The MuirLand Merlins completed their first Marquette County Big Day with 141 species! The big day started just before 3:00 am when Steve Mullen encountered a Great Horned Owl on his way to the team meeting point. The next species was Northern Saw Whet Owl, heard scratching in a nest box at Daryl’s home. Besides the ever honking Canada Geese, many typical night-calling birds were silent, likely due to the below freezing temps. Great Horned Owls were more vocal than usual and as dawn approached Wilson’s Snipe were winnowing overhead.
Though Ruffed Grouse are decreasing in the state, four were heard drumming Ruffed Grouse at daybreak at the northern end of the county, and a Common Raven could be heard croaking as well. We next headed to the Stauffer’s yard and then Christensen’s yard to tally feeder birds including Pine Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch. Nearby a Cooper’s Hawk was spotted flying overhead, a female Bufflehead bobbed about on a pond, and Red-headed Woodpecker briefly appeared on a dead oak. A bridge stop on County E brought Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral and Least Sandpipers, and Killdeer.
As we entered Grand River Locks, a Pileated Woodpecker was spotted and we all got great looks. While scoping for ducks and shorebirds, a Peregrine Falcon carried off a Red-winged Blackbird with another Peregrine following close behind. A raft of ducks on the far end of the marsh produced Redhead, Canvasback, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck. The marsh also held Double-crested Cormorant, Trumpeter Swan, Pied-billed Grebe, Herring Gull, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. While walking around the locks area we spotted Great Horned Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Parula, Nashville Warbler, and Brown Creeper.
As we reached the south end of Grand River Marsh, we were met with whipping winds which kept the prairie nearly silent. The only singing birds were Eastern Meadowlark and a lone Orchard Oriole. The water is now drawn down to almost nil so the shorebirds that were numerous just days ago were nearly gone. We did manage to add a few birds to our list including Northern Shoveler pair, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, and a Sora that flew up close-by. Agricultural lands around the marsh yielded Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Ring-necked Pheasant and a cedar grove produced good numbers of Cedar Waxwings.
The next destination was Lake Puckaway for Common, Black, and Caspian Tern which were all present. It was challenging to scope the choppy water, but the waves did turn up a lone Greater Scaup and three Lesser Scaup. We continued north from there with a brief stop along Highway 22 for Bank Swallow, completing a swallow slam. Germania Marsh produced Virginia Rail, American Coot, Black-throated Green and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Though Wilson’s Snipe was tallied earlier in the day, it was fun to spot one resting, bill tucked in wing, on a muskrat mound.
One last stop at the Stauffer’s home for Red-shouldered Hawk failed to produce our target bird, but was worth it for an unexpected flyover of a Northern Harrier. At 8:40 pm we tallied our last bird of the day, a calling Eastern Whip-poor-will. Some notable misses included Eastern Kingbird, Indigo Bunting, and Scarlet Tanager. It was a slower paced but rewarding day, revealing the wonderful diversity of avian life in Marquette County.
Thank you to all of you who sponsored our team in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. We are proud to work with you to benefit birds in Marquette County, Wisconsin, and beyond. If you have not yet contributed, there is still time. On behalf of the MuirLand Merlins and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, thank you for making birds a priority!
Your contribution supports the priority projects of the Bird Protection Fund.
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon has raised over $500,000 for Wisconsin's birds since 2012. We have done so much, but there is still so much more to do. Thank you for joining us in making a sustainable future for Wisconsin's birds!
Sorry, I'm a little behind, but great list and story of your day!
Way to go team. You guys are so great. Wish I was there.
Thank you for all of your hard work!
For our daughter Kari, and her husband Mark. Love you two!
Happy Birding! Let the migration fallout happen!
You guys are the best Thanks!!
I am eager to read your team sightings. Your team keeps celebrating Marquette County birding.
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