My first bird of 2016 was an Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) found behind the Environmental Interpretive Center on the University of Michigan campus at 5:39 am.
For the daytime portion of this CBC I count the west side of the Rough River and walked trails for approximately 4 miles ending at the Ford Estate near Evergreen. It was windy and very cold with snowflakes falling the whole time. This is very disturbed habitat but typically a good bird or two can always be found.
I couldn't believe it when I heard Carolina wren chatter and found the bird perched in the open, quite close and in good light. As luck would have it, I had to load my camera battery before I could start shooting. I thought, this bird is going to fly. But even with all my cold hands fumbling it stayed put, chattering the whole time, and I got about a dozen photos. These are the nicest shots I have ever taken of a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).
Next good find was this leucistic robin (Turdus migratorius). The bird was not moving and all of my photos are very similar. When the bird flew I stood on the trail checking my photos. I heard a faint sound behind me and it felt like I was being watched. I turned around and two deer were staring at me. They never moved and after taking a couple of photos I continued walking. Earlier I saw a coyote which was not so cooperative.
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
A not uncommon sight along areas of the generally muddy Rough River is this bluish-green water. It is typically accompanied by a sweetish, perfumey fragrance that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, although the mere awareness that rivers should not smell like this makes it unpleasant. I find the sight of the water disturbing. This was a little tributary that fed directly into the river. Though I have no idea what causes this strange color, it reminds me of the blue Tidy Bowl stuff that people use to clean their toilets. This same color of water can be found in some Belle Isle waterways. I'll do my best Gail Collins imitation here. People can we all agree that using blue toilet bowl cleaner is bad for our streams and rivers.
In another area of the river I found this attractive, possibly hybrid duck. Below the duck is with a female mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) for comparison.
Much darker head, bill, feathers and markings, and somewhat smaller, but the bird's vocalization was typical mallard.
The easy identification is melanistic female mallard, but if anyone wishes to venture another guess on this duck's lineage, I'd love to hear from you.
Terrible photo, but it's always thrilling to see belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) on a Michigan CBC. My area had two this morning.
Our most underrated bird.
Along the trails I counted only two cardinals all morning. That is a very low number given the habitat I cover and that I walk near neighborhoods. But for my final photo of the morning it was all cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) - males and females eating from the grass near the parking lot.
Finally, celebrate the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 by watching Noah Strycker's big year video celebrating 6042 species seen. Birding Without Borders. You can also read his blog entries - all 365 (it was sort of like traveling around the world with him) and see his lists - as seen by date and another in taxonomic order. A truly extraordinary accomplishment.