Monday, November 26, 2012

Adult Bald Eagle

A little dreary yesterday, but I managed to get at least one good bird at the Wastewater.

Mike VanderStelt

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shrike and Cackling Geese at WW Saturday

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!

Pat Bazany

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Good Winter Birds

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rick Hamlin

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

Long Shot

Got this Snow Goose this morning at the Wastewater.  It was quite a distance out in the east lagoon but stood out among the Canada Geese it was swimming with.

Mike VanderStelt

Non-Recent Eagles

November 22 Email:

The two photos attached are from Sept 1 and Oct 6 of this year.  I believe this immature eagle has been rehabbed since it is too approachable.  (It seemed to be doing better the last time we saw it.)  It's very brown and at a glance gives the impression of being a Golden Eagle.  However I'm pretty sure it's a Bald Eagle. On the Oct 6 trip we were accompanied by some members of the Grand Traverse Audubon, (Holly, Jeremy, Sam, Bruce, and a few others).  After snagging several photos of the bird in the air, they decided it was a Bald Eagle.  Jeremy was disappointed as I think it would have been a lifer for him.  Some of the recent reports of a Golden Eagle at the Wastewater are most likely this bird.  Others must have encountered this bird, so I'm hoping that if you post this it will elicit some discussion.  Maybe I'll find out I'm all wet.  Later, Ken Sapkowski

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

This One Wasn't Playing Possum

I reformated my drive with a different version of Windows and couldn't post. Thanks to Ric, all is well now -- that's IF you see this  :)

- Mike VanderStelt

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bohemians, Golden Eagle, Shrike, Etc.

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.

- Ric

Red-necked Grebe

The Red-necked Grebe was still present along the northern side of the Muskegon Channel on Sunday morning, 11/18/12.

Mike Boston

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Great Birds on Field Trip Saturday

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).

We recorded 37 species for the morning.  Brian Johnson, who arrived at MLNP after we departed this morning, phoned shortly after noon to report that he was looking at several * Bohemian Waxwings near his banding nets hoping that one might find its way down.

- Ric

eBird Reports:

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, Muskegon, US-MI
Nov 17, 2012 8:05 AM - 9:40 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
Comments:    Muskegon County Nature Club Field Trip
24 species

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
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
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

Muskegon Lake Banding, November 15

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.

Brian Johnson

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tundra Swans at Wolf Lake

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.

Ron Buechele 

Friday, November 9, 2012

White-winged Crossbills Near Spring Lake

November 9 Email:

Hi Ric,

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.

Donald Avery

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Redtail at M.L.N.P.

Carol Cooper sends us these two photos of a Red-tailed Hawk she observed at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve today.  (Juvenile, no red tail yet.)

Evening Grosbeaks Today, Siskins Last Week

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

Pine Siskin Today (and Probably Yesterday)

Yesterday there was a bird on our bird bath by the back fence that I think was a Pine Siskin, but by the time I got my binoculars it was gone.  This afternoon, however, there was a Pine Siskin on our side yard seed feeder.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Don't See These Around Here Much Anymore!

Dan Lockard sends this photo of a Ring-necked Pheasant in Muskegon County yesterday.  Dan did not specify exact location.  I'd recommend using the directions in the Side Bar for viewing this picture up close and personal!