[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Yes I am back-dating the next few posts, as I try to catch up from back-to-back Sunday night dates with Chaos. Luckily I've had some really good birding days, for me, the past few weeks. Now let's jump in the Way-back Machine all the way to February 21st.....
I'll try to do a wrap up on the weekend of the 20th. With some actual sunshine being forecast, and no snow on the ground, I decided to hit up Baker Sanctuary. Two days prior, on the Michigan Audubon's newly acquired Isham Property some Common Redpolls were reported. I also had hopes, with the wide open skies, to catch a Golden Eagle maybe. I got Eagles, but it was the resident pair off in the distance. A FOY Song Sparrow was fairly easy to spot in the open area. I had some momentary excitement when a large flock of birds flew from the ground. The sun was not in a favorable direction to fully identify at the time. As I returned to that same area, there were large numbers of American Tree Sparrows. So I am pretty sure that is what I spooked earlier. 2 pairs of Trumpeter Swans were on the small pond, with one pair flying off after a short time there. Looks like maybe the local pair is claiming their nest area already. Redpolls shall continue to be a nemesis bird for me in the county. Oh and I finally got a freaking Herring Gull....Gulls have not been good for me this year so far.
Fairview Cemetery/Homer WTP turned out to be a dud, with just some Canada Geese and Mallards on the water. It was a nice day out, with some early, but common birds added to the Year list.
I decided that I would hit up the Pine Creek Wetlands on Sunday the 21st. This spot is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots. I will probably bird this area fairly heavy this coming year. I'd like to think I can get some nice marsh birds here. My decision paid off quickly...as in within 15 minutes I was greeted by this juvenile Bald Eagle cruising out over the marsh heading South.
As I looked away from this guy I spotted a second Eagle out over the marsh circling around. I thought "Ah there is his sibling again". I'd seen this pair of juvenile Eagles there before flying around together. I brought up my binoculars and said out loud....yes I will verbalize in the field to myself..."That's a Golden!". That banded tail stuck out, and lack of white extending to the body locked it up. I couldn't believe this great area was giving up yet another great Raptor. If only I had the same lighting as the previous day. As it was I was horribly unprepared for my shots with the camera, and was just able to get documentation photos. Still good enough for #211 in Calhoun County.
Now according to my records I technically have seen Golden Eagles already. Of course it was the Jackson County pair miiiiiiilllllllleeeeesssss away, and really only confirmable since they are well established there. This Goldie will always be in my mind, my lifer.
The Wetlands gave up 4 more FOY birds with a Killdeer flyover, Ring-necked Pheasant calling out, some Northern Shoveler flyovers, and a pair of Wood Ducks. Not bad for a crappy February morning. A couple showed up to canoe down the creek and gave me a heads up on a large dark bird on Marl Lake. Since crossing the bridge is not an option, I drove the long way around to give it a look. I turned out to a be a/the Juvenile Bald Eagle on the ice. In the trees looking over it were a pair of adult Bald Eagles. I drove back down to the other side of the bridge and set up to look around a bit more. When too the south of me comes the same Golden Eagle back across the marsh...on the Branch County side. So I got a two-fer on the Eagle that day. I have no doubt had I chased it down when I first saw it I could have seen it in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties also.
I made my way down to Short Road/6 Mile road next to see if I could pick up some Roughies there. I was not disappointed by this location either. One of the gorgeous Roughies was still hanging around there. I got great looks at some American Kestrels (with some video of one hunting), FOY Northern Harrier, and finally an abieticola Red-tailed Hawk in the county. Within 6 miles I'd got a really nice mix of raptors on the day.
All in all it turned in to a relatively good February day for me. I had seen 39 species on the day, a new February high for me. That's two months into the year, and two new "Accidental" Big Day highs. To top it off the Pine Siskins still continued. The bird feeder posts I essentially built to attract them is doing its job. As of the 21st, I have 26 checklists with Pine Siskins on the feeders from January 24th on.
Hang tight to see if the next weekend can top this one.
Since the pace seems to be going quite well this year, and I had my data pulled already, I decided to look at my pace the past 2 years.
Just for posterity:
I was actually able to get out today, after a week and a half of my back giving me fits. I still managed to overdo it. Bald Eagle and Redhead upped my total to 50 now for the year. Beyond that it was somewhat disappointing, as there is a lot of frozen water around here. More than I expected on the river for sure.
After the "Unintentional Big Day" last week, I started to look through my past "personal" bests for Calhoun County. I found that my best species count for January was 44, both last year and this year. Just enough motivation to head back out on the 31st, after seeing some checklists showing open water in Marshall with some new year birds. I was able to pick up Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, American Black Duck, and a nice bonus of Greater Scaup. That put me to a new personal best of 48 for January. No photos as it was horribly bleak out.
Here they are (for quick future reference), are my personal bests for species in a day, and a month for Calhoun County. Now if only my back will hold up in order to do it.
On a "Not Me" note, it looks like this could be a good year for Calhoun County. There are 3 of us that have passed the 44 bird count for January. Just need some rarities to start to show up. So far this winter has been a bit "rough" for waterfowl overall though. Hopefully things will be picking up heading in to the spring.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)