Saturday, December 31, 2016

Red-shouldered Hawk on W.W. C.B.C.

December 31 Email:

Ken Sapkowski sends these photos of a Red-shouldered Hawk taken Dec. 21 on the Wastewater Christmas Bird Count along Maple Island Road south of the Muskegon River.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Rough-legged Hawk on Christmas Day

December 25 Email:

After a drop off at the airport I drove through the Wastewater briefly.  Very peaceful (of people and animals).  Did get a couple pictures.  I was watching this Rough-legged Hawk in a tree when I guess he decided he needed a closer look at what I was doing and got too close for my camera!

Merry Christmas!

- Torsten Pawlowski

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sapsucker and Ravens on WW CBC Yesterday

Jim Zervos and I counted 375 birds of 21 species yesterday morning while birding the northeast quadrant of the Muskegon County Wastewater Christmas Bird Count.

Highlights included two Pileated Woodpeckers miles apart just flying over open fields, a Great Blue Heron east of Bridgeton, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (!) south of Bridgeton, and a pair of Common Ravens back on the Wastewater properties outside our sector.

Our most common species were Mourning Dove (102), European Starling (89), Rock Pigeon (all 36 on one barn roof), Blue Jay (33), Dark-eyed Junco (24) and American Crow (22).  

We missed two target birds (Northern Shrike and Snowy Owl)

- Ric

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Feeding Ken's Nuthatch

Ken Sapkowski's Red-breasted Nuthatch  "Up Close and Personal":

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Please Remove Bird Feeders from Hemlocks

December 8 Email:


The DNR has just issued a request of all Visitor Centers and offices in the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid hotspots here along the Lake Michigan shoreline to remove all bird feeders from areas adjacent to or near Hemlock trees in an effort to control the spread.  It might be a good idea to let your members know that it is recommended to remove bird feeders from home yards with Eastern Hemlock in an effort to protect those trees from the spread of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.  It is a known fact that birds carry the crawlers and spread the infection.

Thanks for spreading the word.  Happy Holidays.

- Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman, 
  Hoffmaster State Park

Monday, December 5, 2016

Great Black-backed Gulls at Grand Haven

Great Black-backed Gull, adult

Great Black-backed Gull, Juvenile

Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull

I had three Great Black-backed Gulls at Grand Haven State Park this morning around 10:00 a.m.

- Charlie DeWitt

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Winter Birds at Two Locations Tuesday

 Rough-legged Hawk
On White Road at the Wastewater by the rocket field

 Rough-legged Hawk

 Snow Geese
In Wastewater Field 19 on the NW corner of White and Swanson I counted 20 Snow Geese
15 white morph and 5 blue morph.

 Canada Geese
I spent 45 minutes watching geese come into Field 19.
The geese were packed in too tight to try to count.
My guess is well over 1,000 on that field.

After the Wastewater I took a trip to downtown Muskegon to look for the Snowy Owl.  No Luck!  Then I went to the Muskegon Channel to look for waterfowl.  There were a few ducks flying,  If you look closely, you can see a merganser (species) flying over the north break wall.

- Charlie DeWitt

Monday, November 28, 2016

Snowy Owl in Downtown Muskegon

Snowy Owl
near Fourth and Western
by the Lakeshore Museum Center
cell phone photo by
Wendy VanWoerkom

Mystery Thanksgiving Duck

Mike Boston sent a picture and asked about this weird-looking duck he photographed at the Wastewater on Thanksgiving Day:

I had no idea what it was and sent the photo to Charlie DeWitt who replied: 

This is a picture I took on 11-15-2013 at the Wastewater.  It looks a lot like the duck Mike photographed. White-cheeked Pintail face and Wigeon butt.

If anyone else has thoughts about these ducks, we'd like to hear them.  Thanks!

- Ric

Mystery Thanksgiving Duck

Mike Boston sent a picture and asked about this weird-looking duck he photographed at the Wastewater on Thanksgiving Day:

I had no idea what it was and sent the photo to Charlie DeWitt who replied: 

This is a picture I took on 11-15-2013 at the Wastewater.  It looks a lot like the duck Mike photographed. White-cheeked Pintail face and Wigeon butt.

If anyone else has thoughts about this duck, we'd like to hear them.  Thanks!

- Ric

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tundra Swans and Long-tailed Ducks

Hi Ric,

We had about 145 Tundra Swans at the Wastewater Sunday, counting by fives. I had never seen so many together in one group.  It was neat listening to them. They were in the large eastern lagoon.  My far away pictures aren't worth posting.

I did get a pretty good shot of a male Long-tailed Duck off of the south pier at Pere Marquette Park.  The female of the pair that was out there was a little more shy.

No luck on our Purple Sandpiper quest. We'll keep trying.

- Bob Kingsbury

Monday, November 21, 2016

Short-eared Owl and Northern Shrike

Short-eared Owl
spotted on the Wastewater center dike
photo by Carol DeWitt

Northern Shrike
 by the model airplane field, first seen at Seba and Laketon
Photo by Charlie DeWitt

Northern Shrike
Photo by Charlie DeWitt

Eastern Screech-Owl on Sunday

November 20 Email:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Another Weekend Report from Lizzy

Good morning Ric! Hope you're doing well since the last time we talked. :)

We did our rounds on Saturday. We've been in Muskegon a lot lately, so we've got a typical schedule.

There was some good stuff, but we also made stops in Ottawa Co. I'll just include highlights for those.

We first headed over to Coopersville, as there is a goose field that contains both Cackling Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese in it. The goose field is in front of the car dealership on O'Malley Dr, but also contains the field on the opposite side, found on Conran Dr. We dipped on finding any Greater White-fronted Goose, but I took pictures of the flock of Canada's and found a goose that we thought resembled a Cackler.

Pere Marquette was the next stop. Since we didn't have a spotting scope handy (it's in California being repaired), we decided to check what was close enough to tell. Nothing super unnatural, but we did find some Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Bonaparte's Gulls, and a Great Black-backed Gull bobbing in the water.

The channel was nearby, and we did stop, but there wasn't much excitement stirring in the murky water.

We hit the Waste Water after a few other minor stops. I'll include highlights and pics.

Muskegon WW highlights:

Blue-winged Teal - 4
Savannah Sparrow - 1
Canvasback - 1

Eared Grebe - 1
Great Black-backed Gull - 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Common Raven - 2

Wood Duck - 1
Pied-billed Grebe - 1

Ducks are still in fairly strong numbers. Ruddies are seeming to dissipate in numbers, while Buffleheads are starting to show signs of steady increase, plus the males have made an appearance! 

Still waiting for a glimpse of a Goldeneye, since I haven't seen one this fall yet. Snow Buntings are still present on the center dike, with fairly large numbers, but Pipits seemed to have disappeared, as we only had two, and these were ones that we heard. We missed the chance of an Eastern Bluebird, American Kestrel, Dunlin, or Peregrine Falcon.

We then made a stop again by the goose field and got lucky this time on the Greater-white Fronted.

We also were able to relocate our Cackler from the morning, with the possibility of a few other candidates.

​Lastly, we had a Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Coopersville Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

That's all for now. Thanks!

Lizzy Kibbey (Duck Wizard)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Windy Walk North of the Channel Today

Strong westerly winds didn't help the birding at Muskegon State Park this morning.  Otherwise it was a beautiful, chilly, autumn walk from the barrier at the parking lot, up and around Jeff's Dune, through the campgrounds, and back.

Nothing unusual in the 12 species which included Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Belted Kingfisher, and this migrating Bald Eagle.

- Ric

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Carol's Plover" Returns to The Bahamas

November 9 Email:

I just got word that Bahama Mama has been sighted at Long Beach on Abaco (The Bahamas) on November 5, 2016.  She returned to the same beach as last year.  - Carol Cooper

Piping Plover with chick at Muskegon State Park, June 21, 2015.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Harlequin Duck at the Breakwater Sunday

November 6 Email:

Hi Ric,

I saw this female Harlequin Duck at Pere Marquette Park Sunday morning.  I had to ignore the warning sign to see it though.

Thanks, Mike.  Anyone looking for her, please heed Mike's warning.  - Ric

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Usual Suspects on Saturday Morning

Fifteen everyday species at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve yesterday including American Tree Sparrow at the entrance gate and American Goldfinch along the River Walk.


- Ric

Friday, October 28, 2016

Two Muskegon Birding Reports from Lizzy

October 27 Email:

Report for 10/09/16 is going to be brief, but just wanted to say that we had four Snow Geese in a massive raft of congregating Canada Geese. 

Report for 10/27/16 more information-packed, so hold onto your hat. 

Spent a good majority of the time focused on scanning the center dike and the lagoons on either side of it.  The center dike had plenty of activity that day.

Canada Goose numbers have definitely jumped up, as congregation continues to pick up speed.  We estimated roughly 2,000 geese. They were all gathered on both sides of the center dike. 

We had five Trumpeter Swans in the south end, at very close quarters. Good enough to get awesome pics. 

Duck numbers were up as well.  We were readily impressed by the massive amount of Ring-necked Ducks, Scaup, and assorted other species. 

We ended up tallying 15 duck species, 12 of which we found in those lagoons. The only ones we didn't find in the lagoons were Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, and the pair of Wood Ducks. 

Wood Duck - 2
Gadwall - 32
American Black Duck - 50
Mallard - 350
Blue-winged Teal - 3
Northern Shoveler - 500
Northern Pintail - 1
Green-winged Teal - 19
Canvasback - 10
Redhead - 101
Ring-necked Duck - 250
Greater Scaup - 75
Lesser Scaup - 75 
Bufflehead - 2
Hooded Merganser - 2
Ruddy Duck - 4,000

Amazingly, if you calculate that, we saw roughly 5,448 individual ducks in both lagoons. That is a very rough estimate due to the fact that I didn't put in the teals or the Wood Ducks, and the fact that there were other Mallards scattered throughout smaller cells too. Same with the Ruddy Ducks surprisingly. Duck numbers were very impressive. Point proven. :D

On the shorebird side of things, late migrants started showing up. Killdeer numbers were starting to rise again. We went from having no Killdeer to having 12, all in one little puddle! We also had some other good shorebirds.

Killdeer - 12
Dunlin - 7
(we definitely were expecting to see some of these guys)
White-rumped Sandpiper - 1
Pectoral Sandpiper - 8
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1

Pretty impressive shorebird numbers, all in one little body of water. And a flock of European Starlings with a Bonaparte's Gull still hanging around.

On the gull side of things, as mentioned, we had one stray Bonaparte's Gull with the flock of shorebirds and starlings. Also, near the dump we had an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (which I'm still wondering if it is a hybrid LBBG x HEGU or not, due to the weird head streaking, not typically shown in adult LBBGs) ...

... and in one of the dried out concrete cells, I had a gull that I put down as a Thayer's/Iceland Gull, since I didn't get the best look at it, but I noticed the lack of black on the primaries, not fit for a HEGU or RBGU.

Although Eastern Bluebird's aren't much of a highlight, just thought that I'd add the fact that we had an unusually high count of bluebirds in one day.  20 EABL, one big group in the south end, in which we think was either a family group, or just a group congregating. Other numerous individuals scattered throughout different locations. 

American Pipits were definitely flocking in, both at the center dike, and in a field near the model airplane airport. 85 total. 

And we found one of my target birds: Snow Buntings! Stumbled into a flock of about five, in which they preceeded to hungrily attack a nearby weed, and I got pics of three of them. 

We headed down the center dike more and stumbled into another large flock. Ended up with 19. 

We had a lone American Tree Sparrow with a few Chipping Sparrows on the south end, and a good flock of Dark-eyed Juncos (12).  Oh, and let me not forget about our 14 Vesper Sparrows. Quite impressive numbers! 

I'll attach some pics.  Pick and choose freely. :)
Have a nice day, and talk to you soon!

Lizzy Kibbey (Duck Wizard)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Please Report Any Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Birds and birders love hemlock trees.  There is a pest threatening these trees in this area.  Please learn how to recognize Hemlock Woolly Adelgid here or here and report any that you find.  Also, please do not hang bird feeders from hemlock trees!


Sunday, October 23, 2016

October Field Trip Tallies 34 Species

Our October 22 Field Trip Report is posted on the homepage.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Purple Finches Moving Through the Area

Carol spotted this male Purple Finch on our side yard feeder this morning.  Later I saw two females on the same feeder, Brian emailed that he had banded some at the preserve, and several people at Thursday night's meeting reported them on their feeders too.

- Ric

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Warblers at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Although work has prevented me from banding many days at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve this fall, and coverage has been less than the long-term average, I have at least been able run the nets more often than during the last two years. Flooding has hindered net placement this season, and rainfall has been heavy this September. Temperatures also have been warmer than normal, and this September has been the second hottest in the last 11 years of banding (marginally surpassed only by last year).

As a result of the odd weather, the species gamut has varied wildly in abundance and timing. Many species have been early, but certain others are running late. Even within guilds, numbers have been inconsistent. For example, Swainson's Thrushes usually outnumber Gray-cheeked Thrushes by about 5 to 1; this year I have caught 17 Swainson's but no Gray-cheeked Thrushes. (A nocturnal count on Sept. 28 outside my house in Norton Shores yielded 37 SWTH to only 2 GCTH!). A high ratio of adults for many species has also been unusual. Overall, numbers have been down this fall, but there have been several surprises.

Thirty-six species of warblers have been recorded from Muskegon County (23 of these have definitely or probably nested here). Fifteen species occur frequently at MLNP in the fall, but due to the lack of mature forest, otherwise common species can be scarce. For instance, I only capture about one Black-and-white Warbler each year, almost always at the end of August or the beginning of September, so three this year were welcome. While the first appeared on September 6, the other two did not show until October 4! The individual pictured here is a first-year male; an adult male would have a darker auricular.

Identifying fall warblers can indeed be challenging, yet some birders wrongly figure that much of this difficulty stems from most species molting into a drabber plumage in autumn. However, of those 36 warbler species, 21 exhibit the exact same plumage as they do in the spring. Another nine do show subtle changes (e.g. Nashville and Palm Warblers). That leaves only six that look substantially different in the fall (e.g. Chestnut-sided and Blackpoll Warblers). The problem actually stems from first-year birds. Within each sex, youngsters are considerably duller than adults, and immature females can be especially subdued.

Among some species, small sizes and canopy niches add to the difficulty. In the case of the Northern Parula (this young male was banded September 30), this situation is extreme. While Nashville Warbler (8.8 grams), Magnolia Warbler (8.6 grams), American Redstart (8.2 grams), and Wilson's Warbler (8.1 grams) are quite small, Northern Parula (averaging only 7.8 grams) is positively tiny. They frequent high canopies in migration, and if they do not sing, they are likely to be missed. Despite a lot of birding time, this was my experience this past spring in Muskegon.

Finally, the bird pictured above (yet another immature male), caught on October 11, represents one of the best captures in the station's history. I had never before banded this species in Michigan (though I have caught many in Pennsylvania and Virginia). Though never common, the species was more numerous and widespread across Michigan several decades ago, but populations have steadily declined. Now rare, breeders are mostly restricted to a few Lake Michigan dunes. Lawrence Walkinshaw noted several individuals from Muskegon County in the 1940's and 1950's, and even found a nest in June 1949 (and continued to find more thru 1956), but more recent records from Muskegon are scant.

The timing of this capture is likewise aberrant. Fall records from Michigan are unusual after mid-September (all of mine have been in August), and even in Virginia only 7 of the 78 birds I banded were in October (with the very latest being October 15). As far as size, this is another tiny warbler. Those Virginia birds averaged only 8.0 grams. Though it had some fat deposits and appeared otherwise healthy, this Prairie Warbler weighed just 7.5 grams.

- Brian Johnson

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Belated Muskegon County Trip Report

October 10 Email:

This is a late trip report, but I found some spare time right now to type it up.  It includes various stops we made in Muskegon County on October 1.  I will include some pictures.

We entered Muskegon County with the intent of heading over to Pere Marquette Park first.  We instead got stopped for a few minutes as we watched a flock of 11 turkeys in someone's yard off Lincoln St.

As soon as we pulled up to Pere Marquette's parking pot, we were presented with a juvenile Bald Eagle in a dead snag, but he wasn't alone.  A nearby flock of American Crows wasn't all that happy about his presence, and they made it known.  They kept mobbing the poor eagle who had its wings out to make itself look as big as possible, but the crows were relentless.  They ended up driving it away, in which he focused his attention on the beach, where a flock of gulls sat. The gulls flew up, and he dove into the water to attack one! He missed, and the gull got to live another day. It wasn't long before the crows decided enough was enough, and they chased him off the beach too. Clear over to one of the lighthouses. That's the extremes that eagle had to go to to escape the crows. 

On the pier railing a couple Belted Kingfishers fought and perched. We had a Sharp-shinned Hawk flyby. These were the highlights as everything else was pretty normal. 

We headed over to the Muskegon Channel while we were there, to check the duck levels. The only ducks in the channel were Mallards, but we did have some swans farther down. We concluded them to be Mutes. While we were parked, a flock of gulls, mostly consisting of Ring-billeds, flocked outside around out car.

As we headed in the direction of the Wastewater, we passed by Pere Marquette Park again and had a flyby Merlin.

We happened to stumble upon a cool looking boat launch which eBird calls the Grand Trunk Boat Launch Ramp, and we decided to bird it for a few minutes.  It did present us quite a few birds, both on and off the lake, in which the highlights were White-crowned Sparrows, a Catbird, two Pied-billed Grebes, and some Tree Swallows. 

We spent four hours at the Muskegon County Wastewater System that day, and tallied an impressive total of 61 species.  I'll include highlights, but a lot of the normal stuff was seen as well.

Peregrine Falcon - 3
Tree Swallow - 200 (congregating)
Eared Grebe - 1 (oddly close to the corner of the lagoon)
Ruddy Duck - 2500 (showing impressive numbers, congregating)
Cliff Swallow - 7
Northern Pintail - 4
American Pipit - 23
Sanderling - 1
Merlin - 1
Willow Flycatcher - 2
Cape May Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 8
Eastern Meadowlark - 4
Sandhill Crane - 42 (exact count; all flying in a V behind us)
Lapland Longspur - 4 (Lifer!)

- Lizzy Kibbey (Magical Duck Wizard)