October Birds on the Move

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

It was a beautiful afternoon this Sunday, with temperatures in the low 70s. About 40 of us set out together to scope out birds along Arboretum trails and in Longenecker Horticultural Gardens.

One of our first observations was of missing birds rather than present birds. All summer long swallows near Curtis Prairie accompanied us, and now there is not a swallow to be seen. We talked about phenology at this juncture, the tracking of nature’s “comings and goings” if you will. I showed the group our Arboretum phenology list, which has records from 1935 through today.

We headed into Longenecker Horticultural Gardens to see which birds might be in this area. These gardens see a lot of bird activity, but this afternoon it was relatively quiet. Though there are still plenty of eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) sightings reported throughout Wisconsin, we did not find even one in the gardens where we have been seeing them all summer long. Someone in the group said some bluebirds stay in Wisconsin throughout the winter. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology species account also says that small numbers winter in the Great Lakes area, including southern Wisconsin. Winter bluebird occurrences in the area are not common, but citizen scientists provide valuable data. Data submitted by bird watchers contribute to the bird range maps. The more people participate in this citizen science, the more accurate the data.

We did encounter a group of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), at least ten strong, in the gardens. Within the group there were a handful of jakes (young male turkeys).

Other birds observed on our walk included the northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) and American robin (Turdus migratorius).

—Lisa Andrewski