Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
Long time no blog. After my last post things have really narrowed down to long trips to Duck Lake, and way too many miles on back roads. 12 trips to Duck Lake in the past 4 weeks, including a couple of twice-in-a-days. Way too many that led to eventual frustration as the bird just weren't there in any large quantities. With my targets down to a couple of owls, waterfowl and the nemesis Snow Buntings I hit up Pine Creek Wetlands on 11/14. I was treated to thousands of blackbirds. Similar numbers to what I observed in the spring. Still wish I was better at in flight and call ID with these birds. I had one group that flew over that was easily 10-20 birds wide, and flew by lasting more than a minute. I estimate they were 1/2-3/4 mile long group. Quite a crazy sight for a place that has given me crazy flights in the past.
Duck Lake on 11/15 gave me another Surf Scoter that I "worked" at trying to make into a Black or White-winged Scoter. No white wings, and it didn't lower its head when stretching shot that down. A very round-headed Horned Grebe had me hoping for an Eared Grebe finally, and a couple of other that had GISS for Red-necked Grebe, but the bills just didn't look big enough. Later that evening, on a return trip, the Surf Scoter continued and a late pair of Blue-winged Teal were on Duck Lake. Some other highlights of that week were some late Wilson's Snipe at Duck Lake WTP, and some American Pipits and Bonaparte's Gulls at Homer, 11/15 also recorded the first American Wigeons reported on Duck Lake.
11/20 brought a large group (34) of Tundra Swan's flying over Duck Lake. There was still a nice mix of ducks on the lake, just not large quantities. Duck Lake has had a banner year with 34 new species of birds being reported there this year. The Tundra Swans brough the total to 135. I continue to try to get some good views of the retention pond at the dump. The Gulls were starting to show up there. They also started to increase at Duck Lake, although at best I've only been able to ID only Ring-billed and Herring.
I ended November with 77 birds for the month. 20 more birds than my previous high. I probably could have snagged 78 with a Snow Goose reported on the 25th, but chose to not get out for it. Of course I did drive by it a few days later on Dec 1st.
The Snow Goose got December off to a good start. 2 days later on the 3rd I hit my high for December day with 42 birds in one day, despite a late start for the day. I didn't get to Homer until after 10. A late Bonaparte's Gull and a feeding Bald Eagle were the highlights. A stop at Baker Sanctuary certainly helped towards the 42 with 23 birds there alone. A juvenile male Purple Finch being the highlight there. Later that day I managed my first "pink" Ring-billed Gull. My lap of Duck Lake to the WTP and back to Duck Lake took a long turn as I went down P DR N to come back up 26.5 Mile Road. I spooked up a Red-headed Woodpecker from alongside the road. But the highlight of the day was finding a group of 6 Long-tailed Ducks on Duck Lake after making the above lap. I already had them there this year, but it was promising to find this Code 4 duck in a decent size group out there. Still hopes for some other waterfowl to show up.
December 4th I was awakend by 2 Great Horned Owls calling in the woods. That was the start of adding another 10 December birds with a Killdeer at Duck Lake WTP putting me at 53 birds for the month, tying my high in 2014. I had a potential Thayer's Gull at the dump, but never was able to get any wing shots, and the Long-tailed Ducks continued at Duck Lake.
Chaos led to no further birding until December 10th. Tundra Swans on Beadle Lake put me at 54. With some Redheads, Horned Larks and a Carolina Wren (on my feeder) I ended at 58 birds before the snow really started to come in. They, however, were not the best birds of the day.
First big snow finally brought the last "easy" bird for the year. Hitting up the backroads during our first decent hit of snow this year on Dec 10th, I ran across a small flock of birds on the road that took off behind me. Those black and white wings made it an easy ID. Long-tailed Ducks continued at Duck Lake, along with a high count of eight Hooded Mergansers. One lone Killdeer continues at Duck Lake WTP. I had better looks at Snow Buntings on the way to Homer with a group of 22. Homer....ugh. 2 Mallards and 12 Canada Geese were all there were there. That was horrible. Never expected it to be that bad.
I've still got some time, and plenty of time off as I type this on December 11th. 2 more work days this week and 3 next week. December 17th I'll be helping out with the Battle Creek CBC and was told there is a Calhoun County spot to cover. Trying to get in to the Olivet and Albion CBC that both also dip in to Calhoun County so I can kill two.....not a great metaphor. With Snow Bunting down I managed to get every Code 1 bird for the county, save the Hooded Warbler. I still have some time, and some opportunities to pick up some Gulls and Owls now. Maybe some other Scoters or Grebes.
Not sure I can get to 210 though. That nearly 1 month in between new birds, and missing on Red-necked Grebe at Duck Lake really make things tough. But 2 years ago I picked up Lesser Black-backed and Glaucous Gull. Northern Saw-whet was spotted 2 years ago near Hart's Lake. I still have hopes of finding a Thayer's at the dump. Really going to come down to those and maybe a Short-eared Owl makes an appearance. Gotta get out there thought to have the opportunity for them.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)