Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
On Wednesday, Dec. 4, Don Neumann drove out by Lake Michigan and watched a Snowy Owl. It was eating a Snow Bunting and spent most of its time "perched in a tree looking for lunch. It was finally chased out to the beach by three [American] Crows."
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
From Rick Brigham by way of Chip Francke there was a Short-eared Owl and a Northern Shrike (both at their usual locations on the south Wastewater properties) this evening, and earlier in the day Travis Dewys saw the Golden Eagle, a Peregrine Falcon and a Great Black-backed Gull all on Wastewater properties.
453 people viewed this page yesterday, 1,784 this week, 4,614 last month and 169,078 all time. That's not Amazon or Facetime, but it's enough.
I think the main reason for those numbers is the photography. Following in the tradition of the late, great Mike Moran, people like Mike Boston, Carol Cooper, Charlie DeWitt, Travis Dewys, Don Neumann, Mike VanderStelt and (pardon me for leaving anyone out) others are not only talented at capturing nature with their cameras, but also ethical in their talent.
I think another reason is the timeliness of information. This page is updated whenever I hear of notable Muskegon area bird sightings, usually within 24 hours of those sightings, and often much sooner than that. So anybody interested in such stuff can find out immediately with just one click.
Two winters ago, Snowy Owls invaded the upper USA including the Muskegon area in record-breaking numbers. For the first half of that winter I posted virtually every Snowy Owl sighting and photograph sent me, and our photographers with website privileges posted several more. But as that winter progressed, we all observed behaviors of a small minority of people at the Wastewater approaching the Snowies way too closely, causing them to fly, some people (usually with cameras) stalking the birds, pursuing the birds to make them fly, then pursuing and making them fly again. And we stopped posting Snowies.
It's too soon to know, but there are indications this may be another invasion winter for Snowy Owls, most of them less than a year old, most of them never having seen a human being ever! Birders know this. Our photographers know this. Most people (hopefully) know this. But a few people don't, or they just don't care. And I'm responsible for a website that's been viewed 169,078 times by human beings.
So I'm not going to post or have posted here any information about Snowy Owls at the Wastewater. Future sightings of Snowies elsewhere in the area will not have their locations posted. Birders will know, and others may find out elsewhere, but I simply do not want to be responsible in any way for incidents similar to those at the Wastewater two years ago.
Thanks, and sorry,
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
In November, I spent 15 days monitoring the waterbird flight over Lake Michigan. Like September and October, each session typically lasted one hour. Observations were made at Hoffmaster State Park, Lake Harbor Park, and Kruse Park. Compared to recent years, the weather this November was colder, wetter, and more windy.
As is customary, the most common November transient was Red-breasted Merganser. This month, 734 passed my observation points, and a peak of 174 was noted on 11/8. Although males do not acquire breeding plumage until the middle of November, birds can still be sexed by the amount of white in the wing coverts. This month, 65% were males. Common Mergansers were, typically, much less numerous (31 seen), and several of those were migrating eastward from far over the lake. Only two Hooded Mergansers were encountered.
A total of 639 Common Goldeneye were seen this month, with a peak of 147 on 11/21. Unlike Red-breasted Mergansers, most were foraging birds. However, the sex ratio was similar: 66% were males. Buffleheads peaked on 11/5 when 23 were observed.
Like goldeneye, most Long-tailed Ducks are seen foraging on Lake Michigan, but they are considerably more abundant and the vast majority feed much further in the lake. However, fairly accurate counts can be made since masses regularly fly (in their characteristicly erratic fashion) short distances to their next feeding site. Numbers steadily built all this November, and the 11/27 count yielded 4,783 individuals. Peak winter concentrations are generally achieved by the end of the month, and in recent years, densities have exceeded 2,000 per mile of Muskegon County shoreline. Although some large estimates have been wildly inaccurate, huge local tallies occur during multi-hour watches or when birds are abnormally concentrated due to ice conditions, eagle predation, boat traffic, or pressure from duck hunters. Long-tailed Duck rafts tend to be quite pure (likely due to their frenetic activity and deep-water foraging), although other duck species join them for short periods.
I only saw four Surf Scoter in November, but I counted 92 White-winged Scoters (27 on 11/8) and 17 Black Scoters (6 on 11/8). I recorded 8 Red-throated Loons this month, but Common Loons were again scarce; a total of only 19 were seen. November gulls included 119 Bonaparte's Gull (77 on 11/3), 1 Glaucous Gull on 11/12, and 2 Great Black-backed Gull on 11/29.
- Brian Johnson
- Brian Johnson
December 3 Email:
We saw at least one Short-eared Owl Monday night (Dec. 2) at about 5:28 p.m. We were on Laketon well west of Swanson about two telephone poles west of the storage building. It was following and diving into the ditch to the north and kept circling back, so it was viewable for as long as we had light. I was able to view it using the scope. Huge wingspan and bright round face.
- Ken Sapkowski
Monday, December 2, 2013
From Josh Kamp:
Sorry about the late post but just to let anyone interested know that Tom Beeke and I had a single Purple Sandpiper on the south side of the south breakwall last Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 27).
From Joseph, Jonathan, Michael and David Lautenbach:
We just thought you would like to know that on Saturday (Nov. 30) there was 1 Purple Sandpiper on the south breakwall in Muskegon. In addition, we saw 2 Red-throated and 1 Common Loons in the area between the 2 breakwalls. We had 5 Black Scoters fly by. There were 3 White-winged Scoters in the channel, plus another 12 flying south. A ton of Long-tails were out over the lake. There were also about 12 Tundra Swans that flew by. At the MWW we had 2 Peregrine Falcons, 1 Snowy Owl, a handful of Snow Geese (plus the weird potential hybrid), 4 Bald Eagles, 1 eagle sp., 1 Snowy Owl, 2 Glaucous Gulls, and 2 Great Black-backed Gulls. 1 pintail and a few lingering Green-wing Teal were notable ducks. Sorry for the late post.
Went to the north side of breakwater today and saw a Snowy Owl out beyond the elbow and saw this Merlin along the road heading to the channel parking lot. Didn't want to walk the rocks with camera gear to get better pictures of snowy -- no sidewalk on the northside! - Don Neumann
Of the many bird monitoring programs that have been conducted in Muskegon County, the Muskegon Wastewater System (MWS) Shorebird Survey ranks second in longevity; only the Muskegon Christmas Bird Count (1940 to present) has a more venerable history. In its first incarnation, the Shorebird Survey was compiled by Jim Ponshair for 22 years from 1974 to 2002. During that time, over 4,000 shorebird records were gleaned from miscellaneous submissions to the Grand Rapids Audubon Club newsletter (The Caller). Observations were provided by many individuals, but Ponshair and George Wickstrom were the most prolific. These records were forwarded to the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences for inclusion into the International Shorebird Survey which also dates back to 1974. Since that time, several other ISS sites have been established in Michigan, but the MWS survey has been running the longest.
In 2005, the MWS Shorebird Survey was adopted by a few members of the Muskegon County Nature Club, and several fundamental changes were made. By using only first-hand data, making regular visits, keeping to official survey periods, following an orderly route, and rejecting estimates in favor of rigorous counts, consistency and quality were considerably improved. Carolyn Weng was the principal counter for many years, but with her departure for California, I have taken over the project. Altogether, the MWS Shorebird Survey has encountered 36 species.
The fall of 2013 thus marks the ninth consecutive autumn of MCNC involvement, and it was clearly an auspicious season. On average 1,463 birds of 21 species had been recorded each autumn since 2005, and the best year had been 2009 (1,938 birds, 25 species). This year, during 13 sessions from July 12 to November 14, we found 24 species and 3,461 individuals. Although the species tally fell one shy of the most diverse season, the individual counts proved exceptional, and not surprisingly, new records were obtained for 10 species. The fall 2013 totals appear below with new highs in bold and past averages in parentheses.
Black-bellied Plover - 22 (11.1)
American Golden-Plover - 45 (28.6)
Semipalmated Plover - 54 (28.4)
Killdeer - 966 (399.5; previous high 711)
Spotted Sandpiper - 363 (306.4)
Solitary Sandpiper - 20 (9.5; previous high 19)
Greater Yellowlegs - 11 (6.0)
Lesser Yellowlegs - 528 (182.5; previous high 302)
Upland Sandpiper - 14 (6.0)
Red Knot - 1 (0.1; ties previous high)
Sanderling - 23 (13.6; previous high 19)
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 247 (80.0; previous high 171)
Least Sandpiper - 549 (213.5; previous high 369)
White-rumped Sandpiper - 3 (2.3)
Baird's Sandpiper - 48 (46.1)
Pectoral Sandpiper - 488 (62.4; previous high 100)
Dunlin - 23 (31.0)
Stilt Sandpiper - 13 (9.0)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 1 (2.3)
Short-billed Dowitcher - 5 (6.3)
Wilson's Snipe - 8 (1.4; previous high 6)
Wilson's Phalarope - 2 (1.0)
Red-necked Phalarope - 25 (9.5)
Red Phalarope - 2 (0.1; previous high 1)
Eight of these species set or tied previous daily high counts:
Killdeer - 207 on Aug 12
Solitary Sandpiper - 8 on Aug 24
Lesser Yellowlegs - 223 on Aug 24
Red Knot - 1 on Sep 14
Least Sandpiper - 256 on Aug 4
Pectoral Sandpiper - 169 on Aug 12
Wilson's Snipe - 2 on three days
Red Phalarope - 1 on Oct 24 and Nov 7
The spring season begins in early April, and counts are conducted once every ten days. Contact me if you wish to participate.
- Brian Johnson
- Brian Johnson
Hoping to keep my competition numbers respectable with the better birders in Chip Francke's December competition, I strolled the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve after breakfast (recording nothing unusual) and then drove to the Ovals (Channel and South Breakwall at Pere Marquette Park) to see if Chip had left any snowies from yesterday. And he had!
Jim Zervos, a couple from Zeeland, a few other folks and I were able to see two Snowy Owls near the end of the south breakwall -- one bird mostly black except for its face -- and a whiter but not pure white bird on the rocks along the south side of the north wall. We suspect there was another on the north side based on the attention of some birders over there at something not too far from shore on the north side of that wall. Checking eBird later may give the answer.
A male and two female White-winged Scoters were swimming in the Channel, and I'm pretty sure I heard a Northern Flicker over by the houses on the east side, but didn't count it.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
December 1 to Mich-listers:
On a failed attempt to locate a purple sandpiper at Pere Marquette Park today, I counted 7 snowy owls on the north breakwall (viewing is from the end of the south pier). There were 6 there at first, then another flew in off the lake and joined the party. There were no “all white” birds. There were also two common loons, one red-throated loon (all loons close to the end of the pier) and thousands of long-tailed ducks in the distance over the lake. An adult black-backed gull was on the beach.
- Chip Francke
- Chip Francke