Saturday, September 28, 2013

Various Birds North of the Channel Saturday

As on Wednesday, I spent a couple hours up on "Jeff's Dune" at Muskegon State Park this morning.  Lots to watch, some predictable, some unexplainable, all fascinating.

Unofficial migration count: 3 American Kestrel, 10 Eastern Bluebird, 6 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1,008 Double-crested Cormorant, 3 Broad-winged Hawk, 3 Cooper's Hawk, 250 Blue Jay, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 9 American Crow, 1 Northern Harrier (brown).

Miscellaneous: About 40 American Crows cawed and flew around the trees up north.  At 10:30 they began moving south toward the trees north of Jeff's dune.  A few minutes later a Red-shouldered Hawk flew from my left northward directly toward the flock of crows.  Why?  When it got within their flock, they began mobbing it (duh!) and drove it down into the trees. They continued to caw and crawk in those trees driving out a Broad-winged Hawk which they continued to harass down into trees and up again and down, then eastward toward Muskegon Lake.  A couple of times that bird seemed to be in real trouble from their attacks.  Meanwhile a young Cooper's Hawk flew out of the trees north, landed in a tree behind me for awhile, then continued southward (so recorded as "migrant").  And then the Red-shouldered Hawk departed the trees and headed further north.

Having already counted 8 migrating Double-crested Cormorants the first hour, I noticed several V's approaching from the west at 11:00.  I guesstimated 1,000 counting conservatively by tens.  Those directly overhead were close enough to hear their wings.

Migrating Cooper's Hawks are not that common, but another migrated over the trees to the west during the second hour, and about two hundred yards behind it another!

At 11:22 a Red-shouldered Hawk (assuming the same bird as earlier since red-shouldered's are not that common here either) started climbing a thermal north.  It was joined by a Broad-winged Hawk (maybe the one from earlier; who knows?) which harrassed the red-shouldered a couple times (maybe taking out its aggressions from the crow attack?) when a Sharp-shinned Hawk joined their thermal and made two attacks on the broadwinged (establishing pecking order?) before all three climbed higher and higher northwest.  I stopped watching those three and classified them all as "migrants", but who knows?

Heard lotsa Eastern Bluebirds this morning and every now and then spotted the sources flying southbound.  I figured they were migrating, but I didn't know bluebirds migrated in the daytime and still don't!  There were many Northern Flickers calling and flying around today as on Wednesday.

Bluejays are harder to count as migrants here than from the south side of the Channel because you often see some heading east and west down in the jackpines whereas most once they cross the Channel keep flying south toward the Ovals.

Before leaving I began noticing a few American Crows flying high and southbound, continuing over the Channel.  I saw no migrating Monarch butterflies up on the dune, but two flew by when I was back at my car.

- Ric

Peregrine Falcon at Wastewater Friday

September 27 Email:

Peregrine Falcon from the Wastewater today. Also I noticed that someone put trails in the woods by the administration building. Great bird trail.

Dan Lockard

Thanks, Dan.  I still have not heard from the authorities any reply to the identity of the banded peregrine that we posted on Sept. 7.  - Ric 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday Migrants and Another Sphinx Moth

With Jeff Johnson in Nevada and Carolyn Weng in California, I commandeered "their dune" at Muskegon State Park this morning to watch for hawks and other wildlife.

Northern Flickers were the birds of the day, calling frequently and flying in all directions but south.  Other non-migrants included crows, gulls, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches, a young Red-tailed Hawk and a pair of deer.

Migrants: 64 Blue Jays, 15 Broad-winged Hawks, 12 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 13 Canada Geese, 2 Monarch Butterflies, and 1 each of Northern Harrier (brown), Cooper's Hawk and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Monday morning Greg DeWeerd photographed this Sphinx Moth on the porch of his house near Hoffmaster State Park. He and Judy walked by it twenty times, but it didn't fly until the temperatures rose (another way it's like a hummingbird - see Don Neumann's Sept. 13 post below).

- Ric

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MLNP Banding: September Warbler Highlights

Although I was able to open nets for three days in August, I was unable to run the banding station at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve (MLNP) on a consistent basis until September 3. A lot of neotropical migrants have already passed southward by this date, and some species (e.g. Yellow Warbler) have vacated completely, but most of these long-distance voyagers peak in September, Plus, oddities and rarities, like these pictured below, keep things interesting.

Distributed similarly to Louisiana Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warbler, the Hooded Warbler reaches the northern extent of its Michigan breeding range in Muskegon County. A few Hooded Warblers regularly breed at Hoffmaster State Park, but sightings further north tend to be more sporadic. A territorial male at the north boundary of Duck Lake State Park has provided my most northerly record for the past two years. However, this immature male, netted on September 12 and pictured above, was the first that I have banded at MLNP.

Due to the highly disturbed and regenerating forest habitat at MLNP, warblers that prefer understories tend to be more prevalent than those that more often frequent canopies. Consequently, the complement of warblers at the preserve varies considerably from the parks along Lake Michigan. For example, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Mourning, Magnolia, and Wilson Warblers tend to be common at MLNP, whereas Northern Parula, Cape May, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green Warblers are much scarcer. Ensconced in the latter category is Bay-breasted Warbler. Caught on September 9, this individual is, amazingly, the first that I have banded at MLNP.

One species that is infrequent but expected at MLNP is Connecticut Warbler. Both in 2011 and 2012, I only banded one, and this individual from September 11 may fill this year's quota. The latest I have caught any at the preserve has been October 6.

- Brian Johnson

More Grand Haven Birds

September 17 Email:

My two-year-old future birder and I spent some time on the Grand Haven north pier today to see if we could find the Longspur Charlie saw.  No luck with that, but I was able to capture a Double-crested Cormorant, Bonaparte's Gull and a couple of Sanderling.  - Travis Dewys

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lapland Longspur at Grand Haven

Today on the Grand Haven north pier from 3:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. there was a Lapland Longspur.

Charlie DeWitt

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shorebird Survey: Aug. 12 - Sept. 14

Shorebird diversity and numbers have been very high this fall at the Muskegon Wastewater System. Due largely to exceptional results from August, this season's Shorebird Survey is shaping up to be the best since we formally established the project in 2005. Since my last post on August 4, four more sessions have been completed:

August 12 (Micah Petersen and me): 799 birds of 15 species

August 24 (Micah Petersen and me): 766 birds of 19 species

September 7 (me): 220 birds of 13 species

September 14 (me): 211 birds of 13 species

The bird tally from August 12 establishes a new record, and the species total from August 24 matches our previous best.

Cumulatively, we have seen 3,237 shorebirds of 23 species this season. This already far exceeds the past seasonal high count of 1,938 birds from 2009, but we remain two species behind the record total set that same fall.

Noteworthy results from the last four visits include:

American Golden-Plover - 21 on August 24
Killdeer - 207 on August 12 (new high count)
Solitary Sandpiper - 8 on August 24 (new high count)
Lesser Yellowlegs - 223 from August 24 (new high count)
Upland Sandpiper - 1 on August 24 (record late)
Red Knot - 1 on September 14
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 95 on August 24
Least Sandpiper - 122 on August 12
Bairds's Sandpiper 27 on August 24
Pectoral Sandpiper - 169 on August 12 (new high count)
Stilt Sandpiper - 10 on August 24
Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 1 on September 14
Red-necked Phalarope - 23 on August 24

Also, today's survey produced an early Snow Goose and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

- Brian Johnson

Same Day: Travis Dewys digiscoped this photo of the Red Knot in the SE corner of the East Lagoon.  He apologized for its blurriness, but no need for apology.  Thanks!  When you "Open link in new window" and then magnify per the directions above left, this bird fills your monitor, so any blurriness hardly matters.  - Ric

Friday, September 13, 2013

Red Knot at Muskegon County Wastewater

This morning I spent some time at the Muskegon County Wastewater.  I found the Red Knot that has been reported. It was in the company of two Black-bellied Plovers in the southeast corner of the East Lagoon.  After spending time with the Red Knot, I drove the north loop and found two Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Charlie DeWitt

"Hummingbird Moth"

This White-lined Sphinx ("Hummingbird") Moth was checking out one of my planters Thursday evening. Don Neumann

Monday, September 9, 2013

Geese at Holland

September 8 Email:

This sighting is a little south of you in Holland, but I think it's worth reporting.  My wife and I photographed two Greater White Fronted Geese (domestic Graylag Geese -- read Comments) at the Dutch Village yesterday. This is on James street off of US 31. They were with a group of Mallards and Canada Geese.  It looked to me like they have been there for awhile, but I'm not sure about that.  Here is one picture.  The reflections are from orange flowers that were growing nearby.
Rich Schadle

Rich, thanks for the report and photo.  The location, your suspicions, and the small amount of white near the bill have me wondering if this is a wild bird, and/or hybrid, and/or "Farmus Domesticus".  Thanks in advance to anyone with more knowledge of geese for clarifying this.  - Ric

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday Birds and Birders at Wastewater

Hoping I might see golden-plovers, ravens or a buff-breasted sandpiper, I headed out to the Wastewater this morning.  I saw none of the above.

However, I did record 20 species including a Wilson's Phalarope (along the south edge of East Lagoon ~100 yards west of the SE corner), American Wigeon (East Lagoon, ~200 yards north of SE corner), a very whitish-headed adult Red-tailed Hawk (pylons NE of East Lagoon), Peregrine Falcon, Wilson's Snipe and kerbillions of Tree Swallows.

The Wilson's Snipe was in the drawn-down churning lagoon (second from the west I think) in a puddle near the north side compliments of Lyle Hamilton and Tex Wells who were there when I arrived.  They also had seen several other shorebird species, none out of the ordinary.

Leaving them and heading east I noticed a first-year Peregrine Falcon slowly flap-gliding ahead of my car along the north edge of the West Lagoon scaring everything in its path.  When it perched on some pipes west of the center dike, I saw that it was banded.  Fortunately Lyle drove up behind my car soon afterward with his scope and was able to read the numbers 64 and the letters AN on the bands.

Also fortunately the Lautenbach brothers arriving from the east stopped before spooking the falcon.  When it flew, it made three wing-over attacks on something in the fifth (drawn down) churning lagoon.  From my car I could not see into that lagoon, but Lautenbachs could; they saw it nab a shorebird (probably lesser yellowlegs).  It then carried the prey to the top of a pylon north of the East Lagoon and ate it.  I've contacted Nik Kalejs of the DNR with those band numbers and if I hear anything regarding the falcon's I.D., I'll post it here.

Heading toward the south side I met photographer Jerry Viss again, and on the south side I met the same State Police officer who was watching that area a week ago.  Jerry had seen a couple of Great Egrets northeast of the lagoons before I saw him; I saw a Pied-billed Grebe in the clay pond.

- Ric

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Golden-Plovers and Ravens at Wastewater

September 4 Email:

I had a count of 87 American Golden Plovers today on the southeast end of the East Lagoon.  They were all in the rocks along the water's edge.  Many were also seen in flight.  Also of note were 2 Common Ravens in the same area, resting with the gulls.

- Curtis Dykstra

Monday, September 2, 2013

Golden Plovers and Buff-breasted Sandpiper

September 1 Email:

I see that no one has reported the 31 American Golden Plovers and 1 Buff-breasted Sandpiper that Liz Notman found on Saturday at the Wastewater. They were together in a field along the east side of Swanson not too far north of the southeast access to the lagoons. We had nice looks as they were busy feeding not too far out.

Pat Bazany