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 was out walking the dog on the golf course yesterday when he stopped due to a woodpecker's knocking on a tree. As I stood there letting the dog be curious, I heard a few more knocks from more birds in the same area, so I walked over to see them. .
As I approached the trees, I saw 4-5 Hairy Woodpeckers, somewhat low in the trees, and the closer I got, the more there were! I ended up right next to the group of trees where there were between 40-50 Hairy Woodpeckers flitting through from west to east. I was ten feet from the trees and they were unmistakably Hairy Woodpeckers. I found this very odd, as with the amount of Hairy's I see every day here, this has never happened in six years, and I've never seen it before with any woodpecker species. (Not to say it doesn't happen.) .
Also, as they worked their way away from me, I continued my walk, and about 150-200 feet further west was a similarly-sized group of Blue Jays. Were they having some sort of dispute with each other? Maybe that was totally unrelated, who knows? .
In any case, can anyone comment as to what was going with all those Hairy Woodpeckers? . Mike VanderStelt .
. Nancy Govan emailed today regarding a post at eBird called "Migration Forecast Alert". I just read it and think it warrants posting here. If any of you notice any of these early migrants in the next couple days while the effects of this weather pattern last, please let me know. Thanks! And thanks, Nancy! . http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/birdcast-migration-forecast-alert . - Ric .
. A couple of days ago Rick Hamlin was sitting in the grass watching others jockeying for photos of the Snowy Owl at the Wastewater when it flew right toward him and landed on a post a few feet away. He edited out the metal post to make the flying shot look better and sent us these two images. .
. Here in Muskegon County today Joseph and Jonathan Lautenbach report all three Scoter species in the Muskegon Channel (43 White-winged, 12 Surf, 1 Black). There were also the usual Common Goldeneye and merganser and scaup speciesplus a Red-necked Grebe, 2 Horned Grebes, and lots of Long-tailed Ducks in the Channel and close to the breakwall at Pere Marquette Park. They had a Common Redpoll in the State Park campground north of the Channel and a Northern Saw-whet Owl elsewhere at Muskegon State Park. . The Lautenbach's continued to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve tallying a Northern Shrike, Northern Pintail and six Trumpeter Swans. At Lake Harbor Park they had a White-winged Crossbill and at the Wastewater a Northern Shrike, continuing Snowy Owls and a Common Ravennear the Landfill. . "Those are the highlights of another great day of birding in Muskegon County!" says Joseph. . Meanwhile a group from our club headed down to Allegan County tallying 24 species in the fields around the Todd Farm (more details on our homepage) and 2 Long-eared Owls on our way home. . The first two pictures are by Charlie DeWitt, last two by Carol Cooper: .
. This is an unsolicited testimonial for Nikon. Back in 2007 I wanted my Nikon Attaches cleaned, so I went through the procedure of sending them in at their $23.xx rate, waited about ten days, and Voila! back came a box NOT with my cleaned Attaches but with brand new Monarchs (the Nikon model that replaced the Attache). Wow! . I've loved the Monarchs. They focus much closer than the Attaches (I can focus on the ground two feet in front of my toes). Neither is a top-line binocular, and I've seen the difference between these and son Andy's top-of-the line Zeiss and Jeff Johnson's top-of-the-line Swarovski's, and it's about "1-f-stop" (photography language) of extra brightness (thus better color) with their binoculars. By the same token, theirs cost at least $1,500 more than my "mid-range" Nikons. (This morning 10x42 Monarchs like mine run $450 list but $250 new at places like Amazon.) . I'm posting this now because I've just hung up the phone with Nikon. Last week at the Wastewater I apparently ripped the holding strap of my right-lens-protector (see photo). .
I didn't notice until later, and when I checked my car for the missing cap, I couldn't find it. But miracle of miracles on the back floor was a generic lens cap with pliable rubber holding ring that fit the barrel of my Nikons perfectly!
I left it on, but I also contacted a couple folks who had accompanied me birding in my car recently and found out that the generic cap belongs to John Walhout.
On line I found I could purchase a similar pair of generic caps for $7.99, but considering my "free" Monarchs and not minding paying Nikon whatever they'd charge (presumably more than $7.99) I contacted their repair department.
The live human who answered the phone looked up my records in their files, apologized that they didn't have the caps in stock at the moment, but said in two weeks they'd be mailing me a pair. I asked what's the cost? He said there is no cost.
Apparently that's another perk you get with Nikon binoculars, and I just feel like telling people about it. So I just did.
. Yesterday I emailed Charlie DeWitt about another matter and in his reply he mentioned he was in the U.P. and sent along this Pine Grosbeak* photo, perhaps to prove it. ..
. Meanwhile, Don Avery emailed that on Saturday at Pere Marquette there were a number of Long-tailed Ducks mixed with Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes. He also saw a single Blue-winged Teal and a White-winged Scoter. . - Ric . * previously mis-posted by Ric as "Evening"; since then, Charlie has emailed that the Pine was a life bird for him and James Fox has helpfully commented with the corrected ID. .
Got this long (approximately quarter mile) shot of 2 Golden Eagles yesterday as I followed what I believed was a third who flew around a different set of trees and never re-appeared. I'm 99% sure it wasn't either of these. As I was planning on getting closer, they both flew off, up, and very high in the sky, soaring in circles, and drifting off to the east. Also, some of the usual suspects -- all on the East Lagoon.
Over the course of a year, I try maintaining enough bird surveys to provide a continuum of meaningful data across seasons. With enough sampling diversity and repitition, patterns may emerge that are not apparent from individual or annual censuses. Long-term data sets are requisite, but individual efforts face real-world time constraints. On the other hand, collective programs remain relatively uncommon or somewhat difficult to access. Moreover, for some sources, quality control can be a huge problem. By analyzing my own material, I can not only discern trends of potential interest but also discover deficiencies that can prompt (and encourage) me to continue or alter future surveys.
While examining my Black-capped Chickadee data from the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve banding station, I was curious whether the strong numerical oscillations were showing a wider pattern. I compared those results from the Muskegon Wastewater CBC and the Gwinn CBC (which I conduct in the Upper Peninsula). I also looked at sex-adjusted totals from my Upper Peninsula Breeding Bird Survey routes. Finally, I added data from the Muskegon Migration Count (conducted every spring) into the mix.
The graph shows general agreement between the two CBC counts (Gwinn was not run this winter). A smaller, but fairly similar pattern exists in the breeding data. Since the breeding surveys do not include juveniles, whereas CBC numbers do, the disparity in numbers makes sense. The reflecting pattern highlights a relationship between breeding adults and total winter population. Although numbers are low, the spring Migration Count trends also match reasonably well, but only if the data is adjusted by one year (to conform to the previous CBC); they show a very poor correlation to totals from the subsequent breeding season.
At the banding station, 92% of my chickadee total comprises young birds, most dispersing from breeding areas outside the preserve. Thus, the oscillations offer a fairly direct assessment of breeding productivity - albeit at an unknown geographic extent. The graph shows a weak relationship between breeding and fall numbers and another weak relationship between fall and winter numbers. The relationship would have been fairly strong, but 2009 proved to be anomalous. Consequently, cumulative banding results may be too heavily influenced by local trends or aberrations, and the lack of a strong correlation means that predicting large-scale population values from the annual totals currently remains somewhat limited.
. Last weekend Torsten Pawlowski of Eagles-R-Us in Texas traveled back here as he often does to take pictures of the wildlife at the Wastewater. He specifically wanted to photograph Snowy Owls. He received some pointers from some of our local photographers, the most important being not to harrass the birds. The videos and photographs he took were done so with telephoto lenses at a reasonable distance. Enjoy! .
. Kathryn Mork finally emerged this weekend and birded the Wastewater (Snowy and Short-eared Owls among the regular customers). Even the European Starlings were Year Birds! Glad you're feeling better, Kathryn! At Pere Marquette she had Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers. At the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, two Common Redpolls and "a million American Tree Sparrows." Back home outside her kitchen window were two more Common Redpolls on her clothes line post! .
. February 4 Email: "Hi, Ric, not sure if it's noteworthy or not, but I've had about two dozen White-winged Crossbills terrorizing the Hemlock in my backyard for most of the afternoon. I've never seen them before, so it was quite a sight to look out and see them scattered across the lawn and up the tree. Here are a couple of pictures I took of them this morning." . - Donald Avery, Spring Lake .
Don, thanks! White-winged Crossbills are always noteworthy!
. I spent a couple hours birding both sides of the Wastewaterthis morning tallying 17 species. Others told me of Cedar Waxwings and a darker Snowy Owl on the properties as well. . - Ric Pedler . Muskegon Wastewater System, Muskegon, US-MI Feb 4, 2012 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM Protocol: Traveling 10.0 mile(s) Comments: I met Grand Rapids people and Phil Willemstein this morning. . Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 60 Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 7 Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 1 Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 1 Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 1 Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 1 Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) 1 Light Morph Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) 1 Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 440 Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 2 Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) 1 very white, adult male? Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 6 American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 7 Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) 17 Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) 5 European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 100 American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) 28 .
In Muskegon County, there are several bird species for which banding records exceed published visual or aural confirmations. Examples include Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Lincoln's Sparrow. .
However, the only non-passerine in this category is Saw-whet Owl. From 1961 to 1971, renowned ornithologist Larry Walkinshaw banded 12 at his home in Laketon Township. In 2005, seeking to better understand the local status of this species, I initiated a banding effort at Muskegon State Park. Although coverage each season has been greatly constrained by work obligations and my commitment to the songbird banding station at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, a few owls have been banded each year. The fall of 2011 proved no exception.
Banding was conducted for 30.5 hours on six evenings from November 4 to December 20. The late start date meant that we not only opened the station after most other owl stations had already closed for the fall, but also that we almost certainly missed peak migratory movements. However, the goal this year was not to accrue sheer numbers. Instead, we were trying to see how late the fall migration extended and if there were any winter residency patterns. Moreover, we were trying to increase our sample of males (which migrate significantly later in the fall).
Despite the late coverage, we still caught five birds on four evenings (including one on the final night). However, all were classified as definite or probable females. Three were immatures, and the others were more than two years old. Weights ranged from 84.7 to 105.0 grams (figures equivalent to American Robin and Common Grackle, respectively; but despite such comparisons, Saw-whet Owls have a high ratio of wing area to mass, so their wing loading is comparatively small - about 80% that of a robin by my calculations.)
There were no recaptures this year, but we finally received word that a bird we captured on November 23, 2010 had been originally banded near Cobalt, Ontario, on October 3. That female migrated at least 430 miles on a southwest track over the span of 51 evenings. Conversely, the only owls that we have banded that have appeared elsewhere have been: one found dead two years later near Flint, and one recaptured six evenings later on the opposite shore of Lake Michigan.
Below is a photo gallery of four birds from last fall. Many thanks to Kevin Klco and Carolyn Weng for their continued support.
. Kathy Neff reports about 50 Common Redpollsin her yard today! Feller DeWitt reports a male Eastern Bluebird at Ellis and Martin Roads, a Purple Sandpiper at Pere Marquette, and one small (20-25) flock of Long-tailed Ducks at Pere Marquette " ... CALLING! This was way way cool!" .
Other obligations seriously limited the time I spent censusing Lake Michigan waterbirds in January. In six days of counts, I recorded 16 species. Peaks include 4 Surf Scoter (Jan. 8), 53 White-winged Scoter (Jan. 8), 715 Red-breasted Merganser (Jan. 6), 1 Red-necked Grebe (Jan. 5), 1 Glaucous Gull (two days), and 2 Great Black-backed Gull (Jan. 6). On January 12, a count of 17,420 Long-tailed Duckswas my best ever.
I spent several hours at the Wastewater today watchingBald Eagles catch, kill and eat seagulls. There were eleven eagles on the east lagoon at one point. There was one juvenile in particular that was pretty deadly. I saw him capture three seagulls. He would make short work of the gulls and go right back to hunting again. When I left, all but one of the gulls he had attacked had been reduced to a pile of feathers and the lone survivor wasn't going to make it for long. The photos of the hunt are not great; he was pretty far away. The gull that he is chasing in these photos didn't make it.
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