Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
July 2nd lined up to be a really nice day. I decided after a day spent trying to sort through and clean up my gigantic pictures folder, I needed to head out. I still didn't have Henslow's Sparrow for the year and had not checked on the 9.5 Mile road site that has had them the previous 2 years. The birds were extremely active as I started down 10.5 Mile road towards Division. I thought some Eastern Meadowlarks there would be new for Emmett Township, but I see now I had some just North of where I was at. Making my way down 9.5 Mile road I encountered more Meadowlarks along with a nice mix of other species, including 2 Pileated Woodpeckers. 17 species in 7 minutes in this small field near a farm was a nice precursor to the rest of the day. I started to pull away and a flash of red, white and black caught my eye. A Red-headed Woodpecker!!! Always a great bird to find, and one I know will tag as rare on eBird. Not a great photograph, but enough to get an easy eBird confirmation.
The 9.5 Mile Henslow site was only slightly disappointing. I had 1 very faint Henslow's call there. I was thinking maybe I was here early, but my first time seeing them was on July 3rd, and July 4th in 2015. I had them here in June of last year. Hopefully there were more there and just not as vocal. From there I headed to Homer to hit up the WTP/Cemetery. I had checked on timing for shorebirds in Michigan, and it shows that we may start getting some of them showing back up as early as the first quarter of July. It was a long shot, but at worst I could see what the conditions looked like. They don't look good. Water level is a little high in the main lagoon, and low in the lower ones. Not ideal, but not any worse then previous years we have had shorebirds there.
The WTP did give up a Bald Eagle there, and as it flew off an Osprey scouted out the lagoons. 21 Killdeer flagged as a high count there, and 3 Spotted Sandpipers accounted for the shorebirds this trip. I don't doubt there were more, as I didn't count the ones in the lower lagoons. I was hoping to try to snap off some pictures of the Cedar Waxwings catching insects, but the shadows from the trees made it difficult. From there I decided to hit up the Pig Farm on 23.5 Mile road the that had reported Dickcissels. I did have 2 there, but even more amazingly I counted 64 Turkey Vultures, either flying, roosting in the trees, or even on the ground. I have no doubt there were more there as I couldn't see all of the area where they were on the ground.
About this time I wonder how many birds I have seen, and what my July high is for a day. My eBird app showed I was at 54. I thought that had to be right around that high number. According to my file that high is 63. I tried coming up with options for birds to get to that number. I hit up L DR N to check on the Sedge Wrens. Again another spot with more species than minutes spent there. Sedge Wrens calling, buzzed by a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Swamp Sparrows and Baltimore Oriole were there also. I drove past Duck Lake to pick up Mute Swan, sure enough 2 adults and 3 cygnets were there as well as Purple Martins.
Duck Lake WTP had a few surprises there for me. A female Ruddy Duck was on the grass near the East lagoon. I spotted a Bank Swallow mixed in with the other swallows. A Wood Duck had 6 small ones with it there, as well as even more Turkey Vultures (17). After leaving there I ran across a small fluddle on 26 Mile Road and Hooper Road just barely in the county. This fluddle is fed from a wetland to the East, so it will likely stay wet through the summer. I don't think this would be a very travelled road, so hopefully there is a shot for some shorebirds in this spot.
Next stop was Voorhees Brothers Memorial Sanctuary to try for the Acadian Flycatcher. I made the walk around the loop, just under a mile for the whole trail star to finish. Nice tall woods with lots of open area under the canopy. Hairy Woodpecker showed up right at the start of the trail. Scarlet Tanager was loudly calling towards the West end of the Acorn Loop there. Other expected birds, including the Acadian Flycatcher, which showed up near the end of the Loop, were readily seen and heard. Red-eyed Vireo and Tufted Titmouse at Voorhees lifted my number to 66 for the day with plenty of day left.
Bobolink was next on my target as I eyed 70 for a number for the day. I headed to 23 Mile Road and O DR N, as that is my go to spot for Bobolinks. The Dickcissels were still out in force there including, at least 2 females. There were however no Bobolinks to be seen. Could be that at noon-time they had settle down already, and may be more focused on their nesting (hopefully). A Brown Thrasher and Willow Flycatcher did help to add to the list.
A short respite before heading out for a Marsh Bird survey, and I was back on the road a little after 6. I had not even made it a mile and a half and a Green Heron flew over, for #69 for the day. Just needed one more to break 70. My first stop at 3.5 Mile Road for the Marsh survey had a Veery calling from two different areas. I'm assuming the same bird in the area. Again no luck with Marsh birds. My next stop at S DR S I managed to catch #71 for the day, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. S DR S also brought me a whopping 11 Green Heron, including 4 roosting in nearby trees.
Unfortunately I had to cut my survey short as a storm moved in, and my last stop also had several people there fishing. I'll need to get back out there and try again. Despite that this unintended Big Day helped to push me to over 100 birds seen in July in Calhoun County. Dickcissel, Hairy Woodpecker and Sedge Wren were new birds for July. I now have 6 months of the year that have 100 birds in it, with June only 2 away. Hey I have a goal for next year now. One last sidetone to this entry I've started to try to take photos of Butterflies to ID. I'm not sure I'll ever get too far down that road of being an expert at Butterfly ID, but I might as well contribute to the Citizen Science while I am out there. My trouble is the lens I use makes it hard to get pics of them when they are so close. I don't have that problem with birds, but insects are a whole other matter. Looks like my 7D may come out of retirement with the kit lens, or picking up another small prime lens. Not sure my back could take hauling around the 400mm and the 70-200mm. I'll continue to try to make due with what I have for now.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)