To see all the details in some of the pictures, right-click them. From the mini-list choose "Open link in new window". In that window click the picture for actual size, often too big to fit your monitor. Scroll around to appreciate all the details. Then click again to see the entire picture.
American Woodcock returned last Thursday or Friday evening to the field by the blueberry patch near my house. There were two or three peenting and flying tonight when Mike Boston came over. Conditions were not good for photography, but Mike was able to get this shot before dark. - Ric
I birded Ottawa County's Hemlock Crossing Park from 9:00-10:00 this morning, then spent the next hour in the Nature Education Center watching Curtis Dykstra run his final Coffee with the Birds program of the season.
I recorded 20 bird species including Pileated Woodpecker, Pine Siskin and my first-for-this-year Red-winged Blackbird. Unfortunately yesterday's Rusty Blackbird did not make an appearance today. This Gray Squirrel has figured how to eat from the park's "squirrel-proof" feeder.
As we can too vividly recall, thewinter of
2013-14was viciously cold. Temperatures for December,
January, and February averaged 26°, 20°, and 18° respectively. Those were 4°, 5°, and 9° below their corresponding monthly
normals. Consequently, all five Great Lakes experienced an early and
ultimately epic freeze. By late January, ice had extended
several miles from shore, and peak extent occurred on March 6, when
92% of the Great Lakes was covered by ice.
With so much water frozen or too deep
for effective foraging, ducks congregated in the few remaining
pockets in astounding numbers. Totals at the Muskegon Lake Channel
peaked in late January. My count from January 29, 2014, yielded 2258 Greater
Scaup, 463 White-winged Scoter, 3137 Long-tailed Ducks, and 912
Common Goldeneye. Other ducks included smaller numbers of Canvasback, Redhead, Surf
Scoter, Common Merganser, and Red-breasted Merganser. Thereafter,
emigration and attrition drastically reduced the local population. I
noted 106 dead ducks in the channel on March 11.
This winter, December was slightly
warmer than normal and January was somewhat colder. However, February
was downright frigid, and the monthly average of 13° was far colder
than even last year. Combined with low water temperatures at the
onset of winter, the bitter conditions again ushered near record ice
Duck numbers have recently peaked at Muskegon Lake Channel,
and totals today included 584 Greater Scaup, 84 White-winged Scoter,
46 Long-tailed Duck. and 314 Common Goldeneye. Hundreds of
Long-tailed Ducks have also been flying far offshore over the ice
pack, but the extraordinary waterfowl densities of 2014 will not be
repeated this year. This may be due to more open water in the Great
Lakes this year, although a peak ice cover of 89% (on February 28)
does not leave a lot of suitable habitat. Possibly, local winter
duck populations have not yet recovered from devastating losses
sustained last year.
Other birds today included the Red-throated Loon above. Sadly, a close look at the Red-breasted Merganser
photo below shows that the bird is hopelessly mired in fishing line. I also
noticed this among a few ducks last winter, and I strongly suspect that the
number of birds that starve this way is significant.
It was a lovely day at the Muskegon Channel this afternoon. Even the ordinaryMallards looked stunning in the sunshine. I attached a Scaup. I don't know whether it's a greater or lesser. I don't know how to tell the difference! I have a question about the last two ducks. Are they both Common Goldeneye? I've never seen a female one without the little orangeish tip on the end of the bill. Thanks!
- Roxanne Eacker
Thanks, Roxanne. It looks like a Greater Scaup (rounded top of head, not pointed) and two female Common Goldeneyes to me. I don't know if the orangish-bill tip indicates anything or not. Check the comments later to see if someone lets us know. - Ric
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