Sunday, May 10, 2009

Michigan North American Migration Count, 05/09/09

As I do each year on the second Saturday in May, yesterday I participated in May count, birding three distinctly different areas in Wayne County.  I started out at Belle Isle around 6:30 am. This early in the morning I was greeted by Canada Geese (Branta canadanesis), Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis, American Robins (Turdus migratorious), Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and a few Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula.)  These are the usual birds to open early morning at Belle Isle.  The park was busy with people, too. In addition to the walkers, runners, bikers and fisherman there was a sponsored walk to bring people out.
This is my best songbird photograph of the day.  This female Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) only gave me one chance, so I am very happy with the way this photo turned out. 
I counted four Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax).  This one posed nicely for its overexposed photo.  The sky was bright cloudy gray and I think this plays a big role in photo exposure.   The weather then turned partly cloudy to sunny.  Around 10:00 am or so, the wind really picked up and the clouds left - at least for awhile.

In about 5-1/2 hours of birding at Belle Isle I found 74 species, none unexpected, but there were a couple of nice surprises .  A Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) was a surprise.   A bathing Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was a surprise.  A single Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) was a surprise and nearly went uncounted as I saw it floating close to the shore just east of the bridge.  I was leaving the island and my sudden stop in this precarious location caused a few horn blowers to express their irritation.  A Bobolink (Dolicyhonyx oryzivorus) was a surprise in the weedy field just west of the Belle Isle bridge.  Ring-necked Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) at this same location were not a surprise.  If you must find a pheasant, the best place to do so in Michigan is in the city of Detroit.
I never considered that one day I might see a Peregrine Falcon bathing in the Detroit River. This is probably one of the "hacked" birds that nest in downtown Detroit.  The bird remained here for quite awhile and appeared to be really enjoying the water.  It was very windy by this time and the water was choppy.

The other places I birded were William Holliday Preserve in Westland. I got a little lost trying to find the place and did not arrive until around 1:30 pm.  Shortly after that it began to rain for a half hour or so.  I added Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularia) and Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo Olivaceus) to the day's species total but in all found just over 30 species here.  I don't think I'll do this area again next year.  A few years ago I atlassed this area for the Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas and I had not been there since.  I thought it might be good.  Also, the time of day and the weather change probably had something to do with the slow birding.
Perhaps the best thing at William Holliday Preserve were the trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) that were in peak bloom throughout the woods.

Finally, I went to Willow Run Airport.  Even though I have been here many times - I believe this was my third year counting here - I got lost trying to get here, too.  I wound up in the GM plant that is near the airport.  That was scary, like a ghost town, and the place was huge.  I had a hard time finding my way out.  The reason for going to Willow Run each year is to add Upland Sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda) to the species list.  Fortunately,  two were present yesterday.  Again, the weather - windy in this large open space - probably had a lot to do with it, but other birds typically found here were also present in lower numbers.  I always find several kingbirds, but this year there were none.
My nicest photo from the airport.  This White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) is being buffeted by the wind while perched on the airport fence.  The White-crowned is one of the larger sparrows, but it looks tiny here on the fence.

I think I finished up the day finding 85 species.  Not bad and it made for a good day of birding. 

No comments: