Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Wow, it's only been 3 weeks since the last post?!?!? It has been a mad rush to see as many birds coming through the county as I could. A few obstacles thrown in the way also as the Rubicon was out of action for a couple of weeks. Not to get ahead of myself, I'm pretty sure I've burned off my birding mojo in those 3 weeks (more like 2 weeks).
May 8th finally brought me an Indigo Bunting at Woodland, and a random stop South of the Airport on Stone Jug Road netted me a Virginia Rail answering calls. Extremely lucky as conditions around most of the county don't seem to impressive for the rails this year. There have been no Sora at Woodland this year and the marsh trail at Binder Zoo has been flooded over. I'm hoping that doesn't portend for my attempts at Marsh birds this summer (and for the Marsh Survey).
May 11th started nice with a FOY American Redstart in the yard. Not long after that I received a call at work from Doug McWhirter. He had some Common and Black Terns on Duck Lake. A good hour drive from where I was, and 6-8 hours from me being able to get out of work to see them!! I finally managed to get up there just before 5:30, and Leah Dodd had not only those Terns but also some Forster's Terns in the scope. Mike Cook soon joined. The Terns were extremely active and some counts by us, and Linda Ar (who was unbeknownst us was on the other side of the lake) were somewhat inconclusive on the Common/Forster's split. I came away with 5 Black Terns, 3 Forster's Terns, 5 Common Tern's and 3 Common/Forster's. Unbelievably 3 Calhoun County lifers, and the Black Tern was a lifer period. 23 Mile Road Flooded field also gave me some FOY Least Sandpipers, surprisingly. Conditions still aren't great there for shorebirds. Lots of grass, and there is some construction going to happen there.
May 13th proved to be another big day for me. In fact my biggest May day in the County at 74 species. It took quite a few locations but I snagged a Magnolia Warbler, finally. The Closed Cereal City landfill paid off for Henslow's Sparrow for Dan Toronto, and for me with my best shots of one yet. 23 Mile Road and O DR N has been reliable for Bobolink and they didn't disappoint this time. Duck Lake still had some Common Terns on it, and the boat launch had a FOY Blackpoll Warbler. The Duck Lake WTP gave me the best bird of the day though. A late, dark-morph Snow Goose hanging out with some Canada Geese. I was really worried I wouldn't get one of these this year.
May 14th was a little less impressive, but did get me a FOY Canada Warbler that I knew would be a bit tricky to get. Ovenbird, and finally a Red-eyed Vireo were at Woodland Park also to get me to 169. May 15th Woodland Park gave up a long-distance calling Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-throated Blue Warbler, good looks at Wilson's Warbler and a lifer Mourning Warbler.
Cliff Swallows finally showed up at Fairview/Homer WTP on May 16th. The Cliff Swallow put me at 174 for the year, 1 ahead of my pace from 2014. I was lucky enough to catch a couple of them resting along the edge of the upper lagoon. I made my first trip to the Zoo only to find the marsh trail flooded. The trails there gave up FOY Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee (finally) and Veery. May 16th also started the hunt for a County first Worm-eating Warbler.
May 17th began the slow down for FOY, with a late, and heavily molting Broad-winged Hawk flying high over Woodland, and at least 1 Waterthrush. I initially thought the Waterthrush was a Louisiana since my quick glimpse of it showed a rather light face. The song gave it up as a FOY Northern Waterthrush. A bird I thought I might end up having to stakeout in the fall. This did manage to be the first day in which there were multiple birds in view at a time, instead of 1-2 and then quiet. It did manage to be a very good morning overall at Woodland with 69 species seen while I was there. Of those 69, none of them were the Worm-eating Warbler though. Also not among those 69 was a Hooded Warbler that Daniel Toronto and Leah Dodd had, but I never got a good enough look at. I had a/the bird but between the backlight and it moving around I could not call it.
May 18th I met up with Daniel Toronto at Harts Lake. Dan had a theory that Eastern Whip-poor-wills might be in the area there. We managed FOY Common Nighthawks flying low over the lake. About 5 minutes after some playback we had 1, possibly 2 Eastern Whip-poor-wills calling from the South side of the lake. The Whips were the first eBird reports in the County, and lifers for me. The Nighthawks also got me to 180 for the year.
May 19th I managed some great looks at an Olive-sided Flycatcher at Woodland Park. Another bird I thought was going to be hard to come by this year. It was obvious though that migration was settling down. Other than the 17th most of the days have been 1-2 warblers at a time. This settling down caused me to head to Homer on the 21st to see if some shorebirds were coming in. It did not let me down, with 2 Semipalmated Plovers and a Dunlin along the rocky edges. I was also worried about the Dunlin this year as the shorebird habitat just isn't there right now, and I know we won't have 16 species show up this year again.
May 22nd I finally snagged the Philadelphia Vireo at Woodland Park. I got a quick look at it flying with a Red-eyed Vireo. Yet another bird that I was nervous about being able to get this year. Which leads to today, the 28th. 6 days after my last FOY bird Homer gave up a Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Least Sandpiper. This put me at 187 for the year. Well ahead of where I was hoping to be....
However I have really missed on a lot of birds here lately. I had my gap to overall down to 9 at one point, but sit at 14 birds sighted that I haven't found yet. Not including 2 reports of Yellow-breasted Chat. One at Woodland, and one today at Whitehouse Nature Center. In May I have missed
Being greedy, I'm holding out hope I can get to 190 by the end of this month. It still will be challenging to get to 200 by the end of the year. Looking at the birds I'd still need to pick up, they are not going to be easy. I'll be focusing on the Flycatchers; Acadian and Alder should hang around through the summer. Barred Owl looks like it will require some Owling nights. Hopefully Dickcissels show up again this year, and some Marsh birds show up also. Good chance on the 190 in the next 3 days, but have to be able to get out there.
I've really been trying to push as best I can, even as my pace slowed compared to 2014. It has been a good year for Calhoun County, and not just myself. As we sit here today on May 4th the count is 156 birds for Calhoun County. At this point last year the County had 153 (it was 142 on 5/3 as 5/3 and 5/4 totaled 19 new birds in the County.
I'm still heavily focused on hitting 200 this year in the County. I started April 19 ahead of my 2014 pace, and ended it up by 9 to 134 species. I thought it might be closer than that, but Woodland Park gave up 4 FOY on the 27th, I had 4 more FOY on the 29th in the yard (more on my yard number in a bit), and then on the 30th between Woodland, 23 Mile Road Flooded Field and Duck Lake WTP I had 6 more FOY. Best of those was getting my nemesis Orange-crowned Warbler out of the way. As I type this I am at 142, and I figure I need to get to 180 by the end of May to have a shot. Of the birds that I think will make up that 200, I have 4 birds so far I didn't expect to get that give me some swag. I think I still need to pick up more of those, as some of the 200 are going to be hard to find also.
A nice segue that ties in with something from my last blog post. I was able to find the elusive Brewer's Blackbirds, a female and 2 males. They were mixed in with a large group of Red-winged, Rusty Blackbirds and Common Grackles. Yes I snapped 1100 pictures of this group, as I kept seeing potential birds through the scope and then would have to try to find them through a smaller view in the camera. The female was evident through the scope, and had a bad picture and the male was not evident through the scope but was a decent picture at least. I honestly think if these are focused on, knowing where some of these blackbirds group together (12 Mile Road south of B DR N, and Pine Creek Wetlands), Brewer's is probably going to be something that might be more common then reported. Currently I have them as a Code 4 bird, and number 213 for me in the county.
Along with the Blackbird theme, that same April 9th I recorded the Brewer's I had tremendous flights of Blackbirds through Pine Creek Wetlands. You can see my checklist here for this. Conservative estimate of 600 Rusty Blackbirds, but when you look at the pictures and use ratios as sample size I think it is probably more than that. I think for next year, since I won't feel compelled to do a Big Year, I may focus on the Rusty Blackbird migration and approach it differently. Less focus on trying to get "perfect" shots and just get ID'able shots of the groups and do a more scientific count of them.
On the heels of the Brewer's rarity, we had another Ross's Goose show up at Duck Lake WTP on April 10th. This bird had no apparent leg injury, so I assume it was a different bird. I was trying to make it into a Snow Goose, but it came close enough to call it as a pretty clear cut Ross's.
April 30th ended up helping me get to not just the high pace of 134, but also gave me single day April high of 69, and pushed a new April month high of 120 birds. So I am 4 months in a row of High Counts for Month, High Counts for Day, and High pace. At some point I expect that to slow down, just hopefully not before May.
May is starting out good at least. On May 2nd I got a call from Dough McWhirter. He had 2 Surf Scoters on Duck Lake, on the south end. As soon as my work at home day ended (long non-birding story), I high-tailed it up there, nabbing a FOY Rose-breasted Grosbeak on the way. What I found was boats on the water, a monstrosity of a dual engine pontoon boat hitting the boat launch and maybe seeing the Scoters from the South end way out to the North. Could I find them on Monroe St.....No. I head back south, and watch them being moved around the lake by the boats (I want to say intentionally but that reflects more on my view of people than people actually may be). "Luckily" they moved to the South side for about 10 seconds and the Scoters could be picked out as a male and female. Yet a 4th bird that I didn't expect to see this year, and second year in a row we have had this bird in the County. I also finally scored the Double-crested Cormorant that I was starting to get nervous about.
This leads me to yet another bird, on May 3rd, in my yard that will probably have to be left as an Accipiter sp. Obvious accip shaped bird circling over the trees to the North of my house. Gave a call I've not heard before. I was unable to get any glass on it, as I was just outside with my ailing dog. I thought maybe I had my first Sharp-shinned Hawk for the yard count. I listened to the calls on my iBird app, and it didn't match. It didn't match Cooper's Hawk either. Never thought about Northern Goshawk until I went to put the checklist in, and my fuzzy auditory memory makes me want to say the call matched pretty closer for that. Knowing how rare the NOGO would be around here, I couldn't really say that is what it was. I have RTHA fly around this same area, and I just can't see that bird as similar size to them. Now that I am typing this I wonder if it was my long-needed Red-shouldered Hawk. I really wish I was better with my auditory skills....in general not just birds.
Last comment is that despite not making it a focus, it has been an excellent yard for the Yard Birding. As of this second I am tied for the most Yard Birds in the State of Michigan this year at 83 so far. Not bad considering I think I hit 100 last year. I added Osprey as a flyover, heading to F DR N, on April 26th. I'd like to try to stay in the top 10.
Now comes the push for 38 more birds in May to get me to that 180 mark. We shall see what happens. I have "plans" and "targets", and hopefully some luck. I still need:
Wow, no update in March. Says something about how much Chaos is playing in to things on the negative side, but also how much birding is actually getting done by me. February 21st I was sitting at 62 birds. It is now April 8th, and I am at 96 birds. I ended March, 19 birds ahead of my pace from 2014 (92 birds at end of March).
My first new bird after the 21st was some good looks at Lapland Longspurs just east of the Homer Water Treatment Plant.
Looooooooooots of common, although somewhat early birds followed after. Besides the Code 2 Longspurs, some other Code 2 birds included:
My next bird was my rarest bird found in the county so far. An eBird first record, but not a county first record. Also one of my biggest goofs in finding a bird. I was driving down P DR N, between 19 Mile and 21.5 Mile road (really liking this road). Seeing Robins and Horned Larks, when suddenly this larger very drab bird flew from the road up in to a lone tree alongside the road. It was bigger than the Horned Larks and immediately began to sing a song I was not familiar with. I flipped the camera to video to record the song, and the result is this incredibly horrible video. I profusely apologize for the sound of the auto-focus seeking.
After I was sure I had a recording, I flipped the camera back to take pics and kept trying to search for the bird in the tree. It suddenly bolted for the field, and I never got a focus lock on it. After trying to relocate it I set about trying to match the call. Looking at larger drab birds I though Mockingbird, but the lack of repeating 3 calls nixed that. I wasn't familiar with Northern Shrike calls, so I tried that (although the calm nature of the Red-winged Blackbird in the tree made that less likely). I took a chance on Western Meadowlark (lifer), and sure enough a near perfect match to the call on iBird app.
I have this bird ranking just behind Northern Goshawk as far as rarity. Unfortunately it was unable to be relocated by others that same day. Doesn't appear that it was one that decided to hang around. The Chaos shortly after that pretty much made it impossible for me to try to get there in the morning to check again for it. I've driven by the area several times since then, and tried to listen for it, but to no avail. Nice to finally get a really rare bird in the county this year, since we had been getting nothing but Code 1 and 2 showing up.
What's that I say, not many Code 3 or higher birds showing up? 2 days later Dr. Dale Kennedy e-mailed about a potential Ross's Goose (Code 4) at Duck Lake WTP. Was hoping we might get one to show up for the third year in a row. Sure enough I get there late that evening and there is a nice small all white Goose, with black wing-tips hanging out there. Downside is it had an obvious injury to its right leg.
Since the Ross's Goose it has been steady, but nothing spectacular. One bird that had eluded me I finally nabbed at Ott Preserve, Brown Creeper. Another bird I was worried about this year was a Vesper Sparrow at the Airport. I'm on the hunt for a Brewer's Blackbird around here somewhere. So I'm running across quite a few Rusty Blackbirds, and stinking dark-eyed Brown-headed Cowbird females that give me a glimmer of hope.
One positive for the snow coming down right now, if I get out in the morning the Blackbirds should be easier to find in the farm fields.
I have it in my head, that with my fast start, that maybe 200 is possible this year. I've gone through the list of potential birds I can find, and it is still a daunting task. I still need 104 birds to get there.
One last thing, in the past few weeks I've been able to co-guide 2 KBS Field Ornithology Field Trips as well as attend 2 Classes. 37 species in mid-March between the Airport, Hart's Lake and looking for the Peregrines downtown isn't bad. 42 species at the Bird Sanctuary, on a cold day was also excellent. My best looks at Red-headed Woodpecker, Lesser Scaup and Tundra Swans as well as the Mandarin Duck that is a resident there. I'm looking forward to future classes and Field Trips.
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.
Yes, both of these pictures accurately represent me at 10:54 this fine sunny, Sunday morning, January 24th, 2016. After more than 2 years, and more than enough envy to last me, I finally have my Calhoun County Pine Siskins.
Let me back up a little bit though to my escapades yesterday. Was in a position finally to take some time and head out. I decided to try to hit up some of my spots that tend to still have open water this time of year, and can lead to some waterfowl congregation. Along with maybe finally getting an ID'able Red-tailed Hawk (yeah 3 weeks in to the year and don't have a confirmable Calhoun RTHA).
Beadle Lake had a small opening, surrounded by resting Canada Geese and some Trumpeter Swans. 10 Mile Road near G DR S, had open flowing water, but nothing but some extremely skittish Mallards. Lee Lake was Beadle Lake Redux. Biggest disappointment was Marl Lake Road and 1/2 Mile was completely iced over, and a gentleman and his dog were doing....not quite sure what, so I wasn't going to try for any of the possible raptors that might show there.
I decided to head over to 6 Mile Road and W DR S, since there was good light, to see if the Roughies would give me a good shot. On the way there I caught what usually can be dismissed as a Broken-limb Hawk, but didn't quite look right to me. I backed up, and headed down 5 1/2 Mile Road. I really wanted to make this into a Juvenile Sharpie, but after looking closely at the pics it was "just" a juvie Cooper's Hawk.
The pair of Roughies didn't disappoint at 6 Mile. I was able to watch them hunt for a little bit until I decided to continue on. This is the 3rd winter (every winter I have birded) in which this spot has hosted at least one Rough-legged Hawk.
After that I was able to pic up Red-tailed Hawk x 4, with 2 of them within 20 yards of each other. Mobbing calls gave me a very rosy sided Junco, but not enough to call it anything unique. FOY Robins, with a large flock of 20 on scattering across the road as I drove past. Open water continued to elude me until I got to Saylor's Landing. While the waterfowl were non-existent, save Flyover CANG, the Belted Kingfisher was a nice addition. By far the best bird of yesterday though, was this "Hoss" of a Yellow-rumped Warbler at Saylor's Landing. While most of his peers are hanging out in much nicer climates (well prior to Snowmageddon), this guy was working the trees along the river. My first winter Warbler ever, and only the second Calhoun Record for January in eBird.
It's amazing what listing can do, negatively, to you sometimes. I had 7 new year birds yesterday and still felt somewhat disappointed. I had to be reminded that 2 years ago, I would have been ecstatic over a day like that. Especially with the Cooper's Hawk, and Yellow-rumped being on that list.
Which leads me to today. I had thought about getting up early and trying to hit up some potential Northern Saw-whet Owl spots again, but my dogs had other ideas. Ended up sleeping in and deciding to focus on more "adult" activities today. I spent much of the morning kicking myself for not going out. Especially after seeing multiple Pine Siskin reports coming in yesterday from around the county.
It's nice to know that there still is some Birding "Mojo" at work (okay so some call it luck). I happened to look outside at the nearly empty nyjer feeders and thought "that doesn't quite look right for a House Finch hanging from there. A quick look through the binoculars revealed this lone bird hanging there with that wonderfully narrow bill, and split tail. It was soon followed by Goldfinches (for size comparison), and some obvious males with the yellow on the wings, and those lovely plain brown streaks I've been wanting to see.
10 Minutes later there were all gone from the feeder, and never came back. I went outside to listen for their calls, and was able to catch some calling back to me in the distance. Imagine how many times I have possibly missed them in the past, or could have easily missed them today but for that casual glance outside. Great reminder of why birding is really a part of me now.
P.S. in regards to a debate on whether the term "Lifer" can be used for a bird you have already seen in another location...I was right. The Pine Siskins seen in Calhoun was soooooooo much more meaningful than my lifer Siskins last year. Having them be a yard bird now is just a bonus.
Good grief, it has really been 17 days since my last post?!?!? I've made a little progress on the Calhoun County Birding site, so there is that, and a great little vacation up north. Sure enough the day after I get back, Doug McWhirter reported a California Gull on Duck Lake. This would be by far the rarest bird seen in this county, at least amongst the eBird reports (American Flamingo would have to rank as rarer). As I write this it has still not been confirmed on eBird. Not surprising considering this is a MBRC review species. Hopefully it can go through the review process and be approved.
I was able to get out there the next morning to try to look....nada. Even at 7:30 a.m. the gulls were already off the lake. I returned at 4:00 p.m., and plenty of gulls, but they were approximately 1800-2000 feet away. A Herring Gull caused a brief stir for myself, but Tom Wheeker, Bruce Cohen and myself soon spied a Juvenile Herring Gull swim past it showing it to be what it was. At that distance, the size of the Herring Gull didn't look as large as they truly are compared to the Ring-billed Gulls. Another trip the following day yielded the same results. Plenty of Ring-billed Gulls, but not another interesting Gull in the group.
2 Days later the Great Franklin's Gull invasion occurred in the East, and we were lucky enough to be included. Again Doug McWhirter was at the right place (Duck Lake) at the right time (the day of the big influx in to Michigan). I was able to get out there the next morning (thank you for it being a Saturday!!). Very dark, overcast, and luckily I timed it right. Was able to sight 4 Franklin's Gulls in the midst of some Ring-billed Gulls, and a nearby Bonaparte's Gull for a good comparison. It was a good thing, as when I returned later that night to try to get some better pictures, there were none to be seen.
I did say I wanted better picture right? Could be years before these guys show up around here again. The previous sighting for the county was in 2008. This is the second rarest bird I have seen in the county. A great treat, just wish it could have been enjoyed longer, and in better conditions.
Shortly after Homer Sewage gave up a Cackling Goose for #190 for the year. 2 Birds ahead of my pace from last year. Again I start to feel that twinge of regret from not chasing some "easy" birds earlier in the year. Franklin's Gull wasn't even on the radar for the birds to try to still get to 200 this year. So it was a bonus, as far as that goes. The Franklin's and Cackler also put the county up to 208 for the year, only one behind last year (my Short-eared Owl doesn't show up on eBird for some reason, so we are probably at 209 already). Another great year for birding in Calhoun.
This past week also allowed me to run in to a few other birders that have birded the county quite a bit. Leah Dodd and Daniel Toronto and Doug McWhirter I was able to meet, and discuss further the birding in the county. The more eyes, are proving to be the better for the birding in the county.
For my own benefit, another look at 10 birds to get to 200.
I almost wasn't going to go out today, due to some heavy duty moving around of my office and studio, but the sunshine was just too tempting. We had a good dumping of rain yesterday, so I thought I would just try the flooded field on 23 Mile Road on my way to make the WTP rounds (Duck Lake, Homer and Tekonsha. White-rumped Sandpipers were still being reported North and South of here. I was surprised to see that the deeper pond, that 2 months ago had housed a Pied-billed Grebe and some Teal was now almost nonexistent. I could see some movement, and upon getting my scope on it I could see 5 Pectoral Sandpipers along with a few Killdeer. Not bad, but I decided to keep looking. Scanning North a little more I ran in to another Pectoral, and a slightly smaller Peep that had a promising profile to it. Long wings, black legs and not buffy like a Baird's Sandpiper. It was indeed a first for Calhoun County White-rumped Sandpiper!!! Finally after what seems like forever with these guys showing up all around, this little flooded field comes through one last time.
I decided to still check out Duck Lake and theWTP at Duck Lake. Duck Lake offered little besides a large group of American Coots. Upon arriving at the WTP I was pleasantly surprised by how far drawn down the water was on the East pond. I thought for sure there would be some more shorebirds present. Alas, it was not to be. Nothing by some Killdeer that flew out with some Starlings when I pulled in, and a handful hanging around the pond. I thought I was hearing and seeing some American Pipits but without my bins, and the bright backlit sun I was unable to get good looks. I caught one bird heading North towards the Farm Field, snapped a pic and turned out to be an American Pipit. Turned out to be a new bird for this location.
I decided to not hit up Homer, or Tekonsha, and headed back home. The Dunlin and White-rumped Sandpiper had disappeared about 15 minutes into the 20 minutes I was at 23 Mile Road, so I swung back by for another quick look. Nothing but the Pectorals and Killdeer were there. I now regret hitting up Homer as Tom Pavlik had 4 of the White-rumped Sandpipers there around the same time I would have arrived there. Dr. Dale Kennedy, later in the day, also had the first Snow Goose of the year for the county. The Snow Goose would have been a nice pickup for the year. Especially when I consider that last year at this time I was only 1 bird ahead of where I am at this year (it will be 2 birds tomorrow).
Oh the White-rumped Sandpiper irruption is driving me crazy!! Reports from North, South, West and skipping a county to the East (Washtenaw) are all coming in with multiple numbers of White-rumped Sandpipers. The only white rump I can see is if I turn around and look in the mirror. I decided Saturday to give it another shot, and hit up the drainage ponds at Kellogg Airport. There was some nice shorebird habitat there in the Spring and maybe the ponds are low enough to attract some.
No luck though. A nice mix of sparrows were there, Chipping, Song, White-crowned and a lone Savannah. Some Trumpeters didn't mind me getting out of the Jeep, walking up to the fence, snapping some pics and getting back in the Jeep. Apparently rolling up the window some crossed the line, and they flew off. I did get a briefly cooperative Nashville Warbler, a first for the Airport. 33 new birds added to this site so far this year. Really became a great spot throughout the year.
On my way to Duck Lake I swung by Lake of the Woods, to no avail. Instead of the normal route up 19.5 Mile to R DR N, I went down P DR N hoping for some open farmland after seeing reports of some Longspurs in Berrien I thought maybe I'd get lucky on some "lost" birds. No suck luck, except some good looks at a good sized group of American Pipit. Long-story short there was nothing at Duck Lake WTP, and I decided not to make the loop to Homer and Tekonsha. Choosing rather to swing by and sort through the Pipits again. No Sprague's, but I did come across 14 American Pipit, a couple Yellow-rumped and a very cooperative flying Cooper's Hawk.
All and all, a great day for birding and some nice finds along with finally checking off the OCWA from a very long 2 years of frustration. Hopefully within the next couple weeks we can get some White-rumps within someone's glass around here.
A nice crisp morning at Woodland Park was a great reprieve from the chaos of work (although I'm sure in a week the chaos will be compounded). The place was much birder than it had been the past few days, and relatively early. Unbelievably I caught a view of the first White-crowned Sparrow seen here. Found it hard to believe that was the first.
A plethora Cedar Waxwings were out in the Juniper trails, along with some Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-throated Sparrows. A few of the latter trying to practice their typical "Sam Peabody" song. Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were also in some abundance out there. It was quite active within the first 15 minutes I was at around 20 species sighted.
I moved back into the Hidden Loop trail hoping to catch the ever elusive Orange-crowned Warbler, or any other warbler that may desire to show itself. Back near the lower growth in the South-west corner (near where I am 60% sure the OCWA teased me) I came across a nearly impossible to see bird. It moved quickly, and deeply in the undergrowth. Too close for me to get binocular focus on it, yet to deep to get any auto focus to work on the camera. But there is apparently a little bird-mojo left in me.
Looking back through my photos, and a little Lightroom auto-correction, I got enough of one very fuzzy focus shot (along with its behavior and size) to ID it as #206 for Calhoun County...Winter Wren.
The mild jubilance I expected to experience in the field, was a bit muted with the confirmation of what the dark derriere proved. I'll take it and proceed to keep trying to bird the heck out of this county. There are plenty out there to still find, and learn to ID.
I need to work on the priority of blogging while away apparently. Going from the hectic nature of the beginning of the month, to travel to the NC coast for family, and back to the craziness of work again, has left little time for focus on balance again. I was able to get some balance in while away though.
NC proved quite welcoming for acquisition of lifers for me. May not seem like much, but I'm happy with 9 lifers while there, including my first banded bird.
Farther down the spit this awesome sight awaited me. Several groups of mixed shorebirds were visible. Along with the frequent Willets and Sanderlings, were Black-bellied Plover (Lifer 3), Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)