Sunday, June 8, 2008

Triumph of the the Wing(nut)s

Well, maybe triumph is an exaggeration but the Wings did just win the Stanley Cup (ok a little background to the title, back in my Washtenaw days the local rag did a feature on Roger Wykes, one of the local birders in Ann Arbor who would typically rack up more species on an annual basis than anyone else, and called him a "Wingnut" in the headline. Someone then gave him a "trophy" at the end of the year with a wingnut on the top of it, and ever since the Wingnut award has been given to the Washtenaw county birder with the highest annual total... ). Anyway, led a trip for Washtenaw Audubon hoping to feature some of the local southern specialties that are much more difficult in Washtenaw than in Berrien. Ideally this trip would have been run at least a week earlier, but that was my anniversery and you have to draw the line somewhere right?

We started out in the morning down at Forest Lawn for the yellow-throated warblers. Since I expected them to be hard I figured it'd be best to start there with the coolest part of the morning to give us our best shot. It nearly back-fired when our first pass down the road produced nothing; we headed back towards the cars when I heard one which we got a few unsatisfying backlit views of. We again headed back to the cars when the bird started singing again. This time it was more cooperative and nearly everyone had at least a brief view of it through the scope as well as binocular views. After watching an acadian flycatcher at really close range through the scope we headed north into areas traditionally good for dickcissels and I picked one up pretty quickly. This bird was very cooperative, perching up on the wire and singing away, a lifer for several members of the group.

We headed next to Warren Dunes SP where the prairie warblers were surprisingly un-cooperative. My general experience with prairies is that they tend to sing from a perch and, while difficult to find initially, will tend to sit and sing. This was not the case today, we heard the birds well, but only a few of us had a fleeting view of one. Interestingly there was a bird at the periphery of the blow-out that sang ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-weet-eo, starting out with the typical prairie song, though maybe a little thinner, and then ending with a hooded warbler turn.

After stopping for lunch we headed up towards Sarett, starting at Brown where we had brief views of a prothonotary which I hit a couple times with a tape, getting a view of the bird as it flew past and then sang from a thicket. The Sarett Prairie had a good numbers of bluebirds perched up, a willow flycatcher for the scope, and an orchard oriole at the entrance, but the ammodramid sparrows were no-shows (though both Henslows and grasshopper can be found in Washtenaw). We ended at Anna Lane where after some waiting, we were rewarded with a perched-up view of the western meadowlark there, another lifer for a decent proportion of the group. This was my first chance to get a good study of the bird visually; the first time I saw the bird at the end of April I could see some white on the malar (more of an eastern mark), the second time I saw the bird a few weeks ago it seemed quite sandy in appearance. This time a decent view revealed that while there is an edge of the malar that is pale, most of the feather tract is yellow, which is indeed what Sibley and Peterson illustrate.

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