Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
Evening of 7/2 I received and eBird alert that a Northern Mockingbird was reported on 23.5 Mile Road between H & K DR S by Dr. Dale Kennedy. This bird has been a nemesis for the past 4 years, but I had to wait for July 4th to try to chase it. This location is near the site the Dickcissels were first seen this year. Unfortunately the bird was nowhere to be seen while I was there just after 7 a.m. I had been at that same location on 7/2 about 12 hours prior, so almost a double dip. A single Bobolink made an appearance, a couple of days later than the "Big Day".
It was a nice day, so I figured I would check out some areas I've not been around too much. A little farther North on 23.5 Mile is a small farm that was extremely active. American Kestrels (4) were observed flying around, or perched in nearby trees. As I was there with the top down on the Jeep trying to get a speedy American Kestrel in the frame a Red-headed Woodpecker appeared on a nearby tree. A second one was seen minutes later on a telephone pole. Unfortunately as I had increased my exposure compensation to catch pics of the partially backlit Red-headed Woodpecker, I blew some potential great shots of an American Kestrel flying off with its bounty. If I had to guess I would say it was a House Sparrow in its clutches. This is my first time seeing a Kestrel with a bird as its prey.
From there I headed to one of my favorite spots. It hasn't necessarily yielded a whole lot of birds, but it is a dirt road with some decent habitat. N DR S between 23 Mile Road and 20 Mile Road. A nice surprise was a location I thought was going under some construction, the last time I was there is marked as a Wetland Conservation Easement location. Honestly not sure what that entails, but I will be keeping an eye on it. Always looking for potential shorebird habitat around here. I did manage 28 species within a 2 mile stretch though. Very lively down this road.
From there I decided to hit the extreme Southern end of the County. I drove along W DR S, picking to head into the sun for some reason. This is farmland with some mixed spots of hardwoods and drainage ditches. Tree Swallows covered the telephone lines. Another Red-headed Woodpecker made an appearance on a telephone pole. I've had some good luck with them in the past week. A very young Red-tailed Hawk was seen, and heard, with a nearby adult that was none too happy with me stopping. I was able to witness briefly nature at its most brutal. Life and death struggle of a small bird trying to evade a Cooper's Hawk. I've seen Coops in a flat flight, but this was a whole other experience seeing one zip from side to side and around a tree going well past 90 degrees on its wing plane. From there I went down S County Line road heading West again. Red-eyed Vireos, Willow Flycatcher and even more Tree Swallows were there, among the 22 seen.
From there I decided to head to Brooks Nature Area. I needed to get out and walk for a bit, and also was hopeful for some butterflies to photograph. A quick, and fly filled walk started out with Marsh Wrens closer to the first bench, but still no photos or birds seen. They remain a heard only for me. A young Yellow Warbler gave me some good looks, as did 3 young Baltimore Orioles. The sun was a little high but the Tree Swallows were teasing me to try to take pictures of them in flight. Managed a few halfway decent shots. Definitely would have been a bit better in a lower sun. I also managed a shot of a Widow Skimmer dragonfly, and a Baltimore Checkerpoint butterfly there.
After 2 days of July I had seen 80 birds. Never though that was possible, especially when my high for a single day during migration is 81. Guess things aren't so bad in July when it comes to the birds. Have to wonder if it is possible to see 100 birds in total this July. Of the 101 that I have seen in total for July (Marsh Wren being the latest), there really are not any super rare birds. Alder Flycatcher and Grasshopper Sparrow being the only code 3 birds.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)