Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
Busy week with the chaos, but I managed to get out on Friday to look for a potential Short-eared Owl off North Avenue at the far North-east corner of the county. I had no luck with finding one. That would be one of the few potential birds I could still nab. The road is pretty busy, and I had to fight headlights messing up my night vision. Had several of what I thought were white flashes, but they always accompanied traffic. Hard to say if the lights were helping me to see something, or if they were the cause. I had no response to playbacks.
That led to my plan for Saturday. Get up early, head up to the farms around P and R DR N for American Pipit, come home and then head to Cranefest for Northern Pintail. I had plenty of American Pipits there last year off P DR N around this same time. The fields there were still filled with corn. I decided to swing around R DR N to the field that brought us the Black-bellied Plover. It has been cleared away and some irrigation was being added. I hoped maybe I could find some there. My late start made it tough, as we actually had sun in Michigan and it was backlighting everything. Plenty of small birds moving around. Horned Larks as best I could tell. There was a small marshy areas there, so I thought I'd try my luck at Nelson's Sparrows. That brought out some Savannah Sparrows. Eventually I managed to get an American Pipit, #202, to show up with some calls. Just one, nothing else there of note.
I was still on the lookout for any late shorebirds. White-rumped Sandpipers showed up in late October last year. So I started to head towards Duck Lake from there. I was heading West from R DR N and 20.5 Mile road, so I swung north on 19 Mile Road to hit T DR N. Very fortuitous decision on my part. I ran across a newly cut field with some action in it. Larger flocks of Killdeer, and I continued to look amongst the smaller birds hoping for more Pipits or even an early Longspur. We have had heavy winds coming from the North -west and who know what could have been blown in. I ran across some American Kestrels in the field spooking up Horned Larks. As I continued to scan around I spotted a small raptor spinning tight circles chasing Horned Larks in flight. My best look at a Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight, and my best pictures also. Just as described in the guides, it soared in extremely tight circles scanning the fields below.
Next step was to do a scan of Duck Lake from the boat launch. The sun made it hard to scan the whole lake, and the cool temp didn't help the mirage much. There were plenty of gulls on the lake. Again the sun was making it look like I had everything from Glaucous to Lesser-blacked back...depending on which way the Ring-billed or Herring Gulls turned. Hard to get a read on the gray on the back in the sun as it was. At least it was good to see some gulls showing up there already. There will be many a trip for me out there over the next 2 and a half months. As I made my way back up to the Jeep from scanning off the docks, there was plenty of movement in the pine trees along the parking lot. I also started to hear the distinct sound of Red-breasted Nuthatch. In 3 years I couldn't find one in the county, and today I had a minimum of 6 of them flying around the boat launch. Birding is so unpredictable, and thus fun (for the most part).
Next stop was the Water Treatment Plan at Duck Lake. Not really much to report there, other than another Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring out in the distance. This one an adult. A new bird for this hotspot at least. Now to head on to Homer, again trying to find some late shorebirds. I made a quick stop at Barnes Park to sort through the Canada Geese there. I'm on the hunt for a Greater White-fronted Goose at this point also. It only gave up a new October Pied-billed Grebe.
Home was not going to add to my total for the year. Decent amount of birds there, but no shorebirds besides Killdeer. Lone highlight a first of October adult Bald Eagle scattering the ducks around. A Double-crested Cormorant was still hanging out there along with some increased numbers of Ruddy, Readhead, and Ring-necked Ducks.
A short trip back home and then off to Cranefest it was. This is such a great place for birding. I wish it was open more often. I really need to take advantage of the time it is open. A ton of birds there!! Northern Harriers patrolled the marsh throughout my time there. 2 Bald Eagles posed nicely on a tree branch next to each other. 5 Trumpeter Swans were in the marsh also. These included my first look at a leucistic Trumpeter Swan. This bird was completely white with an all orange bill, and orange feet. I assumed it was an adult, but with leucism it could have been a juvenile. After spending a ton of time scanning through all the ducks there I finally managed to find a bird with a white chest, and dark back of the neck. 2 more shortly made themselves visible nearby. Would have been much easier to ID in a month or two, but sure enough they were Northern Pintails starting to move in to their breeding plumage. #203...check.
All in all October 8th brought me 12 new birds for October. The Red-breasted Nuthatch being #84, breaking my previous high of 83. In addition to some of the birds named above, American Coots, American Wigeon, Mute Swan, Herring Gull, and Horned Lark also contributed. A work lunch in downtown Battle Creek on October 7th, allowed me to catch one of the Peregrine Falcons circling around Heritage Tower. 89 Birds so far for October. Very small chance to hit 100, which would be a pretty decent amount of birds for October. Now what to focus on, is probably going to have to be another post. 2 of the fairly easy birds left in one day, leave a lot of time for hunting around to scare up some more.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)