10072020_tct_bw_CountryPhoto_6 (copy)

Three Canada geese come in for a landing south of Reedsville in this Country Today file photo.

It doesn’t seem possible. Here it is Nov. 7 in Fifield and as I look out my office window, all I see is green grass and the last of the golden tamarack shedding their needles. I did my last grass-mowing yesterday. Usually, my last mowing is in the first week in October! Our killing frost in Fifield was over a month late and some of the lilacs at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison are blooming.

It turns out we experienced one of the warmest Octobers on record. I have never had so much time to prepare for winter as I did this fall. If I am not ready, it is not October’s fault; it is my own fault. And ready I should be as November can be a month of extreme changes in weather and that is going to happen later this week when it to going to turn from warm to very cold. The birds seem to know that too as they are busy at our feeders building up their fats supplies almost like hungry bears getting ready for hibernation.

For a look at what is happening with November birds as they prepare for winter throughout our great state, here is DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program Biologist Ryan Brady’s statewide birding report as of Nov. 5:

The season’s first snowy owl was photographed in Burnett County on Oct. 23. However, none has been documented since. Short-eared owls have returned in better numbers and may be found at dawn or dusk in large grasslands or wetlands that host good rodent populations. Northern harriers, rough-legged hawks, and American kestrels are sometimes observed in the same habitat.

Winter finches are already showing fairly well in the north. Common redpolls have dipped south into northern counties by the hundreds, though don’t expect them at feeders until natural seed sources like birches, alders, and tamaracks have been exhausted. White-winged crossbills are also moving around in search of spruce, tamarack, hemlock, and other conifer seeds. The first pine and evening grosbeaks have arrived, though in small numbers so far. American goldfinches increased across the north this week, while pine siskins and purple finches are scattered in decent numbers statewide. Time will tell how far south some of these typically northern species will reach, and how many will end up at feeders to the delight of backyard birders.

Waterfowl migration carries on, although a bit tepidly given mild weather here and to the north. Large numbers of red-breasted mergansers and long-tailed ducks were reported on Lake Michigan, rafts of American coots at many locations, and thousands of canvasbacks and various puddle ducks on Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Tundra swans, which usually migrate just ahead of ice-up, continue to only trickle in there. Get recent sightings from various Upper Mississippi River refuge vantages here:

Sandhill cranes are staging in flocks of hundreds or thousands in many areas, including traditional hotspots like Horicon Marsh, Crex Meadows, and the Lower Wisconsin River. Dark-eyed juncos have become more prevalent in southern counties, while eastern bluebirds, cedar waxwings, and even a few rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles hold on in some locations. Still seeing a hummingbird? Chances are it’s one of the rarer western species and not our usual ruby-throated. At least three different rufous hummingbirds were reported recently.

Other rare birds spotted this week included black-legged kittiwakes (a gull species) in Douglas, Brown, and Ozaukee counties, bright male harlequin ducks in Sheboygan and Ozaukee, Pacific loon in Ashland, continuing pomarine jaeger in Douglas, and Franklin’s gulls in Ashland and Dane. Because of atypically mild with south and west winds last weekend, migration from the north was minimal but this pattern raises the potential for vagrant species from the southwest this time of year. Look for more seasonable weather and migration conditions to return late this week.

In the meantime, help track the migration by reporting your sightings to https://ebird.org/wi/home.

The private Nature Education Center in Fifield, operated by Tom and Mary Lou Nicholls, is open seasonally by appointment only. Nicholls can be reached at nicho002@umn.edu.

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