Long-tailed Ducks at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on December 15, 2017

Early this morning I found 12 Long-tailed Ducks feeding at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee. The last couple of days I had found groups of first 6 then 9 yesterday, now 12! They all appear to be immature or females. I have not studied them close as of yet. They typically all dive about the same time, get their food, surface, look around, regroup and dive once again. I walked the park early just after sun up and these ducks were not around. These typically stay very close together as a group. A couple of hours later they came in from farther out from the south. In the last few days it appears these ducks have a circuit  they do for food, and have numerous places they feed. I saw a group of 8-10 off  Texas Ave yesterday. Maybe they are the same ducks. This is the first year I have seen more than 1 or 2. The morning started out with some snow flurries that gave way to mostly sunny skies for the morning. It was cold, temps started at 16 and there was a good wind from the west. Images were taken on December 15, 2017.

Long-tailed Ducks, all 12

Long-tailed Duck

Binomial name: Clangula hyemalis

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Size: 16.5” long, 28” wing span

Weight: 1.6 lb

Cool Fact: This duck was once known as Oldsquaw

They all dive about the same time, here are a few in this image…

They come in fast to feed just off the shore in water 15′-20′ deep…

Before the dive…

Start of the dive…

The dive…

Up close…

The blue sky reflection with the Long-tailed Duck…

Snowy Owl at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on December 15, 2017

A nice surprise! As I sat in my car looking for any sign of a gull at Bradford Beach this morning off in a distance I spotted this big white bird flying to the south. It was over the water and then heading right towards me. Still off in a distance, I thought, gezz, this gull, looks almost like a Snowy Owl. As I watched, it landed on the beach, to my surprise, it was a Snowy Owl. As I was getting out of my car, I was not surprised to see a dog walker with their dog walking towards me. I quickly got a few images as I knew time time was running out with this dog coming. I watched the owl look to the road, then back towards the dog, that was it, the owl headed out over the water. I never saw a Snowy Owl on a beach before, not that I could remember. It was a dull morning with cloudy skies, temps around 16, and a good wind out of the west. Images were taken on December 15, 2017.

Snowy Owl right after landing…

The head pops up…

The Snowy Owl looks to the road…

The Snowy Owl looks to the dog getting closer…

And off it goes out over the water…

Snowy Owl in the snow at the Lake Express in Milwaukee Wisconsin on December 9, 2017

With the first snow fall of the season that I was present in Milwaukee, I checked the Lake Express for a Snowy Owl. A Snowy Owl was present just enjoying the snow falling. It looked right at home in this surrounding. It was very cold, with temps in the high teens, and a stiff wind out of the north with cloudy skies, it felt like below zero. Images were taken on December 9, 2017.

Snowy Owl Snoozing with the Moon in Milwaukee County Wisconsin on December 8, 2017

While doing some birding in Milwaukee County this morning I came across a Snowy Owl. It was perched on top of a large dirt pile. For the most part the Snowy Owl was resting and left undisturbed, a couple of times the eyes almost opened.  The moon made a nice back drop for the Snowy Owl image. I took a couple of images and left the area. It was a very cold morning, full sun with temps in the teens, stiff winds made it bitter cold out there. Images were taken on December 8, 2017.

Snowy Owl snoozing with the moon…

Snow Bunting at Mckinley Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on December 3, 2017

Doing some birding along the lakefront in Milwaukee this morning the highlight was a lone Snow Bunting.  Finding it on the rocks at McKinley Beach, it then moved to a stony area with little grass on high ground. It fed continually while I was there eating grass and weed seeds on the ground. Stunning bird to see and watch eat too. These birds are easily seen along roadsides on the shoulder in the gravel after snow is plowed and also in open fields I would think where ever they can find seeds or insects if they are present. It was a mild December day, with sunny skies, winds were nothing as the big lake was calm, temps got into the 50’s. Images were taken on December 3, 2017.

The Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Binomial name: Plectrophenax nivalis

Category: Longspurs and Snow Buntings

Size: 6.75” long, 14” wing span

Weight:  1.5 oz

The look back…

Looking for the seeds and there were plenty…

Getting that seed on the ground between the two tiny stones…

Seed in the bill…

Looking for seeds…

Seed in the bill…

Straight on, look at the shape of that bill…

Cracking that seed…

Eating that seed…

With a seed in the bill…

The close-up

Snowy Owl at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 28, 2017

Starting out birding at Lakeshore State Park in the morning provided great views of a not only the beautiful Purple Sandpiper I recently reported, but also a stunning Snowy Owl. Walking the paths at the park the Snowy Owl was found sitting in a large rock area between some rocks. Staying a good distance away motionless I sat for about 20 minutes and then the bird perched up on a higher rock for another 20 minutes. Under no pressure, I was waiting patiently for a flight shot, the owl eventually took flight and flew over and landed middle of the walk bridge to the island and landed on the railing. A woman walking walked up the bridge not even seeing owl along with a gull all came together at once and I heard a scream! The owl flew to the fishing pier to where I was near. The Snowy Owl sat on the hand railing there for about 15 minutes before a family walked out on the fishing pier for a family photo shoot with the skyline not seeing the owl. The owl flushed across the lagoon to some rocks near the water. It took 3 drinks in front of a handful of Mallards. There was not interaction between the Snowy Owl and ducks. After about 15 minutes at that location the Snowy Owl flew to the north out of sight. Maybe out to a breakwall. The Snowy Owl put on an amazing show. I stopped at Lakeshore State Park this morning for some general birding, no sign of the Snowy Owl, it is hanging out some where else I guess. That Lakeshore State Park sure presents some great birds on an annual basis, wow! Images were taken on November 28, 2017.

Images are in order of the way the events happened…

Hanging out between some big rocks at the park…

Always looking around in all directions for predators…

Perches up on a large rock, then minutes later the Snowy Owl flies to the walk bridge to the island at the park…

Always looking around in all directions for predators…tail up, looks like he is about to fly….

Here the Snowy Owl flies to the walk bridge to the island and lands on the railing, then the walker comes along… and it flushes to the fishing pier

Flying to the fishing pier…

Perched on the fishing pier railing…

Moments before the family walks up the ramp to the fishing pier…

The Snowy Owl flies across to this location and immediately takes a drink, a total of 3 here as the Mallards go about their business…

It appeared there was absolutely interaction between the ducks and the Snowy Owl…

Drinking…

Right after a drink…

After the drink and some passing time, the Snowy Owl takes to the sky and heads north out of sight…

Purple Sandpiper at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 28, 2017

Doing some birding along the lakefront in Milwaukee this morning I came across a stunning Purple Sandpiper. I have been looking hard all fall along the lake for this species and it finally happened. As it was, I was at Lakeshore State Park on the east end of the island on the big lake. I spotted a sandpiper type bird, darker in color bird fly out from the big rock shore at waters edge out over the water about 10 feet and then return to the big rocks at waters edge farther south about ~ 100 feet. This bird would never have been seen as no one ever walks along the water with the very large rocks but I just happened to catch the flight. I knew immediately it had to be the Purple Sandpiper, a rare bird as it’s normal range is the east coast of the US, but are seen just once in awhile late fall Nov-Dec. I climbed down to the rocks and after awhile spotted it feeding. It did not seem to mind me at a distance as it just continually fed as big waves just kept coming in.  A few times the waves pushed this bird around, obviously this is a tough bird and is used to that. This species has been seen only a few times in the state in the last few years. The day started out with some sun and then clouds moved in with very mild temps of 50 degrees plus. Awesome bird and a fun morning. The last  time and only time I saw Purple Sandpipers were December 13, 2012 at Wind Point in Racine by the lighthouse rocky shoreline and there were 2 of them. Images were taken on November 28, 2017.

Purple Sandpiper with something in the bill…

Purple Sandpiper

Binomial name: Calidris maritima

Category: Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies

Size: 9” long, 17” wing span

Weight:  2.5 oz

Notes: Breeds in the tundra and winters along rocky shores of the Atlantic Coast making this a rare bird for Wisconsin.

Just standing pretty before a flight down the shore…I saw this numerous times. Feed, perch, look around, then fly to the next spot…

Has something to eat…

Something in the bill…

The close-up

Feeding in the wave action…

Some preening here…

Feeding

Feeding in the wave action that just hit the shore…standing on large rocks here in the water, there is no beach

In the waves…standing on a large rock with a wave rolling over it…

Getting something…

It may have something in the bill…

Getting something to eat as the waves move…standing on a large rock with a wave rolling over it….

In the splash…standing on a rock with some wave action…no beach here

Coming up from the rocks at the water before the next flight…

Red-tailed Hawk eating its prey at the Lake Express Ferry in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 17, 2017

One of the highlights this morning along the lakefront in Milwaukee was watching a Red-tailed Hawk capture its prey, a vole and then consuming it. It was a cold morning with cloudy skies and some good winds but pretty good for this time of year. Images were taken at the Lake Express Ferry in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 17, 2017.

At this point the Red-tailed Hawk spots the vole…

Going for the vole…

Taking the hair off, then breaks into the meat after the kill…

Removing hair and getting to the meat…

The Red-tailed Hawk is always looking around for predators as it eats…

Pulling apart the vole, out comes some of the guts……it drops the guts in the next image on the post…

Looking around as it eats…

Eating…

Looking around…

Eats that big piece with the hair on it…

This bird cleans the area of any left food it may have missed, lets nothing go to waste…

Still cleaning up the area …

Shaking off….

Then the poop!

Off to a new location for the next meal or to rest…

 

Snowy Owl at the Lake Express Ferry in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 14, 2017

The Snowy Owl along the lakefront in Milwaukee gave nice views this morning. Not much action other than some preening and a yawn. Still nice to see this beautiful owl. Images were taken on November 14, 2017.

A little preening here…

The yawn…

 

Laying low as a Northern Harrier was in the area

 

In the planter

Snowy Owl at the Lake Express Ferry in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November, 6 2017

The highlight on the Milwaukee lakefront this morning was a Snowy Owl at the Lake Express Ferry. It only hung around resting on top of a container for a couple of minutes before took off and landed on the breakwall. A majestic bird that always makes you stare at it. It was a cold day with temps around 35 degrees and some sun and a breeze. Images were taken on November 6, 2017

Snowy Owl

Binomial name: Bubo scandiacus

Category: Typical Owls

Description: Adult males are mostly white with a few dark feather tips.  Adult females and juveniles are white with dark scalloping on chest, back, wings, and tail.  Yellow eyes, black beak, and feathery feet.

Size: 20”- 28” long, 49” – 59” wingspan

Weight: 3.5 lb. – 6.6 lb.

Habitat: Wide open, treeless spaces such as shorelines, lakes, open fields, and agricultural sites.

Long-tailed Ducks at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on November 5, 2017

It was a day with some occasionally mist cloudy skies but I decided to hit a few birding spots along the lake. The highlight of the day was a pair of Long-tailed Ducks at Lakeshore State Park. They were adult females in their winter plumage. They did some on and off diving for food but there were a few people around and fishing boats that kept them out off of shore most of the time. Bradford Beach to the north had scoters but it was too foggy to make them out when I was there. One female Red-breasted Merganser was one of the only ducks in the lagoon, well there were fisherman everywhere today in boats and on land so that makes sense. A cool day at 45 degrees with cloudy skies and some fog. Images were taken on November 5, 2017.

Long-tailed Duck

Binomial name: Clangula hyemalis

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Size: 16.5” long, 28” wing span

Weight: 1.6 lb

Cool Fact: This duck was once known as Oldsquaw

Left one going for the dive, the one on the right already in, just a swirl…

Snowy Owl on the Milwaukee Lakefront on October 31, 2017

A Snowy Owl was found on the Milwaukee lakefront this morning. It had caught an American Coot for something to eat and was sitting on that during the picture taking. The bird never moved from the spot while I was present. First one of the fall season reported in the area that I know of. It was a cold morning with stiff winds and little sun to warm up with. Images were taken on October 31, 2017.

Snowy Owl with the American Coot

Snowy Owl

Binomial name: Bubo scandiacus

Category: Typical Owls

Description: Adult males are mostly white with a few dark feather tips.  Adult females and juveniles are white with dark scalloping on chest, back, wings, and tail.  Yellow eyes, black beak, and feathery feet.

Size: 20”- 28” long, 49” – 59” wingspan

Weight: 3.5 lb. – 6.6 lb.

Habitat: Wide open, treeless spaces such as shorelines, lakes, open fields, and agricultural sites.

Just looking around, this bird seemed content just sitting there. Probably resting from a long flight…

The back view…

Eastern Meadowlark at McKinley Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 27, 2017

One of the birding highlights along the lakefront in Milwaukee this morning was seeing this Eastern Meadowlark at McKinley Beach. I was hoping for Western, but I just can’t see it here. It came in off the rock shore and landed in a grass area. It did some feeding, looked around some and away it went heading south. One of the other highlights was accidentally flushing a Short-eared Owl at Lakeshore State Park. The owl flew east over the harbor where 4 gulls appeared to harass it. I lost sight of it at that point. A very windy morning with cold temps, still nice to be out birding. Images were taken on October 27, 2017.

Looking for something to eat here…

Doing some feeding…

Getting something…

Ring-necked Duck at the Fox River in Waukesha Wisconsin on October 26, 2017

I stopped at the Fox River in Waukesha this morning to do a bird check. Going through group of about 8 Mallards on the other side of the river surprisingly hidden with them was a single male Ring-necked Duck.  The Mallards saw me, they thought I had bread, came across the river to me, but the Ring-necked Duck was skittish and stayed back. After a couple of minutes some walkers came by and the Ring-necked Duck flew north on the river and landed. That was the last I saw of it. Other birds present, just the everyday Ring-billed Gulls and those Mallards. No Hooded Merganser…:) Some sun but a mostly cloudy day at my stop at the river, still mild temps. Images were taken on October 26, 2017.

Ring-necked Duck, male in the golden leaf fall water surrounded by a couple of floating leaves…

Ring-necked Duck

Binomial name: Aythya collaris

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Size: 17” long, 25” wing span

Weight: 1.5 lb.

 

Lesser Yellowlegs at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 23, 2017

Birding the lakefront in Milwaukee this morning was generally quiet. A Lesser Yellowlegs at Lakeshore State Park was probably the highlight in the places I stopped at. It did a little feeding and after awhile just took off and went east to the big lake. Other birds to note, a hand full of Northern Shovelers were still hanging around the lagoon at the park. 3 Sanderlings were present at McKinley Beach, the rest of the birds seen were just common species for this time of year. I took a few images of the Lesser Yellowlegs to share. It was an gloomy overcast days with some rain showers early with temps in the lower 50’s. Images were taken on October 23, 2017.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Binomial name: Tringa flavipes

Category: Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies

Size: 10.5” long, 24” wing span

Weight:  2.8 oz

Notes: Breeds in northern Canada and Alaska, winters at coasts of southern US and Mexico.

Eyeing something up here

Watching…

Going down….did it get it?

A miss…

Just walking along the shore…

Some preening…

Just finished preening…

Got something here….

Coming into shore…

Horned Lark at McKinley Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 18, 2017

Birding some of the lakefront in Milwaukee this morning it was basically quiet. On my second run to McKinley Beach I got a text from Mike W. He had seen a Horned Lark. I arrived seconds later and it was still present in the beach area. It fed along the beach area sorta hanging with a Sanderling. I feel this bird is a adult male in non-breeding plumage. It hung around for a while and I did some other birding in the area. I checked later and the bird had left. I would think the bird is in the area. The only other bird there as mentioned was the one lone Sanderling. It was just a gorgeous day with full sun, warm temps and a nice breeze to keep things cool. Images were taken on October 18, 2017

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

Binomial name: Eremophila alpestri

Category: Chickadees and Titmice

Size: 7.25” long, 12” wing span

Weight:  1.1 oz

Horned Lark just working the beach for food

Horned Lark in search for food…

Horned Lark with possibly something to eat…

Horned Lark just standing pretty…

Horned Lark looking..

Horned Lark digging around for something to eat…

Horned Lark on the move…

The close up…

House Finches eating apples in the tree on the Milwaukee Lakefront on October 17, 2017

Birding along the lake this morning was quiet for the most part. McKinley Beach had 3 Sanderlings. These numbers seem to change daily there at that beach. Lakeshore State Park still had the Redhead Duck and 2 Pied-billed Grebes along with many American Coots and Double-crested Cormorants. A few American Shovelers still hanging out. The Black Scoters were still present off of North Point. I ran into Bruce along the Milwaukee Lakefront, he had found some House Finches eating apples in a tree and I took a few images to share of the event. I have never saw this feeding before but it is probably normal. A beautiful fall day with plenty of sunshine, nice temps but did have some wind gusts. Images were taken on October 17, 2017.

House Finch, male with an apple…

House Finch

Binomial name: Carpodacus mexicanus

Category: Fringilline and Cardueline Finches and Allies

Size: 6” long, 9.5” wing span

Weight:  .74 Oz.

Digging in…

House Finch, female with apple in the bill…

House Finch, male enjoying some apple…

House Finch, female enjoying some apple…

House Finch, female getting the good stuff!

House Finch, female with apple in the bill…

House Finch, male enjoying some apple…

House Finch, male, getting way in there!

House Finch, female getting that peeling!

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 15, 2017

A stop at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee provided nice views of both the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A total of 4 Greaters and 1 Lesser. When I arrive early about 7:15, just the 4 Greaters were present. After a few minutes the Lesser Yellowlegs showed up. They look tired as they probably just had put on some miles. They did next to no feeding while I was there and just rested. It was a cool morning, overcast with some strong west winds. Also present at Lakeshore State park provided brief view of a thinking now, a Common Snipe by the looks of the distant image, not a American Woodcock as first thought as it flushed while I walked the path and it just went way up and headed north, also an American Kestrel which I have not seen for awhile. Another lakefront beach, McKinley had 12 Sanderlings, and the Black Scoters were still present off North Point that Tom W reported yesterday. Images were taken on October 15, 2017.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs in front with Greater behind

Lesser Yellowlegs in front with Greater behind

Greater Yellowlegs riding the waves…

Lesser Yellowlegs on the right, I thought it was feeding but appeared to be playing with this item…

Greater Yellowlegs moving along the beach area…

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs, I thought it was feeding but appeared to be playing with this item…

Lesser Yellowlegs in front…

Lesser Yellowlegs

2 Greater Yellowlegs

Eyes closed, resting…

Greater Yellowlegs, the double…

Greater Yellowlegs…

Lapland Longspur at McKinley Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 10, 2017

A stop at McKinley Beach this morning in Milwaukee provided nice views of a Lapland Longspur. It seemed to be hanging with a couple of Killdeer. It continually fed in a short grass near the beach area eating seeds and then moved to a parking area. That is where the Killdeer went and so did it. The Killdeer just acted like it was a bitter cold day and did nothing, just stood there. The Lapland Longspur fed still eating seeds along cracks in the parking area and where weeds grown in cracks that held presumably a seed bank. A nice surprise to see this bird this morning but then we do see them this time of year along the lake, just once in awhile. No other unusual birds to note this morning along that part of the lakefront. A cold morning out with stiff winds from the northwest, very little sun with temps around 50. Interesting, first saw them last year at Lakeshore State Park on October 15. FOF winter hat, winter coat along with a scarf! Images were taken on October 10, 2017.

Finding seeds to eat along weed filled cracks in the parking area…

Lapland Longspur

Binomial name: Calcarius lapponicus

Category: Lapwings and Plovers

Size: 6.25” long, 11.5” wing span

Weight: 0.95 oz

Cool facts: This common bird breeds in the Arctic tundra, and winters in open fields across most of the United States and southern Canada.

Finding weed seeds…

Finding more weed seeds…

Finding seeds in the grass to eat…

Finding seeds…

To the ground for seeds…

In the short grass area…

Franklin’s Gull at McKinley Beach in Milwaukee Wisconsin on October 8, 2017

I made a stop at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee for a first stop checking the beach area this morning. The beach was quiet. I ran into Dave G there and I said I was heading to McKinley Beach, he said he was there earlier this morning and it was empty. Since I was at the lakefront I made the drive over and within a flock of about 25 Ring-billed Gulls I saw a gull with a light black head. I knew this was going to be something good and it was, a Franklin’s Gull, juvenile (1st cycle). Dave followed me over he also got few shots off before the gull took to the air and headed south for what appeared to be no apparent reason. The gull was just preening so it makes sense what the gull had in mind I think. It was a short lived burst of excitement in the birding world as we just don’t see Franklin’s along the lake very often. The highlight of the day with not much else to report along the north side of Milwaukee’s lakefront. It was a gorgeous day with full sun, mild temps and very little wind. Images were taken on October 8, 2017.

Franklin’s Gull

Binomial name: Larus pipixcan

Category: Gulls, Terns and Skimmers

Size: 14.5” long, 36” wing span

Weight: 10 oz

Stretching before the flight…

Some preening…

Franklin’s Gull, left – Ring-billed Gull, right

The back view..