Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
A week of deep freeze seems to have pushed everything away from inland. Duck Lake has had some impressive numbers of Hooded Mergansers. Previous high counts of 64 are now 200, 200, 175, 160, and 98. The 98 was on my trip out there on the 23rd. I'm sure there were likely more on the South end. This was also the last time the White-winged Scoter were seen there. First time with this species in the county and we had 4-5 of them over a 30 day period.
The rest of November was relatively quiet. I didn't end up with target of 78 species for the month. Only ending up with 75. D DR S gave me 3 with Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, along with a really late Field Sparrow. Unbelievable a drive for a few hours did not net me any Wild Turkey, Horned Lark, or Rough-legged Hawks. My two go to spots for Ring-necked Pheasant were also empty. Overall seems relatively quiet around here. The large groups of Trumpeters continue with multiple double-digit sightings.
I doubt December will be very impressive. I have a feeling between Chaos and a likely deep freeze it will be light. There have been several concerns about low duck counts and a botulism outbreak contributing to it. As for FOY birds I still have some hopes of getting 3 more with Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur and Red-shouldered Hawk. A few other guys are possible, but not holding out hope. 220 is also unlikely for the county at this point.
Had my first run-in with an unhinged person while birding. That was a fun experience. We shall see if she tries to further enhance my experience at this same spot, as I will continue to hit it up regularly. Besides that the birding has been somewhat quiet around here lately. I had a surprise visit from an Eastern Towhee on the 17th. Trumpeter Swans on Beadle Lake and the surrounding area have been numerous.
11/20 on Beadle Lake also had 4 Cackling Geese trying to hide behind some Canada geese. A DR S with the 24 Trumpies were at least 4 Tundra Swans mixed in. The White-winged Scoters are continuing on Duck Lake. Must be that lake was one of the few that didn't freeze over last week. Hooded Mergansers are showing up there in record numbers for this area. Average count during this time period is around 5-7. This year it has been 88. A few Bonaparte's Gulls out there were a nice surprise, although not tagging as rare.
The 24th I decided to do my once a year chase. A Gyrfalcon has been spotted for the last week in the Ann Arbor area. I hit one of the areas it has been reported in for about 2.5 hours. It has been at 3 or 4 other sites I'm not familiar with, and didn't feel like driving all over for it. Several other people were in the same area, but it never showed. I did get some nice looks at FOS Rough-legged Hawks, a male Northern Harrier just about out of juvenile plumage, and 3 extremely late Eastern Meadowlarks. The Meadowlarks tagged as rare, and are the latest eBird reports for Washtenaw. Still disappointing to not have this extremely rare falcon show up. Guess I'll have to make a trip up North at some point. The Roughies were head height and one showed off its namesake feathered legs as it landed in a small bush.
Still holding out hopes that the upcoming holiday stretch I can nab 6 more birds and beat the November high of 78. Some easy ones that will require just getting out and doing some walking around Grevers or Woodland Park. Still looking for birds to pad the Calhoun total of 214. Outside shot for us to get to 220, but need some gulls to show up.
My 5MR got a couple of nice boosts since the last update. Northern Pintail became my 144th yard bird. 2 females/juveniles were out in the backwater feeding. The kicker ended up being a pair of White-winged Scoters on Beadle Lake on November 10th. Still here 4 days later, while giving much better looks than the Duck Lake pair. After hitting this county so hard for 6 years and finally getting these birds this year, I've now seen at least 4, and probably 5 within the past few weeks. 2 of them practically in my backyard. A Northern Harrier flyover on the 10th pushed the year Yard list to 115.
Other highlights in the past couple of weeks:
Stir crazy won out after a week of dealing with Chaos at home. I decided to test things out by just hitting Beadle Lake and see how things were. Greater White-fronted Geese have been showing up nearby the past week, including at Cranefest site on Wednesday. If all went well at Beadle Lake, Cranefest was my next destination. As I was wrapping up a quick look there eBird alert came through for 13 Geese at 23 Mile and 0 Dr N. This was the same count as the 10/30 sighting, so likely the same birds. A little farther than I was wanting to travel, but couldn't pass it up. Sure enough right on the edge of the cow pond were 13 "speckle-bellied" geese. My 200th species for the year. Now I can let up some and try to get healed up.
As long as I had gone that far I decided to just hit up Duck Lake and use the facilities there. Lots of gulls, but nothing interesting to pull out of there yet. Red-necked Grebe was still there, and most surprising of all was not 1 but 2 White-winged Scoters. I also had a couple of Common Loons, and other mixed ducks. I'm sure there might have been some other interesting stuff, but most of them were to the South today with Gulls taking up the middle. Not a bad way to end a crazy Chaos week.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)