[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Doug McWhirter swung through yesterday and spotted a very wayward Red-necked Grebe at Brooks Nature Area/Stuart Lake. I figured I would swing through there on my way to try, yet again, for some White-rumped Sandpipers. The weather was supposed to be more cooperative for pics...not so much.
I checked the small wetland area just after the turn off from Homer Road. Lucked out with some looks at a nice flock of Rusty Blackbirds. My previous sighting was an extremely lucky sighting last year of a lone bird. It was good to see this bird showing up in some decent numbers. I recorded 20, but there were likely more than that. Right place, right time as they were shortly replaced by a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds in the trees there.
Once arriving at the parking lot I noticed a Rock star pull-in. Scott Jennex was riding shotgun with Mary Trombley, who I met for the first time. They were looking for the Grebe to add to some already great 2015 Michigan numbers. Birding with (much...much...much) better birders than yourself really shows one there is a lot left to learn. We saw some good sparrow activity along the trail out towards the lookout. Shortly after the trail turns South-west to run along the lake we took some looks out on the lake. Some Pied-billed Grebes were out there in the lake, along with Mute Swans, but it didn't take long until the Red-necked Grebe showed itself. Pretty unmistakeable with very evident red neck on it. Unfortunately the additional time I stayed after Scott and Mary left didn't get me any better shots at it. It moved closer to the lookout, but that put it into the reeds in the lake.
I have Red-necked Grebe as a Code 3, and the 209th ranked bird for the County. It is actually probably a little more rare for Calhoun than that number even. First county report is Dec 2011 from Scott Jennex at Duck Lake, and March 2014 brought a bird to Albion and one to 11 Mile Road near Battle Creek. The Polar Vortex pushed in quite a few of these in to the inland waters that weren't frozen over in 2014.
This chart below shows this to be the first far inland bird for Michigan this season (light pink square in south-central Michigan). These guys would normally want to stay on the bigger lakes. Prelude to another Polar Vortex perhaps:-). This "guy" definitely is ahead of the rest of them, and a welcome visitor to the county. Hopefully he sticks around, although a later in the day checklist from Doug McWhirter didn't have it on there due to a jet skier on the lake.
The remainder of the day was less than spectacular. A Cooper's Hawk chasing a Red-Tailed Hawk at Duck Lake WTP made that a new bird for there. Homer WTP did have a decent mix of some FOS birds, with a Northern Pintail causing me some consternation (first time experiencing a male not in breeding plumage).
Two County Year birds for me, and I look to see that I'm only 2 behind my pace last year without really doing a targeted "Big Year" this year. I think 200 is definitely possible for the county in a year, but it won't be this year.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)