[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
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.
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My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)