Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Chaos has reigned supreme the past 4 months, both personally and professionally. The blog, and birding has suffered as a result. Now that the chaos is somewhat back under control I am going to get this thing caught back up.
May ended up being an exceptional month for me in the county. Unique bird to start the month was a white Swan at Duck Lake WTP. Dough McWhirter and I contend it is a Tundra Swan, but our eBird reviewer wasn't buying it. Would be an extremely late bird, and it was likely a juvenile that is one of those really fun tweener birds.
May 4th turned out to be a surprising great day. It was a Friday after work I decided to get some zen time and head to Woodland Park. Not 10 minutes in down the main path back to the footbridge I heard some odd chattering. It was loud, but not any call like a Mockingbird and it wasn't the same as a House Wren or Common Yellowthroat. It finally clicked in my head it could be a Yellow-breasted Chat. Dan Toronto had one in that same area in a previous year. It took a while to get an eye on the bird, but it finally hopped up in a tree and I was able to get a view of it between several leaves and branches. This bird was a lifer, and number 232 for the county. May 4th I also added Orange-crowned Warbler to my yard list.
May 5th was eBird's Big Day campaign so I hit up Woodland Park that morning and had 61 species. Kellogg Airport was showing 27 species including a male Hooded Merganser shadowing a female Wood Duck still. I hit up Meijer Retention pond, then D DR S flooded field, where I was able to get good looks at a male Orchard Oriole. I then headed home for some lunch. By this time I was at 82 species for the day, 1 more than my previous best. Grever's added Hermit Thrush and Pine Warbler. By a little after 5 Duck Lake WTP had pushed me to 100, a number I thought would be a real challenge to do in Calhoun in one day. A long continuing Long-tailed Duck, some other assorted late staying waterfowl and the above Tundra Swan certainly helped. I then swung through Whitehouse Nature Center, and then down to Homer WTP completing a long circuit of the county. On the way back with the sun nearly setting at 8:45 I spotted an Osprey flying overhead while driving down I-94. The Jeep is the best birding vehicle. An American Woodcock peenting behind Holiday Inn near Meijer topped the day at 108 birds. I think with a much more concerted effort 120 is attainable. I did no owling, and lunch cut up a couple of hours. There were several warblers I missed, I didn't get a House Finch, Bald Eagle, Kingfisher, Kestrel, Hairy Woodpecker, Peregrine Falcon or any Gull.
May 8th I had one of the best birding experiences of my life. At Voorhees Brothers Memorial Sanctuary I was walking near the back of the Sanctuary when I observed a large bird flying in the canopy. I knew this was the Barred Owl as this is a fairly reliable spot for them. Sure enough a large Barred Owl was sitting on a branch watching me. Shortly after a second owl flew into the area and sat observing me. You know when you have that feeling you are being watched? I had that feeling at that moment, and it wasn't just the two adult birds. As I turned and looked up over my left shoulder I had this looking at me.
This was most definitely not a place for me to be standing right now. I proceeded further up the trail and looked back to the tree I was standing under, when I noticed yet another fledgling Barred Owl eyeballing me. A few snaps of the camera and I got my butt out of there. It was still a moment I'll long remember.
As if that wasn't enough I was treated to peents and booms from Common Nighthawks flying overhead. May 12th I was treated to a Black Tern doing its best swallow imitation, while in full breeding plumage. If only the weather had been nicer. Not to stop with this tern, Duck Lake gave up 18 Common Terns, likely the same ones that had been at Kinderhook the day before. No future trips to Voorhees resulted in further sightings of the fledglings. Hopefully they made it through everything nature threw their way.
May 23rd I ran over to Kalamazoo to the Kellogg farm for a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that had been spotted. This bird was a lifer for me, and extremely rare for around here. Continuing the traveling theme on June 9th I decided to head up to the Flint area to a see a long-staying Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and nearby King Rail. Both birds are review species for Michigan, and naturally lifers for me as well. It took a while waiting out the rain, but eventually the bird popped up for myself and several other birders. The bird was heavily worn, so the tail length wasn't as "spectacular" as it could be. Regardless this was a great bird, and well worth the drive. The nearby King Rail is in one of the craziest places I've ever seen a bird. A house built right next to a farm field with a small wetland area. It couldn't be more than a 50 foot area. A King Rail had decided to take up residence here. After about 15 minutes this bird popped out in the front lawn area feeding. This bird was within 40 feet of the front porch of the house. It quickly returned to the overgrowth after nabbing a large worm.
On June 19th I received an e-mail from Dr. Dale Kennedy. A friend of theirs had observed some American White Pelicans out on Duck Lake. Luckily I was taking some time off from work that week and was able to beat feet out to Duck Lake. From the boat launch I saw 4 large white birds near the South-West end of the lake. They were very far away, and honestly if one was scanning quick they could have been easily dismissed as the resident Mute Swans. If it wasn't for those overly large bills that even from that distance stood out. I headed down to the South end, and as I got there the birds were in flight. One of the many fishing boats on the lake likely spooking them. I managed to get some decent shots off between houses and watched them gain altitude and head off to the West. Talk about impeccable timing. These were a first for the County, and #233 for me.
I came back to the North end of the lake after hitting up the WTP, and found a FOY Forster's Tern working there. This is almost as huge of a find for this county as the Pelicans. While I had the time off this week I headed to Ingham County to catch my lifer Whooping Crane that was in the area. I had notions of getting to 300 birds this year, so my travels outside of the county continued. I headed to Berrien County on 6/24 with some specific targets in mind. At Kesling Preserve I managed some decent shots of Louisiana Waterthrush, and heard Yellow-throated Warbler (both lifers). I also added Fish Crow and Brewer's Blackbirds in the area. I headed up to Allegan and finally found a Veery (a bird I never got in Calhoun), and Hooded Warbler.
Speaking of Hooded Warbler, and here is where we get a chaotic time warp, as from that day on 6/24 until well into September my birding was severely curtailed between chaos and more chaos. On 9/15 as I headed back to my car at Woodland Park I had a small group of birds working the trees between the two field. Mixed in it was a hectic Hooded Warbler, full hood one this bird. No mistaking what it was. It was a brief view, but I finally got the last "easy" (Code 1) bird for Calhoun and #234, one away from my goal to hit this year. It also gave me number 198 for the year. Now there is no way I am going to let myself get this close to 200 and end up short again like last year. On September 29th I decided to do some Hawkwatching at D DR S Flooded Field and found my FOY Sharp-shinned Hawk. The following weekend I finally got my FOY Broad-winged Hawk for #200. October 7th Lincoln's Sparrow at Baker, and a nice Baird's Sandpiper at Homer on 10/14. This same day an odd Canada Goose with a full white forehead had me thinking maybe a hybrid with Barnacle Goose. After some research I think it was just an odd Canada Goose. I think a first for me was a Hatch-Year Bald Eagle also. October 20th I found a very late, and rare for Calhoun, Common Tern working Duck Lake. Finally to catch things up to today, 26 Dunlin was a surprise for Homer. Previous high for the county was 8 Dunlin, so this flagged on eBird as a high count.
Geeking out by the numbers, since my last update I had high for Month of May with 155 species, and June I had a new high of 88. In addition to my new overall high of 108, I had a high for a Big Day in June of 70 birds. I ended May with 190, June with 197 that carried through until September. That was a high for yearly pace. All things considered it has been a good year, just not as good as it could have been.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)