Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October Lakewatch Highlights

As opportunities permit, I have been monitoring the passage of waterbirds and other migrants along Lake Michigan again this fall. Although I have been only able to cover about an hour each day, I have counted on 19 days since September 12. All watches have occurred at Hoffmaster State Park.

During the last few days, overall numbers and diversity have increased substantially. So far this season, I have recorded 10 Red-throated Loons, 72 Common Loons, and 87 Horned Grebes. Totaling 403 individuals, Bonaparte's Gulls have been passing regularly, but the count of 241 from October 14 remains the peak. Common Terns, last seen on October 15, numbered 32. A northbound jaeger seen on September 22 could not be conclusively identified.

Long-tailed Ducks were first noted on October 15, and October 28 was the first day that I saw more than 100. Other diving ducks have also dramatically increased - counts of 239 Red-breasted Mergansers and 53 Bufflehead on October 29 were quite higher than previous days. As for scoters, I have seen 23 Surf, 63 White-winged, and 13 Black so far. The most numerous dabbling duck has been Gadwall.

A southbound Red Phalarope on October 29 was a nice treat, but more surprising was an American Woodcock flying east toward the dunes at 10:49 a.m. on the same day. Similarly, both in the spring and fall, large numbers of eastbound passerines regularly appear from far over Lake Michigan. In the past couple days, dozens of American Pipits and Snow Buntings (first seen October 24) have arriving from the west.

Due to their small sizes, these birds can be difficult to detect, but the gauntlet of gulls and a resident Merlin have been more discerning. After struggling miles over the lake, many passerines are seized within a stone's throw of the shoreline. The latest victim was a Golden-crowned Kinglet effortlessly captured by the Merlin on October 29. However, these attacks are not always successful, and one of the Red Bats I saw arriving over the lake repeatedly dodged and ultimately eluded the determined raptor.

- Brian Johnson

Monday, October 28, 2013

Common Tern

I saw this Common Tern at Holland State Park on Sunday, October 27th. Not exactly in Muskegon but within the regular birding range of a lot of Muskegonites.

- Mike Boston

Red Phalarope Photos

Sorry I was unable to post these photos until now.  They were sent on Saturday, the first from Travis Dewys and the second and third from Jonathan Lautenbach, all in reference to the Red Phalarope at Wastewater posted in my absence by Charlie DeWitt (two posts below).  Thanks all!

- Ric

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rough-legged Hawk at Wastewater Saturday

I photographed this dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk at the Wastewater Saturday (10-26-13).

- Charlie DeWitt

Red Phalarope at Wastewater Saturday

This is from David and Jonathan Lautenbach:

Along the north edge of the east lagoon we had the Red Phalarope that was originally spotted by Zak Pohlen.   Also in the east lagoon we had 9 Eared Grebes, 14 or so Horned Grebes, 1,000's of Ruddy Ducks and Northern Shovelers, several American Wigeons, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup.   In the west lagoon we had Surf Scoter near the middle of the pond, a couple of Greater Scaup, Northern Pintail, and a similar assortment of ducks as on the east lagoon.   In the recently plowed fields north of the ponds we had several hundred American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks. This message also had two pictures that I could not download (which were posted above on Monday).

- Charlie DeWitt

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Curious Brown Creeper

Just thought I would share this. About 9:00 tonight a Brown Creeper was doing its best to get into my house through any window it could find.  It must have wanted to watch Becky's favorite show (The Voice, which we stream and watch a day late) because it was absolutely relentless for well over an hour, but just until the show ended.  Then it seemed to disappear!  I guess it probably wasn't really the show that got its attention, but we'll find out for sure next week "same time, same station"!  ;)

- Mike VanderStelt

Chipmunks, Creeper and Song Sparrow

Yesterday I had a few minutes to get out and do some birding.  I like to use my truck for a blind to take photos.  I park next to a brush pile and see what comes along.  I have three Chipmunks that like to watch me watch them.  The Brown Creeper was passing through and the Song Sparrow has been in the brush pile for over a week now.  Maybe this cooler weather will send him on his way.

- Charlie DeWitt

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Glaucous Gull at Wastewater Saturday

Carol and I spent some time Saturday (10-19-13) afternoon at the Muskegon County Wastewater checking out the gulls.  We found this friendly Glaucous Gull and 110 Bonapart's Gulls

Charlie DeWitt

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mockingbird and Shrike on Ottawa County Trip

A brief report of this morning's club trip down to the Upper Macatawa Natural Area in Ottawa County is posted on our homepage.  Two birds of note included a Northern Mockingbird and a Northern Shrike.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wastewater Gulls, Ducks and Shorebirds

October 17 to Mich Chat:

I spent a couple hours today looking for the California Gull that was reported on the Muskegon Nature Club web site a couple days ago.  I did not find the Cal. gull, but did find an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull sitting on the cement wall north of the west pond.  I rarely see Ruddy Ducks anywhere other than the Wastewater, and when I do, they are in relatively small numbers.  This was true when I lived in the Saginaw Bay area also.  Today, there were at least 15,000 Ruddy Ducks at the wastewater along with the many Northern Shovelers and a smattering of other ducks (Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Black Ducks -- and many Mallards).   A few shorebirds remain (most were in the small cells just north of the cement aeration ponds) including 2 Baird's Sandpipers as well as Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin and Killdeer.

Chip Francke

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Geese, Eagles, Gulls and Sapsucker at W.W.

I did my weekly tour at the Muskegon County Wastewater yesterday (Oct 15).  There were large numbers of Canada Geese (2,000 - 3,000).  I did see 3 Cackling Geese.  I got to the Wastewater at 8:00 a.m., and by 8:30 a.m. the geese had left the large lagoons to forage in farm fields.

I saw 3 Bald Eagles. This one had been eating a gull.  The last time I was at the Wastewater, I also noticed an eagle eating a gull.  The gulls must taste like chicken!  :-)

I also found this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Wastewater.  It had a deformed bill but seemed to be healthy with no problem flying.

- Charlie DeWitt

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sparrows at MLNP, Gulls at Wastewater, Etc.

Due to the prevalence of mild south winds these last few weeks, banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve has been especially productive since late September. While few neotropical migrants remain in Michigan after October 1, most species of sparrows and other temperate migrants peak this month.

Among these, White-crowned Sparrows have been particularly numerous. On average, we catch our first White-crowned Sparrows on September 25. Numbers of adults peak on October 7, and immatures peak five days later. Seasonal totals over the previous six autumns have varied from 13 in 2012 to 160 in 2011. This year, White-crowned Sparrows were first captured on September 26, and they have remained plentiful since then. With exactly 200 banded so far this season, we have handily surpassed the previous record.

White-throated Sparrows, our most common species, have also been quite plentiful, and our first Fox Sparrow appeared on October 9.  Lincoln's Sparrows (above photo) are relatively scarce in Muskegon County, so seven banded at the preserve this fall is a respectable figure.

However, our most interesting record has been the first capture of a Clay-colored Sparrow at the preserve. This adult was banded on October 8.

I have been continuing the annual Wastewater Shorebird Surveys three days each month. Numbers and diversity during each session have remained above average, but totals have steadily dropped since the big August concentrations. Twenty-three species have been seen this fall.

To help assess the justification and efficacy of the gull removal program at the Wastewater lagoons and landfill, I am also carefully counting all the gulls during each survey. While Ring-billed and Herring Gulls obviously constitute the vast majority, several other species occur fairly consistently during the cooler months. The highlight today was this adult Mew Gull along the west lagoon.

Finally, a waterbird count at Hoffmaster State Park this morning produced 241 southbound Bonaparte's Gulls.

- Brian Johnson

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beautiful Morning But Few Migrating Raptors

Hoping light easterly winds on a day in the middle of the migration would offset no recent storms, I spent a couple hours up on "Jeff's Dune" north of the Channel this morning looking for migrating raptors.  Only two: a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Merlin.

There were a few other migrants: 44 Canada Geese, 50 Blue Jays and a Monarch Butterfly.  About 40 of the dozens of American Crows seemed to be heading south as well, but who knows.  The most common birds in the jack pines were Northern Flickers again, as well as some White-crowned Sparrows.

Seventeen bird species, none out of the ordinary, and this milkweed along the trail back down.

- Ric

Winter Wren and Others

I had a chance to bird some private land near the Muskegon County Airport this morning.  Besides this Winter Wren I had 6 Palm Warblers, 1 Nashville Warbler, 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 1 Golden-crowned Kinglet and 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Charlie DeWitt

Monday, October 7, 2013

Explanation, Photos and Report

Oct. 8 Explanation: The following photos and report are Charlie's  He has had computer problems recently preventing him from editing his posts, so he's been emailing me whenever he posts so I can edit.  Last night he emailed ... 

Ric, I posted three pictures to the web page, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Pipit and Solitary Sandpiper in that order.

... but between then and now, Anonymous commented about the I.D. of the middle bird apparently thinking Charlie had posted it as a Palm Warbler and also wondering if it might not be a Sprague's Pipit.  I'll leave that question to others more qualified, but we're all in agreement that the middle bird is a pipit.  My apologies for not editing last night when I first read Charlie's email.  - Ric

I spent four hours at the Muskegon County Wastewater today, two hours just going around the large lagoons.  Mostly the same old ducks.  I did have 147 Ring-necked Ducks in one flock; that was new for the fall season for me.  In the small pond at the north end of the center dike on the west side of the road there were some shorebirds.  Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sanderling, Solitary Sandpiper and Baird's SandpiperI had two warbler species: Yellow-rumped and Palm.  I had a total of 44 species for the day.

- Charlie DeWitt

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sparrows, Shorebirds, Waterbirds and Pipits

I spent some time at the Muskegon County Wastewater this morning getting in a little birding.  In RI Cell B1 I found 12 White-crowned Sparrows.  In RI Cell D1 I found a flock of 31 Pectoral Sandpipers.  There were good numbers of American Pipits in the RI Cells.  Lots of Northern Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks in the big lagoons. 

Charlie DeWitt