Door County, Wisconsin: Day Two


The fog made for an eerie morning here in Baileys Harbor, an impression only heightened by the screeches of invisible Caspian terns over the lake. But nothing can deter birders when they’re in a new place, and after breakfast, Marnie and I met up with Paul for an introduction to some of this long peninsula’s many and varied habitats.


We started off on the bayshore of Peninsula State Park, where I was finally able to make sense of that mysterious word “alvar.” A bar far offshore was drifted with American white pelicans, and small groups, family groups, of red-breasted mergansers — a funny bird to see in the summer — dived and flew up and down in front of us.


The boggy woods across the road in the park must be great for migrants earlier in the season, and even in late June are surely good for breeding birds earlier in the day. The dominant voices late this morning were red-eyed vireos and American redstarts, with ovenbirds, common yellowthroats, yellow warblers, and a distant Nashville warbler rounding out our parulid list for the site.

From Peninsula we went on to Mud Lake, approaching along a road that reminded me more of a tamarisk marsh in Maine or New Brunswick than of the Midwest.

Mud Lake, Limekiln Road, Wisconsin

Delightful as it was to hear an alder flycatcher sneezing out in the alders, the roadside orchids were even more welcome a sight.

Yellow lady's-slipper, Wisconsin

We looked for but did not see the rare Hine’s emerald, though a couple of other odonate species were flying; Paul identified a corporal, a darner, and a twelve-spotted skimmer. In spite of the overcast, we found pearl crescents, a white admiral, and several mourning cloaks — and impressively vast numbers of the insects the locals call “mosquitoes.” They seem thirstier than the ones I’m used to.

We fled the buzzing horde to look for some farmland specialties.

Door County birders birding

Paul knew a bobolink field, so we spent several enjoyable minutes watching the males sing and dance over the tall grass; I got to see one female fly in and land in the grass with something wriggly in her bill, so maybe they can bring off young before the rest of the field is hayed. Savannah sparrows shared the hayfield and perched on the wires, and two male dickcissels buzzed at a frustrating distance before one came closer to the road and sang for us as we pulled away.

Door County, Wisconsin, bobolink field

Over the course of the morning we also found two pairs of sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane, Wisconsin

Paul had been watching this pair, which, he told us, has a large but still flightless chick. The colt must have been hidden in the grass when we arrive — but no complaints about missing it after such a wonderful and quintessentially midwestern morning in the field.

Today’s list:

Canada goose


hooded merganser

red-breasted merganser

wild turkey

American white pelican

double-crested cormorant

great egret

turkey vulture


red-tailed hawk


ring-billed gull

herring gull

Caspian tern

rock pigeon

mourning dove

chimney swift

ruby-throated hummingbird

alder flycatcher

eastern phoebe

eastern kingbird

red-eyed vireo

blue jay

American crow

common raven

purple martin

tree swallow

northern rough-winged swallow

cliff swallow

barn swallow

house wren

eastern bluebird

American robin

European starling

cedar waxwing

Nashville warbler

yellow warbler

chestnut-sided warbler

American redstart


common yellowthroat

chipping sparrow

field sparrow

vesper sparrow

Savannah sparrow

song sparrow

indigo bunting


red-winged blackbird

eastern meadowlark

common grackle

brown-headed cowbird

house finch

American goldfinch

house sparrow