Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Piping Plover

The first think to know about the UP and Whitefish Point is that it was very mosquitoey.  Sounds mild when I word it this way, but a truer telling may be to say that the mosquitos were intense.  We were greeted by the owner of Freighter's on the Bay Motel with instructions on how to use a new-fangled mosquito zapper - a racquetball-racket shaped thing with, instead of strings, thin, wire-mesh electric netting that was battery activated by a small button on the handle.  While pressing the button we waved the racket at a mosquito thereby giving off the sound of mini-fireworks popping when the buzzing insect was zapped.  It was very useful when indoors or in the car.  To enter any door was to bring in a wave of mosquitos on our clothing.  We spent whatever time it took to zap them.  If one remained unzapped it was buzzing in my ear at night.  We persevered and I'm glad we did.    

Addendum dated 07/09/16:  For over a year I have left this dragonfly unidentified.  I don't like identified things on my blog. Recently, I have been photographing dragonflies.  I find them challenging, satisfying and fun.  Mostly I am currently seeing only common dragons and damsels.  I'm using Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson, 2011 and the expertise of a friend for ID help.  Paulson's book is great, but it's hard to ID many dragonflies from photographs.  Then trying to make an ID from a poor photo, as is the one above, the degree of difficulty is ratcheted up.  (Some of the Paulson book photos are not great either.)  With this explanation, I am going to go out on a limb and ID the above dragonfly as a female Zebra Clubtail (Stylurus scudderi).  My photo is a near match with the photo used in Paulson.  But it's the habitat description that contributes more:
Clean rivers and streams with sand or sand and cobble bottoms and moderate current in wooded landscapes; usually much gravel and at least scattered rocks.  Anyone who's visited Whitefish Point knows this is the habitat and it can also be seen in the piping plover photos below. If I am correct about my ID, it's my first clubtail.  Note:  I found an omission in Paulson.  He has not included zebra clubtail in his male appendage and female subgenital drawings.           

In jail for its own benefit.  During all three visits to the point we saw a hunting merlin.

But with a pass to leave whenever it wants.

 Very brief excursion from jail.

Sarah Toner found these footprints in the sand which we thought might belong to the piping plover.  The footprints were found a reasonable distance from the safety cage.

In each of the three visits we saw only one bird.

Overall the saftety cage was quite small, but more than adequate to protect a tiny shorebird.  In the photo above a straight orange line is seen in the upper third of the photo.  This is the "psychological fence" that marks a very large area kept off limits to people.  This little bird might be the highlight of my summer.  It is only the third piping plover I have ever seen and my first in Michigan.    

Susan Kielb, Artemis Eyster, Mike Kielb and Sarah Toner at the Kielb's house at Whitefish Point.  We spent a really terrific afternoon and evening with the Kielb's and Sarah.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Teets Road, Chippewa County

Last weekend Artemis Eyster and I took a long weekend trip to the UP just for the fun of it.  When we got to US 23 around Ann Arbor it began raining and the rain continued all the way up and well into the afternoon.  We stopped in the Mio area, got lost a little bit, but drove around looking for suitable Kirtland's warbler habitat.  We were hoping to break-up the drive, but with no suitable habitat and the rain we didn't even get out of the car.  The jack pines have really grown up in the Huron forest around the Mio area and we did not see or hear anything except a few blue jays and Nashville warblers. 

We stopped briefly at Hartwick Pines SP and saw evening and rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeders before continuing north to our overnight stop in St. Ignace.  We stayed at the Driftwood Motel across the road from Shepler's ferry service and heard an American restart and red-eyed vireo singing from the neighborhood trees there.

On Saturday morning we checked out of the motel around 8:30 am to try to find Teets Road.  On an early June trip in 2009 I saw my life LeConte's sparrow here and was hoping for the same again.  

Along Prairie Road, just north of Teets, Artemis heard a buzzy song from the car window that, at first, we thought sounded like blue-winged warbler.  We corrected that and coaxed this clay-colored sparrow out of its dense habitat to perch in a roadside tree and sing for these (@#$% fuzzy) photos.  The sun was very bright and perhaps it was a bit hazy from humidity or whatever, but I am really beginning to be disappointed at this photo quality.  But, I love this bird and its song. This is the first I've seen for the past couple of years.  

Just at the Prairie Road and Teets Road intersections there were seven or eight cedar waxwings in the upper part of this hemlock (?), tamarack (?) tree.  Even in this terrible photo you can see their perched yellow bodies.

Cut to the chase, there were distant savannah sparrows in the [former] LeConte's sparrow field, but no LeConte's.  The habitat seemed to have changed and appeared less wet - even in this wet spring.  Also, behind the grassy meadow the field had been planted with some kind of crop, perhaps wheat.

We began hearing and then seeing Bobolinks.  My first this year.  The payoff for the drive to Teets Road was this cooperative, singing sedge wren.  The wren family is Artemis's favorite and this bird is completely cute.  

Again, best not to enlarge these photos unless you want to see the full, pixilated version.  

As we watched this charming little sedge, Artemis made a beautiful ink drawing of it.