Monday, December 31, 2012
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The 2012 Muskegon Wastewater Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Wednesday, December 19. This is the eighth consecutive year that we have participated on the official CBC program (coordinated by the National Audubon Society), although results have been submitted to Michigan Audubon since 2000.
The Wastewater count circle (15 miles in diameter) mostly encompasses private farmland and forest parcels, but it also includes large tracts of public land managed by the Muskegon State Game Area (MSGA, red in map below) and the Muskegon Wastewater System (MWS, orange). To promote consistent coverage, the circle has been split into eight pie-shaped zones.
This year, fifteen volunteers divided into eight parties as follows: Feller DeWitt (NNW); Ric Pedler and Jim Zervos (NNE); Ken Sherburn, Roger Sherburn, and Greg DeWeerd (ENE); Charlie DeWitt (ESE); Ken Sapkowski and Glenda Eikenberry (SSE); Jonathan, Joseph, and David Lautenbach (MWS and SSE); Dayle Vanderwier and Connie Peoples (WNW); and Brian Johnson (MSGA). Six of these observers (the Lautenbach trio, Dayle and Connie, and Brian) continued well into the afternoon. Combined, observers accrued 38 hours (8 on foot, 30 by car) and 320 miles (8.2 on foot, 312 by car) of daytime coverage.
As in 2011, weather prior to the CBC had been abnormally mild. Only 3.7 inches of snow had fallen at Muskegon during the preceding weeks (only 2011 experienced less) and almost none remained on the ground by count day. Conditions were particularly pleasant on the 19th. Winds were the lightest we have had, no precipitation fell, and temperatures were consistently above freezing. Skies were overcast to mostly cloudy.
The excellent weather yielded a bonanza of diversity. A total of 12,156 individuals, representing 67 species, was recorded on this year's CBC. The individual total surpassed the historical (2000-11) mean of 11,276 birds, but the species count was particularly exceptional. By beating the total of 64 from 2006, this established a new record for the Wastewater CBC and was nearly 10 species higher than the previous average.
Of the species recorded this year, 22 exhibited totals below previous historical means, whereas 45 matched or exceeded those averages. Impressively, 23 species set or matched record high counts. Consistent with the past 12 years (though with a varying order), the four most abundant species were Northern Shoveler, Canada Goose, European Starling, and Herring Gull. Together, they comprised 67% of the total individuals seen (slightly reduced from the historical ratio of 72%). Our total of 3,505 Northern Shovelers should easily be the highest in the state.
Open water, particularly at MWS, significantly boosted waterfowl numbers, and 16 species of ducks, geese, and swans set a new high. Altogether, waterfowl comprised 53% of the birds seen this year. Six species of diurnal raptors accounted for 45 individuals, and five species of owls tied the record from last year. Five species of gulls also established a new peak for diversity.
Among landbirds, winter visitors were collectively more frequent than usual. Dark-eyed Juncos, Tree Sparrows, and Common Redpolls provided the vast majority of these sightings. The redpoll total produced another new high record, but only one other irruptive finch (Red Crossbill) was encountered. Six Northern Shrike, a very impressive total for any Michigan CBC, also set a new high count.
A few Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins were found, but frugivores were otherwise poorly represented. No Cedar Waxwings or Yellow-rumped Warblers were encountered. Ruffed Grouse, a species that has declined significantly, was not seen on count day. As with 2011, most grassland species were again scarce. Horned Lark was missed entirely, and only 13 Snow Buntings were counted. Lingering migrants included Northern Harrier, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Seven new species were recorded on the 2012 Wastewater CBC, and this raises our cumulative total to 106.
Breakdowns of all the birds encoutered this year are presented below:
Snow Goose - 1; seen by Lautenbachs
Canada Goose - 1995; historical average 3279
Mute Swan - 25; new high count; 20 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg
Wood Duck - 1; first CBC record, seen by Lautenbachs
Gadwall - 28; all at MWS
American Black Duck - 105; all at MWS
Mallard - 328; historical average 544
Northern Shoveler - 3505; third highest total; all at MWS
Green-winged Teal - 1; seen by Lautenbachs
Ring-necked Duck - 34; first CBC record, seen by Lautenbachs
Greater Scaup - 1; at MWS
Lesser Scaup - 21; new high count, seen by Lautenbachs
Bufflehead - 30; new high count, seen by Lautenbachs
Common Goldeneye - 2; at MWS
Red-breasted Merganser - 1; first CBC record, seen by Lautenbachs
Ruddy Duck - 330; new high count, seen by Lautenbachs
Ring-necked Pheasant - 1; seen by Charlie
Wild Turkey - 97; 32 seen by Dayle and Connie
Great Blue Heron - 2; 1 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg; 1 seen by Brian
Bald Eagle - 4; 2 seen by Ric and Jim
Northern Harrier - 3; 1 each seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg; Ken and Glenda; and Brian
Cooper's Hawk - 1; seen by Ken and Glenda
Red-tailed Hawk - 22; 9 seen by Lautenbachs
Rough-legged Hawk - 3; 2 seen by Ric and Jim; 1 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg
American Kestrel - 12; 5 seen by Lautenbachs
American Coot - 1; first CBC record, seen by Lautenbachs
Ring-billed Gull - 197; historical average 128
Herring Gull 1935; historical average 2218
Thayer's Gull - 1; first CBC record, seen by Lautenbachs
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1; seen by Lautenbachs
Glaucous Gull - 2; new high count, seen by Lautenbachs
Rock Pigeon - 163; 65 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg
Mourning Dove - 328; 169 seen by Charlie
Eastern Screech-Owl - 3; found by Brian
Great Horned Owl - 2; found by Lautenbachs
Snowy Owl - 1; seen by Lautenbachs
Barred Owl - 1; found by Brian
Saw-whet Owl - 1; first CBC record, found by Lautenbachs
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 12; 3 seen by Ken and Glenda
Downy Woodpecker - 37; 10 seen by Lautenbachs
Hairy Woodpecker - 13; new hight count; 9 seen by Brian
Northern Flicker - 3; 1 seen by Charlie; 2 seen by Brian
Pileated Woodpecker - 7; 4 seen by Brian
Northern Shrike - 6; new high count; 1 seen by Dayle and Connie; 1 seen by Ric and Jim; 1 seen by Charlie; 2 seen by Lautenbachs; 1 seen by Brian
Blue Jay - 45; 10 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg
American Crow - 144; 33 seen by Dayle and Connie
Black-capped Chickadee - 221; new high count; 74 seen by Lautenbachs
Tufted Titmouse 74; new high count; 25 seen by Lautenbachs
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 4; 1 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg; 3 seen by Lautenbachs
White-breasted Nuthatch - 27; 7 seen by Ken and Glenda; 7 seen by Brian
Brown Creeper - 1; seen by Dayle and Connie
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 3; 2 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg; 1 seen by Lautenbachs
Eastern Bluebird - 16; 5 seen by Feller; 5 seen by Charlie; 6 seen by Ken and Glenda
American Robin - 4; 1 seen by Dayle and Connie; 1 seen by Lautenbachs; 2 seen by Ric and Jim
European Starling - 698; 418 seen by Lautenbachs
Lapland Longspur - 1; seen by Lautenbachs
Snow Bunting - 13; seen by Lautenbachs
American Tree Sparrow - 291; 128 seen by Brian
Song Sparrow - 3; 1 seen by Ric and Jim; 2 seen by Brian
Dark-eyed Junco - 287; 182 seen by Lautenbachs
Northern Cardinal - 127; 37 seen by Lautenbachs
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1; seen by Dayle and Connie
House Finch - 161; new high count; 70 seen by Ken and Glenda
Red Crossbill - 1; first CBC record, seen by Brian
Common Redpoll - 399; new high count; 250 seen by Ken, Roger, and Greg; 129 seen by Lautenbachs
American Goldfinch - 150; 36 seen by Charlie; 35 seen by Ken and Glenda
House Sparrow - 218; 81 seen by Lautenbachs
Results from the Muskegon Wastewater and the approximately 2,200 other Christmas Bird Counts are submitted to the National Audubon Society, where they can be accessed online (birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count). Many thanks to those who participated this year, and we encourage all interested birders to join us next December.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Saturday 12-29-2012 at the Wastewater. Though not a great day to take pictures, had a lot to take pictures of. Was told the Golden Eagle was seen early in the day, and I finally saw one around noon flying the ditch on the north side of White Road. Around 3:00 it was in a tree by the administration building. Had others tell me they had seen one along Swanson Road and near the dump. Never saw two together, so it could have been the same one. Also five mature Bald Eagles and three immatures on the lagoon behind the dump.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
December 26 Email:
I am visiting family in GR and came over to Muskegon for an afternoon of birding. The best bird of the day was a Snow Bunting at the Muskegon WWTP. It was on the road between the east and west storage lagoons at the southern end. There were also 4 Bald Eagles in the storage lagoons with 3 tag-teaming to harass a gull.
Enjoy the blog and birding tips.
Grand Rapids via Saudi Arabia
Nice hearing from you, Lou. Other than gulls I'm guessing Saudi Arabia provides few opportunities for the other two species. Glad you enjoy the blog. - Ric
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
I spent some quiet time at the end of the Grand Haven north pier today. Not a lot of birds close in, thousands way out where the sky meets the water. The ones I could identify were Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull. It was two hours well spent!
Monday, December 24, 2012
Common Redpolls have been pretty common at my feeders the last few days.
Thanks, Mike! It's Christmas Morning and I just found your beautiful Redpoll here on the website. A very appropriate Christmas bird. Please send a few our way!
MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!
Members of our club participated in two Christmas Bird Counts recently. See Brian's preliminary report from the Wastewater count of December 19 posted below. Then click here for details about our City of Muskegon CBC of December 15.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
The Muskegon Wastewater Christmas Bird Count was held on December 19. I have nearly finished compiling the data, but in the meantime, here are my personal results from the survey.
As in the past several years, I hiked the trails and backwoods of the Muskegon State Game Area. During eight hours split between morning (green) and afternoon (blue) jaunts, I accrued 8.2 miles along my regular route. Mild temperatures, calm winds, no precipitation, and the lack of snow cover greatly promoted detections, but a very sparse berry and seed crop reduced the quantities of various birds. My species total of 28 matches my previous high, but I found that most of the typically common birds were relatively scarce, whereas unusual species were more prevalent.
All that hiking produced only a single Red-bellied Woodpecker (average 6.7), three Blue Jays (average 9.7), 29 Black-capped Chickadees (average 44.2), and seven White-breasted Nuthatches (average 12.4). Small obligate insectivores (Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet) and most frugivores (Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and Yellow-rumped Warbler) were missed entirely. The only regulars that were significantly more numerous than usual were Hairy Woodpecker (9, mean 4.0) and American Tree Sparrow (128, mean 76.8)
On the other hand, a Great Blue Heron and a Northern Harrier were firsts for this route. A single Red Crossbill was probably my most unexpected sighting. Two Northern Flickers, one Northern Shrike, two Song Sparrows, and a flock of 16 Common Redpolls were also nice. I also encountered three Screech-Owls during my hike, and I was careful not to unduly disturb this roosting Barred Owl when I paused to take a few photos.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
On Dec 19 I helped with the Muskegon County Wastewater CBC. I pulled into a driveway to turn around and this Northern Shrike flew out of some brush and landed on a power wire right above my truck. I wish I had had a blue sky, not this haze, for a background.
Monday, December 17, 2012
In anticipation of the Muskegon Wastewater Christmas Bird Count, I spent today checking backcountry conditions at the Muskegon State Game Area East Unit (pictured, red). Located primarily in southern Newaygo County, this parcel, at the headwaters of Mosquito Creek, is seldom visited by birders. The lack of snow enabled me to easily hike 10.1 miles of trails (pictured, green) in the southeast portion. Because there are no residences (i.e. bird feeders), songbird densities were typically low for this time of the year. However, there were a few highlights, including:
Bald Eagle - 1
Rough-legged Hawk - 1
Ruffed Grouse - 1 drumming
Common Raven - 2 (possibly 3)
Northern Shrike - 1
Common Redpoll - 4
It would be nice if these species cooperate for CBC on Wednesday.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Thanks to Ken Sapkowski for noticing that a Scott Hutchings on eBird reported 8 Red Crossbills, a Merlin and an adult female Northern Goshawk at Muskegon State Park yesterday morning. At the same time our CBC north group was also at MSP and saw 1 White-winged Crossbill west of Snug Harbor.
Friday, December 14, 2012
December 14 Email:
Kevin Welsh and I did a little pre-CBC birding today at Pere Marquette and had some decent birds that will hopefully show themselves on the count tomorrow. We had a single Western Grebe show up at the end of the breakwall for about 15 minutes before we lost it. We also had an adult Glaucous Gull and two adult Great Black-backed Gulls fly by while we lake-watched for a short while.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
December 12 Email:
I went to the Wastewater today after my last exam to see what was around. I had a Cackling Goose and a Snow Goose mixed in with the geese on the east lagoon. Near the west end of the active dump I had a Hoary Redpoll mixed in with a flock of Commons. The bird was hanging out with the Commons in a small tree along the edge of the ditch.
In northern Ottawa County at near the corner of 68th street and Garfield, just south of I-96 I had a lone adult Snowy Owl.
Carol Cooper photographed this Purple Sandpiper about 1:00 p.m. Dec. 12 along the inner side of the breakwater at Pere Marquette Park, presumably the same bird Jonathan (and others before) is reporting. - Ric
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
This past fall, volunteers from the Muskegon County Nature Club completed another season of shorebird surveys at the Muskegon Wastewater System. Count data from this location have been submitted as part of the International Shorebird Survey since 1974, and standardized protocols have been maintained for the last eight years. Under these rules, surveys are conducted three days per month during the spring and fall migratory periods.
Thirteen surveys were completed between July 16 and November 16, 2012. Overall, 1,563 birds (previous average: 1,449) of 21 species (equivalent to the previous mean) were encountered. Daily results varied from 0 birds (November 16) to 14 species (September 6) and 256 individuals (July 26). Of the 162 surveys conducted since 2005, the fall 2012 daily species total ties for fourth; the most species seen on a survey was 19 on 9/7/09. The individual daily total of 256 ranks 13th; the record is 507, also from 9/7/09.
With this year's additions of Long-billed Dowitcher (1 on Oct. 28, pictured above) and Red Phalarope (1 on Oct. 20, pictured below), 29 species have been recorded on the fall Wastewater Surveys since 2005. Of these, 22 can be reasonably expected to appear during a typical autumn. Despite the good aggregate tally, individual totals for most species were below previous averages. However, Solitary Sandpiper (9, vs. mean of 9.6), Least Sandpiper (212, vs. mean of 213.7), Short-billed Dowitcher (6, vs. mean of 6.3) were very close. Sanderling (4) and Baird's Sandpiper (16) were historically low, and White-rumped Sandpiper was completely missed. Upland and Buff-breasted Sandpipers were also notably absent. Only two regular species were above average: Killdeer (711, vs. mean of 355) and Pectoral Sandpiper (73, vs. mean of 60.9). The large Killdeer total not only provided a new record, but it also explains the good aggregrate total despite low counts for most of the others. In fact, the four most common species, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper (266), Least Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs (160), comprised 86% of all the shorebirds detected this fall.
Uncommon species represented the remaining fall highlights. Besides the aforementioned Long-billed Dowitcher and Red Phalarope, record totals were obtained for Wilson's Snipe (6) and Wilson's Phalarope (3). Counts of both rarities and common species could easily be raised if surveys were conducted in response to noteworthy reports posted on this website and other sources, but this biased practice has been assiduously avoided over the years.
This year's surveys were conducted by myself and Carolyn Weng, with help from Ric Pedler. In September, Carolyn relocated to California, so the Muskegon County Nature Club and other local environmental groups have lost one their most important volunteers. This also leaves a big hole in the Wastewater Shorebird Survey. Carolyn has participated on 127 of the 162 surveys conducted since 2005 (and was the sole observer on 73). By comparison, the next closest volunteer (myself) has only participated on 58. If anyone wishes to help fill this void, please contact me sometime prior to March.
Went birding this morning. Not much new at the Muskegon County Wastewater System. I did see 15 Lesser Scaup on the west lagoon. Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve had this Carolina Wren. The Muskegon CBC counters might want to check on Saturday for the wren.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Anyone interested in birding with the MCNC this month on either of our Christmas Bird Counts (Dec. 15 and Dec. 19) may click here for details.
Thanks to Don Neuman for sending several photographs like the deer above formatted for use behind our "Recent Sightings" titles this winter.
Monday, December 10, 2012
December 10 to Mich-Chat:
Bruce Cohen and I broke away from Ingham County today (gasp!) in search of
waterbirds in Muskegon County. Below are the highlights:
Pere Marquette Park (09:00-11:00):
Purple Sandpiper- 1 bird walking on beach between the jetties. Picture here-
Glaucous Gull- 1 3rd cycle bird on beach south of south jetty. White head
and body with pale blue scapulars and white coverts. Picture-
Muskegon Wastewater System (13:00-17:00):
Cackling Geese- 4 with masses of Canadas in west lagoon
Iceland Gull- 1 3rd cycle bird at dump. Pale brown primaries and coverts,
pale blue scapulars, round head, and yellow bill with black tip. Pic-
Glaucous Gull- 1 1st cycle bird at dump, later seen in east lagoon. Overall
mottled white/cream and pink bill with black tip. Pic-
Sean Williams, 2nd year graduate student
Department of Zoology
Michigan State University
203 Natural Sciences Building
East Lansing, MI 48824
Monday, November 26, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
November 24 Email:
Rick and I stopped at the Wastewater on our way home from Baldwin today. We found the Northern Shrike in a tree top out at the end of Laketon past the model airplane field. Then we checked the Clay Pond where we found 50-70 Cackling Geese. It was amazing!
Thursday, November 22, 2012
November 22 Email:
I have been in Florida for a couple of months, but since I got back, I have some fall birds visiting our feeders. I think I have a Pine Siskin and a Red-breasted Nuthatch in these photos. I have been back about a week and it sure seems like we have more of the Red-breasted Nuthatches this year than in previous years.
Rick, nice portraits of both the siskin and the nuthatch. We've also had more Red-breasted Nuthatches this year than in any previous year. Happy Thanksgiving! - Ric
November 22 Email:
Ken, yes this is a Bald Eagle. The only recent report I've had of a Golden Eagle was from a phone conversation with Jim Ponshair who had birded WW about two weeks ago with Dave Dister and someone else. So their Golden Eagle would really have been a Golden Eagle. - Ric
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Before reading the rest of this post, I'd suggest reading the three previous posts (Brian's Friday, Ric's Saturday and Mike's today) if you haven't already.
This morning Mike Boston saw the two Carolina Wrens near the MLNP entrance. Around 10:30 Pat Bazany saw two Bohemian Waxwings flying between those same highbush cranberries "and the tall trees to the right of the bushes." Then she "... stopped at the Wastewater this morning. There were lots of Tundra Swans, seven Cackling Geese, and I ran into a birder from Lansing, Shawn Williams (not sure of the spelling) who had had a great look at a Golden Eagle. I tried for Short-eared Owl on Swanson near the model airport Saturday evening at sunset but none appeared. Those fields have been cut down and I wonder if that has propelled the owls elsewhere."
Carol and I observed 20 bird species at MLNP early this afternoon despite it being much quieter birdwise than it was Friday and Saturday mornings, none remarkable, but three not recorded on the trip yesterday (Tufted Titmouse, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Rock Pigeon) and one unbanded Black-capped Chickadee, a sort of rarity there. :-)
Tonight I talked with Jim Ponshair and he mentioned seeing a Northern Shrike a week ago at the usual location on the south Wastewater properties along Laketon near the maintenance buildings west of the model airplane field.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Fifteen of us really enjoyed this morning's club field trip. We began in cold foggy conditions at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve before the Bohemian Waxwings * arrived. The highlight was observing two vocalizing Carolina Wrens in the woods north of the river (photos by Carol Cooper).
Then we birded the campground areas of Muskegon State Park north of the east end of the Muskegon Channel. Seeing a Red-necked Grebe in the Channel was great, but greater were the two non-adult-male Common Redpolls, and greatest were the four Red Crossbills (3 male, 1 female) along the roadway southeast of "Jeff's Dune". These were Lifer Birds for many of us! (Two photos by Carol Cooper; one by Ken Sapkowski).
Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, Muskegon, US-MI
Nov 17, 2012 8:05 AM - 9:40 AM
Comments: Muskegon County Nature Club Field Trip
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 6
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 5
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) 3
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) 1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) 1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 2
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 7
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 5
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 6
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 2
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 2
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) 7
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) 5
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 9
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 2
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) 2
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) 5
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) 1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 3
Muskegon SP, Muskegon, US-MI
Nov 17, 2012 10:05 AM - 11:55 AM
Comments: Muskegon County Nature Club Field Trip
21 species (+1 other taxa)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 3
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) 31
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) 1
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) 2
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) 1 Swimming along north side of Muskegon Channel.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1
gull sp. (Larinae sp.) 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 2
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 2
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 5
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 2
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) 3
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 12
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) 4 North Campground
Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) 2 North Campground, not adult males
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 3
Friday, November 16, 2012
Yesterday at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve banding station, I had several interesting captures and sightings. Most notable was a flock of 44 Bohemian Waxwings - my first for the preserve. The skittish group sampled some highbush cranberries then quickly departed. Common Redpolls, a lone Purple Finch, Carolina Wrens, and a slightly tardy Ruby-crowned Kinglet prompts me to comment further.
Of the nine species of finches that typically occur in Muskegon County, four (American Goldfinch, House Finch, Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin) exhibit more typical migration patterns. The others (Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Evening Grosbeak) are considerably less regular in abundance and timing. These species may be abundant some years and absent in others, and their visits are not entirely restricted to the winter. However, even during irruption years, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks have been consistently scarce since the 1980's. Though typically rare, White-winged Crossbills likely breed in the county on occasion. Last spring, I had a group of them frequenting a grove of Norway Spruce near my house at least until late May. However, I was not able to confirm actual nesting.
In Muskegon County during the fall, Pine Siskins and Purple Finches generally migrate between early October and late November. Spring passage peaks in early April. When they irrupt, Pine Siskins may appear in moderate to large quantities during the winter and sometimes persist in small numbers into the summer. Less common, Purple Finches can also be found in this area during the entire year, but they are rare during the summer.
During typical incursions, Common Redpolls arrive in early November and depart in mid March. At Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, a flock has been present daily since November 7. Yesterday, an adult female blundered into one of the nets (pictured center). Redpolls demonstrate remarkable variation in streaking and in the amount of red in their plumage. Adult males have much red in their face and chest, but young females typically show none at all. Two extremes, birds that I banded last winter, are shown to the left and right. Such variability should be considered when assessing a potential Hoary Redpoll, which are exceedingly rare in lower Michigan. Local banding records indicate that less than 1 of 1,000 redpolls is likely to be a Hoary.
As measured by mass, the eight smallest species of birds that occur in Muskegon County are: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Wilson's Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Magnolia Warbler. Despite their small body-to-mass ratio (which accelerates heat loss), three of these species are actually more frequent here during the colder months. Golden-crowned Kinglets (GCKI) arrive in late September and do not depart until late April. Fairly common during the winter, they prefer habitats that provide thick evergreens (especially hemlock) for roosting. Breeding is very rare south of the northern Lower Peninsula, but this summer I did have a couple territorial males at Duck Lake State Park.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets (RCKI) also arrive in late September, but they continue southward, and they have typically vacated by mid-November. I have never found one during the winter in Muskegon County (and considering the similarity in names and general appearance, at least some of the records from past Christmas Bird Counts are definitely erroneous). Locally, spring migration extends from early April to mid May. Since the species breeds in spruce swamps and is generally uncommon even in the Upper Peninsula, summer records are not to be expected from the Muskegon area.
Aside from their head feathering, the two species are quite similar in plumage, shape, and size (song and calls are very different). Golden-crowned Kinglets are smaller, but male GCKI are equivalent to female RCKI in mass and wingspan. Based on data from the banding station, mass averages for the two species are 6.4 grams for GCKI and 6.8 grams for RCKI (28.3 grams equals an ounce). However, Ruby-crowned Kinglets have significantly longer legs and bills than Golden-crowned Kinglets, and these larger unfeathered surfaces would pose a disadvantage in frigid temperatures.
Despite occasional setbacks due to severe winters, populations of Carolina Wrens have been slowly increasing in Michigan over the last several decades. Currently, the species breeds widely across the southern three tiers of counties in the Lower Peninsula. Records in the Upper Peninsula remain unusual, but reports are becoming increasingly frequent. In the Muskegon area, though still uncommon, Carolina Wrens have been encountered in numerous residential or wooded settings. At MLNP, I banded my first one in 2007. This fall, there has been a pair consistently vocalizing around the banding station. Their readiness to sing outside the breeding season creates a pleasant constrast to the quietude of late fall. Yesterday, I caught one of them in the nets, but the intermediate measurements and the lack of plumage dimorphism among wrens prevents me from determining whether this is the male or female.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
November 13 Email:
Good morning Ric,
This morning I saw this flotilla of about 30 Tundra Swans on Wolf Lake and heard their whistling sounds. The photo is a cropped image taken through the window glass. When I stepped outside to get a better photo I must have spooked them and they flew to the other side of the lake. I was originally watching a bunch of American Coots which routinely get attacked by a Bald Eagle looking for a meal (which is quite a sight to see) when I heard and saw the swans.
Friday, November 9, 2012
November 9 Email:
I had a pair of White-Winged Crossbills on the Hemlock in the back yard earlier today. This is the first I've seen them here this season, but, if it's like last year, it'll be the last time as well.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Ted Ogren just phoned to report six Evening Grosbeaks (4-5 male, 1-2 female) on his feeders this morning. We also discussed Pine Siskins (ala the post below) and he said he's seen none the last few days but had several at his yard last week. Ted lives between Muskegon and Grand Haven about a mile from the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Today (Oct. 31, 2012) at about 10:45 a.m. Ken Sapkowski, Feller DeWitt and I found this Purple Sandpiper on the south side of the south pier at Muskegon about 150 feet from the elbow. Large numbers of Long-tailed ducks were seen. A few Buffleheads, Mallards and Red-breasted Mergansers were also seen. The gulls were Ring-billed, Herring and Bonaparte's.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The strong and consistent northerly winds associated with Hurricane Sandy are bringing in large numbers of rarities all over the place. Keep a constant eye on Lake Michigan and watch for entrained rarities.
A brief check at Holland SP in extreme conditions this morning gave me a possible Black-legged Kittiwake, a possible Cave Swallow, and a possible Little Gull. I'm not calling the official ID on any of these due to awful viewing conditions and consequently short looks at them. Waves were rolling up to 10 feet above both piers! There must be multiple Jaegers out there as well.
On the east side of Lake Michigan (where everyone is doing the birding right now), Allen Chartier reports 100+ BRANT, Red Phalarope, Black-legged Kittiwake, loons, grebes, many scoters of all species. Sabine's Gulls also are moving.
Also, watch your feeders for northern species such as Evening Grosbeaks. They have been invading Kent County already.
Get out there, and remember to be safe!
Monday, October 29, 2012
Ken Sapkowski (who saw and photographed the Dowitcher in the post below and suggests a dowitcher-identification website in his comments on that post) emailed today that since "... you already have the Dowitcher picture on the website, how about a nice Eastern Bluebird picture instead? Also taken Sunday." (Presumably also at the Wastewater)
October 28 Email:
Hi, Ric, this picture of a Dowitcher was taken at the Wastewater's most easterly aeriation pond Saturday (10/27) at 1:00 p.m. I think it is a Short-billed even though the bill is quite long. Does someone have an opinion that can help me? Thanks, Hank Veldman
Sunday, October 28, 2012
October 28 Email:
Hi Ric and the Muskegon Nature Club,
Ric, I thought you folks down in Muskegon may wish to know that "possibly" Evening Grosbeaks may make it down your way. We again had some at our feeders this morning (10:00 a.m. Sunday October 28) for about 15 minutes! This time there were 3 males and 2 females/juveniles. If they stick around I'll let you know.
Between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Saturday October 27 on our feeders we had these Evening Grosbeaks visit. There appeared to be 5 females and 1 male. Dave Dister thought they may be a migrating family and a few of the "females" may actually be juvenile males. As you know, they are an irregular rare migrant in our area. Dave also said there hasn't been a report for this species in almost a decade. Unfortunately, they did not show back up the remainder of the afternoon. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
October 21 Emails:
Red Phalarope present again along north edge of east lagoon at Muskegon Wastewater as of 8:45 a.m. Access from west side. Dike blocked off on east/south.
Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G
I had 3 Pine Siskins on my thistle sock this afternoon.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
October 20 Email:
Today we went birding at the Wastewater and had some good birds there. The highlight was a single basic plumage Red Phalarope in the northwest corner of the east lagoon (pictures attached). This bird was swimming right along the edge of the dike not venturing more than three meters from the edge of the water. Also seen today was a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope along the center dike, 100+ American Golden-Plovers (in a field east of Swanson and north of Apple Ave), a single Buff-breasted Sandpiper (mixed in with the golden-plovers), 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (along the north side of the west lagoon), and a Short-eared Owl flying along Swanson north of Apple Ave.
Kevin Welsh, Michael and Jonathan Lautenbach
This morning Jeff Pavlik and I found what appears to be a juv Arctic Tern at Pere Marquette in Muskegon County. Long, deeply forked tail, weak carpal bar, very thin, small bill, round head, and white secondaries all support ARTE, and I will look more closely at my pictures later.
The bird made 3 passes by the south pier from 915-940am, disappearing between each pass. It was not present when we left at 1020am.
Like I said, I will examine my pictures when home to confirm the id.
Sent from my iPhone
David has posted photos and more info on his blog. - Ric