[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
I may have to break this update into two parts. Since last post I have had 45 FOY birds, with a possible review species, and a repeat review species thrown in there for good measure. It took a while for things to get going, but the week of 5/9 it really took off and took off quick.
Hercules and I have been able to get in some good walks at Brooks Nature Area. He loves to go swimming in a section that is open to Stuart Lake. I did get a FOY Marsh Wren that was very vocal from the lookout on 5/4. 5/5-5/6 I had a Red-headed Woodpecker show up to the feeders in the yard, which is not a very common sight. Also on the 6th I had a FOY trifecta of 3 birds I can't always count on every year. Especially when all 3 are breeding plumage males. Black-throated Blue Warbler, Purple Finch and Orchard Oriole (first time with fully-dressed Orchard Oriole).
May 7th, as we finished our walk, I saw a hawk gliding north. It struck me as somewhat Cooper's hawk-like, but I decided to snap some pics to confirm. I looked at them closer, and sure enough it was a FOY Broad-winged Hawk. I never really got a chance to get out and do any hawk-watching to see any big flights. May 8th got FOY Blue-winged Warbler, and the D DR S Marsh area paid off with a Sedge Wren calling. I also came across a juvenile Bald Eagle with what appeared to be a fox, or a cat. Very orangish color of whatever it was that it caught.
Monday May 9th started the first day that really flagged high for migration. That night of 5/8-5/9 BirdCast estimated almost 3.5 Million birds crossed the county. That morning also brought me a hefty 15 FOY birds. The most I have had on a single day, outside of January. This included 18 species of warbler including FOY Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Northern Parula, Cape May, Redstart, Tennessee and the highlight a Golden-winged Warbler. I also was able to catch a pic of an American Crow with some heavy-duty molting happening. I think this explains the Crow I saw prior that I thought had some leucistic markings under the wings similar to a Golden Eagle. I'm surprised the thing can even fly.
May 10th was another stellar day with 20 warbler species including great looks at a FOY Cerulean Warbler, and managing to snag a new bird for Woodland Park with a White-eyed Vireo briefly calling. Other FOY were a Mourning Warbler that gave me a brief view, and a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Made sense it would be a good day with 4.1 Million birds passing through overnight.
One other really great potential find during this time period was a very yellow Palm Warbler at Brooks on 5/4. Every since my submission to the MBRC was shot down in 2014, I make sure to try to get shots of any heavier yellow Palm Warbler. This bird stuck out for sure. It seems to tick all the boxes, with only concern being maybe some small patch of white in the vent. I looked at pics, and posted to Whatbird, and this doesn't seem to be an issue with Eastern (Yellow) Palm Warblers. It has the bright yellow supercilium, and the yellow eye-arcs along with yellow wash all the way down the body. I just need to take the time to do up the paperwork for it, and cross my fingers.
Will work on further updates for what was a great week for birding for me, and the county.
I went back out in a snowstorm on 5/18 to check on the Whimbrel status. The bird was much closer this time and I was able to get some better shots of it. I think around 15 people showed up for it. It being rare to have one in April helped and it stuck around till the 20th. The evening of the 19th Hercules and I went to Brooks Nature Area. I missed some stellar shots of a Bald Eagle as we weren't to the lookout yet when it was gliding around the lake. Another cool birding experience was watching a Merlin maneuver to pick off a swallow right along the surface of the lake.
After some significant rain the night of the 22nd I went back around N DR N/20.5 Mile and up 21 Mile to R DR N and over. There were fluddles all over the place, just not many birds. This would pay off in the following days though. I did manage a FOY Sora in the small cattail marsh that is on R DR N. I think I have had them in that spot a few other years. It is such a small spot for them, but it has been pretty consistently calling when stopping by there.
Hercules and I hit up Brooks the night of the 23rd and FOY were abounding with Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, House Wren and some very surprising Terns. Orange-crowned was a new early record for me. The light was not great on the Terns, but I could identify some really long tails on a few to make them Forster's Terns. I had 1 that I was pretty sure was a Common Tern. I went back on the 24th and got such better shots so put it in as a Common Tern. The body was grey looking, and the tail looked dark. Apparently the field guides don't reflect that the darkness on the tail is on either the outer web, or the inner web as a difference between the two.
The night of the 23rd I was really hyped for the next day. Between all the fluddles and the BirdCast forecast being high for that day I didn't sleep much. We had winds coming from the south, so I was able to "sleep" with the windows open. That combination lead to YardBird #158 as I heard a Greater Yellowlegs call out as it flew over. The forecast paid off with over 1.6 Million bird estimated to have crossed the county, and a peak of 239K birds in flight. I had 9 FOY birds on the 24th with Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, early flagged Eastern Kingbird and Green Heron at Woodland Park. The fluddles started to pay off with notification of 21 American Golden Plover on 21 Mile Road. The count ended up being 23 with one bird in full breeding plumage. That bird felt like a Lifer. Crossing back and forth checking for birds brought notification of a Dunlin right back across from the Plovers, and a Semipalmated Plover back on N DR N and 20.5 Mile. The fluddles continued to pay off with 2 different groups of 4 and 2 of Long-billed Dowitcher. I had 2 of the 4 as Short-billed, but they are so far away it is just based on their shape and size. I just received and e-mail tonight from Adam Byrne that they should probably go in as Dowitcher sp. It makes sense. Hard to give up those birds, but with rain all day today, maybe we still have a chance at some.
Chaos started back up, although honestly not as chaotic as what used to be, so yard birding was the prerogative on the 27th with a FOY Black-and-white Warbler giving good looks. Quick trips out to the fluddles showed them losing water quickly, and Brooks Nature Area was prioritized for walking Herc. We did manage to check out a marsh on D DR S that Brendan Klick had posted about on Discord. It paid off with 3 Sora and a Virginia Rail. He thinks it might be a good spot for American Bittern. I need to prioritize checking it out late at night, or early in the morning. Several Wilson's Snipe put on very active flight displays. 28th brought FOY Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a partially leucistic female Red-winged Blackbird. FOY Blue-gray Gnatcatcher showed up in the yard on the 29th. One other neat observation around this time was a Yellow-rumped Warbler actively eating from the feeder and on the ground under the seeds. Not too surprising considering how cold it got at the end of April.
The 30th ended up bing another big FOY day with Swainson's Thrush, Gray Catbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, at Woodland Park and Spotted Sandpiper at Homer. 4 more FOY on 5/1 with Woodland again providing 3 of the 4 in a Northern Waterthrush that was really very Louisiana-like, Wood Thrush and Ovenbird all within first 20 minutes and 100 yards of the entrance. Bobolinks were back at 23 Mile and 0 DR N. Latest FOY was Baltimore Orioles showing up in the yard on 5/2. One last very cool observation was a Blue Jay making a perfect Broad-winged Hawk call. As you can see in the animation below the yellow is an overlay of a snapshot from a Broad-winged Hawk call on MacAuley library, and the grey is the Blue Jay making the same call. The Merlin app can usually do a good job distinguishing the Blue Jay hawk imitation, but it even called this a Broad-winged.
Trip with Hercules to Brooks on 5/1 showed off 3 more Terns with much better looks this time. All 3 were Forster's Terns with on in non-breeding plumage, which I think at this point means it was a bird born last summer and hasn't reached maturity yet. The tail was also very short compared to the adult breeding plumage birds. Hercules also spooked up a Spotted Sandpiper which was a new bird for Brooks. Looking at birds Brooks doesn't have I think Kiehl Smith's prediction it could be the #1 hotspot in the county could probably come true with some focus during migration as it is 14 behind Whitehouse. I managed another Dunlin out on the large flooded area on 5/1 with a Pectoral. It was really the only spot with any water on that day. May have to run out tomorrow and see if today's rain filled them back up.
Quite a few records this year have been new early records for me. Weird migration weather has really caused some spurts and then long days of less than ideal conditions for the birds.
The past week has been surprisingly filled with some notable milestones, and ending with a truly incredible find. I've passed 1200 days of checklist streak on eBird. I've passed 5,000 complete checklists. I've focused on getting some audio updated and passed 100 species with audio uploaded. Finally managed a 40 species day in the yard, with 43 on 4/5. Best of all I managed a county first Whimbrel!!! Could not believe I found that bird here.
Mid-April should be the start of shorebirds showing up. D DR S is filled up, so no shot there. On 4/9 I checked out the N DR N/20.5 Mile road fluddles and managed a FOY Lesser Yellowlegs. Also finally had Osprey show up on the F DR N Cell Tower. There isn't much of the nest there, but I've now had 2 of them there. Managed to catch them in the act also. So hopefully they have another successful nest this year. On 23.5 Mile Road fluddle there were no shorebirds, but there was a young Tundra Swan on its own. I found it again there this weekend, and it isn't for a good reason. The bird apparently has an injured leg.
A jaunt around the county on 4/10 I managed first Yellow-dumped Warbler for the year at Woodland Park. The Airport also gave up a Virginia Rail. A drive down P DR N I caught sight of a raptor soaring over the farm field. I thought for sure it was a Cooper's Hawk as it had a longish tail. It bowed its wings though, so I started trying to get some snaps of it. It never really showed pale crescents underneath, but it did show them up top. It was a FOY Red-shouldered Hawk!! Just down from there I listened to a Brown Thrasher singing, and a very odd Sparrow song. It didn't sound exactly like a Song Sparrow, so I grabbed Merlin and recorded it. It ID'ed it as a Vesper Sparrow. I may not know there call, but I could tell it was different. A quick run to Woodland Park on 4/11 netted me a FOY Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This got me to 110 species for the year. Still well behind my pace of last year.
The Wild Turkeys have started showing up in force, and the males have been putting on a show right under the bird feeders this week. That has been a nice distraction for both Hercules and I. On 4/16 I headed to Woodland Park hoping to catch some early migrants. I ended up getting a little too frustrated with the constant airplanes circling overhead, so left after less than 90 minutes. I hit up the airport for FOY Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Great Egret, and then ran out to N DR N/20.5 Mile road. I was rewarded with some great looks at American Wigeon pair, multiple Yellowlegs and Wilson Snipe. There was a smaller shorebird way out in the distance. It was likely a Pectoral Sandpiper, but nothing else came near it close enough to gauge size. I also had a FOY Ring-necked Pheasant calling in the distance.
Duck Lake gave me FOY Barn Swallow and Purple Martin, but not much else was on the water. Hercules and I then headed to Grever's Nature Preserve as I wanted to try for Pine Warbler. It didn't take long and we located one singing. Shortly after that Hercules made me super proud. We were walking back by the Bluebird nests and I caught sight of a falcon taking flight. I said "Stop" and he immediately stopped, allowing me to get my binoculars on the bird and confirm it was a FOY Merlin. He used to just keep pulling and inevitably I would lose sight of whatever I was trying to look at. He has been getting really good at stopping and coming back to me. We then ran down to Homer and caught sight of a FOY Double-crested Cormorant. This was my 8th FOY bird for the day. After getting back home I realized I was tied with my high for a Big Day in April at 82 species. We ran out again, late and headed downtown figuring I could nab some Rock Pigeons to get to 83. No dice. Went to the airport thinking maybe some Trumpeter Swans would be there. No luck. Last chance was D DR S as there have been some big groups reported there. Luckily before I got there, 15 Trumpies were having out in a farm field. Long day, but for mid-April with no big migrant push I thought 83 was still impressive.
This morning I almost didn't go out. There were some things I could do around here, and was a little tired still from the day before, plus a rough night of sleep. I eventually decided to at least run out to N DR N/20.5 Mile Road just to check on it. Birdcast didn't show any movement through the area. It didn't show the night before, but I still had 8 FOY yesterday, so figured I would try for it. I pulled up on N DR N and scanned and nothing. Not a single shorebird, except some Killdeer were to be seen. Plenty of Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler. I moved over to 20.5, and still found not shorebirds. I did have a nice moment where the trip wasn't a waste, as I had FOY Northern Pintail pair. I was worried I'd have to struggle to locate them in the fall. I did get a couple of Yellowlegs that flew in. I pulled up to the parking area on the curve and got out one last time to just scan things. I noticed this really large shorebird wandering around way out in the farthest mudflat. I initially thought maybe it was a duck as it had a very different gait to it. Looking more with my binoculars I thought maybe it was just a Greater Yellowlegs, even though it looked bigger. It didn't move around like a Yellowlegs though. I got out the tripod and snapped some pics to try to see if I could get a look at it. One pic managed to show a down curved bill. A freaking Whimbrel!!! My pics were horrible, but at least identifiable.
This is the first time time this bird has been seen in Calhoun County, and the only nearby county to have a report is Kalamazoo. Later after looking through eBird it came in to focus how very odd this bird is being here right now. Looks like this is only the 3rd April record for Michigan in eBird. The Species Map for this year is also very bizarre as a Tiscornia Park bird from 4/5 is the only other far inland record this year. This bird would be the farthest north bird for the Eastern half of the U.S. There is no reason for this bird to be here, especially after the less than favorable winds lately. Just an amazing bird to find now. Wasn't even on my radar. To cap things off our walk at Brooks Nature Area nabbed an FOY, and early record for me of Palm Warbler.
I managed to end the weekend with 11 FOY, and 89 total species. This vaulted me up to 121 for the year, even with last years high pace. Things will slip up this week as some birds I've already seen are going to add on to last years numbers. Now sitting at #247 birds with the Ruff still waiting a MBRC vote, so one more bird closer to my goal of #250.
Doesn't feel like over a month since last post, but there has been quite a bit that happened in the past month. Still running behind last years pace. Not sure it is entirely lack of effort on my parts. Last year by end of March there were 127 species seen in the county. This year, only 117 at end of March. I think that may be the case for most of the state, with the crazy weather we have had. If we had 127 species this year, we would be around 7th in the state.
March 2nd I may have had a Red-shouldered Hawk flyover the house. The bird was moving so fast, and in a tuck I couldn't count it. I continue to see occasionally white-winged variants of the Slate-colored Junco. Feels like it might be more than 1 out of every 200, as I seem to get at least one every year. On March 10th an e-mail came out from Christopher Peet that a Snowy Owl was at the airport. I booked out there at lunchtime and drove to E Airport Road to see if it may have moved. After not seeing anything there, I went over to S Airport Road where it had been seen. After driving up the road and seeing nothing I turned back around, and just happened to notice a rounded top of a small snow pile. Sure enough this Owl had found a very small snow pile to hide from the crows. It has been a long wait to get another Snowy in the county.
On March 12th I caught a quick glimpse of a Cooper's Hawk going after some feeder birds. The birds came right towards the picture window, and up over the roof. I'd heard recently about Cooper's Hawks having learned to steer birds towards windows. Another interesting raptor interaction was this young Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead with its alula feathers spread out very prominently.
March 16th, right on schedule Brooks Nature Area was full of American Woodcock calling. I counted at least 7, which flagged as high on eBird. I took Hercules back with me the next night to try to get some night vision pics or videos, but had trouble getting them spotted.
March 20th brought one of the best experiences of birding so far. I checked a fluddle on 23 Mile Road, north of J DR N. It has been there for a while, so thought I would just check if there were some early shorebirds. I was shocked to see a small sandpiper bobbing up and down in the small fluddle. I had seen reports of Spotted Sandpipers already showing up in Michigan and initially I thought I had one. When I got the scope on it, I realized it had spots on its back. It was a Solitary Sandpiper!!! About 10 days earlier than the first March record in Michigan we had last year at D DR S. Crazy early bird, obviously helped along with all the southerly winds we had been experiencing.
Not a whole lot of other highlights lately. Was able to record some audio of Blue-winged Teal, and it was the first audio of them on eBird for Michigan. Things are going to pick up more with Chaos in the coming weeks, so probably will keep things slowed down. Hopefully the birds don't hold up for too much longer.
Not having a confirmation on this bird has bugged me for over 6 years. Similar size to nearby HERG, but a definitively darker mantle no matter what angle it was at. Pink legs, or I'd question if it was a California. This bird was sighted on 11/10/2015. I have two versions of most photos, one underdeveloped to show there is some streaking on the head.
I've been putting this off longer than I normally would have. Especially when an incredibly rare county bird shows up. The morning of Saturday the 19th I lost my long-time little girl, Angeline. After we got back from the U.P. she started have some more issues related to her heart murmur. After a week on the medicine she seemed like a new dog. More alert, even doing some running. Like she was a back to only having one bad leg, not too. We battled through a UTI a couple weeks after and seemed to have that behind us. About a week prior she started to cough again, and a couple days later found out she had pneumonia also. We tried antibiotics to get it kicked, but she gradually went downhill to where she wouldn't eat. Saturday morning after trying to get some medicine in her she went to meet Big Sis Abby in Doggie Heaven. Even more than a week later I still miss her so much. She was the sweetest dog I have ever known. She really deserved a better life than she had. Herc has been doing a good job trying to keep me distracted and seems to be much more attached to me this past week.
My birding continued to be very limited as I didn't want to be very far from her while she was trying to fight through everything. White-winged Crossbills have showed up nearby, and those haven't been reported since 1923 on eBird from historical records. I have checked the Burr Oak Cemetary in Athens a couple of times as there is a good cone crop. No luck there, but I did get this really different Red-tailed Hawk on 2/12. Not sure this is an abieticola, as there isn't much streaking. That super buffy coloring under the wing though is not normal for the borealis around here. I've gotten no third party feedback on it though.
On 2/13 I finally got my FOY Red-headed Woodpecker. On 2/17 I briefly caught a glimpse of a Cooper's Hawk nabbing a European Starling in mid-air. Some rough pics of it on a branch with the bird. On Monday the 21st Amy Lyyski had White-winged Crossbills at Huntington Hills subdivision. I tried for them but it wasn't meant to be. A Cooper's Hawk greeted me at the entrance. A vehicle was behind me when I saw a glimpse of a bird at the top of a tree, so I couldn't stop. Then when I turned around a couple walking their dog down the road were blocking me from trying to get there. Once I did, no bird. I did manage a FOY Red-winged Blackbird back home though. The Eastern Towhee continued through the 15th (and then again today I heard it calling).
A therapy walk on 2/23 got a FOY Great Blue Heron at Bridges Park as it flew in to roost for the night. Finally on the 24th Herc and I took a lunch and went back to try to see the Crossbills. We pulled into the tennis courts and I spotted a bird at the top of a tree across the street. Put my binoculars on it, and sure enough a White-winged Crossbill!! I flew as I started to snap pics though. I started to drive out, and then decided to make another lap around. Stopped again at the tennis courts and this time I saw 4 birds, and 1 stayed right at the top long enough to get some decent enough shots. This made bird #246 for the county. Never imagined I could get that many birds here when I started. My potential goal of getting to top 200 in Michigan may take a backseat to trying to get bird #250 for the county.
Finally on the 27th at Riverside Cemetary/Albion Millpond I spotted 6 Cackling Geese mixed in with some Canada. I thought maybe I missed out on this bird for this season. I did not manage to see the Snow Goose that has been here off and on. That may be a tough one to try to get still this year. I'm still way behind my pace for last year (72/83), and missed February high number from last year, by quite a bit (61/73). Both those numbers are still well above any high prior to last year. So if I don't insist on traveling all over the state to get to 300, I should still be able to get around 200 in the County again.
As I stated above though, I think my focus is going to be to try to get #250 this year. I do still have the "Ruff" that hasn't been voted on by the MBRC yet. I'm not counting on it though. That would mean I need to try for 4 more birds after the Crossbill. Target species according to eBird are:
It has been a very weird start to the year for the county. Somehow I am still at same pace as last years best. The county is running better than last years best pace also. Some really rare over-wintering birds have popped up so far this year. We had a mild start to the year so lakes were still open.
Mine in bold
As I mentioned I had a couple of American Wigeons on the backwater here, my first January record of them, and first county January record. I also added Bufflehead, Gadwall, Swamp Sparrow, Canvasback and White-crowned Sparrow to my January list. Open water to start the year, definitely helped this out. The Swamp Sparrow was sighted while doing the Albion CBC.
On Jan 15 had a large flock of Snow Buntings at 6 Mile road. My single frame count was 218, with likely more outside the frame. Also on the 15th at Pine Creek Wetlands I had some of my best shots of a great looking Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk. On Jan 22nd I finally caught the large flock of Lapland Longspurs on B DR N in Albion. I had a frame count of 203, with likely even more outside the frame. I believe this is the largest flock we have had reported in the county.
This winter seems to be a little lighter on the action at the feeders. Only a handful of accipiter passes at the feeder so far this year. On 2/1 I had a Red-tailed Hawk make an amazing pass at the feeder as I looked out. I could hear the air flowing over its wings from inside, and it was angled about 80 degrees to the ground. it didn't nab anything though. The next day I had my first Sharp-shinned Hawk for the year. I noticed it only because I happened to glance outside and noticed nothing was at the feeder. A shape in the trees caught my eye. I initially though Mourning Dove till I noticed it was sitting upright. Sure enough a Sharpie was monitoring the feeders. It took off after a bird up in another tree, then proceeded to hide in some other trees to the south. Shortly after dogs had to go out, and Angeline booked out towards the feeders. I didn't see the hawk, so I think she spooked it. It was while we were out there Herc was sniffing around a small cedar near the feeders. Out popped an adult male Eastern Towhee. I had no optics on me so I recorded it as Eastern Towhee. It was only after that I thought Spotted Towhee could be a possibility in the winter. Luckily it showed back up, and I was able to get pics to nail the ID. Really great bird for this time of the year, not super rare, but still good.
On 2/5 I finally got over to Whitehouse and nabbed the Fox Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow (my first Feb record). I didn't find the Hermit Thrush, but really didn't put in a great effort either. On the 6th I finally got a Turkey Vulture as I headed south on M-66 to Athens. Bald Eagles were all over the place down there. I had somewhere between 5-7 of them around the Athens area. On 2/9 I had my earliest record for Common Grackle for the year.
The highlight for the 9th, and for the year, was a fluke flyover. The dogs just happened to drag me outside, and fortuitously had my binocs on me. I noticed a large bird gliding over heading south. I put my binoculars on it, and two large white patched under its wings made it an easy ID. #155 for the yard, Golden Eagle!!! It is likely the same juvenile that has been seen just south of here once, and also several times North of Marshall near the R DR N area. What a great bird to get for the yard count!!
I'm really surprised I am at where I am so far as I've not been able to get out as much as I'd like. I've had a couple weekends I never went out, and several just going out one day. Angeline has had some health issues since we got back from up North, so have been trying to keep an eye on her as much as possible. She seems better, but still day to day on symptoms so future outings will hinge on how she is. Still want to target crossbills though. My list of possible birds to add to county list is really dwindling down. Getting harder to add new one, and either crossbill would be a new one.
Been a long time getting to this post. Will have to get a catch up of 2022 up shortly also. December 26th the pups and I headed up to a VRBO north of Cheboygan. Intent was to look around the Eastern U.P. for birds and property. Fairly successful on the first, not so much on the second. The pups handled the 4.5 hour drive fairly well, only having to stop once. Neither one have been on a vacation like this before. Been a long time since I've been on a vacation like this.
Not much happening on the 27th as the wind and snow was pretty brutal after having exceptional weather for the drive up. The morning of the 28th started off great as we got ready to head over the bridge. I heard some really odd calls and looked up on the pine trees of the rental. There was a Blue Jay calling, and these birds looked nearly as big as Blue Jays, but wrong shape. I finally got my binoculars out and sure enough lifer Pine Grosbeaks!!! Didn't even leave the driveway. Got some acceptable photos to boot. I didn't realize they were such a big bird.
I drove around some odd back roads not really caring where I was going. Ran into a few flocks of Common Redpolls. Very skittish, and unable to locate and potential Hoary. Downtown Dafter gave me even better looks at some Pine Grosbeaks. After much driving around, and turning around at roads that were closed down due to being seasonal only, I finally arrived at Dafter Dump. Absolutely love that place. Gull heaven!! I stayed out on the road, not realizing it looks like you can access inside lower level. It was okay. Might b the highest number of Herring Gulls I've ever seen. I nabbed at least 2 Iceland Gulls, a single Ring-billed Gull (apparently rarish), 4 Glaucous Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull. A bunch of Bald Eagles and Common Ravens.
More backroads and I located some Grouse out in a field. After getting some pics and consulting my Sibley guide I figured out there were lifer Sharp-tailed Grouse. Of course any Grouse would have been lifers for me. I had 12 of them actively feeding out in a field.
I made my way down to the Rudyard area looking for Snowy Owls. The "Loop" of Hantz and Centerline didn't disappoint. I had 2 Snowy Owls on my drive down Hantz, along with 2 Lapland Longspurs that tagged as rare. One of the latest dates in eBird for them in Chippewa County. They were mixed in with 240 plus Snow Bunting. Centerline brought on 3 more Snowy Owls. Then it was time to head back.
The 29th was to be a day with the dogs as I was going to take them to Wilderness Park to hike around. As I was loading up the truck again I head really odd calls and saw some large flocks up in the pine trees. I thought maybe they were Crossbills, but they took off before I could get some glass on them. Big bummer. Luckily they came back and was able to see my lifer White-winged Crossbills. A nice big flock of at least 48!!! Again I was able to snag some decent enough pics of them. 2 lifers and we never left the driveway.
The drive over we ran into some more Pine Grosbeaks. They were all over the place. The walk was a nice walk, and the dogs loved it. At one point they spooked up some Grouse. Very quick looks at them, but had to be Ruffed Grouse. Another lifer. Unfortunately couldn't get any pics of them.
The 30th we headed back over the bridge. Again the Loop around Rudyard really didn't disappoint. Hantz road had 5 Snowy Owls!!! Centerline had 2 more. Found another one heading in to Rudyard, along with a Sharp-tailed Grouse up in the tree of a house on Highway 48. Another 2 Snowy further north on Centerline. Again I did some driving around random roads, and came across a Northern Shrike on Kinross Road. Dafter Dump was a little rough as it was heavy snow for a while there. I counted 40 Bald Eagles, as a minimum hanging out there. Absolutely amazing number. Heading back to the bridge we ran back along some back road to Rudyard and came across what felt like a lifer to me. A almost pure white adult male Snowy Owl!!! It was such an awesome sighting I turned back around and took more pics of it. One more Snowy flew across I-75 and landed in a Pine Tree as we were heading back South. A very cool sighting to end the day.
Definitely loved the experience. I got 7 FOY birds, and 4 lifers on that trip. Biggest dip was Bohemian Waxwings. Never managed to find them. Now they haunt my Michigan needs list nearly daily. Really hoping I can manage to get a place up there to make it a little easier to bird up there more often. A ton of places I still didn't even get to there.
2021 is in the bag, and it turned out to be the best County year ever. 212 birds for myself, and I only dipped on 10 as we got to 222 for the year. I took a trip up North from 12/26 to 12/31, and will do a separate post on that once I get through my pics. It may have cost me another bird as this afternoon a Great Black-backed Gull was reported at Duck Lake by Amy Lysski.
A White-throated Sparrow on the B.C. CBC flagged as rare on 12/18. The CBC started out great, but then my species count stalled out. Heavy snow at times didn't help things. On 12/23 I finally snagged a Red-necked Grebe at Duck Lake. Bird was way across the lake, but unmistakeable. Long bill, long neck and big head with some red on it. This ended up being my last County bird for the year. A new high of 212. 6 more species than my previous high. The adult and 2nd Winter Lesser Black-backed Gull were also out there on the 23rd. The Grebe continued for me until my last trip to Duck Lake on 12/25.
On the 24th I dipped up to Eaton County, maybe 5 miles from the county line to get a FOY Greater White-fronted Geese on Narrow Lake. I was close to my high for the year in Michigan, a paltry 220. The Geese were #217 for the year in Michigan. That and wanting to check out some properties up north prompted me to haul the puppies up north to check for some year birds, and lifers. I'll discuss the Up North separately. Today on 1/1 I had my first January recored of American Wigeon, with 2 mixed in with Mallards in the backwater.
2021 really did turn out to be an incredible year for the bird, despite the interruptions from Chaos. We finally got over 220 birds for the County, after hitting 218 twice. New month birds were
I added 5 new county lifers for the year, and potentially lost one or gained one depending on the outcome of a submission for Ruff, in place of Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
Not sure how we can top 2021. I'll have to work on my spreadsheet and see what of the 321 birds seen around the area, still haven't been reported here. Really was a great year, and who knows what will happen in 2022. I may dip outside of the county more as I'd like to see if I can get into the top 200 for the State.
As is usual for this time of the year, FOY are few and far between. The trip to Duck Lake is already getting a bit tiring. I took some time off on 12/1 and 12/2. I got some really good looks at a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull on Duck Lake on the 2nd. This is for sure the 3rd individual we have had in the past couple of months. Maybe even the 4th individual. We had the 1st winter bird (1st pic), an adult bird (2nd pic), and an advanced second winter bird (possibly two of these but pics are bad for one of them).
Morning of 12/3 I discovered a bunch of Mourning Dove feathers, so looks like maybe something had a very early breakfast under the feeders. I am close to my pitiful high number for a year in Michigan of 220. I decided I would head to Tiscornia Park to see if I could add a few birds. It was sunny, but horribly windy out. The only waterfowl seen was some Common Mergansers way out over the water flying by. A few gulls were present, but Great Black-backed Gulls were the only FOY birds for me. I decided to head to Warren Dunes for the Townsend's Solitaire. Second time I have tried for one of the birds that has showed up there. Again I dipped on it.
Ran back out to Duck Lake evening of the 4th, but nothing really of note there. A gull seemed to be struggling with something way across the lake. I'm not sure if it just was being stubborn with some food, or was in trouble. It didn't look good as it kept try to flap its wings apparently to fly, but couldn't get off the water. The White-winged Scoters continued there in the same spot they are always at. Must be good feeding over on that side of the lake.
On the way back from Duck Lake I swung by the J DR N field that Kiehl Smith had the Short-eared Owl earlier this year. After maybe 10 minutes I glassed a Short-eared Owl wayyyyyyy out in the field. I couldn't get my camera on it, as it was still so dark out there I couldn't get on it. The bird flapped around, like a moth, for maybe 1 minute or so, and then I never caught it up again. That pushed me to 211 for the year. Running out of days to get to 215.
This was my first December Shortie, and I was able to add 3 more new December birds for the county. 12/5 a Winter Wren briefly called at Lake of the Woods, a couple of American Wigeon on Duck Lake WTP, and Green-winged Teal on Winnipeg Lake.
12/7 a young Cooper's Hawk took a shot at the feeders. As it sat on a branch looking around a Downy Woodpecker was frozen on a broken limb maybe 20 feet from the Hawk, but just out of view. The tail was so raggedy on this bird, it was the flight really that just gave it away, as the head in my pics looked a little round. Coops always seem so straight-lined when they fly from spot to spot, Sharpies look like a P-51 with a Zero on there tail.
Night of 12/7 as I got some exercise walking laps around my yard I managed to have at least 27 Trumpeter Swans fly overhead into Beadle Lake. I think there were more off in the distance that were farther south flying in there. 12/10 I had the same thing happen, but this time with 52 Swans coming over. One group has 24 in it!!
Also on 12/7 I had this female Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon ssp.) under the feeder for a short while. One day wonder bird though. As of today, still doesn't show confirmed yet though.
The new birding vehicle is working out great. It is roomier, and more comfortable than the Jeep was. The moonroof allows me to look up, even in the chilliest of weather. The gas mileage is a little bit better. Really haven't had any bad weather to see how it works out in that. Looking forward to doing more birding in it this winter.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)