Saturday, May 23, 2009

Catching up with a Cousin

We interrupt the Spring Break birding saga between parts one and two, for a birding interlude: Birdstud and cousin Ken Brown go birding on Memorial Day weekend 2009. So I haven't seen my cousin Ken for quite some time and I read in an email from him that he "appears" to be getting into birding. He references seeing an Eastern kingbird and Baltimore oriole while on a walk, and I get excited because he must be a bit more savvy and interested in your average "robin-identifier." I invite him to attend a bit of an early morning walk-about focused solely on avian awareness...he accepts and actually sounds genuinely jazzed! This is GREAT news for me as I have been chomping at the bit to get out there, and REALLY shake the trees for some spring warblers, so that's just what the two of us did, after a quick stop for caffeine at Cranky Al's Bakery on North Ave. in Wauwatosa. Ken dutifully drove in from his home in Colgate, WI to ours in Milwaukee arriving at 6:00 AM sharp. That's a great start to any day's events; a birding partner that shows up on time (or even a bit earlier) proving that the interest (and enthusiasm) is truly there.

While breaking off pieces of a marvelously baked, still warm, blackberry and peach scone and sipping piping hot "Cranky Roast" we began to hash over the missing details from the last time we saw each other, carefully making sure that each of us asked a few spousal-related questions, noting the responses, just in case ours asked us about the other. In other words, we mostly talked like guys of the trees, surface stuff, grunting and nodding, but remembered that we would each (no doubt) be asked to regale a few details, so we did our best to wool gather a couple for the ladies. Ken and I grew up together in the 70s. While he's a few years my junior, we still had plenty of interaction and stories in common; like the time I was archery target shooting in my Sugar Camp driveway against some hay bales, when a luckless chipmunk happened to run across the target area. Just on a whim, I "followed" the speeding varmint from left to right with a knocked target arrow, letting it fly with a bit of a lead...damned if I didn't impale that critter (pardon the pun) dead-center! - I was simultaneously shocked, horrified, sorrowful, but a wee bit proud of my aim. Ken reminded me of this today and I'll be darned if I didn't even remember that I had any witnesses to my feat (crime), let alone HIM. Well sir, I guess boys will be boys from time to time and this was one of 'em.

Back to the birding: The areas we covered were the ones I frequent the most. While they're not the Horicon Marsh, or Cape May, NJ they are familiar to me and I knew what I could show to Ken, and where to find it. We started on the Menominee River Parkway off Center street in Wauwatosa, (a place I have blogged extensively before of) moved to Hoyt Park and the nearby Milwaukee County storm water overflow watershed area. These three trusty locales yielded a good number of birds, many that Ken had not yet seen. Around 8:45 AM we drove east to Lake Park (another oft-blogged place) to join up with this particular Saturday's Warbler Walk. We snuggled in behind the group as their 15 pairs of optics were similarly trained on a nearby Maple stand looking at some Wilson's warblers. You know, that's what I love about birders; their hospitably inclusive nature. We were as welcome as a man handing out cough drops in a crowded opera house. They had no idea what our skill-level was, nor did they care; only passed along the information of their sightings aloud, and tipped their collective heads backward once more, not missing a beat.

We hung around the park for about an hour and a half, collecting still more species for Ken's growing life-list, while simultaneously breathing in the wonderfully cool and refreshing spring air of the Milwaukee lakefront. We packed it up around 11:00 AM with the smallest "maybe that's enough" silently whispering in each of our brains, and headed for some chow. We drove north to Glendale, WI (the Bayshore Mall area) and discovered a small mom and pop eatery called Irina's Kitchen. I voted aloud that we give it a try, and since I was driving; it was a done deal. Don't you just LOVE the small (non-franchised) places when you find them...kinda' like something truly American in that eh? Well Irina's didn't disappoint in the taste department, (nor in the genuine east European accent department) cause when Irina herself, moved her chubby cheeked mouth to as me if "I vanted zum pumpallllneekle dost vit dat?" I beamed a great big smile and told her "Yes, absolutely, if you'll say it one more time for me." That's America man...Vat a kuntree!

Anyway campers, here's our wonderful species list for 5-23-09 (Greater Milwaukee Area):
{Undt, BOY, did vee zee da varblers!}

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Ash-throated Flycatcher ^ (Myiarchus cinerascens)
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica)
Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca)
Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
Wilson's Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)