To see all the details in some of the pictures, right-click them. From the mini-list choose "Open link in new window". In that window click the picture for actual size, often too big to fit your monitor. Scroll around to appreciate all the details. Then click again to see the entire picture.
I'm sure it's something common, but I just can't seem to find it in Sibley's -- and I looked at ALL the Ducks and Geese in the book! It's hard to see in shot No. 1, but the upper breast area looked black speckled similar to the pattern of a Starling. Just my luck, it's probably just your old, everyday, Worthen's Sparrow. :) .
Feller DeWitt and I birded Lane's Landing, the Maple River west of State Game Area headquarters and the Wastewater this morning recording 66 species without a Mourning Dove! (We did get a modo on the ride home, so 67 total.)
Of note at Lane's Landing were the Trumpeter Swan appearing once and vocalizing often, one or two Wilson's Snipe flying around the marsh, and two Pied-billed Grebes calling occasionally, sometimes to each other.
Things were quiet at State Game Area headquarters. We saw two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers along the south river trail and one Greater Yellowlegs on the "snipe field" west of there.
At Wastewaterthree Lesser Yellowlegs were in one of the small aeration cells south of White Road, as were three Brewer's Blackbirds and at least one Lapland Longspur. Tree, Barn, Cliff and Bank Swallows were all present.
I birded Seba Road on the south Wastewater properties this morning, then drove past the lagoons and finished with a walk around the Maple River west of State Game Area headquarters. Counted 46 species (probably 47 but couldn't positively ID Bank Swallows (?) west of aeration cells). .
Of note along south Seba to the mini-marsh:Field Sparrows singing from many directions, 3 Brown Thrashers vocalizing and interacting and 2 Vesper Sparrows (not singing) between the marsh and the maintenance buildings. Along Seba north of Laketon, 1 Barn Swallow and another quiet Vesper Sparrow.
On the East Lagoon: 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 female Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Ducks (some males in breeding plumage, others not). Between the big lagoons, Cliff Swallows at their usual location by headquarters. In the northeast corner of the west lagoon, 1 Eared Grebe in breeding plumage. A Cooper's Hawk soar-hunted over the dry cells like a buteo.
Along Messinger Road there was a lot of leaf-scratching sound (plus occasional "peabody-ing") from the many White-throated Sparrows. I encounted Blue-gray Gnatcatchers three times on my walk out the south and back the north side of the river and just before I quit, this Blue Racer crossed my path (dunno if that's bad luck).
Our thanks to Dan Lockard for sending this April 23 photo of the baby Great Horned Owl on the Wastewater properties. As commented previously regarding the nest, we are not posting the exact location here.
. Dayle Vanderwier's hand is not allowing him to type much these days (or do much else) so he phoned to report that he has had a Pine Warbler hanging around his backyard for the last week or so, and yesterday he heard a Whip-poor-will. .
I birded the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve for a couple hours this morning observing 32 bird species. Of note were three Pied-billed Grebes, at least two Brown Thashers, a Peregrine Falcon perched on the strobe light near the west nest box on the Cobb Plant smokestack across the river, White-throated Sparrows singing their peabody song at various locations on the preserve, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, a male Wood Duck, and a House Wren singing and battling with a Black-capped Chickadee near the preserve entrance, each taking turns being the aggressor.
The Killdeer are back on my mini-golf course. This one is getting ready to do her broken wing dance. Presently I have two of them on the course and several others nearby. If anyone has not seen their act, come out and have a look. I'm at Russell Road and US-31.
I was also hoping for another Mallard hatching. I had nine ducklings born on the course in '09. Mama duck was back and laid at least ten eggs, but I found her with a broken neck. I think she really screwed up a landing. Is there a use for abandoned duck eggs?
A beautiful cold morning yesterday (April 19) produced 53 species and 9 year birds(if anybody's counting):
Swamp Sparrows (#91) were thick at Lane's Landing. Sandhill Crane and Wild Turkey called from all around the area, the Trumpeter Swan vocalized twice and Blue-winged Teal mostly in pairs gave good views. The Maple River west of State Game Area headquarters produced White-throated Sparrow (white-striped and tan-striped), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and two species of shorebird on the "snipe" field: 5 Greater Yellowlegs and 8 Wilson's Snipe (plus 1 farm tractor tilling the area). I heard but never saw Field Sparrow south of the headquarters buildings. I dipped on grebes at the Wastewater, but saw and heard Savannah Sparrowsaround the small D6 and D5 cells, an Upland Sandpiper west of the Laketon-Swanson airport, and a male Northern Harrier in that same area. On my way home an adult Broad-winged Hawk (#99)soared over Maple Island Road north of Heights-Ravenna.
I photographed this Eared Grebe near the center dike between the two big lagoons at the Muskegon Wastewater today. It was with a group on Northern Shovelers. They flew off, but it stayed and slowly moved out of range of my lens. The Upland Sandpiper picture is from today as well. There were at least two of them. This was near the rocket launch site.
Grand Rapids Mi. .
Great photos! While Rich was in "our area", some of us were down in Ottawa County viewing the usual suspects on the Upper Macatawa Natural Area. There's a report and photos on our homepage. - Ric Pedler
Shot this Pied-billed Grebe in the backyard today. I actually went out to get the Wood Ducks and Common Mergansers that were there ten minutes earlier. Oh well, I guess they knew I was coming! (Ric, no comments from the peanut gallery.)
- Mike VanderStelt
Mike, I wasn't going to comment but your snide remark forced the issue, so comment, comment from my computer chair (I don't even own a peanut gallery).- Ric
Checking the Wastewater on Wednesday evening (April 14), I heard my first Grasshopper Sparrow of the season. I returned with my nets on Thursday evening and tried to net two singing males, but the strong winds made that a no go. However, I did hear at least one Upland Sandpiper.
The condition of the local habitat has me concerned for some of the grassland birds. Between 2008 and 2009 male Grasshopper Sparrows exhibited very high site fidelity - nearly all returned to precisely the same location, despite significant changes in the vegetation structure. This implies that geographic familiarity is a bigger draw than optimal habitat. Since these 2010 arrivals (presumably returns from past years) seem to be staking claim to areas unsuitable for nesting, there is a chance that another breeding season will be lost. The Wastewater has one of the highest densities of Grasshopper Sparrows in Michigan, so the current outlook has me somewhat depressed.
New birds for me on Monday, April 12, were Rough-winged Swallow at Muskegon State Parkand Muskegon Wastewater, Barn Swallow at Muskegon State Park and Lanes Landing, and Osprey at Muskegon State Park.
On Tuesday, April 13, I saw an adult Glaucous Gull along Lake Michigan at Hoffmaster State Park. While not unusually late, it was slightly odd to see that species and Caspian Tern (7) within a few minutes of each other.
Backing out of the driveway this afternoon my wife said, "What kind of bird just landed in the backyard?" I didn't see it right away, but then spotted it. I went right back into the house and got the camera out and took a few pictures.
At Lane's Landing today the Trumpeter Swan was back. I also found 21 Bonaparte's Gulls at the Wastewater in RI cell B6.
On Saturday morning (April 10) along Lake Michigan the first three Caspian Terns of the season flew north over the shoreline. On Sunday (April 11), a breeding-plumage Red-throated Loon joined a progression of 41 Common Loonspassing north.
Bufflehead are peaking at Muskegon Wastewater. I had 783 in the lagoons later in the day. There were also 11 Horned Grebes. At the Muskegon State Game Area I heard four drumming Ruffed Grouse along the Maple River. Barred Owls have been very vocal. I also heard four species of frogs: Wood Frogs are no longer calling, but Gray Treefrogs have joined the chorus of Spring Peepers, Chorus Frogs, and Leopard Frogs.
On Friday evening, I birded Lanes Landing. Of all the places that I have birded over the years, this place ranks as one of my very favorites. At this time of the year the marsh offers a wonderful smorgasbord of sights and sounds. The only problem is that with all the activity continuing after sunset, I have a very hard time leaving the place before dark. Hordes of blackbirds, several species of ducks(from the pleasant whistle of wigeon to the the squawk of Wood Ducks and bizarre growling of Hooded Mergansers), cranes, rails, snipe and woodcock, Barred Owls, various marsh songbirds, and four species of frogs together produce a delightful cacophony of song. However, the only new bird for the year was a calling Sora.
Earlier, I saw my first White-throated Sparrow at the DNR Headquarters.
Meanwhile, at Lake Michigan,loons have been migrating in good numbers. In a couple hours, I counted 64 on Thursday and 49 on Friday.
On April 5 I hiked the trails at Muskegon State Park. I ended with 57 species; highlights included 3 Surf Scoterover Lake Michigan and all 7 species of Muskegon woodpeckers. On April 7 I hiked the trails at Hoffmaster State Park and found 48 species. Highlights included one Purple Finchand one winter-plumaged Red-throated Loon over Lake Michigan. New for the year was one Chipping Sparrow. This is a species that gives some Christmas Bird Count compilers the fits, as novice birders often mistake American Tree Sparrowsfor them at that time of the year. However, in our area, the two species normally overlap by only about 10 days in the fall and again by only about 10 days in the spring. Tree Sparrows are rapidly vacating the Muskegon area right now. Although I have had them in this area as late as May 8, they are very scarce after April 25. Conversely, Chipping Sparrows are almost unprecedented in Muskegon County before April 1. - Brian Johnson
Our Yellow-bellied Sapsucker showed up April 5, one day earlier than last year. He usually sticks around for several days, then continues north.
Then yesterday (April 6) Carol noticed he had a lady friend. Out our back window we watched them chasing each other all around the neighborhood in a wild game of tag. Suddenly there was a bang! on our front window, and the dazed male was sitting on our front steps.
He didn't want to let go of my fingers when I picked him up, but I was finally able to disengage his toes onto our front fence. He hung there a few minutes, then came out of his trance and flew to our tulip tree.
We hope he's all right. Woodpeckers do have hard heads, don't they?
Got this pair of Pied-billed Grebes last night just before dark (yes, Ric, in the back yard) so there's some soft focus from the slow shutter speed, and it was the only somewhat clear shot I could get as they weren't too slow in leaving the area as I crunched through the sticks. If it's dry anytime soon, I'll set up a blind in better light and re-post a good shot, so keep your binoculars close to your P/C :) - Mike VanderStelt
. Mike VanderStelt's two photos below illustrate what happens when you click some of the larger photos sent by our photographers. Clicking the picture on our homepage enlarges it up to (but not beyond) the dimensions of your monitor. Clicking the enlarged picture increases the image to actual size (even if it overflows your monitor). Then you can count feathers! You might try this with Mike's Mallard and Red-winged Blackbird pictures below. (Notice that it doesn't work with Ken Sapkowski's picture of the Greater Yellowlegs because your first click increases that photo to actual size.)
In the previous post, I wondered why so many Red-winged Blackbirds were flying southbound over the woods at Hoffmaster State Park yesterday morning. Brian Johnson emailed the following reply which I've posted separately rather than as a comment to my Hoffmaster post. - Ric Pedler
With the above-average temperatures, somewhat southerly winds, and dry conditions, it is not surprising that migration is proceeding at an accelerated pace. However, among most species thus far, first arrivals are appearing only a couple days before their long-term averages. On the other hand, some of those species are filling their habitats faster than normal (i.e. subsequent individuals are appearing shortly after the previous, thus compressing their seasonal arrival phenology). Recent firsts not otherwise reported include, female Red-winged Blackbird (2 at Muskegon State Game Area on March 26), Brewer's Blackbird (2 males on April 1 at Wastewater), Ruby-crowned Kinglet(1 at Muskegon State Park on April 2), Swamp Sparrow (9 at Lanes Landing on April 3), and Savannah Sparrow(3 at Wastewater on April 3). Also, I counted Painted Turtles basking in the Maple River by the DNR Headquarters and found 157 on April 1.
As far as your southbound migrants, you are seeing only a small fraction of the northbound movement from the past several days. Early arriving landbirds migrate during the day (we are only now starting to see passerines that migrate predominately at night). These birds proceed north along a broad front in response to favorable weather conditions (warm fronts really move them), but they concentrate over the dunes of Lake Michigan. In the case of open-country species (meadowlarks, larks, buntings, longspurs), best movements are actually over the lake and shoreline. Reasons include geographic funneling effects, navigational aiding, weather (e.g. wind forcing), and habitat issues (terrestrial ecosystems are invertebrate poor at this time of the year). Thousands of these blackbirds, starlings, robins, bluebirds, finches, flickers, etc. pass northward during the morning hours and again near sunset. Many are hard to detect because they fly so high (and fairly fast in good tailwinds) and often remain silent (except when encountering other flocks). However, a portion of these birds, as you have noted, are flying steadily in the "wrong" direction. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as a "morning flight", is considered by some researchers working along the coasts to be a reorientation or correction to the preceding migratory flight. Here, along the lake for instance, it may not be safely assumed that all these southbound individuals are the same birds that moved north on this same path minutes, hours, or days previously. However, I suspect that the southbound movements represent birds searching for suitable habitat for foraging, safety from predators, and refuge from harsh weather, and in turn seeking either sufficient space or additional members of their own species or guilds.
Similar patterns occur over the lake. While some species, such as Red-breasted Mergansers, have been showing a consistent trend north (or northwest in the case of Tundra Swans), certain other waterfowl seem to be moving south in better numbers. One of my better counts for loons was 101 in 1.5 hours moving NORTH in the fall.
Four hours of birding southern portions of Hoffmaster State Park netted 35 Species this morning with these highlights:
- Red-shouldered Hawk screaming near the gate on Black Lake Road at 7:00,
- Six Hermit Thrushes at various locations,
- Hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds flying southbound above the treetops all morning (why?),
- Two (possibly three) Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 1 male, 1 female,
- An adult Red-headed Woodpecker near the sand-blow-down dune on the big trail to the Lake,
- Dozens of Brown Creepers in small groups all over all morning,
- At least a hundred Golden-crowned Kingletsin small groups all over all morning,
- Five Canvasback drakes on Black Lake at 11:00
I hit the wastewater this morning and was pleased to have many new arrivals. It is definitely feeling like spring out there now. Highlights:
-130+ Lapland Longspurs at the flooded field on Swanson south of Laketon (inc. 5 Snow Buntings), including some stellar views and much singing behavior. -Lesser Yellowlegs - 1 in cell B3 -Greater Yellowlegs - 1 in cell B3 -Pectoral Sandpiper - 1 in cell B3, 20 at s. Swanson flooded field -Brewer's Blackbird - 1 at s. Swanson flooded field -Wilson's Snipe - 2 in cell D6 -Snow Goose - 1 blue goose at s. Swanson Flooded field -Blue-winged Teal- 12 scattered -Red-breasted Merganser- 1 drake on east lagoon -Vesper Sparrow - back in full force! -Field Sparrow - ditto
Here are some photos. Both yellowlegs together: Snipe Snow Bunting (great to see them without the rusty plumage tips, which have now worn off) Lapland Longspur (tried hard for other longspur species in the flock, is worth looking still) Horned Grebe at SE corner of west lagoon Good Birding, Caleb Putnam
Full eBird trip report: Location: Muskegon Wastewater System Observation date: 4/3/10, 0855-1145 hrs. Number of species: 51
Snow Goose 1 Canada Goose 2082 Wood Duck 1 Gadwall 18 American Wigeon 3 Mallard 12 Blue-winged Teal 12 Northern Shoveler 1380 Green-winged Teal 21 Redhead 2 Greater Scaup 2 Lesser Scaup 358 Bufflehead 579 Common Goldeneye 4 Red-breasted Merganser 1 Ruddy Duck 926 Wild Turkey 1 Pied-billed Grebe 1 Horned Grebe 3 Turkey Vulture 2 Bald Eagle 2 American Coot 37 Killdeer 9 Greater Yellowlegs 1 Lesser Yellowlegs 1 Pectoral Sandpiper 21 Wilson's Snipe 2 Ring-billed Gull 3000 Herring Gull 150 Mourning Dove X Downy Woodpecker X Northern Flicker 6 Eastern Phoebe 2 Blue Jay X American Crow X Tree Swallow 13 Black-capped Chickadee X Tufted Titmouse X White-breasted Nuthatch X Eastern Bluebird 2 American Robin X Field Sparrow 4 Vesper Sparrow 9 Song Sparrow 21 Lapland Longspur 130 Snow Bunting 5 Red-winged Blackbird X Eastern Meadowlark 7 meadowlark sp. 8 Brewer's Blackbird 1 Common Grackle X Brown-headed Cowbird X
"Here's a picture of a Red-shouldered Hawk that is nesting in Norton Shores. I have been watching the male bring food to the female over the last week." - Kathy Neff "Barn Swallow at the Causeway, 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and a Winter Wren at Ellis Road." - Feller DeWitt
This evening (Wednesday, March 31) I made "quick" bike ride on the Musketawa Trail, east to Conklin and back, and encountered 48 species. Eastern Towhee and Vesper Sparrow were new for the year for me (though the former has likely been around for awhile). During a side trip to the Ravenna Sewage Ponds, I saw my first Blue-winged Teal of the year - the first "new" duck since Ruddy Ducks returned to the Wastewater on March 14. Between Swanson Road and Black Creek, I heard 18 American Woodcocks, the most I have found in a single day in Muskegon County.
A couple other new arrivals were Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Kruse Park this morning and Field Sparrow there yesterday (3/30).
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