[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
The past week has been surprisingly filled with some notable milestones, and ending with a truly incredible find. I've passed 1200 days of checklist streak on eBird. I've passed 5,000 complete checklists. I've focused on getting some audio updated and passed 100 species with audio uploaded. Finally managed a 40 species day in the yard, with 43 on 4/5. Best of all I managed a county first Whimbrel!!! Could not believe I found that bird here.
Mid-April should be the start of shorebirds showing up. D DR S is filled up, so no shot there. On 4/9 I checked out the N DR N/20.5 Mile road fluddles and managed a FOY Lesser Yellowlegs. Also finally had Osprey show up on the F DR N Cell Tower. There isn't much of the nest there, but I've now had 2 of them there. Managed to catch them in the act also. So hopefully they have another successful nest this year. On 23.5 Mile Road fluddle there were no shorebirds, but there was a young Tundra Swan on its own. I found it again there this weekend, and it isn't for a good reason. The bird apparently has an injured leg.
A jaunt around the county on 4/10 I managed first Yellow-dumped Warbler for the year at Woodland Park. The Airport also gave up a Virginia Rail. A drive down P DR N I caught sight of a raptor soaring over the farm field. I thought for sure it was a Cooper's Hawk as it had a longish tail. It bowed its wings though, so I started trying to get some snaps of it. It never really showed pale crescents underneath, but it did show them up top. It was a FOY Red-shouldered Hawk!! Just down from there I listened to a Brown Thrasher singing, and a very odd Sparrow song. It didn't sound exactly like a Song Sparrow, so I grabbed Merlin and recorded it. It ID'ed it as a Vesper Sparrow. I may not know there call, but I could tell it was different. A quick run to Woodland Park on 4/11 netted me a FOY Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This got me to 110 species for the year. Still well behind my pace of last year.
The Wild Turkeys have started showing up in force, and the males have been putting on a show right under the bird feeders this week. That has been a nice distraction for both Hercules and I. On 4/16 I headed to Woodland Park hoping to catch some early migrants. I ended up getting a little too frustrated with the constant airplanes circling overhead, so left after less than 90 minutes. I hit up the airport for FOY Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Great Egret, and then ran out to N DR N/20.5 Mile road. I was rewarded with some great looks at American Wigeon pair, multiple Yellowlegs and Wilson Snipe. There was a smaller shorebird way out in the distance. It was likely a Pectoral Sandpiper, but nothing else came near it close enough to gauge size. I also had a FOY Ring-necked Pheasant calling in the distance.
Duck Lake gave me FOY Barn Swallow and Purple Martin, but not much else was on the water. Hercules and I then headed to Grever's Nature Preserve as I wanted to try for Pine Warbler. It didn't take long and we located one singing. Shortly after that Hercules made me super proud. We were walking back by the Bluebird nests and I caught sight of a falcon taking flight. I said "Stop" and he immediately stopped, allowing me to get my binoculars on the bird and confirm it was a FOY Merlin. He used to just keep pulling and inevitably I would lose sight of whatever I was trying to look at. He has been getting really good at stopping and coming back to me. We then ran down to Homer and caught sight of a FOY Double-crested Cormorant. This was my 8th FOY bird for the day. After getting back home I realized I was tied with my high for a Big Day in April at 82 species. We ran out again, late and headed downtown figuring I could nab some Rock Pigeons to get to 83. No dice. Went to the airport thinking maybe some Trumpeter Swans would be there. No luck. Last chance was D DR S as there have been some big groups reported there. Luckily before I got there, 15 Trumpies were having out in a farm field. Long day, but for mid-April with no big migrant push I thought 83 was still impressive.
This morning I almost didn't go out. There were some things I could do around here, and was a little tired still from the day before, plus a rough night of sleep. I eventually decided to at least run out to N DR N/20.5 Mile Road just to check on it. Birdcast didn't show any movement through the area. It didn't show the night before, but I still had 8 FOY yesterday, so figured I would try for it. I pulled up on N DR N and scanned and nothing. Not a single shorebird, except some Killdeer were to be seen. Plenty of Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler. I moved over to 20.5, and still found not shorebirds. I did have a nice moment where the trip wasn't a waste, as I had FOY Northern Pintail pair. I was worried I'd have to struggle to locate them in the fall. I did get a couple of Yellowlegs that flew in. I pulled up to the parking area on the curve and got out one last time to just scan things. I noticed this really large shorebird wandering around way out in the farthest mudflat. I initially thought maybe it was a duck as it had a very different gait to it. Looking more with my binoculars I thought maybe it was just a Greater Yellowlegs, even though it looked bigger. It didn't move around like a Yellowlegs though. I got out the tripod and snapped some pics to try to see if I could get a look at it. One pic managed to show a down curved bill. A freaking Whimbrel!!! My pics were horrible, but at least identifiable.
This is the first time time this bird has been seen in Calhoun County, and the only nearby county to have a report is Kalamazoo. Later after looking through eBird it came in to focus how very odd this bird is being here right now. Looks like this is only the 3rd April record for Michigan in eBird. The Species Map for this year is also very bizarre as a Tiscornia Park bird from 4/5 is the only other far inland record this year. This bird would be the farthest north bird for the Eastern half of the U.S. There is no reason for this bird to be here, especially after the less than favorable winds lately. Just an amazing bird to find now. Wasn't even on my radar. To cap things off our walk at Brooks Nature Area nabbed an FOY, and early record for me of Palm Warbler.
I managed to end the weekend with 11 FOY, and 89 total species. This vaulted me up to 121 for the year, even with last years high pace. Things will slip up this week as some birds I've already seen are going to add on to last years numbers. Now sitting at #247 birds with the Ruff still waiting a MBRC vote, so one more bird closer to my goal of #250.
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My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)