Monday, January 30, 2017

Duck Wizard Finds Her Nemesis

After looking high and low on Saturday, my group of four finally found the Northern Shrike at the south side of the Wastewater.  It was located on the road that goes straight and doesn't curve towards the airport.  Down there on the left there should be brushy spots.  It hung around over there.  I got some pics.

- Lizzy Kibbey, the Ultimate Duck Wizard of Anatidae

Thanks, Lizzy, I've posted one.  Congratulations on finding your "nemesis" (referring to Lizzy's comment in our January 14 post below).  - Ric

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Birds Here and There on Saturday

Yesterday was dark and cold, but some birds got photographed anyway.  David Brazee of Grand Haven saw a pair of Bald Eagles on the Grand River, Larry Houseman photographed some Northern Cardinals and one of Brian's banded White-breasted Nuthatches at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I snapped a male Northern Shoveler while looking unsuccessfully for "better stuff" at the Wastewater.

- Ric

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ross's and Snows at Wastewater Monday

Late post of Ross's and Snow Geese at Muskegon County Wastewater on Monday.

- Charlie DeWitt

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ross's and Snow Geese at Wastewater Sunday

January 22 Email:

Ross's Goose with Snow Geese 
photo by Jerry Vis

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some Good Birds Around the County Today

Seven of us followed Charlie DeWitt around the Muskegon County Wastewater properties this unseasonably warm morning, walked the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and enjoyed pizza at Bernio's in North Muskegon on Charlie DeWitt's field trip.  Foggy, cloudy conditions persisted until we left the restaurant.

Notable among the 17 species at the Wastewater were Gadwall, American Black Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Snowy Owl, Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting

Snowy Owl

The Nature Preserve gave us 15 species including Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin and American Tree Sparrow.

American Tree Sparrow

Golden-crowned Kinglet by Casey Irwin

After the trip ended, Casey continued out to the Muskegon Channel and saw this raft of Long-tailed Ducks:

- Ric

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Snowies in Ottawa County

Larry Houseman sends these photos, with apologies for their unsharpness due to rain and clouds, of two Snowy Owls near Coopersville today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Golden Eagle

Ken Sapkowski reports that there was a Golden Eagle at the Wastewater on Sunday with three photos by Miles McNally viewable here.

Bald Eagle and Meeting Thursday

Hi Ric - I enjoyed our conversation at the Wastewater area last Saturday.  I do plan on attending the meeting this Thursday evening.   - Larry Houseman

Larry, I enjoyed that conversation as well.  Looking forward to seeing you at Thursday's meeting.  And thanks for the Bald Eagle photo!  - Ric

Towhee and Waxwings Near Rockford

January 16 Email:

Hi Ric --

I live in the Rockford area but always checking the MCNC website for good birds!  Today at my house I had an Eastern Towhee -- I was not expecting that!  The other day I also had about a hundred Cedar Waxwings visit for some old berries on my trees.  It's been pretty cool the past few days.  Just thought I would share this :) 


- Jeff Moore

Thanks, Jeff.  Now you've shared it with all of us!  - Ric

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Looking for Year Birds on Saturday Morning

I added eight Year Birds this morning, two at Pere Marquette Park and six at the Wastewater, including a Northern Shrike along Swanson south of Laketon, a Belted Kingfisher along White east of the admin. building, and two Northern Pintail in the rapid filtration lagoons, a male at 9:30 among Canada Geese and this female at 11:45 among Mallards near a pair of Gadwall.


- Ric

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Muskegon Wastewater CBC Results

The 2016 Muskegon Wastewater Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Wednesday, December 21. This was the 12th consecutive year that we have participated with the official CBC program (coordinated by the National Audubon Society), although results have been submitted to Michigan Audubon since 2000.

Weather during the fall of 2016 had been significantly warmer than normal, but after a two-week chill of below normal temperatures and consistent snowfall, ice and snow cover exceeded typical patterns on count day. However, mild conditions had returned the day before, so temperatures on the 21st were a bit higher than usual. Moreover, winds were light (which substantially boosts bird detections), and although skies remained overcast all day, no precipitation fell. As for forage, cones were very scarce this December, but leftover berry crops were around average.

Nine volunteers, split among five parties, recorded 11,051 birds of 57 species this year. Our species total exceeded the previous mean of 54.6 and was the best since our record count of 67 from 2012. Of the species found this year, 19 fell below their prior averages, but 34 were more numerous than usual.

Waterbirds normally comprise about 47% of all the individual birds seen on the Wastewater CBC, but limited open water at the Muskegon Wastewater hurt us this year. While waterbird diversity (13 species) was decent, the total count of 3,033 birds fell well below the historical mean of 5,062 birds. Most significantly, Northern Shoveler, one of our most abundant species and a winter specialty at the Wastewater, was absent. Ruddy Duck was nearly so. Despite careful scrutiny at the landfill, the Herring Gull count was down and no unusual species were encountered. The best finds were Wood Duck at the Muskegon State Game Area (MSGA) and Northern Pintail.

Finches were abnormally scarce this winter. Not a single irruptive species was found, and even American Goldfinch and House Finch were uncommon. In fact, with only four seen, the latter set a new low count for the Wastewater CBC. The only other species to do the same this year was another introduced denizen, House Sparrow; amazingly, only two individuals were found!

Otherwise, landbirds were generally diverse and numerous. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (seen by Ric and Jim) was new for the CBC, and three Red-headed Woodpeckers (seen by Feller and Carol) were the first since 2011. Consequently, for the first time in the history of the Wastewater CBC, every possible woodpecker species was recorded. Moreover, 8 Pileated Woodpeckers tied the previous high count. An unusually high tally was also obtained for White-breasted Nuthatch (41); 13 Golden-crowned Kinglets established a new record; and 6,741 European Starlings crushed all previous totals. Other highlights were Snowy Owl and Common Raven (found by Jill and Marc), and Red-shouldered Hawk (by Ken and Glenda).

The diversity of warm-weather residuals are nearly as important as waterbird variety in securing a high species total. The 2016 CBC was very good in this regard. Two Winter Wrens at MSGA doubled our previous high count; MSGA also produced one American Robin and one Swamp Sparrow; one White-throated Sparrow was discovered by Ken and Glenda; I was able to find Yellow-rumped Warblers for the 11th time in the last 14 years; a male Eastern Towhee gave us another new species for the Wastewater CBC; 4 Eastern Bluebirds and 1 Song Sparrow rounded out the lingering passerines.

With the addition of the sapsucker and towhee, the cumulative species total for the Muskegon Wastewater CBC increases to 113. Twenty-five species have been seen on every count, and 36 have been seen on at least 14 (82%) CBC's. Significant misses this year (birds seen on more than half of all past CBC's) were Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Shrike, Horned Lark, and Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Here is the complete list from the 2016 CBC:

Canada Goose - 994 (median 1719)
Mute Swan - 4 (median 1; seen on 10 of last 17 CBC's)
Wood Duck - 1 (second CBC record)
Gadwall - 32 (median 58)
American Black Duck - 4 (median 106)
Mallard - 530 (median 403)
Northern Pintail - 1 (seen on 5 of last 17 CBC's)
Common Goldeneye - 3 (seen on 7 of last 17 CBC's)
Red-breasted Merganser - 1 (second CBC record)
Ruddy Duck - 1 (median 5; seen on 13 of last 17 CBC's)
Ruffed Grouse - 2 (seen on 8 of last 17 CBC's; first record since 2008)
Wild Turkey - 30 (median 64.5)
Great Blue Heron - 2 (median 1)
Bald Eagle - 7 (median 5)
Red-shouldered Hawk - 1 (third CBC record)
Red-tailed Hawk - 11 (median 14)
Rough-legged Hawk - 5 (median 6.5)
American Kestrel - 4 (median 7)
Ring-billed Gull - 72 (median 47)
Herring Gull - 1,388 (median 2,127)
Rock Pigeon - 138 (median 154)
Mourning Dove - 177 (median 231)
Snowy Owl - 1 (seen on 11 of last 17 CBC's)
Barred Owl - 1 (seen on 8 of last 17 CBC's)
Belted Kingfisher - 1 (seen of 11 of last 17 CBC's)
Red-headed Woodpecker - 3 (third CBC record)
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 24 (median 14)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1 (new CBC record)
Downy Woodpecker - 48 (median 30; range 7 to 50)
Hairy Woodpecker - 15 (median 19)
Northern Flicker - 5 (median 5)
Pileated Woodpecker - 8 (median 5; range 0 to 8)
Blue Jay - 78 (median 69)
American Crow - 182 (median 167)
Common Raven - 2 (third CBC record)
Black-capped Chickadee - 81 (median 108)
Tufted Titmouse - 28 (median 27)
White-breasted Nuthatch - 41 (median 21; range 9 to 45)
Brown Creeper - 5 (median 3)
Winter Wren - 2 (new high count; seen on 6 of last 17 CBC's)
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 13 (new high count; median 2)
Eastern Bluebird - 3 (median 15)
American Robin - 1 (seen on 8 of last 17 CBC's)
European Starling - 6741 (new high total; median 736)
Cedar Waxwing - 68 (seen on 12 of last 17 CBC's)
Snow Bunting - 47 (median 34)
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 4 (seen on 11 of last 17 CBC's)
Eastern Towhee - 1 (new CBC record)
American Tree Sparrow - 71 (median 135)
Song Sparrow - 1 (seen on 11 of last 17 CBC's)
Swamp Sparrow - 1 (seen on 4 of last 17 CBC's)
White-throated Sparrow - 1 (second CBC record)
Dark-eyed Junco - 82 (median 152)
Northern Cardinal - 41 (median 61)
House Finch - 4 (new low count; median 46)
American Goldfinch - 36 (median 161; range 15 to 306)
House Sparrow - 2 (new low count; median 140)

Observers this year were Carol Cooper, Feller DeWitt, Glenda Eikenberry, Jill Henemyer, Brian Johnson, Marc Miedema, Ric Pedler, Ken Sapkowski, and Jim Zervos. Three (Jill, Brian, Marc) continued past lunch. With declining volunteer participation in outdoor projects across the region, I commend all for their dedication and diligence.

- Brian Johnson

A brief account of our December 17 City of Muskegon CBC is posted here.  - Ric

Friday, January 6, 2017

Two Reports: Plovers and Muskegon CBC

1.  Piping Plovers:  Carol Cooper reports that one of Bahama Mama's chicks from 2015 was spotted at Bulls Island in Charleston, South Carolina.  It nested this past summer in Illinois near the Wisconsin border.  It was spotted among a group of six, one of which was banded from Sleeping Bear Dunes and is one of the oldest plovers at 15 years of age!

2.  Christmas Bird Count:  Some numbers and highlights from our Dec. 17 City of Muskegon CBC are posted on the homepage.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Belted Kingfisher Monday at the Wastewater

 Belted Kingfisher

Today at the Muskegon County Wastewater Carol and I spotted this Belted Kingfisher.  It has been in this location since Dec 24, 2016.  If you use the Maple Island Road entrance at White Road, go 100 yards east and follow the road that goes south along the oak woods. 

We watched it fish for a good five minutes right next to the truck.  All photos are by Carol DeWitt (it was on her side of the truck)

- Charlie DeWitt

Predator and Prey

January 1 Email:  

Merlin with European Starling

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day Fliers

I saw a Common Raven this morning on the Wastewater properties east of the landfill.  Other birders reported Snow Buntings, Greater White-fronted Geese and Northern Pintails, the latter among the flocks of Canada Geese resting in watery/icy rapid filtration lagoons south of the entrance road.  

No one mentioned Snowy Owls or Northern Shrikes.

I couldn't identify this beast hovering over the fields on the south side ...

... so I asked the pilot.  It's a large drone he was adjusting for Eagle Eye Photography.

- Ric