[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
I finally got an extended break from Chaos this past week. Maybe too late to pick up Wilson's Warbler for the year, but has been my best September so far. August was the worst I've seen Chaos be in a long time. August only saw 59 species. Not my lowest for that month, but second lowest. I got out 3 whole times in August, outside of my yard to bird. Absolutely pathetic as Chaos was a constant drain during the week.
September has been another story though. It started on 9/2 with a female/immature Black-throated Blue Warbler being seen right out on the remnants of the old deck and its overgrowth. The 3rd brought a chance for me to run to Albion to find 2 of the 4 Common Gallinules that had been reported there. I was not going to count on Cranefest being open this year to try for them. I missed out on a Common Nighthawk seen by Dr. Dale Kennedy that same night nearby. Still have not seen one this year, and I have maybe a week left to try to get one.
The 4th, official first day off, Fairview Cemetery/Homer WTP gave up FOY Semipalmated Sandpiper standing on the algae blanket. Shorebirds were not looking promising as Duck Lake WTP is overgrown on the edge, as is Homer. Very little edge. But more on that later. Homer also gave up a ridiculous amount of Turkey Vultures with 224 counted. This was well after other flights have moved through I had counted. It also gave up flagged 3 juvenile Purple Martins. I didn't know they would flag, so only nabbed a pic of 1. After getting back home I had another FOY in Bay-breasted Warbler.
Sunday morning the 5th gave up 3 more FOY at Woodland Park!!! Amy Lysski gave me a heads up on Olive-sided Flycatcher. I ended up with at least 2 of them there, and maybe a 3rd bird was present also. This was after getting FOY Philadelphia Vireo. At the end of a decent, but not great day as I was walking back to the Jeep I ran into a Canada Warbler feeding right on some branches over the trail. This was what I thought would be the hardest bird to get as Canada Warblers are so hit and miss. Also a late flyover for Eastern Kingbird was noted.
As I was leaving Woodland Amy Lysski sent word to everyone "Shorebirds" at D DR S. I was going to head to the airport, but decided Shorebirds might be a better thing to sort through. One can only take some much of War-"blurs" hiding behind leaves. Nothing too exciting there, but another definitive very light Semipalmated Sandpiper and another late Eastern Kingbird.
The 6th at Woodland brought another Canada Warbler and a 53 species day, so not too terrible, but no FOY. D DR S mixed in some Pectoral Sandpipers to what was seen previous day.
Chaos has drained me so much that it is hard for me to get up and going to early in the morning. So by the time I felt like going anywhere on the 9th it was very late in the morning. I had to run and get blood drawn for annual physical so decided to keep the fast going and just run to D DR S since it was only a few miles away. Hugely fortuitous of me. I came across a bird that really struck me as a Pectoral Sandpiper that looked like some odd leucism on its neck. It also just didn't seem to move the same while feeding as a Pectoral. Finally got a look at the other side and it has the same light patch on its neck. Now this was not just a coincidence. It showed a nice dark "V" on its chest and the bill looked really short. I started to try to run through possibilities and came up with Ruddy Turnstone. Holy crap a Ruddy Turnstone wasn't even on my radar for a target bird for the county ever!!! It was a juvenile Ruddy Turnstone with a really light head. As I pulled into D DR S I had a feeling we would still pick up another County first before the end of the year. I wasn't thinking it would be in the next 10 minutes though. Really a great bird to find here. Unfortunately only Karen Kolbasa got to see it about 5 hours later and a Hawk spooked it up so it was missed by others. I almost went right past that bird thinking it was just a weird Pec.
A couple of trips for Nighthawks last week to the airport and Brooks didn't pay off. One trip to Brooks was with Hercules, and he is just not a bird dog. It was great to be back out with him, but not when trying to search for warblers or the White-eyed Vireos that are apparently still there. The first trip to Brooks did at least pay off with a Merlin flyover which was a nice bird to see.
Back at Woodland on the 10th they finally decided to mow while I was there, so it was not the most enjoyable time. It did give me my first audio and FOY Broad-winged Hawk. A nice light juvenile treated me to a couple of calls and some good looks before getting spooked off by the mower. This put me at 202 for the year and 9 FOY birds in September. Well above the highest I have had at this time of the year. Normally that might not be a good thing, but I am 3 ahead of my best pace now due to that. Still some more birds I can try to pick up. Looking for a Hooded Warbler and Orange-crowned Warbler. There are only 10 birds reported in September in the County that I don't have for the year yet. No luck on the 12th, this morning, but I did get my best looks ever at a Philadelphia Vireo.
I am going to try to make a concerted effort to keep getting out on the weekend. It helps to get my mind away from the Chaos, and I really need that now. There is no balance, and it feels like there is nothing on the other end to even try to get that end lifted off the ground to get to balance. Need to keep pushing to get out and maybe it will pay off with some more birds this year. The county is at 217, and 218 is our highest ever so really want to get us over 220 that we just can't seem to get to. Lots of Duck Lake birds to still try to get this fall/winter.
My very rough shots of the County first Ruddy Turnstone
Best looks at a Philadelphia Vireo
Between Chaos, rain, humidity, heat and mosquitoes that are enjoying the lack of drought the birding has been very few and far between. I honestly thought I probably wouldn't start to get after things until August once shorebirds hit. Well the shorebirds are hitting early as the rains have created fluddles. A week ago word hit of a fluddle on R DR N, where one has never been before. Really nice spot, but just an early Least Sandpiper mixed in with some Killdeer, Solitary and Spotted Sandpiper. This was first time I've left the house to bird since June 6th. That might be a record.
July 12th word came of Short-billed Dowitcher on 23 Mile Rd between B and D DR S. By the time I got there the next day they were gone. Hopefully they show up again at some point. Really was hoping for those this year. Consolation prize was a Muscovy Duck in a farm field.
Not quite a week later on the 17th an e-mail headline I thought I'd never seen: American Avocet. Karen Kolbasa found an amazing First County record in this same flooded cow pasture. The birds gave great looks, despite the light not allowing for great shots. I called this bird for D DR S when it was looking like amazing Spring shorebird habitat. I was pretty settled in as there was a State First record Roseate Spoonbill spotted south of Ann Arbor. Normally I'd have gone after that bird, but I tweaked my back the night before and planned to rest. I was not going to rest on a county first bird though. Unfortunately the bird looks to be a one-day wonder as it was not seen today.
I also observed a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers flycatching from telephone poles. I never knew they did this, but apparently they are quite adept at it.
I did decide the next day, assuming I felt up to it, to go for the Roseate Spoonbill. After a prolonged detour I made it there. Waited maybe 15 minutes for it to appear for 10 minutes. Grabbed some horrible pictures as it was terribly back lit. Not a lifer, but still a crazy find for the state.
Nothing of note as I've not birded beyond the confines of the yard the past 2 weeks. Weather has been less than spring-like. The only thing of note is I received an e-mail that the Buff-breasted Sandpiper from 4/16/2017 was flagged as potential Ruff. A huge bird for this area. First in the 8 counties around here, according to eBird. I don't have high hopes that it gets approved by the MBRC. I posted to Whatbird.com and to Birdforum.net and got a couple positives, as well as an e-mail, one saying looked okay for BBSA and another saying maybe Ruff but they wouldn't vote positive on it. Bird would be in the upper left. Definitely isn't a Pectoral Sandpiper as the shape in flight is way off.
April 7th the 4 American Robin hatchlings were present in the morning, but gone later in the afternoon. Didn't see any sign of an attack, and have only seen a couple of juvenile Robins since then. Plenty of hiding places in the woods, so they may have just skipped town. April 15th a Red-tailed Hawk successfully caught something at the woodpile. I couldn't tell what it was though. Looked small and black, so it could have been a bird. Not sure why it would have been near the woodpile though as no place for it to hide there.
Only other "exciting" things of note were a Scarlet Tanager and Yellow-billed Cuckoo added to the year list for the yard. With some Chaos continuing going to be rough to find a Dickcissel or Alder Flycatcher to add to the list this month.
The week was relatively quiet, as I stayed home for all but today. Still getting plenty of Turkeys around the yard, with two large Toms and at least one of them continuing to try to show off. The Robin that had a nest 10 feet from my door continue to grow rapidly. The Chunky Monkees have grown so much the nail was starting to pull out the wreath was on, as well as it was down to one strand hanging on there. I grabbed a large screw and some paracord and stabilized it so there should be no risk of it falling. Also placed puppy kennel around there so dogs will stay away.
Some synchronicity happened this week as a Michigan list serve had a posting responding that "BirdNet" called the bird on a call, then on Whatbird I saw someone post a link to a BirdNet recording. I looked it up and never realized that Cornell has an online song identification program, as well as an app. I've found just under 1000 recordings that I'm sure I've not gotten through 5% of them to decide to pitch or post. So I have been trying to go through some of those, staring with the latest. I uploaded a song I recorded that I thought was a Savannah Sparrow on the same day I fought the ticks at Baker to see the Yellow-breasted Chat. BirdNet called it a Golden-winged Warbler, and I got confirmation on Whatbird. One more added to the year of a bird I had no chance of in the fall. So despite the crappy 2 weeks during migration I managed to best my pace through May. I don't expect to do the same through June. I am having a tough time finding the Alder, despite driving around most of the morning. Lots of Acadian Flycatchers though.
Even rarer than the Golden-winged Warbler was this completely white European Starling I found near D DR N and 10.5 Mile. I'm pretty sure it is a full albino bird, but the eye color is hard to tell. Thing is going to have it rough since it sticks out in the flock of black and grey Starling. In fact an American Kestrel took a run at the flock. I may have to check that spot now and then to see if I can get some better pics.
Chaos struck again with biologics, and right in the middle of migration I got handicapped for about 2 weeks. I had to rely on nabbing some FOY birds in the yard, and it ended up being not nearly as much as I had hoped. My goal of hitting 200 by end of May was not too be. Once it hit I only managed a Blackpoll Warbler in the yard. Missing out on 5-6 reported warblers. On the 19th I decided I had to go out and at least try for a Common Gallinule and Yellow-breasted Chats at Baker. Dipped on the Gallinule, but the Chat was very showy. Downside, Hercules went with me and we ended up with 3 ticks a piece, 2 on me during the night, and 9 ticks found the following day on the floor in some state of dead or dying. I didn't realized this years was seeing an explosion, or I'd have taken more precautions.
On the morning of the 23rd I had been given green light to start wearing my contacts again, so took advantage and went to Woodland. Nabbed both Cuckoos, a Willow Flycatcher and was surprised by a Prothonotary Warbler calling. These got me over the 180 mark, which is the minimum I think you have to be at to get to 200 (I did manage 201 in 2019 ending May at 174, but I was at 180 on 6/2). I decided to hit it hard on the last 2 days of the 3 day Memorial Day weekend. I had hopes to try to get 9 breeders I was missing to get to 190.
Amy Lyyski also found a couple of Chats near that area. Also was thankful she posted to the other birders that Sedge Wrens were at Baker. I did head the wrong way on the trail, but turned out for the better as I got to see 6 fairly newly hatched Trumpeter Swans, a Chat, and the FOY Orchard Oriole.
I tried for Cerulean Warbler at Voorhees, but if it was there its was not vocal. That is a tough one as that was the only spot that I've been able to see one. Will have to see if I can't find one somewhere. Not very many spots for them around here.
Some other highlights since the last post are:
I managed to capture this Cooper's Hawk taking aim directly at me, when eyeballing some birds on the feeder. Tried a little Photoshop action sequence.
Good to see the Trumpeter Swan family at Baker. I'm hoping the report of only 3 cygnets later in the day on the 31st was just not being able to see the others. I only have pics of 5, but there was one that seemed to stay on the other side of an adult almost all the time.
Lastly the Robins decided to build a nest on a large wreath that is 10 feet from my back door, on the side of the house. We are constantly spooking up the bird off the nest. I thought for sure the eggs were not getting enough attention. Turns out they have at least hatched!! Hopefully the dogs won't disturb them too much.
I've now had 2 female Rusty Blackbirds this year with dark eyes. Crazy. Apparently they have dark eyes for a short time period after hatching, but by spring of the following year they should be bright.
The birding had been going outstanding through end of April. Both myself and the county overall was well ahead of any previous high pace. Until this past week. A consistently steady wind from the north, and intermittent showers has really slowed things down. So much so that I am now 4 birds behind my best pace, as well as the county overall. Nothing outstanding has shown up since the Stilt. Semipalmated Plover and Forster's Terns being the least likely.
The Plover is the last shorebird of note to show up to D DR S. It has been relatively quiet there with the same species from day to day. I have dipped on the Terns twice now. Maybe there will still be some chances if we get some more movement to come through.
The other birds of note that I was getting a little worried about were Gray-cheeked Thrush, Vesper Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow. Couldn't seem to be able to find these guys every time I tried. Enough trips to Woodland the Thrush turned up. Vesper and Savannah were found in the same spot, on a road I randomly turned down. The Vesper was up on the power line, and I assumed its as a Red-winged or Bluebird. When it flew down I saw the white tail feathers. I backed up, it was on a post, looked at me, sang once and then flew off. Purple Finch was also a bird I was worried about, but I managed to find one up in the trees of my yard, and then another out at the airport. Both females.
On 4/19 I had a very late cismontanus Junco. On 4/24 I was trying to find Brewer's Blackbirds and trying to snap some pics for candidates. Ran into yet another dark-eyed Rusty Blackbird. That would be the second one this year. Some early April records were Least Sandpipers at D DR S, Blackburnian Warbler and the Plover being firsts for April in the County.
I escaped Chaos for the first week in May and things were humming along until we hit a stalled cold front that kept winds out of the North for an extended period. 23 FOY birds from May 1 to May 4, then May 5-May 10 were only 1 FOY each day. Then Chaos hit me with biologics again and I've been limited to 2 FOY birds in the yard this past weekend 5/15-5/16. I quickly slipped behind my best pace and am in a position to have to try to make up a bunch in the fall. My goal of hitting 200 by end of May is shot at this point.
I did manage 2 more Yard Birds with a Northern Waterthrush and Lincoln's Sparrow on 5/6 and 5/14. Not entirely unexpected birds, but nice to finally find after all this time.
I never realized Sandhill Cranes had red hearts on their heads.
Plenty of early warblers all over the place
Some of the better shots I've been able to take of Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Parula x2, and American Redstart.
This year continues to be outstanding for the birds. As a result the updates have been sorely lacking. Since the last update I have added 25 FOY birds, and even strayed to Kalamazoo to catch a lifer bird in an unexpected place. The county continues to rack up birds also and staying ahead of pace, even at one point breaking into the Top 10 of the state.
After dealing with Chaos through the week I hit up Woodland Park on 3/27 and came across FOY White-crowned Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe and a striking Great Egret. The Great Blue Herons have set up quite the rookery there at the far West pond. I have counted at least 8 nests there. On the 28th word went out about a Lesser Black-backed Gull in a farm field with some Bonaparte's. When I arrived I was on the bird in less than a minute, as well as the FOY Bonaparte's. A really nice bird to nab, especially as it didn't require standing out in the freezing cold at Duck Lake. I also spotted on 1.5 Mile Road this Pied-billed Grebe trying to swallow this relatively large Grass Pickerel. Duck Lake gave up FOY American Coot.
D DR S is turning into a historical shorebird spot <spoiler>. Nots sure if it will pass 23 Mile Road for quantity. Too early to tell, but quality is outstanding early on. On the 31st it gave up the earliest record of Solitary Sandpiper for the state, found by Dr. Dale Kennedy. I might have the had the bird the night before, but the pics I took were horrible and I thought it was a Lesser Yellowlegs, so it is loaded as a shorebird sp. I did get the bird on the 31st, as well as FOY Greater Yellowlegs there. 4/3 I counted 27 Wilson's Snipes at this site.
On April 4th FOY Yellow-rumped Warbler showed up at Woodland Park. It was my first 40 species day for the year. The highlight though was walking down the Grassland trail and spooking something big up off the ground and behind a large tree. I thought was a Pileated Woodpecker at first. I waited for it to come around the tree, but after a few seconds there was no further movement. I proceeded down the path and after passing the tree I looked at this Barred Owl, just above eye level. This was at 1030 and not a bird I expected on that walk at all.
4/10 was another great day at Woodland Park with 47 species. I wanted to try to push for 50, but it just wasn't meant to be. It might have been an excellent Hawkwatching day as I had a Cooper's Hawk and Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk flying over. I also had an Osprey making off with a giant Koi fish. Not fair to these gold fish that get dumped in bodies of water as I have seen Osprey make off with multiples of them.
On the 11th I was treated to "Turkey Romance" right in the front yard. Male Turkey has been using the front yard for display. Well it worked on at least one of them.
On the 12th the Kalamazoo text group lit up with the finding of a Little Gull at W W Ave Marsh. I had planned to escape Chaos and hit D DR S anyway, and this location was 30 minutes away. 30 minutes is closer than going to Duck Lake so I decided this was worth a shot. I arrived there and the bird was nowhere to be seen. Todd Alfes, who located the bird, said it has come and gone multiple times during the day. Others there left to try some other nearby spots, and I stayed behind just in case. After waiting around an hour I happened to look back at the south pond and initially dismissed this bird flying around as a Killdeer. It even took me a couple of seconds after putting binoculars on it to realize it wasn't a Killdeer. Another second to realize it had darker underwings and the head matched the photos from earlier in the day. The bird hung around for maybe 6-7 minutes moving across to the North pond, getting harassed by Red-winged Blackbirds, and then it took off gaining altitude and heading North. It was never relocated after that. Well worth the drive to find this bird.
On the 14th Dr. Dale Kennedy reported a Forster's Tern at Duck Lake. This was a bird I didn't even have on my targets because it is so hit and miss. I ran out there after Chaos was over to try to find it. The Tern was either hiding out on the water, or gone. I did pick up a very clean gull with dark wings. I initially ID'ed it as a Great Black-backed Gull. A gull I don't expect to find this year, so it was quite a great bird to find. It was unfortunately not a correct ID. The bird had dark primaries and a tail with too much black on it. 2nd Winter Lesser Black-backed Gull is still a nice bird to find, even if not a FOY.
On the 15th I decided I had to hit up D DR S to check for shorebirds. It is going to be the prime spot this year. April 16th, 2017 was when the flooded filed on O DR N gave up Dunlin, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, 215 Pectoral Sandpipers, both Yellowlegs and 270 Bonaparte's Gulls. So we should start seeing stuff coming in there now. There aren't many other options in the county, so this will be the focus spot. I was disappointed to just see Wilson's Snipe, Killdeer and Solitary Sandpipers when I was scanning the East Pond. I almost didn't drive down the west one, but did. As I pulled over and glassed the pond I was blow away by what I saw. I immediately grabbed my camera just to insure I got a pic before something happened. I was looking at a large shorebird with long pink legs, streaking contrast between a black upper part, and white under part. A Black-necked Stilt was working the far side of the West Pond!!!! This is a bucket list bird for me: Michigan Review Species, self-found and in Calhoun County.
I put in my notes that Adam Byrne was right, I would eventually find a better bird than the Black-legged Kittiwake. Coincidently Adam was there the following morning trying to find the bird. After having 10 or so people show up while I was there the first night, the bird was not there after he was there for an hour. Just as he was leaving to try another spot I spotted the bird and was able to stop him before he got very far. Several other people filtered in while I was there and thought the day. This day however almost ended tragically for me. After birding Woodland and stopping home to eat lunch and pick up Hercules to go to Duck Lake, we were driving down 19 Mile Road. Luckily I was going slowly as Hercules for some reason jumped out the window. What I saw in my side mirror haunts me every time I close my eyes. Herc was tumbling repeatedly on the road. He was able to walk to me, still shaken and jump in the Jeep. We headed to the ER in Kalamazoo to get checked out. He was bleeding from a scrape on his chin and I found a couple of other spots, but nothing appeared broken. Thankfully as I type this he seems to be little worse for wear. Honestly I believe it was a miracle. I can honestly say I've never experienced one until this day.
I took the next day off and just kept an eye on him, and also tried to keep him calm. Report after report still came in of the Stilt showing itself. I went out there again the morning of the 18th and it was still there. Nothing else new. There was a Dunlin reported there by Kiehl Smith on the 15th, but nothing since then. Honestly that was the bird I was hoping to find when I found the Stilt. As I write this I think there have been at least 50 people show up to see this bird. The 18th also gave me FOY Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Purple Martins. This puts me at 124 for the year, 11 ahead of my best pace. If we can get anywhere near 16 shorebirds at D DR S it should really help to boost not only my numbers, but the county numbers overall. The 12 month number for Calhoun is 225 species seen in the past 12 months. A number we have never been close to. Of course Caspian Tern on 4/23 is coming up close. This is going to be tough trying to cover D DR S and Duck Lake for shorebirds and terns.
This year continues to feel like a mess of contradictions, between perception and reality. If I wasn't looking at numbers and Codes I'd be thinking this hasn't been that great of a year. The lakes went from ATV on the ice on a Sunday to completely open by at least that Thursday. Open water brought boats. So it feels like the ducks aren't showing up in the numbers seen previously. Turned out somewhat true. On the 9th there was a flooded field north of O DR N off 23 Mile that had 100's of ducks and swans. I was trying to find the Eastern Screech-Owl that was seen earlier, but no luck. Instead had 3 flocks of Tundra Swans fly over and nearly 200 Mallards in the larger fluddle. Was also out in the area to try to find Short-eared Owl found by Kiehl Smith. No luck with that either, but did get FOY Eastern Meadowlark and Greater Horned Owl.
I managed to escape Chaos and get back out in the area on the 11th to find a flock of 150 plus Rusty Blackbirds on O DR N. Rusties were prevalent on the 13th at D DR S, with some decent shots allowed as they fed. The water is extremely low there, and getting lower. Could be some good shorebird habitat, but it needs to not be bone dry for that to happen. The 23 Mile Road fluddle gave up FOY Wilson's Snipe and was packed with 87 Tundra Swans. Wilder Creek finally gave up the Green-winged Teal to me. That little guy was a master of being hidden. I only saw him as I scoped out some Mallards. He was in the background moving around.
I knew Fox Sparrows would start to show up so I hit Woodland Park on the 14th, and I wasn't disappointed. Herc is still rough, but getting better. I think for most of April and May I'll have to bird by myself early. I may then take him back out in the afternoon when things aren't as intense and I can work with him more. Lee Lake gave up one lone Red-breasted Merganser and Duck Lake a tied for early record of Common Loon. Tundra Swans now numbered 104 in the small fluddle with well over 240 Mallards, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal as well as the Northern Shrike still roaming south of O DR N. J DR N didn't have a Short-eared Owl, but a Wilson't Snipe was putting on its flight display.
The 17th I managed a FOY Pied-billed Grebe scoping the backwater from my living room window. Continuing with that luck we again managed to escape Chaos and head out. American Wigeon had joined the other ducks on the fluddle on 23 Mile Rd. The highlight of the day though was the relatively close experience with the Northern Shrike. Hercules has a routine to conduct his business when we walk down O DR N for a bit. We walked down to the end and I saw a flash of grey with a long tail, and thought maybe it was a Mockingbird. It was the Shrike set up on a bush about 50 feet away. I started to snap pics as this was close for this bird. It actually then flew right up to within 20 feet of us and appeared to be checking us out for maybe 10 seconds. Hopped on another bush about 5 feet further away for a bit and then took back off. I couldn't have asked for it to pose better for me. Perfect light low and behind-ish me. According to time stamps on photos whole interaction was under 50 seconds, but it felt longer. What an impressive bird.
The 20th I thought I had a great start to the day, but it fizzled out. I thought I might try for a big day but the numbers just weren't adding up. I've come close to hitting that 57 a few times this month. I was disappointed not having any FOY as I thought I'd at least find something and I was really wanting to try to get to 100 species by end of March. I made sure I had a better plan and start on the 21st. The Airport had a good start with 21, and 31 at Woodland was a boost also. D DR S had 22. By the time I left Graham Lake I was at 42. Dr. Kennedy had some huge waterfowl number at Ackley Lake the day before so we raced up there. The waterfowl was all pushed to the edges by some fisherman, but it gave up 4 more birds, including a Common Loon and a FOY Tree Swallow flyover. Lanes Lake was a fortuitous stop as I had a Common Merganser climb right up onto the beach and 3 Pileated Woodpeckers fly over the lake. Lake of the Woods add 3 more including the earliest record of Easter Towhee in eBird. Duck Lake had FOY Horned Grebe and finally to end the day I went to Brooks Nature Area. This is my go too American Woodcock spot. It was not a let down. After seeing the first March records in eBird of Double-crested Cormorant flying into Stuart Lake, right as the sun went down the Woodcocks started up. It was still light enough to see them flying, but not snap pics of. I was able to see them landing in the trail, and then taking off. Another great experience. All in all 5 FOY birds that shot me up to 100 for the year. Still some more to pick off before the end of the month.
At the end of the day I was 100 out of 115 spotted in the county. Today that ratio disappeared quickly. I dipped on Red-necked Grebe spotted the afternoon of the 23rd on Duck Lake. Dr. Kennedy also located the first Eastern Phoebe for the county. I might have had them but they were so far away and the mirage was the worst I remember out there. Today as I sit stewing in Chaos, Bonaparte's Gull, Blue-winged Teal and American Coot were reported, along with my needs also for Winter Wren and Eastern Phoebe. As I type this someone reported 2 Common Raven's out off I-94 on a billboard. Not too sure about that. Absent the Raven's the other 3 birds pushed our total to 120, with Yellow-rumped Warbler assuming to be accepted. Previous high for end of March is 112. We are also at 224 birds seen in the last 365 days. By far the highest I have ever seen that number.
Back to my thought on perception versus reality. I didn't think we had seen as many rare birds this year as we have previously. I certainly didn't feel I had, even dipping on quite a few. I went back and looked at Codes 3-6 seen, by me, before end of March. 2 years I had seen 3, 2 years with 2, and 3 years with 0. This year I have seen 6 very rare birds for the county!!!
My Birding buddy
The downside of getting so many birds this early in the year, is very similar to having so many birds later in the year. It is a little hard to get new ones. It is too early for most of the incoming spring migrants, and the water is still frozen over on most lakes so ducks are few and far between on open rivers.
Green-winged Teal has been a frustrating dipper this year. I have 10 checklists from there with no sighting of it yet. I probably have 3 or 4 other times I've driven by there quick and can't find them. Red-breasted Merganser at Stuart's Landing also hasn't made an appearance each time I have checked. Both are frustrating, but not concerning as far as a miss for the year. I'll get them eventually.
Took a long weekend from Chaos and did manage to pick up 3 or 4 FOY birds. I add in the "or" because one of them is Brewer's Blackbird. I have a shot of a male that the GISS just looks different from the Rusty Blackbirds nearly and a female with dark eyes. Large Blackbird flocks have started to show up and Rusties have been plentiful.
I also finally got a Turkey Vulture. Now that has been a frustratingly long wait for a FOY bird as they have been seen all year by random people driving down the highway. I also managed very rough looks at American Wigeon on Division Drive way out in the Kalamazoo River. It warmed up this weekend so the mirage was massive across the field and onto the water.
This is again just a massive year for the county. We are at 106, or 107 if the Brewer's is accepted. 107 would tie with Allegan at 11, just 1 bird behind Kalamazoo. We won't stay up there, but this is definitely the longest we have been in rarified air. Previous high is 112 by the end of March. We should go well beyond that. At 87 birds I should be able to surpass my previous high pace by end of March of 92. There are still 20 birds I've not seen yet that are on the county list, with only 2 of them probably not happening.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)