[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Been a long time getting to this post. Will have to get a catch up of 2022 up shortly also. December 26th the pups and I headed up to a VRBO north of Cheboygan. Intent was to look around the Eastern U.P. for birds and property. Fairly successful on the first, not so much on the second. The pups handled the 4.5 hour drive fairly well, only having to stop once. Neither one have been on a vacation like this before. Been a long time since I've been on a vacation like this.
Not much happening on the 27th as the wind and snow was pretty brutal after having exceptional weather for the drive up. The morning of the 28th started off great as we got ready to head over the bridge. I heard some really odd calls and looked up on the pine trees of the rental. There was a Blue Jay calling, and these birds looked nearly as big as Blue Jays, but wrong shape. I finally got my binoculars out and sure enough lifer Pine Grosbeaks!!! Didn't even leave the driveway. Got some acceptable photos to boot. I didn't realize they were such a big bird.
I drove around some odd back roads not really caring where I was going. Ran into a few flocks of Common Redpolls. Very skittish, and unable to locate and potential Hoary. Downtown Dafter gave me even better looks at some Pine Grosbeaks. After much driving around, and turning around at roads that were closed down due to being seasonal only, I finally arrived at Dafter Dump. Absolutely love that place. Gull heaven!! I stayed out on the road, not realizing it looks like you can access inside lower level. It was okay. Might b the highest number of Herring Gulls I've ever seen. I nabbed at least 2 Iceland Gulls, a single Ring-billed Gull (apparently rarish), 4 Glaucous Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull. A bunch of Bald Eagles and Common Ravens.
More backroads and I located some Grouse out in a field. After getting some pics and consulting my Sibley guide I figured out there were lifer Sharp-tailed Grouse. Of course any Grouse would have been lifers for me. I had 12 of them actively feeding out in a field.
I made my way down to the Rudyard area looking for Snowy Owls. The "Loop" of Hantz and Centerline didn't disappoint. I had 2 Snowy Owls on my drive down Hantz, along with 2 Lapland Longspurs that tagged as rare. One of the latest dates in eBird for them in Chippewa County. They were mixed in with 240 plus Snow Bunting. Centerline brought on 3 more Snowy Owls. Then it was time to head back.
The 29th was to be a day with the dogs as I was going to take them to Wilderness Park to hike around. As I was loading up the truck again I head really odd calls and saw some large flocks up in the pine trees. I thought maybe they were Crossbills, but they took off before I could get some glass on them. Big bummer. Luckily they came back and was able to see my lifer White-winged Crossbills. A nice big flock of at least 48!!! Again I was able to snag some decent enough pics of them. 2 lifers and we never left the driveway.
The drive over we ran into some more Pine Grosbeaks. They were all over the place. The walk was a nice walk, and the dogs loved it. At one point they spooked up some Grouse. Very quick looks at them, but had to be Ruffed Grouse. Another lifer. Unfortunately couldn't get any pics of them.
The 30th we headed back over the bridge. Again the Loop around Rudyard really didn't disappoint. Hantz road had 5 Snowy Owls!!! Centerline had 2 more. Found another one heading in to Rudyard, along with a Sharp-tailed Grouse up in the tree of a house on Highway 48. Another 2 Snowy further north on Centerline. Again I did some driving around random roads, and came across a Northern Shrike on Kinross Road. Dafter Dump was a little rough as it was heavy snow for a while there. I counted 40 Bald Eagles, as a minimum hanging out there. Absolutely amazing number. Heading back to the bridge we ran back along some back road to Rudyard and came across what felt like a lifer to me. A almost pure white adult male Snowy Owl!!! It was such an awesome sighting I turned back around and took more pics of it. One more Snowy flew across I-75 and landed in a Pine Tree as we were heading back South. A very cool sighting to end the day.
Definitely loved the experience. I got 7 FOY birds, and 4 lifers on that trip. Biggest dip was Bohemian Waxwings. Never managed to find them. Now they haunt my Michigan needs list nearly daily. Really hoping I can manage to get a place up there to make it a little easier to bird up there more often. A ton of places I still didn't even get to there.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)