Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wisconsin and Minnesota

May 9, Saturday

It had cleared off to partly cloudy and windy and cool, stayed in the fifties all day. I crossed the river and went just north into Wisconsin which is blessed with a big thick and pretty good bird-finder book. I basically stayed along the east bank of the river, and made a lot of stops from the book. There were a lot of good sites, and just stopping on the sides of two lane blacktops worked well. One site was a dirt road under the riverside railroad that extended most of a mile into the river, marshy with Cottonwoods along the road, several good birds including a Bittern.

The main reason I had taken that route was to check out Trempeleau NWR. Well worth the trip, spent three hours there, very good habitat variety with tall grass remnants, and riverside mature woodlands. I found some good sparrows including Grasshoppers that came flying low to the tape. In the one day I added 23 tics for Wisconsin and made it to 30% of the species on their list. I would stay more in WI, but their state parks are expensive, with a substantial penalty for those from out-of-state, and a yearly charge as well that makes the first night something like $30+, so I never spend the first night, just make forays from the more reasonable surrounding states.

I still had to get back across the river into SE Minnesota, crossed at Winona, and stayed at Beaver Creek Valley State Park. That was a great place, pretty isolated at the end of the highway, a narrow wooded valley with steep hillsides all around. It had some of the species I'd targeted for possible Eastern wood-landers, like Louisiana Waterthrush and other warblers, but not as many as I'd hoped since at that latitude it was still early spring. I had time to bird briefly in the evening before falling out. Hiccups persisted and were more troublesome. At first it had been just "hiccup", but now I was getting aftershocks, so "hiccup, hic" or even "hiccup, hic, hic, hic" Also harder to suppress with breath-holding, and with a new startup any time I awoke for urination. My ageing prostate makes that a common occurrence. Not a great night's sleep.

May 10, Sunday

Dawn was cool, about 45F, but the dawn chorus was whole hearted, since it was the front edge of breeding season. I hiked several of the park trails, climbed one of the ridges for a view of the valley, and found five new MN birds there. But... My notes say, "Pain and discomfort all day, allergies, hiccups, bloated." The hics were wearing me down, using up the gumption that usually gets used dealing with the hassles of travel. I drove over to the town of Albert Lea, probably on the chance of seeing a Gray Partridge, my super nemesis. Well, I missed it again, maybe the tenth time at least. From there back into Iowa for a stop at Union Slough NWR. The tour route was closed. Across the road there's one pool that can be scoped from the highway, and it had the most beautiful, perfect breeding plumage pair of Red-necked Grebes I've ever seen, photo or otherwise. Just stared and stared. Somewhere down the road I found a motel with wifi and posted a notice to the Iowa list-serv.

Farther west on the way to Sioux City I found a county park by a lake. Habitat was not good, way too manicured, but I poked around in brushy patches and scoped the lake. Went to bed early, beat and "moderately miserable".


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