Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
The freeze hit hard here, with very little open water starting in mid-December. Any chance for something like White-winged Scoter, Red-necked Grebe, Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, or any unique Gulls was all but eliminated. Trying to get to 200/220 was going to rely on winter finches showing up...which <spoilers> they did not.
December 23rd I took my first shot, after getting a break from the Chaos, at a Winter Wren at Bailey Park that had been seen on the 19th. Weather had been considerably colder with snow since that time period. I had no luck there with it, but did find first December Gadwall for me on the Battle Creek River. I decided to head to Grever's Nature Preserve after this. Along the way, just East of 11 Mile Road I came up on a bird sitting on a telephone wire. It didn't immediately strike me as a Red-tailed, so I turned back around, passed it, and then turned around so I could be just to the West of it on the opposite side, and get a good look in front of me at it. The streaking up the chest immediately led me to see it as a Red-shouldered Hawk, juvenile. A nice random find.
Grever's did give me #199 for the year, with 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches coming to mobbing calls, along with a plethora of other typical winter birds. Nice to know this site may be a bit more reliable site for these as I typically have a hard time locating them. I did not however manage a Pine Siskin, Redpoll or any Crossbill. From there I headed to Duck Lake which had some water still open, but not really enough to attract anything of significance. Barnes Park in Albion had open water, and I managed another Gadwall, and a late Northern Shoveler. The Cemetery side of Barnes Park also gave me an oddly-pigmented Canada Goose, and some more Lesser Canada Goose candidates.
Taking a chance I swung by the extremely frozen over Homer Water Treatment Plant. That site is done until we get a major thaw, which does not appear likely after nearly week of lows below zero. Pine Creek Wetlands was my last shot for the day with hopes of maybe a Golden Eagle. Again, no dice on that but a couple of Roughies, and an abieticola Red-tailed Hawk with an extremely thick belly-band were seen.
Got back out Tuesday December 26th after an appointment, and headed toward Albion again trying to see if any open water was available. 25 1/2 Mile Road and B DR N had some water open, with just Mallards and Canada Geese in it. After a lap around the area I headed back toward Albion on B DR N and came across a group of birds alongside the road. Mostly Horned Larks, but mixed in were 8 Lapland Longspurs. Thought I would get better pics than I did, but most of them just really didn't seem to turn out very sharp for some reason. McClure park had nothing but same as 25 1/2 Mile Road, and Barnes Park was frozen over with just Canada Geese resting on the ice. Heading North from Albion I ran across another abieticola Red-tailed Hawk in an area I don't normally hit, if I ever have on Hatch Road.
That pretty much stopped my birding for the year in Calhoun other than a few attempts at the airport, a quick look through some pics for Blackpoll Warbler (which is surprising), hoping for Pine Siskin or Redpolls at feeder, and a last minute try for Northern Saw-whet Owl near where I live. Was a little disappointing to end at 199. Considering I really didn't try as hard as I could have it is an encouraging sign that it is possible to get consistently 200 birds with some effort in Calhoun on a regular basis. The county still only finished with 218 birds. 2 more than last year, but I really hoped we could hit that 220 number.
I ended the year in 15 degree, and colder, weather walking train tracks for nearly 3 miles, and the Kalamazoo River valley trail for about 1.5 miles for the Kalamazoo CBC. The birds were few and far between, with a highlight being the first Golden Eagle for the count. It was right near the Northern edge of the count circle. A great looking first year bird. Of course it was in the wrong county for me :-). No pictures as the conditions really didn't warrant risking taking my camera with me. Periods of fairly heavy snowfall, a wonky knee (didn't need the added weight), and a foot of snow on the ground made no sense in bring the camera. The battery in it probably would have done the same thing my phone did, and nearly get drained to zero.
The next day was a very early morning as I helped out with the Barry County CBC. The owls in our area were extremely shy as we only had 3 Barred, 1 Screech and 1 Great Horned. No Northern Saw-whets were to be found. The highlight bird for the day was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a very random, yet birdy stop we tried. All in all it was a 29 species day, so not too bad.
Tomorrow I will do a wrap-up on the year, bird missed, new birds to the area, significant code changes, ranking changes and all that other nerdy stuff.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)