Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alder Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, 7-29

Muskegon County has a distinction of straddling two major biotic communities: The Northern Hardwoods Forest (also known as the Boreal Hardwood Transition) to the north and the Eastern Broadleaf Forest to the south. Consequently, the northward or southward breeding distributions of many bird species reach their limits at the tension zone separating these two physiographic regions.

Of the 95 species of songbirds that definitely or probably breed in Muskegon County, 9 southern species and 15 northern species become rare or absent on the opposite side of this zone. This phenomenon is well illustrated by the Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, which meet at the White River basin, but rarely do so to the north or south.

Today, under a hot sun and generally quiet activity, I had the pleasure of finding three northern species that approach the southern limits of their breeding ranges. At Lanes Landing, an Alder Flycatcher was singing from thicker habitat than the nearby Willow Flycatchers. At the Cedar Creek Motorsports Trails (in the southern reaches of Manistee National Forest, a couple miles north of the Muskegon River), I heard both Hermit Thrush and Blue-headed Vireo. With each species, I have yet to see them further south in this county.

- Brian Johnson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wastewater Shorebird Report

Shorebird Survey

Location:     Muskegon Wastewater System
Observation date:     7/23/10
Notes:     84-80 degrees F; WNW 4mph; 50% cloud cover; infiltration basins unmowed and dry except around outlets; in B section 2 covered with standing stagnant water,1 with recently added shallow water; all aerators full but small easternmost holding basin next to center dike had exposed muddy shoreline; that, the north shore of West Lagoon and east end of East Lagoon only mudflat type habitat; spotted sandpipers using rocky banks.
Number of species:     8

Semipalmated Plover -  1 adult
Killdeer -    8
Spotted Sandpiper -      62
Lesser Yellowlegs -   4
Upland Sandpiper -      1    juv - crisply patterned plumage with unworn pale fringes and dark subterminal lines on scaps, coverts.
Sanderling -    1     in winter plumage
Least Sandpiper -    12  1 juv; others adults
Pectoral Sandpiper -      3

American Kestrel juveniles hunting from irrigator in field at east end of East Lagoon; adult seen in same area. Dickcissels singing along White Road; also along Swanson Rd south of Apple.

- Carolyn Weng

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Unusual Sparrow Recapture - Brian Johnson

Last week Ric Pedler mentioned that he saw a banded Grasshopper Sparrow along Seba Road near the pine plantation on the south Wastewater properties. This location is a little outside my designated study area and has hosted few Grasshopper Sparrows in the past. However, the destruction of the nearby fields has substantially reduced the densities and nesting success of most grassland species. Since some birds still remain in small, peripheral patches, I have been curious whether they are individuals that have emigrated from territories which offered suitable habitat in the past or whether they are young birds colonizing usable, albeit deficient, grassland. If the latter is true, then there is a strong likelihood of very high mortality among the birds from the treated grasslands.

Today, I netted Ric's bird. The band on the right leg (1601-95246) indicated I had banded it last year. When I entered data, I referred the band against the original capture. Amazingly, I had banded this bird on August 13 as a nestling! It was one of three chicks from the last nest I found in 2009. Considering how late it was in the season, I was pessimistic that these birds would ultimately survive. While one of its siblings (#247) was captured on September 2, 243 meters west of the nest, it had not yet initiated its preformative molt (which is very tardy) and meant that it would either have to migrate south in juvenal plumage (which is extremely unusual) or try to finish its molt while constrained by a increasing dearth of food resources.

Apparently captured near the center of its territory, bird #246 has moved only 504 meters from its natal site. Little data exists on dispersal patterns of grassland birds, so I don't yet know how it accords with such movements, but I find it fascinating regardless.

- Brian Johnson

65 Species at Wastewater - Phil Vreeman

Hey Ric,
Finally took the time to blast out to Muskegon County with the new tires on my car (Monday, July 19).  Had 65 species at the Wastewater and picked up 10 additional at Lane's Landing.   Nothing terribly out-of-the-ordinary except for your same three Ravens.  

Two Common Ravens were at the east end of the dump, and the third was a quarter mile north on a pole just east of the East Lagoon.  Croaks and shaggy throat feathers made it easy; especially when my first landed with a group of 40 crows right next to an immature Bald Eagle!  Two were found at the far east end of the dump, and a third a quarter mile north, on the east side of the East Lagoon.  

Other Wastewater highlights: closeup Vesper Sparrow, 2 Dickcissel, 1 Bobolink, 1 Peregrine Falcon.  Several Wastewater family groups: Hooded Merganser (16), Pied-billed Grebe (16), Great Blue Heron (9), American Kestrels (10), Wild Turkey (11), and Sandhill Crane.

- Phil Vreeman

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shorebird Report + Ravens at Wastewater


Here's the first shorebird report of the fall migration season for the International Shorebird Survey:

Location:     Muskegon Wastewater System
Observation date:     7/15/10
Notes:     82-80 degrees F; W 10mph; 90%-10% Cloud Cover; very little shorebird habitat; all aerators full; no new flooding in infiltration basins; Clay Pond sandbars still underwater. Least sandpipers and 15 of L Yellowlegs using north shore of West Lagoon

Number of species:     5

Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus     8     immature was half size of adult; nearly as tall slighter body size;full fall plumage
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius     25
Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipes     18     15 resting as a group along north shore of West Lagoon
Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicauda     2     flight with alarm calls; adult size
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla     2     worn -- very dark upper feathers

This report was generated automatically by eBird.

In addition to a list of shorebird species in the website sightings page, would you add the raven sighting:

2 Common Ravens, flying and moving in close proximity to each other, were working the roads, rocks and grassy areas at the east end of the East Lagoon on 7/15/10.

- Carolyn Weng

(See Ravens posted below same location on Wednesday. - Ric)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green Heron

Also not great (I had my focus on single shot -- GRRR) but a good bird.

Mike VanderStelt

Possible Birth Defect?

I've been seeing this immature Red winged Blackbird for a few weeks now. At first I assumed it was a victim of some sort, as it has NO tail feathers, but as I said, it's been about 3 weeks or so and it doesn't seem to be growing "new" feathers at all.  I'm wondering now if it's possible that it may be some sort of birth defect.  All the other (at least 50) immatures have a full set of tail feathers, and if you look at the shot with 2 birds, (the subject bird is on the left) the other clearly has a tail section. As always, I will patiently wait for opinions from our esteemed panel of experts (Charlie and Mike B. excluded :) )

Mike VanderStelt

P.S. Excuse the quality, as they were long shots directly toward the sun.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ravens at Wastewater

This morning while looking for shorebirds at Wastewater I disturbed a Common Raven from the east edge of the East Lagoon and watched him fly south of Apple Ave.  I drove down there to re-find him and found three!  (Picture shows 3 Ravens and 2 higher-flying Turkey Vultures.)

Shorebirds were sparse: 8 Least Sandpiper, 13 Spotted Sandpiper (2 juv, 3 adult, 8 un-aged), 2 Lesser Yellowlegs and 6 Killdeer (plus 2 chicks).

- Ric Pedler

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kestrel, Crane & Waxwing - Dan Lockard

Three photos by Dan Lockard from the Wastewater properties yesterday (7/10): American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane and Cedar Waxwing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eaglettes by Don Neumann

Don Neumann took these five photos of the "Bald Eaglettes" at Muskegon State Park and reports that they started flying about two weeks ago.