Thursday, January 22, 2009

In search of a Wisconsin rosy-finch!?

This morning Tom Prestby and I both made our first winter visit to Grant County in search of the wayward rosy-finch that apparently has decided that Wisconsin beats Colorado as a winter destination... It only took a couple of u-turns for possible crossbills in spruces before we did find some on the eastern edge of Finnemore in a small (less than 35' tall) clump of spruces in front of a small trailer park. The six crossbills were both our first in Grant County but it wasn't until I returned home that I noticed that the male, who had so cooperatively allowed me to digibin him from the car, actually appears to be injured. His upper mandible lacks the normal decurved tip and looks as if its beak is flaking (see photo above)... I'm not sure if this is the result of a collision with a window somewhere in southern Wisconsin or if this is inevitable as these guys get old.

Tom and I arrived at the guy's house who had originally posted the bird on eBird at 9AM and we settled in for the potentially long wait to see this bird come to their feeders. Shortly after we had arrived Chris West showed up, and over the course of the next 5 hour two other birders swung through (Aaron Holschbach and Tom Schaefer). While we struck out on the desired finch, we did see quite a diversity of other finches in his yard. Among these was a nice male Purple Finch, a few House Finches, good numbers of goldfinch, over 18 Pine Siskins, about a dozen Common Redpolls, and a flock of 15 White-winged Crossbills that briefly stopped to check out a small clump of conifers in the neighbors yard. 6 species of finch in the course of five hours in Grant County (furthest county SW in the state) - wow! Here is a photo of just a small glimpse into the almost constant finch buffet line that these guys had spread out (right).

After we left the rosy-finch location we headed down to Cassville and checked the John Dewey Powerplant in Cassville. The previously reported Trumpeter Swans (12) were still present along with 7 Bald Eagles, 2 Belted Kingfishers, and a good number of Common Goldeneye (45). Eastern Bluebirds were seen at 4-5 different locations within 5 miles of Cassville totaling at least 14 birds.

We headed next to Patch Grove where there had been some good recent reports. We found two different flocks of Gray Partridge totaling 18 birds on both the east and west sides of Breuer Rd (north of Lancaster Rd or Patch Grove Rd). Having only seen this particular species one time in Wisconsin, this was probably the highlight of the day for me (4 of the 18 pictured on the left). The windswept "snowscape" had an almost tundra-like feel to it (closing photo below). The partridge were digging down into the snow then using their feet to kick up the dirt presumably in search of corn or small seeds to eat. I have to give these birds props for being so hardy.
The large flock of 600+ Snow Buntings (with small numbers of accompanying Lapland Longspurs) reported by Dennis Kirschbaum was still present at the intersection of Hickory and Maine to the southwest of Patch Grove.

As we made our way back east we picked up a small group of 7 Brown-headed Cowbirds accompanying some starlings and house sparrows near a "messy farm" east of Preston.

We ended the day with 38 species in Grant County, not too bad for half the day spent staring at a feeding station!

1 comment:

J. Elizabeth said...

Rosy finch! I was wondering what these guys were! I'm in St. Louis, and they hang out in my forsythia bush and pick on the chickadees. Thanks for the wonderful weblog!