl species, they can be finicky about where they nest. Open areas are best, including grasslands, marshes, and fields. Some sparse woodlands are acceptable, but barn owls generally avoid very dense forests that are a preferred habitat of great horned owls, one of their natural predators.

To encourage barn owls to nest in appropriate areas, avoid using chemicals to kill rodent populations. Concentrated poisons in the rodents can be harmful to owls, and barn owls will not nest if there is insufficient food. Place a barn owl nest box at least 15-20 feet high, but be sure the opening is shaded from the sun and wind. If the box is mounted on a pole, use a baffle to prevent cats, raccoons, and other predators from reaching it. Nesting platforms can also be placed in barns, steeples, or silos if the owls will be able to access them easily. Nighttime lights in the surrounding area should be eliminated or minimized so the owls are not disturbed and do not feel exposed.” 

Along with bluebird houses and bat houses and whatever other plans we come up with in between hopefully our yard will become quite the bird sanctuary for many years to come.