Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Still not much happening on the bird front lately. The Virginia Rail has not made another appearance. It has been relatively dry, so there are no flooded areas to attack shorebirds now. August could be a long month until migration picks back up. The one highlight was the F DR N Cell Tower had one Osprey hanging out on it, while another Osprey was on the nest. I could not tell if the one on the nest was perhaps a juvenile. Hopefully there are some little ones up there.
An interesting sight was this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that was harassed by a Red-winged Blackbird. Didn't quite catch the ideal moment where the Hawk flipped over to try to fend off the Blackbird. What I think was also interesting about this bird was I've never seen a RTHA with a buffy throat like that. The abieticola subspecies will have buffy on the neck but usually with streaking.
Mothing has been anything but quiet though. Another Imperial Moth showed up on the windshield of the Jeep.
Speaking of beasts. I ran across Godzilla while out on 23 Mile Road.
And now a smattering of the bugs, again mostly moths, over the past week. A very fruitful week with it being dry and warm.
As Chaos begins to change form, the birding has been few and far between. Yard birding, and the onset of Moths have worked to help the balance. I've become more of an iNaturalist contributor over the past month as the AI for helping to ID the moths is outstanding. I've also started a project that consolidates all the flora and fauna identified by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as Rare/Endandgered/Special Concern.
The couple of bird highlights this past few weeks have been a Carolina Wren nest in my garage (concerned it may have been abandoned), a Dickcissel finally at 23.5 Mile Rd pig farm, and finally getting a Sora to show itself in the county. A Virginia Rail had been sighted at D DR S Flooded Field. It wasn't until July 20th I was able to check it out. The Rail didn't respond to the call, but two Sora immediately answered it. After about 5 minutes, out of the corned of my eye I saw movement. A Sora was crossing the road, then working its way down the road toward the Jeep. Twice it moved into the grass, but then came right back out. Eventually walking right by the Jeep until my camera case lid closed from the wind and spooked it back into the grass. Couldn't ask for a better chance at photos. I'm so used to always shooting at f/5.6 I never thought of going lower since it was so close. The Sora also helped to eliminate one more bird missing from the county Illustrated Checklist on eBird.
The Dickcissel was fun since I decided to bring my pup along with me. The constant panting made it quite the challenge to get to heard the bird singing. But she had fun, and that was really the point of bringing her with me.
As great as seeing the Sora was, it may not top the highlight of the moth season so far. I was ready to go back into the house and swept up into the rafters and saw this gigantic yellow splotch on one of the rafters. It took me a sec to realize this was the largest moth I had ever seen. I managed to grab some pics and starting trying to look up what it was. I initially thought it was a Pine Imperial Moth, but after getting a pic of its underwing it turned out to just be a regular Imperial Month. Nearly 4.5" across. Unfortunately as seen in the last photo sometime between 7/15 and 7/19 something likely made a huge meal out of it.
Another odd moth was this Dark Marathyssa Moth. I thought it was something that hit my antennae and was killed on it. It stayed attached as I drove most of the length of my road with the wings actually unfurling.
Here are some other insects, mostly moth, highlights from this season. None of which can top the yellow beast above.
It only took a couple of days of June to get to the 180 mark. I finally was able to pick up some "expected" birds.
June did have some moments of odd songs that I thought might be of some new birds. A really odd buzzy note was heard on 6/2 in the large field at Woodland Park. Took me a while to find the bird, but it ended up being an alternate song for the Blue-winged Warbler.
This was just one of the 86 birds I was able to see on 6/2. 16 more than the previous high for a day in June. Gotta love the Jeep, as my final bird that day was Chimney Swifts flying around Downtown just as the sun was setting. I would have never seen them without the top down.
With this start I decided my goal would be to get to 100 birds in June. Something I hadn't accomplished yet. Taking some time off from Chaos helped. I thought I had hit my mark with what sounded like a Prairie Warbler at Voorhees. I had heard, but not seen, the Fort Custer bird so had some familiarity with the call. It wasn't dead on, but I posted to a couple of sites and was told it was. eBird reviewer was questioning it. It was a definite rising call, but didn't go as high as the Prairie Warbler calls on eBird or Xeno-Canto. A Field Sparrow across from the parking area had a rising call also, but started and ended much lower than then mystery bird. The mystery song didn't have the buzzy call at the end. I had found one eBird checklist with a pic and a recording that were similar. I still wasn't convinced this wasn't a Prairie Warbler. On my third trip I had the bird close, and singing often over the 90 minutes I was there. A Field Sparrow flushed into a tree overhead. Even without it behind leaves I could see it looked as though it was cocking its head back the same time I was hearing the same song. Very frustrating but reinforces the lesson that the "plain" birds shouldn't be ignored and can still bring some "excitement" to every day birding.
Below you can hear, and see, the rising song of the "Prairie Sparrow" and then the song of the Prairie Warbler. Not as steep of a rise in the Field Sparrow. It did start out higher than most of the other FISP I had been hearing, or could find on eBird. Definitely an odd bird.
I'll do a separate post with some observations of various Field Sparrows I recorded around that time period. I dipped on Hooded Warbler at Whitehouse. I need to just find a day to go to the zoo, as Nate Spala has had more than a few reports from there this year.
The Osprey nest on F DR N has had one lone Osprey there, if I see any. I don't think it is being used. I had an Osprey over the house with a fish heading into the wind going West. Later in June I had another Osprey carrying a fish taking off from the tower and headed in the same direction. June did end up right at 100. Luckily a Red-headed Woodpecker showed up flying back and forth to a probable nest got me to that number without needing the Prairie Warbler to get me there.
I've decided to focus on iNaturalist sighting updates. The AI for identification on photos is extremely helpful for all the various moths/insects that pop up each night here. I'll have some highlights coming up including the largest moth I have ever seen. These should keep me occupied until the "bug" hits with Fall migration. Shorebird habit looks to be extremely thin again, so that will tend to be tough. I don't have extreme confidence in hitting 200.
May didn't quite end up where I would need to be too try to get to 200 for the year, ending up at 174. My best guess is that one needs to be at 180 by the end of May (Spring migration) to have a shot at 200 for the year. I would say even more this year considering how sparse it has been this year for some birds that have been fairly reliable.
I did manage FOY Least Sandpipers with a very quick few at Betz and Beckley, between and opening in the overgrown crops. May 18th I had a great show being put on by a Black Tern. I did manage some rough video of it flying around pretending to be a swalllow. A nice smattering of warblers in a spot I don't normally hit for warblers/migrants brought some first for that hotspot:
T DR N fluddle did pay off with a Semipalmated Plover and a Semipalmated Sandpiper mixed in with some Least Sandpipers. It was a fairly quiet end to the month with a late weekend away from Chaos outside of the county. June did end up having a bit more action to it though.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)