Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
One of my birding goals this year was to get #230 for the county prior to the end of the year. The later in the year not only is time starting to run out, but the list of potential candidates dwindles quickly. At this point in the year it really comes down to some wild waterfowl, or winter finches. The waterfowl likely requiring runs to Duck Lake, and the finches potentially being as easy as picking them up at the feeder.
Runs to Homer on 11/25 showed the Cackling Geese continuing, and Duck Lake gave up another Long-tailed Duck. This is the 4th one this season. One other candidate would be a Snowy Owl, from this year's irruption to show up. On November 27th, one did show up in Albion. Unfortunately there was no way for me to run over there that day, so I had to take the following morning off to try to chase it (I had to burn a 1/2 day anyway). After over 46 miles of driving around the area that morning, I had no luck. I kept searching on the way to Homer, and back up to Duck Lake with no luck. The Long-tailed Duck continued this morning. The Snowy did make number 217 for Calhoun this year, making it the best number for the county ever.
Got up late on the 2nd of December, and rather than my typical route of Homer and back up to Duck Lake, I decided to hit Duck Lake first. Mojo seemed to be back, as I pulled up to the boat launched, glassed a group of Buffleheads and saw an odd looking duck mixed in. I recognized that odd billl, lighter cheeks with darker crown and realized we finally had a county first Black Scoter. For me, #230 for the county. It also started out a big day for me as I tied my high for a December day with 42 species.
The Scoter continued into Sunday when I found it along with the Long-tailed Duck, and was reported as late as 12/9 with 10 other people getting the chance to see it. I was able to witness the diagnostic wing stretch the Black Scoter does.
My next chance to do birding, after a family trip, was the Battle Creek CBC on 12/16. 29 species wasn't too bad of a day. Most important of all was picking up the Peregrine Falcon downtown on my second attempt. After spending 30 minutes with the Freedom Top off of the Jeep in the morning, I swung back down there around 11:30, pulled back the driver side, looked up and off the building flies on of the Peregrines. Mission accomplished. Some other highlights were 2 pair of Carolina Wrens, and a Swamp Sparrow. After heading back home for a bit, I headed back out to try to see if Duck Lake had any open water. Especially after hearing the birds being seen on Gull Lake still.
Beadle Lake had very little water, but there were over 360 Canada Geese, and 3 Bald Eagles feeding off of possibly another. On the way to Duck Lake, I finally snagged a flock of Snow Bunting (mixed with Horned Lark), and a single Lapland Longspur mixed in with them. Duck Lake had a very small patch of water surrounded by over 400 Canada Geese, 5 Mute Swan, and a lone American Coot trying to keep its food away from the Geese. 2 FOY birds pushed me up to 195 for the year. Not bad for not really trying for a Big Year this year.
I still wanted a Snowy Owl, so I headed out this morning, heading to the South as I hoped to also snag a Rough-legged Hawk for the year. The Mojo continued as I took a chance down 8.5 Mile Road that dead-ended, and happened upon a FOY Merlin perched atop a telephone pole. That was followed shortly by a Rough-legged atop another telephone pole, not quite in my normal spot on 6 Mile Road near Branch county border. 2 FOY again, not bad at all. I still hoped to find a Snowy, so worked some of the farms around that area with another Roughie showing up around W DR S and 2 Mile Road. I went to Pine Creek Wetlands to see what would show up....and....it was nothing.
I decided to head back home searching along the way for a Snowy. I briefly thought I had a Bobwhite, or some other quail. Quickly realized it had to be something domestic. Especially after I noticed the red domestic chicken behind it, and an unfortunately flattened one in the middle of the road. After doing a lap around that area, I came up on the same bird, but with now the other chicken also flattened in the road. Turned out this bird was a Helmeted Guineafowl.
Shortly after this, on the way home, I had an e-mail message saying a Snowy Owl was sighted near R DR N and 20.5 Mile Road. Naturally in the opposite part of the county I had been looking. I busted tail up there, took P DR N deciding to check around the area first to see if it may have moved. On 21 Mile Road I scoped for it, as that road is a bit less traveled, with still no luck. Decided to go to the GPS coordinates and sure enough this very dark shape was sitting out in the farm field about 100 yards from the road. A heavily barred 1st year Owl was just sitting there moving occasionally. 5th FOY bird in the last 24 hours. Sitting at 198, it will still be hard to catch 2 more (especially with Duck Lake frozen) and hit 200 the 2nd year in a row.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)