Friday, July 10, 2015

Travels with Pip: Up to #198!

Pip!
Pip on the back porch of my friends Kathy and Terry in late afternoon.
Since Tuesday, Pip has added another 900 miles in the car and three new species to her life list. On Tuesday, we drove to Baraboo to spend time with our friends Kathy and Terry, and their dogs Gus and Lola. Pip has had some wonderful experiences getting socialized with other dogs. While I was in their yard, I got to enjoy a bazillion Chimney Swifts along with lots of typical backyard birds.

Gus
Gus
Lola
Lola
Wednesday morning, Pip and I headed to Madison. I was a guest on the Larry Meiller Show at 11 am, but before that, Pip and I went birding at my my treasured birding spot, Picnic Point, which was a short walk from Russ's and my apartment when we lived in Madison. The first bird Pip and I heard, getting out of the car, was Warbling Vireo. When I say this was a bird "we" heard, I'm not exaggerating. Pip instantly looked up, searching the trees, when she heard the two males singing. I love how she pays such close attention to birds. 

Warbling Vireo
This Warbling Vireo wasn't one of the Madison birds.

I associate Warbling Vireos with Picnic Point, and there were just as many now as in the 70s when I was going there every week day in spring and almost daily in summer. I love that feeling of being "home" when revisiting a beloved place and seeing and hearing familiar friends. 

There were plenty of orioles, too, but I didn't hear any singing—they were pigging out on insects in a few trees, and carrying some off to feed young, so the males are too busy now to think of singing very often.


Baltimore Oriole at Picnic Point
One of the orioles Pip and I saw at Picnic Point
One species I ALWAYS used to see in summer at Picnic Point was the Red-headed Woodpecker. We didn't see one this time—they've declined so tragically since I started birding.

Red-headed Woodpecker decline in Wisconsin


Red-headed Woodpecker decline in Minnesota


Red-headed Woodpecker decline across the entire Breeding Bird Survey



Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker photographed in Georgia in 2010.
Red-headed Woodpeckers have declined so widely that it wasn't surprising not to see them at Picnic Point. Overall, unlike a great many places where I've birded, the habitat at Picnic Point is MUCH improved since the '70s. Honeysuckle used to run rampant almost everywhere on the bay side of the point, and was terribly invasive on the lake side, too. There's still some there, but lots of native plants have been put in, and the birds are more varied now than back then. I didn't hear American Redstarts this time—I used to be able to count on them, but this time we may have been there right when they're too busy with fledglings to be singing.

Pip did add one lifer at Picnic point. It flew past so quickly that I didn't get a photo, but I'll post a photo anyway, because it's the ABA Bird of the Year: the Green Heron.

Green Heron
Green Heron photographed at the Viera Wetlands in Florida
I felt really sad leaving Picnic Point—I went there so very often while we lived in Madison that I'm deeply bonded to the place. I took a bunch of photos of Pip—she seemed to love being there almost as much as I did.

Pip at Picnic Point

Pip at Picnic Point

Pip at Picnic Point

Pip at Picnic Point

Picnic Point

We had to leave Picnic Point at 9:30 so I could find my way to Vilas Hall in time for the Larry Meiller show. While I was on the air, Pip patiently waited in the car—it was cool and cloudy outside, plus I had the car in a nice airy parking ramp. After our 2-mile hike, she was ready for a rest.

From there, we headed to Stockton, Illinois, for me to visit my close college friend and roommate, Kathie Levan and her husband Steve. They've both been treasured friends lo these many decades. On the way, we stopped at a Culver's in New Glarus. It seemed especially appropriate to introduce Pip to Culver's on the way to Kathie's, because Kathie is the one who first introduced me to Culver's. Pip LOVED it!

Pip discovers Culver's!


Pip discovers Culver's!

Pip got to play with Kathie and Steve's dog George, who was very patient with her although he's older and a little frail. She also got to play with one of their two cats, Chandler. I've never seen such a ginormous cat before. He and Pip played a lot of chase games—as long as Chandler knew he was totally in charge, he didn't seem to mind Pip at all. His little sister Phoebe, on the other hand, was much more reserved and avoided Pip altogether.

Northern Cardinal
This cardinal is the only bird in Kathie and Steve's yard that let me take a photo.
Kathie and Steve have a simply gorgeous yard, filled with SO many gorgeous flowers and flowering shrubs, many native, and all the birds that gravitate to such a wealth of vegetation. In the evening, Kathie and I sat in the front yard waiting for her evening primroses to open. Pip waited too, though a bit less patiently. Here's a link to a speeded up video of the last minute and a half or so—the video takes 26 seconds.

After breakfast, I headed to Eagle Optics in Middleton, Wisconsin, so I could say hi to all my friends there. Pip had a grand time meeting everyone. I got a photo of just three of the great people who work there. (I have absolutely no business associations with Eagle Optics. But I know and trust the employees and have a great deal of respect for the owner, and know how much of their profits go into conservation, so this is the only retailer I endorse, and I endorse them enthusiastically.)


Pip goes to Eagle Optics!
Pip and friends Tom, Ben, and Mike at Eagle Optics
I was hoping I could get Pip some more lifers on the way home. Mike suggested we stop at Indian Lake. He and Tom got me directions, and I blithely set out for there without realizing I used to go there quite a bit with Ken Wood back in the '70s. I'm afraid when I get into someone else's car I'm like a dog getting into an elevator. I get in in one place, ride a bit, and get out in an entirely different place with no idea how I got there. But when I got to the park, it was VERY familiar.

Mike thought we should be able to get Acadian Flycatchers and the species I was most hoping for, Yellow-throated Vireo. He thought it was at least possible we might also luck into a Cerulean Warbler, as well. But we got there a bit after noon, and in the heat of the day, not one of those species was singing. Nevertheless, Pip did get two lifers: several Field Sparrows were singing away, and we also spotted a couple of  Red-headed Woodpeckers--the species we didn't see at Picnic Point! So now Pip is up to 198 on her life list. I wonder what species will be her #200?
Pip at Indian Lake County Park
Pip at Indian Lake County Park
Pip also got a lifer mammal: a cute little mink that had been heading for a culvert. I got a LOT of photos. This was probably a mother searching for food for her young ones.

Mink
Mink running across the road
Mink
Mink in a culvert

Mink


From there, we went briefly to Goose Pond, just because I always have to check that out when I pass the Arlington exit—Tree and Barn Swallows were feeding babies, and we heard cranes and saw lots of Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird preening at Goose Pond
Red-winged Blackbird making himself beautiful at Goose Pond
Then we made another quick stop, at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. We got there at 4:30, so the visitor center was closed, and I was already getting tired of driving and knew I'd not be getting home until dark, so we did kind of a rush job and didn't see anything new, but it was a nice stop anyway.


Pip goes to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
Pip visits Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
We made it home by dusk. Pip was happy to be home again, but already she is on red alert anytime I go near the door to the garage—she's eager for our next adventure!

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