Monday, August 22, 2016

Serendipitous search for an old friend

Now, after living in Michigan for 12 years, I occasionally think about the birds I miss most from Maryland.  Three that come quickly to mind are yellow-breasted chat, prairie warbler and blue grosbeak.  From time-to-time, I have seen chats and prairie warblers in Michigan, Ohio or Ontario but, except perhaps once in Berrien County many years ago, I can't recall having seen a blue grosbeak.  Amongst other memories, I recall blue grosbeaks (Passerina caerulea) singing from the utility wires as I rode my bike around Blackwater NWR on the eastern shore of Maryland.  They kept me company on my long rides on hot, humid summer days.

This summer two pairs of breeding blue grosbeaks have been found quite nearby.  On Saturday a friend gave me the exact directions to the Blue Grosbeak nest found in Oakland County's Commerce Township.  I had read about this bird but missed seeing it even though it is very close to my family's cottage.  On Sunday morning I drove to Commerce Township to the bird's location just along the M5 freeway.

Darrin's directions were perfect and I found the nest easily thanks also to heavily trampled ground near and around the nest.  Another birder reported seeing the male blue grosbeak on Saturday and this birder also commented on the trampled ground.  He noted that the female and the fledgings were not around.  The nest was well-constructed, but I was surprised at its location very close to the freeway.  This pair had clearly not been picky about real estate.  

Even at 8:00 am on Sunday morning the traffic noise along M5 was fierce. Thanks to nearby road construction gigantic hauler trucks contributed more than their fair share.  At one point a fully-loaded car hauler clamored and bounced by on the northbound side.  When traffic would mercifully cease for 20 or 30 seconds I listened for any sounds. A couple of times I thought I heard intriguing song from the other side of M5.  But I dismissed it as probably belonging to a goldfinch.  

If the female and the fledglings had left, why would the male still be hanging around?  I waited for 30 minutes and then a little longer before calling it quits.  I walked back toward 14 Mile Rd. and became distracted by an interesting orb weaver spider eating prey in its web.  I stopped to take photos of the spider (see prior blog entry) and heard a bird calling that sounded like a cardinal.  Then it sounded a little different.  I let the spider be and walked a few steps south.  The call was clearer.  I looked up to the sound and saw movement in tree leaves about mid-canopy.

I couldn't believe my good luck.  Still here after all!  He remained in this same general location, first amongst the leaves and then perched on an open branch.  I took the photos included here.

Then he flew to the opposite side of M5.  Perhaps I had heard him singing during breaks in the traffic after all.  I felt flush with good luck. What a great bird!  While the possible cause is not good, perhaps blue grosbeaks are expanding their range more northward.

Now, if I could find my Michigan purple sandpiper.  Maybe this November.  

1 comment:

Jerry said...

Congratulations, Cathy!