Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
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:
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)