Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birding at Froemming Park

The past few days, I've been exploring Franklin, Wisconsin's Froemming Park. I can't seem to find any history of this 70 acre parcel of land although it appears that part of it was farmed at one point (old fencing). It's on Milwaukee's southwest side at 51st and Puetz Rd. It's claim to fame is the Milwaukee County Sports Complex plus a small baseball diamond and couple of barely used soccer fields.

What seems to be missed completely by web reviews so far, is the nice variety of wildlife present. The land is dominated by open fields separated by several strips of hardwood trees, and bordered to the west by the Root River, and on the far south by a marshy natural area.  There are a few reports of birding here on eBird to go by, but not many, so off I went in search of the unknown!

Day 1: I parked just off Puetz Road on the north end, where there is access to the paved bike path that runs through here. Just past a row of bushes, you will find a mowed grass path used mostly by dog walkers but I only saw 3 other people using this path over the two visits I made. (most are out zooming around on paved path). Right off the bat, I came across a pair of Grey Catbirds singing from the bushes. A little patience prevailed and I got some great views of them.

Over the next hour I came up with 14 species which also included a Cedar Waxwing, a Savannah Sparrow, and 3 much enjoyed Eastern Meadowlarks spotted on one of the soccer fields. Not extremely common around here, mostly seen near the big airport, but I'm not going ANYWHERE near there these days carrying around a big camera!

Nearing the south end of the trail, I spooked up a Northern Flicker from the brush. Following him with my camera, I snapped a photo of him landing on a nearby tree. Later, when I got home, I found out what I really caught  in that photo: not just the Flicker, but also a Robin on the left, and what looks like a Northern Mockingbird on the right! That would be a lifer for me, so I HAD to go back again this morning to see if I could find him.

Day 2: This morning I parked in the little parking lot off of 51st street. Arriving around 8am, before anyone else, I found a Brown Headed Cowbird amongst some Red Winged Black Birds and about 25 Barn Swallows flying about. This would prove to be nothing as later I counted 50 Barn Swallows sitting in a dead tree! I immediately headed back to where I saw that possible Mockingbird, which was just west of the 2nd Tee in the Frisbee Golf Course. Tip: the 4th hole in that course is on top of a small hill, which has a commanding view of most of the Root River Valley (small valley) and surrounding fields. Sitting up on the grass here affords views of the birds flying about which included a Red Tailed Hawk and a number of Goldfinches which looked like yellow tennis balls swooping - up - and - down - across - the - sky. Great place for binoculars here.

Now, sitting on the west end of the hill (green "X" on the map above), I think I spot him right away. THERE HE IS! Well, maybe not, but I did manage to catch a second bird in my shot again ... this time a Baltimore Oriole? Hard to tell.

I've got to get a closer view, so I slowly creep up, using some brush as a cover .... but he sees me. ZIP! GONE!
RATS! Here's a closeup of this yellow bird. I had seen one the day before down by the river, but it was just a quick glimpse.


Just as he left, however, my Northern Flicker friend comes back while I'm still in good position and I get a beautiful angle on him.A male (black whisker), yellow shafted (brown head and you can just see some yellow by his tail) Northern Flicker. The highlight of the day.

yellow shafted Northern Flicker

 So, I still need to go back and look for that Mockingbird. In addition, as I was researching the park for this blog entry, I find out that the city of Franklin, WI is planning on developing this whole plot of land for more baseball diamonds. This whole natural area will be GONE forever. So, now I'm committed to recording as much wildlife here as possible and posting my findings on these pages. Stay tuned!

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