Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Whimbrel Memorial Day Evening

May 29 to Mich-Listers:

Tanya and I are looking at a Whimbrel at 7:50 in the center drawn-down large treatment cell at the Muskegon County Wastewater System.  It has flown around calling a couple of times but returned each time.  Has been on both large puddles in the cell.  Large variety of other shorebirds also present.

Tom Smythe

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Birding Three Locations on Saturday

I birded Black Lake Park, Harbor Island and Hofma Preserve yesterday with Roger Newell on this gorgeous morning counting 30, 34, and 36 bird species respectively.

Black Lake birds included Indigo Bunting, American Redstart, Black-billed Cuckoo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Sandhill Crane, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Eastern Towhee.

Great-crested Flycatcher by Roger Newell

Harbor Island provided Great Egret, Peregrine Falcon, Green Heron and Cliff Swallow.

Yellow Warbler by Roger Newell

Northern Flicker by Roger Newell

Hofma Preserve had no Sedge Wrens (perhaps because the water level is so high).  We did get Marsh Wrens, a Scarlet Tanager pair, Veery, Brown Thrasher, Wood Duck (mom and ducklings), Willow, Alder and Great Crested Flycatcher, Belted Kingfisher, Least Bittern (it made two flights over the marsh!), Sora, Black-billed Cuckoo, Sandhill Crane, Red-shouldered Hawk (screaming all morning; later chased across the marsh by Red-winged Blackbirds) and American Black Duck, a male flying and quacking with two females, presumably also black ducks but maybe just two friendly Mallards?

 Baltimore Oriole by Roger Newell

Downy Woodpecker by Roger Newell

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hooded Warbler at Hoffmaster

May 17 Email:

Hi Ric,

I saw this Hooded Warbler at the Hoffmaster campground this morning, and he was singing.

- Mike Boston

Thanks, Mike.  Great shot!  - Ric

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Of Night-herons, Summer Tanagers, Etc.

I saw three Black-crowned Night Herons at the Wastewater this evening in the fields north of the rapid filtration cells.  I saw this one first and then it was joined by two others.

- Mike Boston

Thanks, Mike.  (Lizzy also mentioned these in her report below.)  Meanwhile, Ted Ogren was also out there that evening and saw what was probably a Summer Tanager on the West Michigan Area RC Club's land on the north side of White Road east of Swanson.  As luck would have it, his binoculars were in his truck, but he heard a funny-sounding bird and got a good look at it anyway: all red, orangier-red than a cardinal.  Ebird has only two other SUTA reports in Muskegon County in the last ten years, so more than likely a great bird, Ted! 

This morning I counted birds at two locations and will send the numbers to Brian Johnson who continues to catalog the second Saturday in May which used to be the day of the North American Migration Count (NAMC).

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve had plenty of bird life but was disappointingly-low in warblers.  I recorded no White-throated Sparrows, but White-crowned Sparrows were everywhere.  I counted 36 but would like to know how many were really there today.

Among the 41 species were Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Green Heron, Virginia Rail, Sora, Sandhill Crane, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole and Marsh Wren:

At my old NAMC Black Creek site I found 29 species including Scarlet Tanager, Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher and Black-throated Green Warbler.      

You never know with bird-watching.  I didn't see a Downy Woodpecker until I got back home!

- Ric

Lizzy Reports the Migration is On!

Friday, May 12 Email:


This morning Steve Minard, David Cross and I got together to do the annual Birdathon for the GRAC.  Our route was Lane's Landing, Muskegon State Game Area Headquarters and the Muskegon Wastewater System. 

Lane's Landing

Rails are still calling at the marsh, but no luck with bitterns of any sort. It didn't matter how early we got there, it seems as if the bitterns either left or were mute today. Either way, what we lacked in bitterns we made up for in warblers and other passerines - a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was doing his U display, but no females in sight. A Blackbird got tired of the Hummer and decided enough was enough and gave him the ticket off his turf with an angry scolding. A Willow Flycatcher fitz-bewed multiple times in small bundles of willows (who knew...?) and a couple Least Flycatchers che-becked. Great Crested Flycatchers were persistent, and I actually have their piercing call stuck in my head like a bad song you wish you hadn't listened to. Four species of vireos were present today at the marsh: Red-eyed, Warbling, Yellow-throated, and Blue-headed. Both Yellow-throated and Blue-headed were year birds. Multiple different Wood Thrushes sang throughout the woods. Warblers of interest (and new to my year list) were a pair of Prothonotary Warblers, and a pair of Cerulean Warblers. 

Muskegon SGA -- HQ

Not much was buzzy around that hadn't already been seen or heard except for the following:

A supposed male Ruffed Grouse drummed a good distance away. He drummed about four times for the remainder of our stay. This would be my first Muskegon Ruffed Grouse.

The Blue-winged Warblers are back! We had at least three, and that's being conservative. We heard all of them and actually saw one. 

The Indigo Buntings are also back, but to an extent. We thought we were onto an Indigo Bunting because we heard something that sounded like one, but it turned out to be two Yellow Warblers. We started walking again only to find one perched in a tree top singing his little blue heart out. He then took chase with another, and then we found yet another, summing it up to three in one spot. It's only a matter of time before we get to the point where everywhere we turn, we have an Indigo in a tree singing "what! what! where! where! see it! see it!". 


Quite a lot was bustling at the Waste Water today! This by far was our most productive stop, and we ended up with 76 species in a little over 2 and a half hours. Is spring migration exciting or what?!

Notables sightings are as follows:

While scanning a grassy cell full of vegatation and even more full of shorebirds, a pair of birders alerted us to the presence to two Black-crowned Night-Herons in a ditch, right from where he'd come from. Of course, that was a very tempting sounding sighting, so there was NO way we were gonna pass up that opportunity. We drove in the direction he'd just came from, and sure enough, in on small little circular ditch, there sat two BEAUTIFUL adult Black-crowned Night-Herons. Sadly, I didn't have a camera on me, or I would've taken pictures. Not only were they there in the ditch, but they were pretty close to us, and not at all shy. They didn't mind us watching them. My first BCNHs for MWW.

Let me just say this - Shorebird migration has started to accelerate at a very rapid pace, because today, the amount of shorebirds present was just MIND-BLOWING! Two grassy cells FULL of small energetic Least Sandpipers, picky dowitchers, and stumbling yellowlegs. And that's not even the best part!

We zoned out a seemingly lone Semipalmated Plover, only for me to realize a couple minutes later that there was a cluster of them to the right of the lone bird. I counted the one cluster and got 18 out of it.

A lone Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage almost made me melt. Ha-ha, just kidding. They sure are pretty though, which is why they are my favorite shorebird. 

We also had five Stilt Sandpipers, and although it might be early, they were definitely not PESAs, as they had a long neck, long black bill, barring on the undersides, and a rusty cap and auricular patch. They also had a very slim appearance, nothing like the chunky body-builder look that you'd find on a Pectoral. I know I've seen these in the fall, but I'm not sure if I've seen them in the spring, so this might be something new for me for the season!

We picked out 4 White-rumped Sandpipers within a large flock of Leasts. Black legs with the obvious v scaling down the chest and flanks, especially visible if you put a scope on them. Wingstips extending past the tail gave it the obvious stand-out look, which lead me to believe that they weren't Leasts at all.

We also picked out a lone Semipalmated Sandpiper, who (to no surprise) was associating closely with the Leasts and White-rumps.

A shorebird I've been looking for a few times this year without luck popped out of thin air today. A female Wilson's Phalarope was associating with two Lesser Yellowlegs, right near a huge flock of Dunlin. 

Although we had Dowitchers, we sadly couldn't make them into anything other than Short-billed. Darn....

Shorebirds were good this time around, but they can't be the spotlight hogs! We also had a Black-billed Cuckoo (which we actually got to come out and view which was neat. I've heard them before but never actually seen them), a Cape May Warbler, three Grasshopper Sparrows on the south end right by the airport, a Clay-colored Sparrow, and a PAIR of Orchard Orioles over by the Kingbird Tree. The kingbirds didn't take lightly to the orioles being there, and they flushed the male out to another tree, but the determined female lasted a little longer than her safer partner. This is the first time I've ever seen a female Orchard Oriole. 

Well, that about sums it up. We end up with over 100 species after six hours. The limit is six hours max, so we had to end the count even though we were still technically on WW property. Luckily, we didn't see anything else that would have been needed on the count other than stuff we'd already counted before. Hopefully, team Waka Waka Waka wins some trophies! πŸ˜‚

Good birding!

Lizzy Kibbey (Duck Wizard)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lots of Birds at Harbor Island Thursday

I mostly birded the southern part of Grand Haven's Harbor Island this morning, but did walk north to try for the Lark Sparrow.  No luck with that, but there was a Northern Waterthrush along the north edge of the marsh east of the power plant.

Yellow Warbler male

Birds were everywhere.  I counted 46 or 47 species (couldn't positively I.D. Cliff Swallows) including two vireos (Warbling and Yellow-throated), eight warblers (the waterthrush, Black-and-White, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow, Palm, Black-throated Green and Yellow-rumped), three sparrows (White-throated, Song and Swamp), Sora, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Peregrine Falcon and Baltimore Oriole

Tree Swallow

I saw movement in the thicket behind a log, walked toward it, and up popped this:

Groundhog / Woodchuck / Whistlepig
(Marmota monax)

- Ric

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lark Sparrow on Harbor Island

May 9 to Mich-Listers:

This morning Emily Tornga found, photographed and reported via eBird a Lark Sparrow on Harbor Island in Grand Haven

The bird has since been re-found and further photographed.  The location is along the two-track behind the restroom building.  It's been hanging out the west side of the U-turn in the road and also along the east side of the U-turn further down the road and adjacent to the railroad tracks.  See map on my checklist for general location:

Sent from my iPhone

- Curtis Dykstra

Lizzy Report from Muskegon on Saturday

May 8 Email:  

Hi, Ric!  I know you aren't at the computer right now, but you can view this once you get back. :)  (Lizzy is referring to our group's Berrien County field trip.  Click here for details.)

Mr. Fyfe and I went birding in Muskegon this Saturday (5-6-17) and found some good stuff! 

First off, the pair of Piping Plovers is still at Muskegon SP.  I'm cheering them on this year since they need every last bit of support they can get. 

We then swung over to the north side of the lake channel, which is still in Muskegon SP.  Suddenly, a Northern Mockingbird popped up over the top of a pine tree and stood there long enough for me to get just one picture, then it flew north over our heads, showing off its long tail and black and white flashing wing pattern. This would be my first ever Mockingbird for Muskegon!  It was quite surprising, and I'm still having a hard time comprehending it.  We walked into the wooded dunes and then came to a clearing, where he was heard singing.  I got audio of him singing, and a picture.   As I had suspected, it was flagged by eBird.

Then we swung by Snug Harbor Marsh, picking up some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and the one warbler I had suspected to be there: the Black-throated Green Warbler.  My favorite!  There were at least three just singing their hearts out. 

Then we drove over to Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve to try for any bitterns, gallinules, and whatever else the marsh had to offer.  Gray Catbirds are in large numbers now.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over our heads at one point.  We also called out some Marsh Wrens, and I got some good pictures of one that got about 5 ft from us. 

We tried to get into Lane's Landing because I've heard some good stuff is over there (Yellow-throated Vireos, both bitterns, gallinules, basically stuff that I still need for the year list) but we got stopped short by a fallen tree on the road. Tried to move the thing, but this tree was quite long and was anchored into the ground pretty well. We just turned around and left at that point.

Made a stop over near the Muskegon SGA HQ and picked up a first of the year American Redstart, and also saw a female Hooded Merganser.  Also saw a pair of Belted Kingfishers mating. 

Our main focus at the MWW was shorebirds and gulls.  We wanted those Long-billed Dowitchers, and the Franklin's + Laughing Gulls, but none of those showed up for us.  We had very little variety in shorebirds but were able to find some Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Spotted Sandpipers and Vesper Sparrows seemed to be out in force.  We ended up wanting to find one, and once we found one, we continued to find more after that.  I got some pictures of one with some very nice color on his shoulder. 

We also had a Common Raven fly over us at S Moorland Rd, right by Wilson. Four American Crows were attacking the poor thing. 

I hope you're enjoying your Berrien County experience!  ... Enjoy your trip, and hear from you soon!
Lizzy Kibbey (Duck Wizard)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Two Good Gulls at the Wastewater Lately

There have been several reliable reports to Mich-listers in the last two days of a Laughing Gull and a Franklin's Gull at the Wastewater.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Gallinule at the Nature Preserve

Feller DeWitt reports a Common Gallinule at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve this morning.  He saw it and two American Coots beyond the Wood Duck box west of the boardwalk leading out to the river.  There was also a Sora closer to the boardwalk.