Friday, January 31, 2014

Back Yard Hawk

A Red-Shouldered Hawk grabbing a bite to eat in my backyard today.

- Don Neumann

Lots of Waterbirds at Croton

January 30 Email:

I see you have an amazing amount  of cool ducks down in the river channel.   I was out on the Muskegon River right by Croton today and saw a White-winged Scoter (photo below) which I have never seen so far upriver.   There was an impressive number of Bald Eagles. as well as a lot of mergansers, goldeneyes, and Mute Swans about.  The extreme cold appears to be pushing a lot of birds to the open water of the river.   A good place to observe these is right below the spillway of the dam in Croton. 

Kevin Feenstra

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Photos from the Channel

Here are a few more shots to complement Brian's channel count (two posts below):

 Greater Scaup

 Long Tailed Duck
(probably having some trouble seeing and eating)

 White-winged Scoter


Surf Scoter

- Don Neumann

Long-tailed Ducks on January 29

Here are some of the Long-tailed Ducks that Brian Johnson mentions in the previous post.

- Charlie DeWitt

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shoreline Numbers and Channel Surveys

Continuing the series of Lake Michigan shoreline counts from last fall, I completed six more sessions in December and early January. Despite lower waterfowl diversity during these months, good numbers of diving ducks continue to pass, generally in response to local weather, forage availability, and various disturbances. On December 2, I tallied 11,596 Long-tailed Ducks at Lake Harbor Park. This unusually large cluster was concentrated by pressure from duck hunters far offshore to the north and south.

Other highlights were a Red-throated Loon and 9 Horned Grebes on December 19, and a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake on December 24 at the Muskegon State Park overlook.

Consistently cold temperatures, strong winds, and snowfall during December made additional forays difficult, but more significantly, the chilly conditions produced early freezing along Lake Michigan. By early January, overall ice cover was the greatest since the winter of 1993/94. As shallow water froze, various species of waterbirds moved to open channels or left Lake Michigan entirely.

Under such conditions, shoreline counts are unproductive, so I switch to surveys of Muskegon Lake Channel, although careful counts can be quite time-consuming and somewhat uncomfortable. High numbers there reflect the impact of ice coverage this winter.

On January 12, with pack ice extending 0.5 mile offshore, my counts included:

Canvasback - 3
Redhead - 26
Greater Scaup - 547
Lesser Scaup - 1
Surf Scoter - 1
White-winged Scoter - 28
Long-tailed Duck - 21
Bufflehead - 3
Common Goldeneye - 553
Common Merganser - 16
Red-breasted Merganser - 48

The various species of divers forage at different distances from shore. Common Mergansers and Buffleheads not only stay very close, but they actually prefer inland waters. Common Goldeneye remain within one mile of shore, and Red-breasted Mergansers range only moderately further. White-winged Scoters and Greater Scaup forage further yet, and the most distant rafts consist solely of Long-tailed Ducks. These patterns relate to diving ability. The Long-tailed Duck dives deeper than all other local waterfowl and is surpassed only by the Common Loon. A scientific paper from 1947 reported that Long-tailed Ducks were occasionally caught in gill nets in Lake Michigan more than 200 feet below the surface!

Today, January 29, I conducted another survey at the channel. This time, pack ice extended three miles offshore, and according to the ice cover estimates provided by the National Weather Service, Lake Michigan was 45% covered with ice, and drift ice extended about nine miles from shore. At the limit of pack ice, Lake Michigan is approximately 100 feet deep, and this would preclude benthic foraging by all but the most persistent ducks. Still, I was amazed by some of the numbers:

Canvasback - 4
Redhead - 35
Greater Scaup - 2,258
Surf Scoter - 2
White-winged Scoter - 463
Long-tailed Duck - 3,137
Bufflehead - 1
Common Goldeneye - 912
Common Merganser - 6
Red-breasted Merganser - 18

I have never before seen so many Long-tailed Ducks in the channel. I did not find any Lesser Scaup, but I could have missed a few among the Greaters. Still, after painstakingly counting and observing them, I am certain that no more than 2% were Lessers. Both Surf Scoters were adult males, which are the least common age/sex cohort in this area. The White-winged Scoter total was astounding; without a doubt this is the most ever recorded in Muskegon County.

- Brian Johnson

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bluebirds and Robins Today, Oh My!

January 26 Email:

Approximately ten Eastern Bluebirds and four American Robins in our backyard (north shore of Muskegon Lake) feasting on wild red berries today.

Dave Holmberg

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Grand Haven Cedar Waxwings and Starlings

I found some Cedar Waxwings and European Starlings in the trees by the Snug Harbor restaurant in Grand Haven today.

Charlie DeWitt

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pigeon Lake Birds on Sunday

January 22 Email:

I decided to spend some time at Pigeon Lake on Sunday.  This is some of what I found: Belted Kingfisher, Tundra Swans and Long-tailed Duck.  When the two swans flew in, I assumed they were the trumpeters.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized that they were Tundra Swans.  The close-up picture clearly shows the yellow markings near the bill. 

Travis Dewys

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Channel Ducks Tuesday but No Surf Scoter

Went to the Muskegon Channel this morning; same old ducks (including this Long-tailed Duck).  Was hoping to see the Surf Scoter again, no luck there.  For the gentleman who was talking to me at about 11:30 a.m, I took 21 frames of the Redheads in 3 seconds, saved 4, and this is the best.

Charlie DeWitt

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Field Trip Birds Plus Surf Scoter

The Northern Cardinal and American Tree Sparrow were seen on our club's field trip at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve around noon.  The Surf Scoter was seen at the Muskegon Lake Channel 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  He moved around a lot, so any place you can see the channel will be good.  I was by the USS Silversides.  Thanks Ken Sapkowski for the location of the Surf Scoter.

Charlie DeWitt

Ken's Surf Scoter photo and a report of our club's 27 species (24 at Wastewater, 3 additional at MLNP) are posted on our homepage.  - Ric

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Muskegon Channel

Spent some time at the Muskegon Channel and snapped this Common Goldeneye; lots of open water.  Parking lots very icy, be careful.

Charlie DeWitt

Thursday, January 9, 2014

City Hawk

I went into Grand Haven looking for some Cedar Waxwings that Chip Francke had reported at Snug Harbor Restaurant.  I sat for a while and sure enough, here comes a flock of Cedar Waxwings headed for the tree I was parked at.  They didn't stop; just kept on going.  Then I noticed this Cooper's Hawk sitting in the same tree not 40 feet from me.  The hawk flew when I opened my door to take a picture.  At least I got my Year Bird 41, Cedar Waxwing.

Charlie DeWitt

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Horned Grebe Plumages

It's snowing, so I thought I would go through some of my 2013 pictures.  I came across this photo of a Horned Grebe taken in April.  What a difference to the one taken in December

Charlie DeWitt

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dec. 28 2013: 49 Species on Muskegon CBC

Muskegon City Christmas Bird Count Results: 1,729 birds of 49 species Details now posted on our homepage.