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.
I birded Lake Harbor Park again this morning. The 25 species included several Indigo Buntings singing and chasing each other around the park, Lincoln's Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, American Redstart, Black-throated Green Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Brian's post belowreminded me that I hadn't birded Lake Harbor Park in a long time. It was very cool there this morning but there were plenty of birds including Black-throated Green Warbler, Great-crested Flycatcher, Belted Kingfisher, Bald Eagle, Pileated Woodpecker, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo. I recorded 28 species in a couple of hours.
Mike Boston was also there and may have posted some photos on his MCNC facebook page. I got these of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
I found theseRed-necked Phalaropes in the southeast corner of the west lagoon. It was at 7:00 p.m., so it was pretty dark. In the RI fields (B4) I had 95 Dunlin, 2 Stilt Sandpipers, 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 12 LeastSandpipers, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs and 3 Semipalmated Plovers. - Charlie DeWitt
While birding Lake Harbor Park
yesterday (May 18), I noticed this adorable little Barred Owl. Just hours out
of a nearby nest and only half-grown, this fledgling probably
could not yet fly. I took a few photos as I simultaneously scanned for the adults or a sibling, but I noticed neither.
Last year, the resident pair also successfully fledged young.
Due to its size and abundance of
hemlocks, Lake Harbor Park offers quality birding all year. The
informal trail system also provides pleasant hikes, although dogs can
be a little numerous. Because dead beeches are not culled, there is
ample habitat for cavity nesting birds, like this Barred Owl family.
On the other hand, habitat diversity across the park is limited, and
the understory is generally sparse. This situation has been
exacerbated by zealous neighbors who have further removed ground
cover in order to create a more "park-like" atmosphere. The
area just west of Glen Court, for instance, is quite absurd.
Furthermore, an over abundance of squirrels this past winter has
resulted in the loss of most red and sugar maple saplings, which
are killed as squirrels consume the inner bark. Consequently,
there are lots of migrant warblers using the park, but don't expect
low or close views.
When it comes to benefiting birds and
other wildlife, even land management decisions by professionals can
sometimes be misguided and exasperating, so having the ability to
manage your own yard allows you to be your own critic,
learn in the process, and reap the rewards. If birds are desired,
aesthetics, neatness, or decorations will have to be sacrificed in
favor of a somewhat unkempt or crowded ambiance. The precise
composition of plants can vary immensely, but species and structural
diversity are key. Personally, and depending on conditions, I am fine
with certain non-natives (e.g. lilac), but definitely avoid invasive
or nuisance species (e.g. bittersweet). The shelter and natural
forage provided by a good mix of conifers and hardwood shrubs brings
far more benefit than bird feeders.
To better assess how many birds such
tinkering has yielded, I sometimes extend my winter mist netting into
the spring. Some transients sing during spring passage, but the vast
majority do not. Plus, environments that best serve the refueling and
resting needs of migrants are not the easiest to bird. Banding helps
me track numbers.
Since even Chipping Sparrows are unusual in my yard (the only one I have recently banded was a bizarrely early bird on
2-18-14), I was surprised by this Clay-colored Sparrow on May 8.
Locally, the species is uncommon during the spring, but this date
lies squarely within their typical passage window. Breeding
Clay-colored Sparrows inhabit both dry coniferous scrub and shrubby
fields. I have found nests in Oceana and Mason Counties but not yet
in Muskegon County, though a few may breed here too.
Like Clay-colored Sparrow,
the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher also occurs as a regular but difficult to
find migrant. (Philadelphia Vireo and Gray-cheeked Thrush are
additional examples.) The species is also one of the latest to appear
in the spring, and sightings before May 15 would be quite unusual.
Whereas Least Flycatchers generally forage along forest edges during
migration, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers remain deeper beneath the
canopies of young hardwood forests. Consequently, they are almost
always heard before seen. On their breeding grounds (comprising boggy wetlands
heavily infused with young conifers and deciduous brush), they sing a
chunky "che-bunk" note that resembles a Least Flycatcher's.
Yellow-bellied Flycatchers sometimes utter this during migration, but
much more often they deliver their call, a melodic "du-wee".
This closely resembles the two-noted "per-weee" call of
migrating pewees, but it is shorter and less slurring. I had one calling
most of the afternoon in my yard on May 17, but it never found its
way into my net.
Another late arrival is Canada Warbler,
one of the final warblers to appear in the spring. While the species
has fairly general preferences during migration, on the breeding
grounds it favors a mix of dense balsam fir and various large trees
(overturned stumps are necessary for nesting). It often occurs at the
edges of the same bogs that Yellow-bellied Flycatchers utilize, and
across the Upper Peninsula, their populations are similar. As with
Clay-colored Sparrows, Muskegon County lies at the southern edge of
their breeding range, and in this area, hemlock thickets serve as a
proxy for balsam fir. The large eyes of the Canada Warbler are well
suited for life in these shady environments.
More so than other warblers, the
Magnolia Warbler shares an affinity for balsam fir and
hemlock. However, Magnolia Warblers rely less on large trees, and in
the U.P., they are five times as numerous as Canada Warblers.
The habitat similarity may explain certain parallels in appearance,
but the two species are not closely related. Among other differences,
Canada Warblers is a medium size warbler (averaging 10.4 grams),
while Magnolia Warbler (8.6 grams) is one of the smallest. A couple
traits make the Magnolia Warbler especially distinctive. It's call
note (a short, high, metallic screech) is quite unusual among warblers, and
so is the placement of it's tail spots - midway rather than at the
tip of the tail.
Carol and I walked the sidewalks on Harbor Island today finding 37 bird species of which 10 were warblers: Waterthrush (probably Northern), Black-and-White, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow, Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped plus several unidentifiable warblers high in the trees.
Two ladies also birding there reported a Black-billed Cuckoo in the north section of the Linear Sidewalk grove of trees.
Here's a couple of ID pictures of the Northern Mockingbird at Snug Harbor (Muskegon State Park) yesterday. It was near the boat launch by the handicapped parking and vault toilet. We had a good day finding 62 species including 14 warbler species.
On our field trip to Howard Christensen Nature Center this morning we encountered 49 bird species including Northern Waterthrush(but only six other warblers), Ruffed Grouse, Common Raven and Olive-sided Flycatcher.Report posted on our homepage.
Hi Ric, I just lost over an hour of my life trying to determine if this is a Long- or Short-billed Dowitcher that I saw wading at the boat launch on Harbor Island this morning. I decided on Short-billed, but I am willing to be corrected by anyone that can help. Thanks, - Brad Heath
I can't do dowitchers. But you've already narrowed it from 350-400 Michigan species down to two. Let's see if someone else can cut it to one. - Ric
Ken Sapkowski emailed us other competitors today that of the 37 warbler species found regularly in Michigan, there are only 9 that he has not yet added to his Year List: Worm-eating, Blackpoll, Canada, Connecticut, Golden-winged, Kentucky, Mourning, Prothonotary and Yellow-breasted Chat. He'll get Prothonotary almost for sure on our Big Day Count, and might add Blackpoll, Canada, Golden-winged and Kentucky around Muskegon too. Good luck on the others!
He also sent us Glenda Eikenberry's cell phone photo of this Eastern Hog-nosed Snake that they encountered while birding a path west of Swan Creek yesterday.
At 2:45 p.m. I saw 24 American White Pelicans flying low over Mona Lake as if preparing to land. Instead they continued flying southeast. From the Vietnam Memorial Park at the east end of Mona Lake I could not relocate them.
This morning David Holmberg emailed that there were 3 Great Egrets in the Causeway ponds today.
For the annual North American Migration
Count, my coverage in Muskegon County comprises Muskegon State Park
thru the early part of the day and Muskegon State Game Area in the
afternoon and evening. Considering their size and habitat diversity,
both areas offer outstanding birding, and given decent weather, a
great list can be obtained. Unfortunately, rain and fog hindered my
success this year.
I birded 7.8 miles of trails at
Muskegon State Park and ended with 85 species. At Muskegon SGA, I
hiked 7.1 miles at three locations (Little Cedar Creek,
Headquarters/Maple River loop, and Lane's Landing) and accrued 71
species. A late arrival and a cacophony of Spring Peepers and Gray
Treefrogs at Lane's Landing marsh severely limited that count.
Otherwise, the day was reasonably eventful, and despite the weather,
I finished with 105 species.
Highlights at Muskegon State Park:
Long-tailed Duck - 1
Caspian Tern - 3
Black-billed Cuckoo - 1
Great Horned Owl - 2
Prothonotary Warbler - 1
Cape May Warbler - 1
Blackburnian Warbler - 6
Purple Finch - 1
Pine Siskin - 223
The Great Horned Owl double consisted of
an adult and a soggy juvenile (pictured above) sitting out the rain
in the sand dunes.
Highlights at Muskegon State Game Area:
Northern Harrier - 1
Barred Owl - 4
Whip-poor-will - 1
Sedge Wren - 1
American Redstart - 13
Cerulean Warbler - 1
Grasshopper Sparrow - 4
The Barred Owls represented pairs on
opposite sides of the Muskegon River.
While a lot was missed (especially
among non-passerines), warblers were particularly diverse. I encountered 20
species, which represents all the reasonably common species that can
be seen around Muskegon on May 9. (Next weekend, an equivalent number
will be about 27.)
Finally, after last week's skulking Sedge
Wren at Beechwood Park, the territorial male pictured above proved
far more aggressive and provided a better photo.
Marc Meidema phoned to inform me ofCarol Snoek's eBird post: 1 Scissor-tailed FlycatcherTyrannus forticatus photo Id to follow Moorland, South Swanson Road, Muskegon County, Michigan Mon May 11, 2015 11:15 A.M.
The eBird map shows the intersection of Apple Ave. and Swanson Rd., but that may just be a generic Wastewater coordinate.
Marc reported after 3:00 that he had birded the south Wastewater properties without success. If he or anyone else re-sights the bird, we will post it here.
Monday Evening Update: We've heard nothing further about the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Josh Kamp emailed that he saw a Yellow-breasted Chat around 4:30 this afternoon at Rosy Mound Natural Area along the White Pine trail. - Ric
Despite my having a pile of data and notes, Muskegon State Park wasn't as good as I had hoped. My goal is 100 species by noon. If conditions are right, 110-120 species are realistic. The rain really hurt this year. I had a lot of weird misses, Common Grackles even. I left the park with 85 species. Not bad, but not good enough, and a little frustrating.
Thanks, Brian. I'm trying to imagine a little frustration at finding "only" 85 species at one location, but it's not working. - Ric ;-)
Yesterday, May 9, Mike Erickson saw a Northern Parula, Cape May Warbler and Tennessee Warbler at Harbor Island and Travis Dewys photographed this male and femaleRose-breasted Grosbeak and male Yellow Warbler at the Hofma Preserve.
It was rainy most of this morning for Brian's North American Migration Count. I had planned to visit three sites but only surveyed two due to the weather.
The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve provided 47 species including Sora, Sandhill Crane, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Marsh Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole and Pine Siskin.
The old Breeding Bird Atlas area along Black Creek in Fruitport Township provided my "best bird of the day" (Yellow-throated Vireo) plus 29 other species including Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Baltimore Oriole and Ovenbird.
At neither site did individual numbers indicate any tendency toward extinction for Red-winged Blackbird, American Robin or Gray Catbird.
When I got home, Carol pointed at our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year.
I recorded 40 species at Harbor Island, Grand Haven this morning. Palm Warblers were plentiful. White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers were everywhere.
Two Swamp Sparrows foraged in the woods (migrants?).
My Michigan list grew by nine: Common Yellowthroat, Cliff Swallow, Green Heron, Black-throated Green Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Gray Catbird and Blue-headed Vireo (#123, but who's counting?)
Today out our back window Carol and I watched Pine Siskins, Baltimore Orioles and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in our yard, plus a Broad-winged Hawk circling above the woods where they nested last year. If it's last year's mom, I hope she doesn't notice that the playground equipment (our white oak) is gone.
Meanwhile Brad Heath sends photos of an Eastern Towhee at Hoffmaster on Sunday, White-rumped and Palm Warblers at Harbor Island on Monday, and a Green Heron shedding rain at Hemlock Crossing this morning.
Over the last two days, an excellent
movement of songbirds has finally erupted across Muskegon County. The first
big wave of neotropical migrants has quickly brought lots of
warblers, flycatchers, and other fresh arrivals. At the same time,
nearctic migrants are peaking.
To clarify terms, neotropical migrants
are those species that primarily winter in Central and South America,
whereas nearctic migrants generally do not continue outside the
contintental U.S. From an ecological and conservation standpoint, the
distinctions are important. Neotropical migrants tend to migrate
faster and for longer distances, pass later in the spring (rarely
appearing before leaves emerge), migrate chiefly at night, avoid
tight flocks, primarily consume arthropods, and are more likely to
forage in tree canopies. Nearctic, or temperate zone, migrants flock
regularly, readily consume seeds and berries, favor shrubby or less
woody settings, migrate by day or night, start moving with the spring
thaw, and have a longer passage window overall.
While cold-hardy winter residents (e.g. Tree Sparrows and Juncos) have
already departed, nearctic transients (those that do not normally winter or
breed here) pass just prior to the massive waves of neotropical
migrants. In almost all cases, males precede females. Male
Ruby-crowned Kinglets peaked last week, and now the flocks are
dominated by females. White-throated Sparrows(top photo) are presently abundant,
and today at Beechwood Park, I carefully counted 317(!) individuals over
a six-minute span as they hopped, flitted, and flew across the north
sled run. Lincoln's Sparrows(two photos above) and White-crowned Sparrows are just appearing in
earnest. Male Lincoln's Sparrow often sing a slightly muted version
of their song (which somewhat resembles a House Wren's), and this can
make them a little easier to detect. My spring sightings in Muskegon
County range from April 20 to May 18, with a mean of May 8. In the
fall, I have banded them from September 4 to October 13, with an
average passage date of September 27. First-year birds and older
birds peak roughly simultaneously. The species frequents brushy
edges, often with White-crowned Sparrows, but like the closely related Swamp Sparrow,
Lincoln's Sparrows tend to be less social than other sparrows, although this can
also be attributed to its general scarcity.
Also at Beechwood today, I tallied 595
northbound Pine Siskins during my 2.5 hour birding jaunt and
stationary count. Most of those birds passed during one hour, and at
one point 130 passed in a single minute (9:53am). Local densities
this past winter had been light (one of my banded birds is
photographed above), and the species has been trickling north for the
last couple weeks, so today's flight was outstanding. My previous
big count was 289 at Kruse Park on May 15, 2013.
Another highlight from Beechwood was a
Sedge Wren. Certainly a migrant, being obviously removed from its preferred habitat, the bird was foraging very furtively thru dune grass in a mouse-like fashion. The record also ties my earliest for Muskegon County.
Unfortunately, local populations have declined over the last decade, so breeding birds can also be somewhat difficult to find.
The content of these pages is for your general information and use only and is subject to change without notice.
Neither Ric Pedler, the Muskegon County Nature Club (M.C.N.C.), nor any third party provides a guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or suitability of the information posted on these pages.
Ric and the M.C.N.C. expressly exclude themselves from any liability for inaccuracies or errors posted here.
Your use of any information or material from these pages is entirely at your own risk for which neither Ric nor the M.C.N.C. shall be liable.
These pages contain some material which is owned by or licensed to Ric, the M.C.N.C. or those authorized by them, including, but not limited to, photographs, design, layout, appearance and graphics. Reproduction of these materials is prohibited other than in accordance with the terms of this notice.
Any links to other websites are provided for additional information only and do not signify that Ric or the M.C.N.C. endorse the linked websites or have any responsibility for the content of those websites.
Misuse of these pages and any dispute arising out of such misuse is subject to the laws of the United States of America and the State of Michigan.
Unauthorized use of these pages may give rise to a legal claim for damages..