Abe’s Arboretum Adventure Series – May 3, 2021

Abe’s Arboretum Adventure – 5.3.2021

TEMPERATURE: 61 degrees F
WIND: 8 mph, S
BIRD SPECIES: 37 (https://ebird.org/checklist/S86997408)

Bird migration is upon us. My avian friends have slowly been progressing north since the first red-winged blackbirds and waterfowl arrived in March, but now the onslaught has begun. Since last week I’ve added 15 new species to my list of marsh birds, which is now up to 84 species for the year. During this time of year, migrating waterfowl have mostly moved on to northern waters, where twice as many songbirds and shorebirds take their place. Since my last report I stumbled upon a chatty wave of warblers, singing high up in the trees and flashing their bright and colorful plumage. The warbler blitz was the first time I started to feel overwhelmed by the bird sounds of spring – a sign that bird migration is nearing its peak. Shorebirds and other water birds skirted the edge of the marsh all week too, as I found an uncommon common gallinule, a solitary solitary sandpiper, the first croak I’ve ever heard from a green heron, a pair of lesser yellowlegs, and a squadron of american white pelicans.

The pelicans were a surprise and a treat for this marsh. They’re a regular migrating group through Wisconsin (we’re at the eastern edge of their migration pathway), but don’t often end up at Gardner Marsh. It started at 3 individuals last week, then bumped up to 11, only to fly up to 39 pelicans by yesterday. One pelican is fascinating. They have gigantic sack-like bills that stretch below their bellies and they’re silent and graceful fliers. But seeing this big group, working as one machine, turning over the marsh floor, was one step beyond fascination. It was jaw-dropping and truly awe-some. I was mesmerized by their well-oiled foraging machine of dunking pelican heads and bills. There were even mentor pelicans teaching the youngsters how to do their part. A video below, my unsteadiness aside, provides a short glimpse of their team effort.

Spring brings new plant and animal life to Wisconsin, and I’m witnessing it every day at the marsh. Many of the shrubs and trees, like the towering cottonwoods banking Arboretum Drive have leafed out completely. Wood violets are blooming, and the cattails are creeping upward to overtake last year’s growth. Animals have already sprung new life, like the gaggle of goslings swimming with their parents and the baby rabbit munching on marsh vegetation.

Whether it’s the new life of the marsh, the new birds of the marsh, or my daily new experiences at the marsh, I’m so grateful to have the marsh each day. More to come from the birds, animals and plants as spring barrels on 🙂

See you next week,

P.S. New species this week: common gallinule (1 individual), solitary sandpiper (1), lesser yellowlegs (2), american white pelican (39), common yellowthroat (1), yellow warbler (2), nashville warbler (1), black-throated green warbler (1), palm warbler (7), northern waterthrush(1), blue-gray gnatcatcher (2), gray catbird (3), pileated woodpecker (1), chimney swift (11),  and common nighthawk (1)