3 Days in Michigan – Part 2

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Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (Juvenile)

I was at Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, Michigan, years ago on a Kirtland’s Warbler tour, and immediately remembered the window feeders at the visitor’s center that attracted grosbeaks like the one at the top of this post. It was too late in the season to see a Kirtland’s easily, although one had been reported about five days before we arrived, but there were other birds to see and the forest itself is beautiful.

The Pileated Woodpecker above was actually not far from where we were staying when Linde went out for an early morning walk, and I managed, as always, to get representative but not very good pictures which I had to adjust for the backlighting. I think I’ll start now with my New Year’s Resolutions and plan to visit the places where Pileateds are seen more often around here, to increase my chances of getting a decent photograph.

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Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (adult male)

So to finish up with the grosbeaks at Hartwick Pines’ feeders, the main attraction was the Evening Grosbeaks. Although they proved difficult to photograph I did manage the pictures below, which are of an adult male and I believe the one on the lower right is a juvenile.

The day before we went to Hartwick Pines we visited the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment Plant which prides itself on its design to incorporate wildlife and native ecology into the whole process. If nothing else it’s a birding destination worth checking out.

With 11,000 acres of varied habitat it’s one of the best birding locations in the state. In the fields adjacent to the water treatment ponds we saw three Upland Sandpipers. They were too far away to photograph well but I did manage to catch them flying.

I think I saw more Black Squirrels this time than I have on previous trips to Michigan, but it was still hard to get a decent picture of one.

CORA 7-17-18-7001On the drive up I saw a Common Raven and then finally on our last outing one flew over.

The wastewater treatment ponds predictably had waterfowl. It was nice to see a Ruddy Duck (left, above) and we had to offer proof of the Lesser Scaup (on the right).

MALL 7-16-18-6833There was no shortage of young Mallards in various stages of development.

Mute Swans 7-16-18-6798Mute Swans, albeit introduced, are still lovely to look at.

In the summertime birders flock to sewage ponds in particular to see shorebirds. We saw only a few and they were pretty far away. Above on the left, a Lesser Yellowlegs, flying top right, a Killdeer, and below it is a Herring Gull, which is not a shorebird but a segue into the next photograph.

Gulls 7-16-18-6801On our way out we found most of the gulls were on the road in front of us. We estimated 2100 Ring-Billed Gulls and about 100 Herring Gulls mixed in amongst them.

Halloween Pennant 7-16-18-6787Here’s another Halloween Pennant. I have seen more of these dragonflies this year and I don’t recall having seen them before. Changes everywhere, big and small, and I guess this could be yet another one of them.

Woodchuck 7-15-18-6710The woodchuck above was found by Marty, a non-birder in the group, whom we dubbed the Mammal Spotter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woodchuck before…!

SCTA 7-17-18-7015Our last bird from Hartwick Pines, the Scarlet Tanager above, offered himself up for a series of photographs. Those tall pines do their best to make lighting difficult but I could not resist trying to capture him since he was at eye level.

BWHA 7-17-18-6953And one more photograph of the Broad-Winged Hawk which started off Part 1, who was also at Hartwick Pines, vying for the Most Memorable Bird award.

 

 

Spring Bird Count

Yellow Warbler, McKee Marsh

Yellow Warbler, McKee Marsh

Saturday was a beautiful day for a bird count. Even though the sun was often shining in our eyes, we saw some great birds at McKee Marsh which is part of the Blackwell Forest Preserve in DuPage County, Illinois.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Even though much of the time the birds were too far away or backlit. it was still worth it to take photographs to document the effort.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

In one case, the photographs helped clarify an ID. We couldn’t see the eye-ring on this bird below, and called it a female Mourning Warbler…

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

But the photographs taken as the bird moved around in the top of the tree proved the bird did indeed have an eye-ring, and so it is a Nashville Warbler.

Although I have done the Christmas Bird Count for years, this was my first Spring Bird Count. I don’t exactly know why I never did one before, but I suspect I was never asked before this year and I never volunteered because Saturday mornings still sometimes carry that sacred sleep-for-the-week designation after an exhausting work week.

Identifying the Plastic Bag Bird

Identifying the Plastic Bag Bird

But this spring has been so long in coming, it’s hard to resist getting out every chance I get, and so far the last two weekends have been rescheduled around birding.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Finally we are warming up with spring-like weather and the trees are starting to leaf.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Common Yellow-Throat

Common Yellow-Throat

We split into two groups to cover different areas. I’m not sure if my group had Bay-Breasted Warbler on the list, but I found the female below in my photographs. Sometimes it seems prudent to focus on capturing an image before the bird disappears and figuring it out later. I know there are purists who look down on this method, but the photographs help me pay attention to detail I might miss while trying to follow the bird’s movements with my binoculars.

Bay-Breasted Warbler

Bay-Breasted Warbler

The other half of the group likely saw more waterfowl than we did when they took off in the direction of the marsh (we headed towards the woods), but at some point we came around to open water and a flotilla of American Coots seemed to appear suddenly out of nowhere.

American Coots

American Coots

Busy Red-Tailed Hawks were presnet too. One was carrying nesting material in its talons, and another had what appeared to be a snake.

Red-Tailed Hawk with Nesting Material

Red-Tailed Hawk with Nesting Material

Red-Tailed Hawk with Snake

Red-Tailed Hawk with Snake

Toward the end of the morning we found a marshy area which had a few shorebirds. Compare the similarities and differences between Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

We stopped at a shelter with picnic tables for lunch, and there were Barn Swallows waiting patiently on the grill for us to finish getting settled so they could get back to tending their nest.

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallow Nest McKee 5-10-14.jpg-1259I managed to do only the first half day of the count. But I will be better-prepared next year, maybe even take off from work the afternoon or the day before so it will be easier to get up early and last all day.

When I got home after grocery shopping, I took a nap. Later in the afternoon after I got up, I noticed White-Crowned Sparrows in the yard and decided to take my chances at photographing one of them.

White-Crowned Sparrow - Yard Bird

White-Crowned Sparrow – Yard Bird

After taking pictures of one foraging on the ground by the feeders as I sat still on a bench, a White-Crowned Sparrow landed in the tree right in front of me and posed.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

Yesterday when I returned from more errands, there were four White-Crowned Sparrows bathing in the bird baths. I’m glad they like my bird-and-breakfast. This morning however there are no signs of them so they may have finally decided to go north to their breeding grounds.

Photos of more spring visitors to come soon. Click on any picture to see an enlargement. 🙂

Fermilab Shorebirds

Coyote, Dusaf Pond, Fermilab

Coyote, Dusaf Pond, Fermilab

I met my friend Leslie at Fermilab’s Dusaf Pond Saturday morning on another shorebird quest. A variety of birds had been seen in the last week or so and we were hopeful. The moment I got out of my car I saw a coyote, who seemed to be virtually ignored by the herons. As soon as I started taking his picture, though, he moved on.

Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers

I hadn’t been to Fermilab since the Christmas Count and felt like I owed it at least one visit this year. Click on the pictures for larger images, but for the most part, the birds were too far away to get much detail. And again, we did not see anything unusual. The only thing predictable was the lack of rain would likely produce good shorebird habitat. The rest was up to the birds. Other than the species depicted here, we saw Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs, and one Black-Bellied Plover.

Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper

Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper

The lack of water has done something else, too. There has been a large fish kill. We drove down to one end to walk through plowed stubble where the smell of rotting fish was not welcoming.

Fish Skeleton

Fish Skeleton

Here’s a Great Egret with a fish and a Lesser Yellowlegs maybe waiting for the egret to drop a piece of it. This picture was taken on the other side of the A&E Sea, another Fermilab body of water.

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Great Egret & Lesser Yellowlegs 1I2A1471

Invariably there were Killdeer and maybe since we don’t pay inordinate attention to them they don’t seem to mind the occasional photograph.

Killdeer 1I2A1481

Killdeer

Great Egret 1I2A1514

Great Egret

Summer is winding down. It’s hard to believe all these birds will be gone soon.

And the butterflies too…

Orange Suplhur  Butterfly

Orange Suplhur Butterfly

In Search of Shorebirds

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Shorebirds are not confined to the shore. Indeed, any place where water accumulates and then recedes creates an instant migratory shorebird feeding ground. But the birds are often very far away from wherever you have stopped to observe them. Unless you are lucky enough to find a deserted beach where you can hide behind something, chances are you will be looking at shorebirds either on a remote sandbar or, inland, across quite a distance.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

On Sunday morning, I joined a joint-sponsored Chicago Ornithological Society/Evanston North Shore Bird Club event led by the venerable local birder par excellence Walter Marcisz. The destination was the sludge ponds at the Calumet branch of the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The field trip was prearranged months ago and required background checks of all participants, since this is government property, not a designated birding hotspot.There was a decent variety of birds, although nothing out of the ordinary except for three beautiful Black-Bellied Plovers. But due to the nature of the location, cameras were not allowed. So the two shorebird pictures you see here were taken last weekend at Chautauqua or Emiquon. At least I got a good picture of the Emiquon sign.

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If I was ever unsure about Pectoral Sandpipers I have made up for it this year already; everywhere I have been there have been several.

Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers

There were other birds too last weekend, like this Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

And an Indigo Bunting who would have qualified for my previous post about blending in.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

In any event, the sludge pond trip left me far south enough to cut west over to McGinnis Slough. Even though it was by then mid-day, it seemed prudent to check it out. The Swamp Rose Mallow is in full bloom now.

Rose Mallow

Swamp Rose Mallow 

Periodically, flocks of blackbirds would rise up from the marsh where they were no doubt feeding alongside shorebirds I could not see. There were also huge flocks of Chimney Swifts but I was at a loss to photograph them adequately.

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Chimney Swifts

Chimney Swifts

Further south I was delighted to find the Sandhill Cranes, possibly the same birds from a couple weeks ago. There were again three, but only two fit in one picture frame. All that brown stuff on the ground is dried up pond lilies, which completely camouflaged smaller birds feeding in it.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

So our weather has changed from cool, cloudy and rainy to hot and dry in little more than a week. Much of my time for blogging has instead been spent watering my front yard. More about that eventually (assuming watering and praying for rain works).