Monday, February 29, 2016

Monitoring Peregrines at the Cobb Plant

Peregrine Falcons for more than a decade have used the smokestack and roof of Consumers Power's B.C. Cobb electrical generating plant at the east end of Muskegon Lake for raising at least 46 chicks.  However, the Cobb Plant is scheduled for demolition in 2017.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Consumers Power hope to persuade the falcons to move over to the relatively nearby Shoreline Inn hotel.

Several members of the Muskegon County Nature Club have volunteered to help monitor peregrine activity at the Cobb Plant this spring so that Cobb Plant employees can place protective materials at precise locations to dissuade the falcons from nesting there.  The nest boxes used in previous seasons are already on the roof of the Shoreline Inn in hopes the birds will use them.  Adult peregrines have already been seen eating prey on the hotel roof.

The Cobb Plant is a secured area and anyone monitoring these birds must follow the procedures established by Consumers Power.  Any bird-watcher who is not a member of our club but would be willing to volunteer some hours for this project, please contact me so I can put you on the mailing list.  Please note that Consumers will be requiring name, contact information, and photo I.D. of anyone participating in this monitoring.

- Ric

Saturday, February 27, 2016

White-winged Scoter / Common Winter Birds

Quality trumped quantity in the Muskegon Channel this morning with only one visible bird, a White-winged Scoter (first spring female?) way over on the north side.

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve provided 17 more species, all common winter birds including a few that posed for pictures.  (No towhee.)

American Tree Sparrow

One of Brian's White-breasted Nuthatches

Four Downy Woodpeckers played tag all over the place.

This Black-capped Chickadee also met Brian.

- Ric

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Golden Eagle Photographed on Tuesday

February 23 Email:

"I had the chance to see the Golden Eagle.  When I encountered it, it was on one of the power poles north of the east lagoon.  Absolutely beautiful bird!  New lifer for me."

- Casey Irwin

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday: Golden, Snowy and Harlequins

Carol and I drove around the Wastewater properties this morning hoping to find a Golden Eagle or a Snowy Owl.  We didn't find the eagle (but it was there) and we did find the owl (but it wasn't there).

We met Jim Zervos who had seen the Golden Eagle west of Swanson between the east lagoon and White Road.  We looked but could not re-find it.  I did add Year Birds #53 American Black Duck and #54 Red-winged Blackbird (singing from a branch east of headquarters near the center dike) along with Horned Lark, Red-tailed and Roughleg Hawks and Bald Eagle.

Driving home we noticed this strange white lump on a house chimney: #55 Snowy Owl

Meanwhile Charlie DeWitt and Ken Sapkowski reported two female Harlequin Ducks in the Grand Haven Channel this morning.

- Ric

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Golden Eagles Saturday and Vultures Sunday

After participating in our field trip yesterday, Kathryn Mork went out to the Wastewater.  "I was driving along the north side of the east lagoon when I saw two huge birds light in a tree not far away. For some reason I stopped and checked them out. They were Golden Eagles. WOW!"

At noon today I saw two huge dark birds soaring northward high over our house.  This is the earliest I've ever seen Turkey Vultures.

- Ric

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Twenty-five Species at Four Locations Today

Among the 25 species on this morning's field trip were Long-tailed Duck, Red-headed Woodpecker and Brown Creeper; details on our homepage.

Red-headed Woodpecker eating a berry. - Charlie DeWitt

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Banded Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings

Yesterday morning I was able to photograph a banded American Goldfinch high in our backyard maple tree (Fruitport Township).  I sent these cropped and severely enhanced images to Brian Johnson.

Brian couldn't discern any numbers on the band but is certain she's one of "his birds" based on the shiny condition of the band, its being on the right leg, there being no other banders in this area, and his having banded more than a dozen goldfinches this winter in Mona Shores (more than a mile from my yard as the goldfinch flies).  If you live within a couple miles of the Muskegon County Airport, you might look twice at your goldfinches for jewelry by Brian.

This morning as I was swearing softly because a flock of House Sparrows had found our side yard feeder, I looked into the spruce branches and discovered two Cedar Waxwings; so I stopped swearing at the sparrows.

- Ric

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Good Birds All Around Muskegon on Monday

Lizzy Kibbey from Grand Rapids birded our area yesterday with James Fyfe and his wife.  Lizzy emailed a detailed account of their trip and all the birds they saw.

Highlights in a Nutshell: Redheads and Long-tailed Ducks at the Channel and Pere Marquette Park; Rough-legged Hawk near the Causeway; Eastern Towhee at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve; more Roughlegs, Wood Duck, Northern Pintail and Song Sparrow at the Wastewater; and Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls on the drive back to Grand Rapids!

Lizzy eBirds and her Pere Marquette and Wastewater lists are already viewable; suffice that she and the Fyfes saw a lot of good stuff!  Thanks, Lizzy, for sharing!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sapsucker in Spring Lake on Friday

Elizabeth Miller saw and snapped with her phone (enhanced image below) this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (a very good bird for this time of year) eating a berry in the courtyard behind Holmes Elementary School in Spring Lake yesterday.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Gray Catbird at Duck Creek Open Space

During the chilly the afternoon of February 11, while hiking Fruitland Township's Duck Creek open space, I encountered a lone Gray Catbird beside Duck Creek. After being flushed, it silently devoured rose hips amidst thick brush. While I have seen Brown Thrasher and Northern Mockingbird during the winter in Muskegon County, this represents my first Catbird.

Catbirds typically arrive in the Muskegon area about May 1, though I have found them as early as April 20. At the Muskegon Lake Preserve banding station, they are one of the most abundant fall captures. Peak numbers occur around September 12, nearly all have vacated by October 12, and my latest records have been November 2 and December 11.

As for the location, birders interested in a primitive but reasonably short hiking excursion may want to explore this natural area. Owned by Fruitland Township, the Duck Creek open space (I am not aware of a formal name) comprises 240 acres in Sections 16 and 21 (an area enclosed by Duck Lake, Orshall, Michillinda, and Simonelli Roads). Muskegon County offers better and easier birding spots, but this site presents an interesting alternative to the more crowded locations. I have yet to encounter another birder or hiker here.

There are two access points. In the winter, I park at the Fruitland Township fire station beside Duck Lake Road Park. I follow logging trails north thru cutover mixed oak/white pine forest. The birding here is not particularly productive, but the isolation makes for a peaceful jaunt. I continue off-trail and descend the slope to Duck Creek. While brushy and wet, this area provides excellent habitat and is the prettiest stretch of the property. I bushwhack east beside the creek to the Duck/Scholes Creek fork and follow the main branch southeast to the property boundary. I then ascend the slope, cut thru the logged area, and follow additional trails back to the parking area. This route comprises about 2.1 miles.

Once the snow melts, I may instead park at a primitive parking lot just west of Simonelli Road between Riley-Thompson and Todd Roads. Here, I follow an ATV trail circuit thru the uplands between Duck Creek and Scholes Creek. The east part of the hike encloses a red pine plantation, while the west part encompasses oak forest. A descent to either creek yields better bird diversity. The walking is an easy 1.5 miles.

- Brian Johnson

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Monitoring Peregrine Falcons at the Cobb Plant

The Michigan DNR has asked our club for birders willing and able to volunteer for monitoring the Peregrine Falcons at the Consumers Power B.C. Cobb electrical generating plant this spring and early summer.  That facility is scheduled for demolition in 2017 and they want to dissuade the falcons from nesting there while providing them a viable alternative nesting location. 

I will be reading the entire request and explaining further details at our Feb. 18 meeting.  If you do not attend but want further information about participating in this project, please contact me directly.  Thanks!

- Ric Pedler

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Peregrine Falcon at Wastewater Yesterday

February 9 Email:

Yesterday afternoon there was a Peregrine Falcon flying around the filtration ponds. - Casey Irwin

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dark Morph Roughleg and Mr. Towhee

I saw six Rough-legged Hawks while driving farm roads and the Wastewater this morning.  One south of the RC airport was my first dark-morph of the season.  Nothing much else (a few eagles and larks), so I headed to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve hoping the sun would keep shining for pictures.  It didn't.

Several handfuls of sunflower seed brought 13 species to the pavilion feeders, the usual suspects (chickadees, cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, juncos and tree sparrows) plus the "resident male" Eastern Towhee.

- Ric

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Surf Scoter & Golden Eagle at Grand Haven

February 2 Email:

I see there's been a Surf Scoter reported on eBird today in the Grand Haven Channel; could be worth a mention on the website.  There is also a Golden Eagle reported at Hofma Preserve.  

Ken Sapkowski

Bahama Mama Report

Carol Cooper received this Piping Plover report from the Abaco Islands (in the northern Bahamas) regarding Muskegon's Bahama Mama.

Next-to-the-last row, click to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

And They Just Keep Arriving -- #50 Today!

My Year-Bird-Per-Day here at home continues (see post below).  Carol spotted this Pine Siskin (#50) on our side feeder this morning.  (Photos taken sidewise through a window, but hey!)  - Ric

Monday, February 1, 2016

So Why Leave Home To See Birds?

I've tallied two "Year Birds" in two days without leaving my property.  Yesterday a Sharp-shinned Hawk (#48) perched in our tulip tree out front ... 

... and today this Brown Creeper (#49) crept up the telephone pole out back.

- Ric