Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
When I first setup this blog I had a goal to get to #206 birds in Calhoun County by the end of 2015. I bested that, and ended the year with 209 birds. Early in the year I decided I had a shot at 200, and have pushed for that. I exceeded that number,and this past weekend I recorded #205 for the year. A number I didn't think was possible to get.
It has been longer than I thought since the last update, but until this past weekend there have been no new birds since the Greater White-fronted Geese. There have been reports of Black Scoters at Duck lake (fly-bys that I dipped on the same evening they were sighted), and even Red-necked Grebes on November 12th at Duck Lake (dipped on those also). Beyond that, just a lot of miles and a lot of birds to count for the month. Dipped again on Marsh Wren at Whitehouse Nature Center, new nemesis.
Guess some catch-up is in order for October. I finished October with 104 birds seen in the month. More than I've had for any month outside of April and May. One more than September high of 103. On a revisit to Homer on October 19th, I snapped some quick pics of a flock flying off over some of the farmland West of there. Never thought twice about it, as when I looked at it in the camera the only bird that stood out was a Canada Goose, so I assumed that is what they all were. Andrew Simon came looking for the Greater White-fronted geese at Homer on 10/18, and found none. He drove around a bit and found 64 in a nearby field. A much larger group than the 11 that showed up at Homer. I took a look at my picture again. Turned out my CANG flock was 67 Greater White-fronted Geese and one CANG. A fairly late Greater Yellowlegs also made an appearance. I was unable to come up with any Common Gallinule on future visits to Cranefest. Still plenty of waterfowl in terms of quality and quantity to make the trips enjoyable.
November got off to a fast start on 11/5 exceeding my previous high of 30 in a day with 37, followed by an amazing 52 species on 11/6. Highlight of my November 5th day was finding a Graylag Goose (domestic type)xCanada Goose hybrid. Definitely a make you look twice bird. It really stuck out though, as it was much chunkier than the other 700+ CANG that were at Homer. A larger contingent of 69 Bonaparte's Gulls also made an appearance. Always at least fun to try to attempt to see if there is something odd mixed in with them.
The hunt has pretty much now narrowed down to a Snow Bunting, any rare ducks (of which Duck Lake is most likely place, and a few owls. Black Scoters continue to get reported all around the state, with no luck so far on confirming them here. The Black Scoters reported by Mike Cook would be the first record for the county. I continue to hold out hope on spotting them.
I did say rare ducks, didn't I? I managed to get out of work at a decent enough time on Friday November 11th. I almost decided against making the long run to Duck Lake. The time change has made it hard to get out there prior to dark. I made the long haul out there, and after several scans of the lake, and sorting through gulls, I spotted an odd pair of ducks about 10 minutes before sunset. I say odd because it was an unmistakeable pair of Long-tailed Ducks!! A female, and an immature. The strong North winds that had blown all day brought in something good. Something which Lake Lansing finally may have passed on to us. Side note, Lake Lansing has had 5 birds (Black Scoter, Iceland Gull, Thayer's Gull, Cattle Egret and Great Black-backed Gull) that would be county firsts show up there lately. Here's hoping some of them make it this way.
The Long-tailed Ducks made it 205 for the county this year, with what should be a somewhat easy get of Snow Bunting to get me to 206. I made the run again Saturday morning between Duck Lake (horrible condition with sun, fog and mirage there), and Homer. Unfortunately shortly after I left Duck Lake a Red-necked Grebe was reported there. That lake can be so frustrating, I mean challenging at times. I went back out there in the evening, but had no luck. Followed that up with a big dip this Sunday morning also. There is still time, and with two weeks off from work I should be able to make plenty of the long runs out there still.
Even with the dipping on the Red-necked Grebes today, I managed to find my first abieticola Red-tailed Hawk of the year. I also thought I managed to see the Western Red-tailed Hawk that had been in Branch County. I thought I would brag to the Facebook Hawk ID page about pulling off a Red-tailed Hawk subspecies trifecta, and get confirmation on the abieticola. I was informed by Jerry Liguori that the bird was in face a sub-adult Golden Eagle!! That explained the reaction the Canada Geese had to it. Not one I would expect from a Red-tailed Hawk flyover.
Other highlights of the month, so far are some late Wilson's Snipes at Duck Lake WTP, Canvasbacks at Tekonsha WTP, some late Yellow-rumped Warblers at a random spot that turned out to be packed with birds, and a Great Horned Owl that has called several mornings from the wood near my house.
Besides getting to 205, and counting, the Red-necked Grebes make the Calhoun County overall count 216 birds for the year!! Well beyond the previous years of 209 and 210. An excellent overall year so far, and we still have 6 weeks to go. I have my hopes on still getting to 209 or 210 myself. It will take some gulls, grebes and owls to pull it off though.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)