Saturday, January 30, 2010

January birding coming to an end

It was a beautiful day in southeastern Michigan; sunny with some clouds scattered around. It was cold, but the bright sun tempered the cold air to make a very enjoyable winter day. I had some errands to do, but I also wanted to take advantage of the great weather to fit in some birding. After wasting some time in the morning, I finally got out of the house at around 11:00 am. Destination: Vreeland Road in eastern Washtenaw county to look for previously reported Lapland Longspurs.

I found some Horned Larks, but I was stymied on the longspurs. I continued slowly on westbound Vreeland Road, not seeing much, and approached Harris Road. Ahead, over a large field at Vreeland and Harris I saw a raptor soaring and was surprised to see that it was a Rough-legged Hawk, my first of the year. I used to bird this road a lot but not much at all recently. I always thought that the fields along Vreeland were suitable for roughies but had never seen one. Nor do I recall others reporting roughies along this popular birding road.

Click on any photo to enlarge image.

My first photo op came as I approached Prospect Road.

I took many photos of this Red-bellied Woodpecker and somehow decided that this was the best. At the corner of Vreeland and Prospect roads (a very busy road with fast moving traffic) I did not see any oncoming cars. I turned left on to Prospect and immediately saw a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a branch that hung very near the roadside. Photo op. As I sped up, planning to pull to the side, I looked in my rearview mirror to see a line of traffic on my tail. Too much traffic for the hawk so near the road; it took off.

Next destination: Trader Joe's for some grocery shopping. Nichols Arboretum is an easy drive from Trader Joe's and I have not been there in the winter time in years and some good birds had been reported in the Arb recently.

Two courting Red-tailed Hawks were soaring and frolicking (sorry, but this is the best word I can think of to describe their behavior - I know the guys are cringing) over Dow Prairie. The trail around Dow Prairie did not seem all that birdy and the trails were snow and ice covered so my visit was short.

Both of the Red-tails were light with faint belly bands. I took photos of both but could never get them both in the same frame. I think these two photos are probably of the same bird.

The Arb is always full of walkers, runners and dog-walkers and so this Fox squirrel allowed me to approach quite closely. It must have had some personal boundary, because ... it let me know when I got too close.

Every so often I whistled my miserable screech owl tremelo to see if anything would pop out of the bushes and trees. I startled Blue Jays and Robins, but nothing more. I came to an area where titmice and chickadees were calling and whistled my screech again. The titmice were not interested, but the chickadees came in close. I've never taken a decent photo of a Black-capped Chickadee. Every prior attempt has always resulted in an instant delete.

Today was my lucky day. I deleted many but had other good photos as well. I selected the above two from the best of four.

From the Arb I returned to Vreeland Road to look for the Rough-legged Hawk. Not seeing it near Vreeland and Harris, I continued east on Vreeland. Just west of the large farm, I saw a Cooper's Hawk perched in a tree over a brushy area.

Not a great photo, not even a good photo, but this Coop did not stick around to allow me a chance for a closer shot.

Finally, another poor photo, but here's the Rough-legged Hawk perched at the top of a tree on the north side of Vreeland. I tried to get closer for the chance of a better shot, but it was not to be. The best I could do was to get the bird flying away to land at the top of a very distant tree.

Tomorrow, the last day of January 2010, is supposed to be partly sunny and a little warmer. In Michigan, cardinals usually begin singing in February.

Just noticed that there is a full moon tonight. I learned from Harold and Artemis Eyster that this moon is the brightest of the year and is called the Wolf Moon.

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