Friday, December 31, 2010

Mich-Listers Western Grebe Update - Caleb

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All-

Adam Byrne just called to report that he and Phil Chu are looking at a pair of Western Grebes, apparently a male and a female, near the Coast Guard station on the south side of the Grand River channel in Grand Haven, Ottawa Co. (31 Dec 2010, 11:30 a.m.). The station is located near the intersection of Sherman Ave and S. Harbor Dr., or at about these coordinates which can be used with Google Maps 43.060244,-86.238996 . Another way of saying it is that the station (and the birds) are about 0.7 mi inland from Lake Michigan, or about a half of a mile downstream of Chinook Pier, in the Grand River.

Pretty amazing back to back years for this species in Michigan!

Good Birding,
Caleb Putnam
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Western Grebe Still at Grand Haven Thursday

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December 30, 2010 to Mich-Listers:

I saw and photographed a Western Grebe at 10am today in the Grand Haven Channel.

Good birding,

Dave Slager
Columbus, Ohio
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Results of Two Christmas Bird Counts

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Thanks to Feller DeWitt and Brian Johnson for sending us the results of our two Christmas Bird Counts (City of Muskegon CBC and Wastewater area CBC).  I've just posted the basic numbers on our homepage.  Anyone wishing the actual documents (Feller's is a Word file, Brian's an Excel file), please contact me.

- Ric (oakridge35@yahoo.com)
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Western Grebe on Friday - Don

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These photos of the Western Grebe at Grand Haven were taken last Friday (Dec. 24) and are a little different look: enjoying lunch and stretching a leg.

- Don Neumann
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Western Grebes & Harlequin Duck - Charlie

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I spent two hours at the Grand Haven south pier this morning.  The pair of Western Grebes were there on the north side of the channel by the old Coast Guard boat house. I also spent some time scoping the south side of the south pier and found one Harlequin Duck feeding right next to the pier near the center light tower.

- Charlie DeWitt
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

2 Western Grebes at Grand Haven

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Sunday, Dec 26, 12:30 pm:

Two Western Grebe, 1 Long-tailed Duck and 1 Scoter species in the Grand Haven Channel seen from north pier; also 1 Horned Grebe at Chinook Pier.

- Dave Herdegen and Bonnie Kot

No Grebe at G.H. but Golden Eagle at W.W.

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I searched for the Western Grebe at Grand Haven on Dec. 24 without luck.  There was a lone Long-tailed Duck and Black Scoter in the channel among other more common species.  There were several thousand long-tails on the horizon.  I would appreciate any new news of the grebe's presence in Ottawa County.
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At the Wastewater I was able to locate one Golden Eagle at what I believe is the northern end of the facility.  During a futile look for the big guys last week, I wasn't aware that the facility went that far north, nor that the goldies are often seen there.  Rick Brigham set me straight on the location.  Good to finally get that lifer on my list and off my back; a beautiful bird! 

Mike Overway
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Red-capped Woodpecker Arrives at Usual Time

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Thanks to Mike Vanderstelt for this photo-card.

Merry Christmas !
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Long-tailed Duck in Channel

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This morning (Dec. 23) at approximately 11:30 a.m. Scott Hula, Scott Stephens (both of Rockford) and I identified a first year female Long-Tailed Duck.  It was in the Muskegon Channel between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake at the Fulton/Bluff St parking area.
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- Ross Parker
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Waterfowl and Western Grebe

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With the more favorable weather during this last week, I conducted a few short waterbird censuses along Lake Michigan.
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Despite seemingly great rafts of Long-tailed Ducks, my best count was only 1,795 birds at Lake Harbor Park on December 20.  At Muskegon State Park on December 22, a count of 684 Common Goldeneye was my highest this season.  On December 23, a total of 44 White-winged Scoters off Lake Harbor Park produced one of my better tallies from Muskegon County.


However, as also indicated by Charlie's post, the real find was brought to my attention by Carol Cooper, who joined me at Lake Harbor Park shortly after noon on Dec. 23.  Earlier, while on the north side of the Grand River channel, she snapped this quick photo of a Western Grebe swimming between the two breakwalls.

- Brian Johnson
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Raptors at Wastewater Wednesday - Don

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The following five pictures were all taken yesterday (Dec. 22) within 100 yards of the Administration entrance at the Wastewater:  young Red-tailed Hawk, female American Kestrel (with lunch) and Merlin.
 

- Don Neumann






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Western Grebe Grand Haven

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For our Ottawa County friends, I saw a Western Grebe at 10:30 a.m. today (Dec. 23) in the Grand Haven Channel from the north side fisherman's parking lot. It was working for the parking lot to about where the shore starts. It would be an easy see from the south side too. I hope is stays put.

- Charlie DeWitt
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Monday at the Ellis Road Feeder - Charlie

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With the sun shining on Monday I just had to go out to the feeder and see what was doing.  I took my camp chair so I could sit by the feeder and take some pictures.  As you can see, the Wild Turkeys came real close.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker even let me take its picture; it usually flies when I move.  The Downy Woodpecker doesn't care how much I move as long as I stay in my chair.  The squirrels were in with the turkeys.  It was a fun morning.

- Charlie DeWitt





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Golden Eagles at W.W. Monday

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Dec. 20 (Monday) Email:
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I went through the Wastewater today (boy, does that sound funny).  Not much to report.  Two Golden Eagles near the White/Swanson corner.  One of them thought the tree needed some trimming.
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Merry Christmas!
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- Don Neumann





Monday, December 20, 2010

Muskegon State Park Frugivores - Brian

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On Saturday, December 18, I went to Muskegon State Park to help with the Muskegon Christmas Bird Count. While Ric and Ken headed into the woods, I continued to the shore of Lake Michigan. As in past years, I wanted to conduct an all-day waterbird census. Similar watches so far this fall have again produced good species and very high counts. However, the strong winds, snow, limited visibility, and large waves insisted that this was not to be. There were thousands of waterfowl, but they simply could not be accurately enumerated from my vantage.

I returned to Snug Harbor and hiked the Lost Lake / Hearty Hiker Trail loop (about 3 miles). Not surprisingly, the upland mixed hardwood and oak forests were devoid of bird life. However, the hemlocks produced a small variety, including a Barred Owl. I worked the lowland brush carefully, for barberry, privet, and highbush cranberry have produced abundant fruit this year. Although these are exotic plants, for better or worse, their berries buffer the local scarcity of native fruit. Two Cedar Waxwings, one American Robin, 9 Eastern Bluebirds, and a single Hermit Thrush (rare this far north in the winter) were quietly eating the berries.

- Brian Johnson
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sharpie or Cooper's?

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This hawk was perched alongside Sullivan Road.  It didn't fly immediately when I stopped. When it did fly I saw that it was carrying a prey item and that probably accounted for the delay. I need a Cooper's Hawk for my year list so this is probably a Sharp-shinned.

- Mike Boston
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Friday, December 17, 2010

CBC Survey Results from MSGA - Brian

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For the Muskegon Wastewater Christmas Bird Count on December 15, I walked the trails and backwoods of the Muskegon State Game Area. My route has varied rather little since I first participated on this CBC in 2002.  Altogether, I encountered 216 birds of 28 species.  While the species' total matches the previous record and is four higher than the previous average, the count was well below the previous mean of 291 and not much higher than the low of 181.


I hiked 3.1 miles in the morning (red), and 4.0 miles in the afternoon (green).

The woods seemed abnormally quiet.  Fortunately, mild weather conditions promoted detections and salvaged what would have been a bleak tally.  Big misses included Mourning Dove (present 6 of 8 previous surveys), Pileated Woodpecker (present every previous year), Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler (present 5 previous years), and Dark-eyed Junco (present 7 previous years).  Three Northern Cardinal (average 14) and four American Goldfinch (average 13) were also ridiculously low.

On the plus side, five Brown Creepers tied the previous record, and nine Golden-crowned Kinglets bested the previous high by two.  The latter had also set a record total at the Muskegon bird banding station this past fall.  A single Ruffed Grouse, the first since the 2005 CBC, demonstrates just how uncommon this species has become over the last few decades.

Along the Muskegon River, I encountered a flock of 11 Eastern Bluebirds.  The Mosquito Creek marsh produced Winter Wren (fourth record from this survey) and Swamp Sparrow (second record). A single female Red-breasted Nuthatch was in the nearby hemlocks.

I also heard three species of owls.  Two Great Horned Owls were dueting west of the MSGA headquarters in the afternoon, and two Eastern Screech-Owls had earlier responded to my audio-lure along the Muskegon River. I failed to call a Barred Owl south of the Muskegon River, but a bird along Holton-Duck Lake Road after the survey was more cooperative.

- Brian Johnson
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

I see you!

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This little guy (Eastern Screech-Owl) landed in my tree tonight -- it almost looks like he's trying to hide behind the branch.  :)

Mike VanderStelt
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2 Bald Eagles, a Kestrel, and 3 Pictures of Rough-legged Hawks at the Wastewater Today

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My morning at the W.W. today, A.K.A. -- another fruitless attempt to shoot the elusive Golden Eagles! :)

- Mike VanderStelt
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Both Eagle Species at WW Monday

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Nothing "new" from the Wastewater today (Dec. 13) although I did get a couple nice shots of the Golden Eagles (saw both in the pines along White Road west of the Administration Building) and one of a Bald Eagle

- Don Neumann
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Monday, December 13, 2010

End of Season MLNP Banding Update - Brian

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After this extending the banding season later than the previous four falls, I finally closed the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve station on November 29. The November extension provided a much clearer picture of late season passage, which had been somewhat truncated in the past (I closed November 6 last year). As an example, good numbers of Black-capped Chickadees have moved through the station during the last two years (118 in 2009, 109 in 2010), but the historical totals may not have accurately depicted the passage curve as birds were still arriving at the end of the season. Fortunately, the 2010 results indicated that we probably have not missed many. The migration tapered quickly during the second week of November, and only two new individuals were captured after November 15.


Altogether during the 2010 autumn, we banded 1225 birds of 63 species. American Goldfinch (193), Black-capped Chickadee (109), White-throated Sparrow (100), and American Tree Sparrow (91) were the most plentiful. There were no outstanding rarities, but as in every year, there were interesting visitors (like the aberrantly orange House Finch above). More station details will await the seasonal report.

As in 2009, I spent a lot of time attacking certain invasive plants. Oriental bittersweet is a particularly noxious species, and I pulled or cut all I could find around the banding station. It still remains abundant in other places on the preserve, and in such places, the bird and native plant life seriously suffer.

Many people evaluate the wildlife value of specific plants simply by their fruit or seed production. However, the vegetative contribution toward roosting cover, nesting substrate, climate control, predator avoidance, disturbance reduction, and arthropod habitat makes berry forage seem almost trivial by comparison. Nevertheless, many late season migrants are highly frugivorous. Moreover, not all fruit stocks are created equal. At the preserve, pokeweed and honeysuckle are consumed voraciously (the latter especially by Cedar Waxwing, like the October individual pictured above), while bittersweet and highbush cranberry are barely touched. Black cherry is another favorite, and grape has appeal to larger species. Autumn olive berries are devoured by chipmunks on the bush, and ground-feeding birds consume them after they fall. This year at MLNP, the crop of honeysuckle, grape, and dogwood was poor, whereas highbush cranberry, privet, and viburnum was abundant. If this pattern is prevalent elsewhere in the county, then frugivorous birds may be hard to find on the Christmas Bird Count.

In any case, while checking the station on December 11, I did see two unusually tardy species: Fox Sparrow and Gray Catbird. The catbird is the most common breeding species at the preserve, but habitat deterioration at the site has produced a decline. The last birds generally leave in early October, but in 2009 I did capture one on November 2. One would almost expect such a late bird to be thin or weak. On the contrary, this monster was by far the heaviest catbird that I have ever handled (1.5x the weight of a normal individual). Unlike mammals, which bulk up to survive a winter, birds bulk up to fuel a migration -- this bird apparently did not get the memo.

- Brian Johnson

A Ray of Sun or Just Strange Coloring?

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I shot this Bald Eagle at the Wastwater today (Dec. 13) and a few seconds later it flew off directly away from me, so I didn't get a second opportunity to look it over. I would be almost certain its light-colored breast is just an abnormality from a ray of sunlight.  What do you think?

- Mike VanderStelt

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Eagles and Roughlegs at Wastewater Saturday

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Dan Lockard sends us these six photos taken today at the Wastewater: Rough-legged Hawk(s) and Bald Eagles.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Sightings Here and There

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December 9 Email from Feller DeWitt:

Ric, I spent an hour at Pere Marquette this morning and saw the following ducks , etc. all outside the piers:  Bufflehead- 50, Red-breasted Merganser- 75, Common Goldeneye-200-250, all males that I could see.  On the horizon there were thousands of ducks flying back and forth that I assumed were Long-tailed Ducks.  It was bitter cold and I should have worn my fleece lined pants . I am still cold!  - Feller 

December 9 Reply:

Feller, thanks for the report.  Meanwhile I'm not sure I really convinced Carol that the Wastewater was along the route to the Mall, but we did drive around the WW for an hour this morning looking unsuccessfully for the Golden Eagles.  All we found were the usual suspects: ~75 Snow Buntings at the granery, four Bald Eagles (2 adults, too far away to see if banded) on the frozen lagoons, four light-morph Rough-legged Hawks hunting the fields south of Apple, and a Red-tailed Hawk waving us good-bye as we headed west toward our Christmas shopping.   - Ric
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Bald Eagles This Morning at Wastewater

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The sky turned too dark for shooting twenty minutes after I got there, so I didn't stay long.  And a note to Charlie:  I've looked for Golden's two times with no luck, so (it kills me to say this) you're still in the game!  :)

- Mike VanderStelt
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Eagles and Buntings at Wastewater

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I made it back to the Wastewater Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 8) and saw both Golden Eagles, the one below leaving a power pole near the Administration Building north side of White Road.  The Snow Buntings were near the grain elevator along Swanson north of White.  I also want to let Mike V. know that I saw six different Bald Eagles, none with bands.  A couple even looked for me!

- Don Neumann
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Monday, December 6, 2010

O.K. Ric -- Into the Lion's Den :)

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Ric, here's the shot you wanted.

- Mike VanderStelt

Mike is referring to my comment (two posts below) about sending us a photo of the banded Bald Eagles at the Wastewater even if it's slightly out of focus and thus subject to criticism from his "peanut gallery".  I only wish I could take "out of focus" pictures like this!  - Ric
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