Monday, October 16, 2006

Michigan - southern counties

The morning at Sterling SP was pretty good, after a shower before first light. I found the promised Osprey, and in the process found some good brushy edges with some warbler variety. At one spot down a little dirt lane, which looked perfect, I played the atomic bird calling tape, my Screech Owl with Chickadees, which usually will pull every bird within hearing. Nothing. Not a Titmouse, made no sense until I happened to look up at the right branch and found a Cooper's Hawk almost directly overhead. I still needed to get about thirty miles further north to meet an Audubon Field trip which had been announced on the web, so I cut the morning short and headed for Pointe Moilee.

I didn't have very good directions, so a stop at a bait shop got me straightened out. The road I needed was on the other side of the inlet from the larger part of the Conservation Area (or whatever the equivalent Michigan term is) and after driving to the end I found the birders on a platform scanning a nice shallow bay with fringing wetlands. We got god birds there, and more warblers and woodpeckers at a stop along the entrance road. The plan was to go to Lake Erie Metropark on the south end of the Detroit area, which was having a bird festival focused on raptor migration. When we arrived there was quite a crowd split between a number of displays at the visitor center, and another crowd overlooking an inlet of the lake where the raptors generally flew. But it was a cloudy cool morning, and without thermals the flight was weak, even disappointing.

I had met Don Chalfant at the first site, and he greeted my confession that I was doing some state listing with enthusiasm, and a stream of stories. He's a major player whose goal is to average 200 species per state sometime soon. He's somewhere around 180 which really is awesome. We were talking about how the state listing had brought back more interst in birding, which can get repetitive if you stay in the same area. And new birds, lifers, do get hard to find, and more time consuming and expensive. State listing lets a species be a big deal over and over, besides honing ID skills and developing an eye for habitat. We decided to hike some wetland trails in the metropark while we hoped the day would warm and clear. We found some interesting birds, and the sky did start to clear, and the raptors did start to come by, at first ones and twos, but by noon there were some real kettles.

I ended up adding about five raptor species, which was better than I'd hoped. I had to leave in early afternoon to make the next scheduled stop, a visit with friends Barbara and Dale Greiner in Chelsea MI. I had enjoyed their company and Dale's skills when they were on an Elderhostel trip in Arkansas (covered in some previous posts in this blog) and had called and asked if they might want to spend part of a day birding. Arrived mid-afternoon, to prepartions for a neighborhood social they were hosting the next day. So I got to take a relaxing reading break on the deck overlooking their carefully landscaped yard, with numerous native plantings, bird feeders, and many partially welcome chipmunks. They had done a beautiful job of creating habitat on their property, and Dale had some good tales of wildlife sightings not limited to birds.

We got started driving around four pm and headed into the Waterloo State Recreation Area. First stop was a Nature Center for a bird list, but we missed the opening hours. Undaunted, we just started driving around, headed vaguely for some areas where Dale had reports of Sandhill Cranes. It was a mellow drive through an area of mixed woodlands and small farms, including lots of small ponds and larger lakes, some developed for public access. We found a lot of birds, some good ones, Turkeys in a yard, Red-breasted Nuthatch, a pond with some Teal, but were striking out on Cranes. Locals stopped while we were walking roads and told us where they saw them, but none of the leads panned out. Turns out it was so late in the day that the Cranes had headed back to their night roosting area, at a place called Hainele Preserve (or something like that) which was our last stop. The Cranes were there, hundreds of them. Later in the season it would become thousands. An excellent end of day payoff. There was a map there showing their daytime foraging areas, and those were the places we had stopped without luck.

Back to Chelsea for take-out Chinese, and good conversation about their plans for RVing the following year. I was whooped, had been up since around 4 am, and welcomed a fresh real bed rather than my cramped campershell. Dale and I had breakfast in town before I hit the road again, headed for the Sarett Preserve, an Audubon Sanctuary west of Kalamazoo. Great place except for the mosquitos. Lots of trails, lots of small waterways, great wildflowers, and good birds too. Found Olive-sided Flycatcher and Swainson's Thrush after hearing them call from dense tangles all morning. It seems like an old place, parts of it are in need of repair, which is happening randomly, but some features are newly worked over, and there were several staff and volunteers by the time I left. I got some leads on shorebird spots along the lakeshore heading into Indiana, but none payed off except for what must have been the last Yellowlegs, lesser, in the state, on the edge of an industrial puddle.


Anonymous Kevin Bourinot said...

Hi JP,
I'm enjoying your blogs, especially on climate change.

I'm a fellow birder from Mass and have been looking for an MP3 of an E.Screech Owl being mobbed by chickadees for quite some time.

Is there any way I can get you to send me the file, or tell me where I can get one?

Of course I'll follow birding ethics when using the mp3 in the field as I'd only use it in the fall.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Kevin Bourinot

10:17 AM  

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