Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
Hard to think about goals for this year for the county, knowing the available birds are getting harder and harder to locate. As I wrote last time I saw 8 new ones, and dipped on 7 others. So I do believe getting to 235 is within reach. Not sure I am going to stretch that too much farther. I also think I will try to get to the #300 ABA, and with no out of state travel plans this year I will need to be more willing to just head somewhere else in the state to pick up those 6 (or less) birds. So 235/300 will be what I am aiming at for the year.
Most of the beginning of the year was focused on trying to achieve my other goal of seeing daylight at home every day. It did allow me to catch birds on the feeder, and start out the year with an eBird checklist every day. It brought nothing very interesting except the normal winter birds. It wasn't until Saturday the 6th I went to head out and spooked a Red-tailed Hawk into the trees. I watched it fly up, and then stepped back inside after turning the Jeep on remotely. I looked back out in the yard and saw what I thought was a pile of leaves, which was odd considering the amount of snow we have. Suddenly a second Hawk flew up from the ground and headed up into the trees. I grabbed my binoculars and observed a dead squirrel in the spot the hawk had been. So at least one of them had some good hunting.
After heading out I decided to check out the state of the river in the area. Very frozen everywhere I looked. Not much hope for some winter waterfowl. I decided to continue to try to find my first self-found Snowy and hit up the G DR S area. Upon heading down E DR S I observed a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree, possibly abieticola, but too far away to tell. A little bit farther down I had a large bird with a dihedral flying above a farm field. Now oddly enough the expected bird this time of the year that would be similar would be a Golden Eagle. Which of course I'd have to say "Where were you a week ago?". Alas it start rocking slightly in flight, and the bright flight feathers meant I had a January Turkey Vulture. Something I never expected to see this time of the year. It beat my earliest sighting by over 2 months. Shortly after that a Bald Eagle came floating across the same field.
On January 7th I stopped at Bridges Park after seeing some Mallards in the small amount of open water there. FOY Mallards, and a very hardy Belted Kingfisher were there. I then hit my main target of Grever's Nature Preserve. I will likely be hitting this area up at least once every weekend this winter. Red Crossbills were observed in Jackson county, and this Preserve has a small collection of conifers. It is likely my best bet for any of the winter finches. I took some trails I've not taken before, and one took me back to an area overlooking a large wetland area, where I had a FOY Song Sparrow. This Preserve has some very promising areas I've not been too before and I look forward to hitting it up this Spring and Summer. I'm especially intrigued by the wetland area. I knew there was one back there, but didn't realize the Preserve had trails that could take me back to it. Always trying to think of places to find American Bitterns, Least Bitterns and other wetland birds.
Grever's gave up a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Pileated Woodpecker. A large group of Crows near the Landfill caused me to stop there and see what action, if any was going on. The Crows were joined by Starlings, a lone Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle. No Gulls there at all. Hitting up the northern part of the Count of Snowys brought me a FOY Rough-legged Hawk on T DR N. The nice spot on O DR N gave up a flock of Snow Buntings, but not Longspurs.
From there I worked my way down to the Kalamazoo River and 25 1/2 Mile Road to try to finally get a Canada Goose for the year. I was sick of the eBird alerts for one of the easiest birds. That and to check to see what else may be on the River. On B DR N, near the Longspur spot from last month I found no snow birds, but did locate a group of Mallards with one American Black Duck mixed in. The River did give up a single Goose and some Common Goldeneyes. One last bird of note was a Hairy Woodpecker in the yard on the 7th. It never stopped on the suet, just landed on the tree long enough to ID it, and then it was off.
Sitting at 35 birds for the year. Not a bad start, and maybe a chance for hitting record of 48 from 2016. Something potentially to shoot for. Would probably take quite the effort though, especially with little to no open water.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)