Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nelson's Sparrow Again Saturday

September 29 to Mich-Listers:

Mary Trombley and I had a Nelson's Sparrow in cell D6 at Muskegon Wastewater today between 2:00 and 4:00.  Lots of walking and looking with very little seeing, but the bird sat up for about ten seconds at one point.  Also present today were a Greater White-fronted, a Snow and 10+ Cackling Geese.

Scott Jennex

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Counting Hawks Today

Conditions seemed promising for a good hawk flight today so I headed up to "Jeff's Dune" (north of the Channel at Muskegon State Park) for a few hours.  There were many raptors and other birds flying by, but it was not a remarkably good hawk flight.  The best bird was a Merlin (female or immature) that flew from out over the Lake and perched in a tree south of where Ruddiman tees into Scenic Drive.

I counted 40 raptors migrated between 10:30 and 1:30, all but four during the first two hours: 26 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 10 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Broad-winged Hawk, 2 American Kestrels and 1 Merlin (zipping over the trees west of the dune).  I suspect many others flew overhead too high for me to see, especially in the last hour of mostly pure blue sky.  Other migrants included 3 Sandhill Cranes, 95 Blue Jays and a Palm Warbler that perched briefly in a tree near the dune.

Non-migrating raptors were another Merlin (or possibly the perched bird seen earlier) northwest of the dune, 2 Bald Eagles (1 adult, 1 immature), 2 Cooper's Hawks (immatures), 2 Red-tailed Hawks (1 adult, 1 immature) and an adult Sharp-shinned (all I.D.-able migrating Sharpies were immature).

Lots of smaller birds in the air today including American Goldfinch, Northern Flicker, Red-headed Woodpecker, nuthatches, crows, gulls, and bunches of stuff I couldn't I.D.

It was a super lovely three hours!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

100 Species in Muskegon Wednesday

September 26 Email:

Went birding in Muskegon for the morning/afternoon today and totaled 100 species. We had very impressive numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers along with other goodies at Muskegon Conservation Club Area and Muskegon State Park in the morning. At the Wastewater in the afternoon we had a possible Ammodramus sparrow in cell D6, but only got brief views of it in flight, making the ID toughy. See eBird checklists below for details and photos:

Muskegon Conservation Club Area:
Muskegon State Park:
Muskegon Wastewater:

Good birding,
Nathan DeBruine

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Nelson's Sunday, But Other Stuff

Just letting everyone know that we tried for the Nelson's Sparrow today from 2:45-3:15 pm and were not able to find it. There were a lot of Palm Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers (also a lone Cape May) and a lone Bobolink in the cell that the Nelson's was in. The bird might still be present but I think that the weather this afternoon was not the greatest for finding the bird. 

On a different note we were able to find 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers (one along the east edge of the east lagoon and 3 south of the observatory in the mowed field).

Michael, David, Jane, and Jonathan Lautenbach

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nelson's Sparrow Photos

"Here are photos of the Nelson's Sparrow that we saw at the Wastewater this morning and afternoon (see post below). Also we have a map of the location where the bird was being seen. The bird was last seen by us at 1:50 p.m. in the same location that Caleb posted for us. If you go and look for this bird, we would suggest wearing rubber boots or waders and walk around the cell trying to flush it."

Jonathan, Joseph and David Lautenbach

Please read the "Comments" associated with this post.

Nelson's Sparrow at WW + 51 Species at MLNP

September 22 to Mich-Listers:

"Jonathan Lautenbach just called and has found and photographed a Nelson's Sparrow at Muskegon Wastewater. The bird is in cell D6 (the grassy infiltration basins north of the west lagoon) as of 11:55 a.m. He flushed the bird by walking into the cell and then pishing when it flew. It then sat up for five minutes.

Good birding

Caleb Putnam"

Meanwhile this morning our club's field trip to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve was a success not only because the forecast rains never fell but also because the preserve was full of birds with a good variety banded by Brian Johnson  (51 species seen by the 20 participants, scads of Yellow-rumped Warblers flitting through the foliage and into the nets).  Species details and photos on our homepage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mallard with a Mohawk?

More I.D. help ... looks like a female Mallard except for that little tuft atop its head. I watched it for about 15 minutes and it stayed "up" the entire time.  Don Neumann

Can Anyone Identify This Plover or Peregrine?

September 17 Email:

Hi, Ric

I am visiting Muskegon for a couple of weeks, have been at the Wastewater property for several days, and have been watching your Recent Sightings blog.  I live in Florida, but grew up out in Moorland (county bought my parents' farm as part of the Wastewater project).

I have a number of pictures of shorebirds that I am having difficulty identifying in spite of web searches.  If you are willing to help me, it would be greatly appreciated.  Obviously the bird in the picture is either a Black-bellied Plover or an American Golden-Plover (hope so, would be a life bird).

Again, if you are willing to help, THANK YOU.  If you can't, no problem.

Rog Newell
Valrico, FL

Rog, my shorebird book says the Black-bellied has a thicker bill and neck and a chunkier less attenuated body than the American Golden-Plover.  It also has a picture of a molting adult American Golden-Plover with plumage much like the one in your picture.  Using that book I'd have said American Golden-, but looking at Google images I'm not so sure.  Hopefully someone with more shorebird expertise will chime in and identify your bird.  Thanks for the photo!  - Ric

Rog also sent this photo of a banded Peregrine Falcon at the Wastewater.  I'm posting it below and will email Nik Kalejs at the DNR to ask if it might be one of the ones he banded at the Cobb Plant earlier this year.  (By opening the photo in a separate tab on your browser, you might be able to zoom in closer on the leg bands.) - Ric

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Plovers and Warbler Photos from WW Today

"Shirley and I went to the Wastewater location again today to look for other Warblers (see previous post). We found a flock of Palm Warblers next to the abandoned building near the model airplane field.  Below is a picture of one. One highlight was being able to see and photograph the flock of American Golden-Plovers that you posted information on yesterday. You can see most of them in the picture below along with a Killdeer who got caught up in the excitement.  This was taken near the north end of the center dike." 

Rich Schadle

Snipe and Warbler Photos WW Saturday

Rich Schadle emails that he and Shirley had a very profitable day for photography yesterday at the Wastewater snapping a first year Bald Eagle and a variety of shorebirds and warblers.  He sends these photos of a Wilson's Snipe from the north end of the West Lagoon and a Nashville Warbler near the model airplane field back toward the woods.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lotsa Good Birds Saturday

September 15 Email:

Hey Ric,

We birded the Muskegon area this morning and early afternoon. We started off the morning at Muskegon State Park at Snug Harbor where we had some decent migrants. Some highlights that we saw were Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Waterthrush, Cape May Warbler, 12 other species of warbler, Purple Finch, and a Winter Wren. Most of the migrants that we saw were in or near the alders along the west end of Snug Harbor near the marsh.

At Muskegon Wastewater we also had some good birds including 8 Greater White-fronted Geese, a lone Snow Goose, 23 American Golden-plovers (a flock that we flushed off the center dike), 3 Black-bellied Plovers, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (mixed in with the golden-plover), a Long-billed Dowitcher (SE corner of the east lagoon), and several Grasshopper Sparrows in the grassy cells north of the west lagoon.

Good Birding,

Kevin Welsh, Neil Gilbert, and Jonathan Lautenbach

Attached are poor pictures of the Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater White-fronted Goose and Snow Goose.  Thanks for posting.

Thanks for sending! - Ric

Friday, September 14, 2012

40 WW Species Includes Raven and Egret

I accompanied Brian Johnson as he conducted a Wastewater Shorebird Survey this afternoon.  We saw 40 bird species including a Common Raven (among vultures along north side of West Lagoon, then flew west) and a Great Egret (at the Clay Pond).  - Ric

Muskegon Wastewater System, Muskegon, US-MI
Sep 14, 2012 12:20 PM - 3:35 PM
Protocol: Traveling
26.0 mile(s)
Comments:    While Helping Brian Johnson Conduct Wastewater Shorebird Survey
40 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)  X
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  X
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  X
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  6
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)  1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  X
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1    brown
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3
Sora (Porzana carolina)  1
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)  10
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)  2
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)  1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  45
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)  11
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)  1
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  6
Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)  1
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)  1
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)  1
Bonaparte's Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)  1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  X
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  365    215 north of East Lagoon; 150 east of Swanson south of Laketon
Common Raven (Northern) (Corvus corax principalis)  1    Perched among Turkey Vultures along north side of West Lagoon; then flew west.
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)  X
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  X
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  100
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  X
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)  3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Thursday, September 13, 2012

10 Raptors, 8 Migrants Cross Channel

Curious if any raptors would be migrating ahead of the rain clouds, I hawk-watched from 1:00-2:00 at the Muskegon Channel today.  I saw ten, two non-migrating (an adult Bald Eagle and a falcon, probably a kestrel, both north toward Snug Harbor) and eight migrating: 1 Northern Harrier (brown), 6 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and 1 Merlin (harrassing 3 of the Sharpies as they all passed overhead).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Red-Breasted Nuthatch from the Muskegon Channel Monday.

Dan Lockard

Of Hawks, Toy Airplanes and Squirrel Bracelets

Being a kid at heart (and mentally) I've occasionally enjoyed flying a little styrofoam remote-control airplane on calm mornings this summer.  I usually do this at the West Wind Golf Course where the only birds affected are the Barn Swallows which often buzzed around it in August presumably thinking it was a predator.

On Monday morning my little plane became the prey as it cruised northward over the Pine Park football field.  An immature Red-tailed Hawk flew out of the woods at the north end to investigate.  As it closed on the little airplane, dwarfing it by magnitudes, I had thoughts of major damage or losing the plane altogether.  I gave it full throttle and dove; the hawk veered toward it, but then continued southward to land in the pines at the south end of the field from where it watched the plane's next several journeys, all of them much closer to me until the hawk left the area!

Then yesterday afternoon while prepping my bird boxes in the woods across the road, I found a Flying Squirrel on a nest in one box.  Assuming it would stay hidden as long as I was up the tree next to its box, I began patch-painting around the opening. Suddenly the squirrel was on my wrist which I instantly flicked (yelling, "Hey!") but not before the squirrel had already leaped from there to a nearby branch and then down the tree.  I can recommend both experiences for anyone wanting an adrenalin rush.

- Ric

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Raven at Wastewater Today

Sept. 9 to Mich-Listers:

Common Raven seen perched on fence at landfill next to American Crows.  It was much larger than the crows, showed a wedged-shaped tail and vocalization was consistent with raven.  At times some crows made harassing passes at it.

Laurence Burke

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Raptor Sightings Pere Marquette & the Channel

During the season's first Shorebird Survey for Chip Francke, Feller DeWitt watched a Peregrine Falcon chasing a Merlin near the south breakwall at Pere Marquette Park.

Afterward I went over to the McLane for an hour of hawkwatching.  It was worth the watch even though there was only one migrant.  A Broad-winged Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk appeared on the north side but did not cross the Channel while I was there.  At 10:40 an adult Peregrine Falcon migrated speedily from over Snug Harbor past the east end the Muskegon Channel and on over Harbor Town.  It was viewable for the better part of a minute and I never saw it move its wings, just knifing through the air in a strong northwest wind.

At 10:50 a young Red-shouldered Hawk flew from near the stern of the McLane northbound low over the Channel water toward a hen Mallard swimming near the rocks on the north side.  At the last second, it veered toward the duck and she dove.  The hawk then perched on the blue railing on the north Channel wall, the duck popped up 30-seconds later quite near the hawk, but neither seemed concerned about the other after that, and soon the hawk flew into the woods.

- Ric

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Birds at WW Wednesday

September 6 Email:

Hi Ric,

I was given your name and website by someone I met while birding at Muskegon Wastewater yesterday (Ken ? - sorry bad with names).

I don't get to this area very often, but my work brings me over from Lansing every once in a while.  When I am in the area, I always try to stop by the Wastewater site to see and photograph what I can - especially shorebirds, which I also do woodcarvings of for shows (See ).

Here is my list from yesterday:  Killdeer (many), Spotted SP (a few), Stilt SP (1), Solitary SP (1), Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (1 / 3), Short-billed Dowitcher (2), Least SP (a few), Buff-breasted SP (1), Common Snipe (1) and multiple plover which I believe are American Golden - juvenile black-bellied plover also show some golden colors, but I'm fairly sure these were goldens.  All were spotted in the afternoon ~3-4 pm at the southeast corner of the east lagoon.

I have attached a couple of pictures (Canon DSLR with 420 mm telephoto length) for you as well.

Tod Van Wieren

Tod, that probably would have been Ken Sapkowski.  Thanks for the report and pics.  - Ric

Channel Birds Wednesday

From the Muskegon Channel last night: 3 Double-crested Cormorant and a Sanderling.

Dan Lockard


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Notable Sightings at Wastewater Today

Click the link below for eBird details and photographs of Eared Grebe, American Golden-plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black Tern and several good shorebirds at Muskegon Wastewater today:

- Caleb Putnam

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Buff-breasted S.P, Plovers, Warblers, Oh My!

Two September 4 Emails:

Today I spent some time birding in Muskegon County and had some success tallying 108 species for the day. Highlights for the day include an American Golden-plover at Muskegon State Park on the beach at sunrise. I also had some good luck at Snug Harbor seeing 17 species of warblers including 18 Cape May, 14 Black-throated Blue, Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, and Hooded. Also at Snug Harbor I had a pair of Red Crossbills flyover.

At Muskegon Wastewater I had some decent shorebirds, but the numbers seemed to be down a little from last week. The shorebirds were either along the northeast edge of the east lagoon or in the drained cell north of the west lagoon. The highlight was an adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the drained cell. Also present were 12 Red-necked Phalaropes in the middle of the east lagoon, Wilson's Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt and Baird's Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, and the usual species as well. There also was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in the east lagoon.

Good Birding,

Jonathan Lautenbach

* * * * * 

Here are a couple pictures of a Swainson's Thrush from Hoffmaster State Park taken yesterday.  They match really well with pictures on Flickr.  See:

Glenda and I birded there three time over the weekend and twice at Huff Park in Grand Rapids.  Sitting in a cushy chair inside Gillette Visitor Center is a pretty easy way to go.

Warbler's we identified include:

American Redstart
Black-throated Green
Black-throated Blue 

We may have also seen a Magnolia and Yellow.

Hours for the center after Labor Day are now 12:00-4:00 p.m.

Ken Sapkowski

Monday, September 3, 2012

Peregrine at WW Sunday

Peregrine Falcon eating dinner at the Wastewater yesterday.

Dan Lockard

Thanks, Dan. That's a first-year bird.  Did you notice if its left leg might have a band?  If so, might you have any other pictures to help identify the individual?  Some were banded again this spring at the Cobb plant but I don't know on which leg/s.  (If both, this guy might be a naturally-born migrant?)
The wild hawks are already moving (see my post below).  - Ric

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Black-bellied Plover

This Black-Bellied Plover and one other were at the southeast corner of the center dike at the Wastewater on Sunday, September 2nd.
Mike Boston

Hawks Migrating Already!

My friend Paul Gillan called to report a migrating Osprey and many other migrating and non-migrating raptors near the Muskegon Channel today.  I went over there for an hour this afternoon and saw over two dozen of them (mostly migrants, report below).  This is very early in the year for this many hawks to be migrating past Muskegon!

- Ric

Muskegon, Michigan, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Sep 02, 2012
Hawk Migration Association of North America

Species            Day's Count    Month Total  Season Total
Turkey Vulture              0              0              0
Bald Eagle                  0              0              0
Osprey                      0              0              0
Northern Harrier            0              0              0
Sharp-shinned Hawk          13            13            13
Cooper's Hawk                0              0              0
Northern Goshawk            0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk          0              0              0
Broad-winged Hawk            5              5              5
Red-tailed Hawk              2              2              2
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              0
Golden Eagle                0              0              0
American Kestrel            5              5              5
Merlin                      0              0              0
Peregrine Falcon            0              0              0
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              0
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon              0              0              0
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor              0              0              0

Total:                      25            25            25

Observation start time: 14:00:00
Observation end  time: 15:00:00
Total observation time: 1 hours

Weather: Sunny, east wind 5-10 mph

Observations:  2-4 non-migrating RT, 1 non-migrating AK, 1 migrating OS before count period.

Can Anyone ID This Gull?

September 2 Email:

Hi Ric,

Birded MWW yesterday 9-1-12 and saw an unusual Gull at the 3rd (coming from the west) aerator cell, pictures attached.  Sitting with Herring Gulls but smaller, size of Lesser Black-backed, bill color black, legs pinkish gray, no eye rings, solid dark gray mantel, dirty head.  Can’t seem to match this guy with any guides at my disposal.  Please let me know what the consensus is! 

Sending you an interesting juvenile Bald Eagle picture taken at the landfill.  Also seen were 2 Caspian Terns on the pipe on the west lagoon N.E. corner.

Barb Gay

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Nighthawks

August 31 Email:

Common Nighthawks from my back yard in Muskegon last night. There were more than 20 flying around me like swallows.

Dan Lockard

Thanks, Dan.  Maybe there was something going on locally regarding Nighthawks last night (see my post below)?  - Ric