Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Success

I first started birding seriously in land-locked Washtenaw county where the game of Big Days helped offset some of the boredom of inland-county birding.  The April Big Day record in Washtenaw was 118.  Either the first or 2nd year I lived here, Tim, Andre, and I did a Berrien April Big Day and scored 130 birds.  I found out later that the Michigan record was 134.  While that number seemed attainable, it was much more difficult than I expected.  North winds spoiled the day some years, other times rain, heat, or lack of good luck conspired in some combination to generally induce quitting by mid-afternoon.

I didn't have a ton of hopes for today's attempt that Rhoda and I made.  Due to my schedule we had to run it a day early, which can make a surprisingly big difference with the number of birds that return in numbers in the first week of May.  Partly because of this (as well as forecast early early am rain) we didn't start until 3, and when we did we didn't really bird in the style of a big day aside from taping out a screech owl.  We generally just went to spots that might have a Yellow Rail and clicked stones.  I won't build suspense where none is warranted; there weren't any.  We did pick up both regular rails along the way though. 

Early fog made some elements challenging; we couldn't see the back of the 3 Oaks ponds the first time we went by, and found no longspurs on Buffalo Rd.  The fog did keep the temperature down and kept the migrants active later in the morning however.  Warren Woods was the most active I've ever seen it with Warbling, Blue-headed, and Yellow-throated Vireo, Ovenbird, Parula, Wood Thrush, both kinglets, creeper, and Red-breasted Nuthatch among others.  We had migrant Pine Warblers at 2 stops.  Floral seemed quiet, but "thanks" to Rock Dove we hit 100 just before arriving, and found individuals of Baltimore Oriole, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Northern Waterthrush.  There was enough East in the wind that a few Broad-wings filtered past as did resident Coop, Bald Eagle and Osprey.   Another pocket of activity in a sheltered area produced a White-crowned Sparrow, Winter Wren, and this silent empid.
I assume given the small bill, short primary projection, and strong eye-ring that it's a Least.  It did fly closer when we played the Least tape but we couldn't induce a vocalization.  It was the only empid of the day though.

Weather started playing a role again in the afternoon, a storm cell was rolling in at Tiscornia, though we did have another Long-tailed Duck, as well as distant Common and Red-throated Loons, and the Forster's Terns in with the Caspians.

It started to rain as we arrived at the airport but managed the Mocker and Western Meadowlark before the downpour started that essentially erased our next couple stops.

If the rain in the evening held off we figured we'd be able to get the other 2 owls, but didn't want to rely on them or on hopes for grinding out a grosbeak or bunting so we headed for Muskegon for birds you can't easily see in Berrien.  I think we saw a total of 6 Upland Sandpipers
Displaying turkeys and Bald Eagles finishing off gull luncheons would have been nice bonuses if we hadn't had them already.
Bird number 135 were nesting Cliff Swallows
 I was disappointed not to add any waterfowl.  There were very few dabblers at Muskegon at all and not a ton of shorebirds.  The birds of the day flew past though, 2 Marbled Godwits, possibly the first time I've seen more than 1 at a time in Michigan. 
They quickly got into the sun by the time I'd jumped out of the car; fortunately I remembered to over-expose the pics so they're not just shadows.  The colors are washed out though.  While not quite as rare as last year's April 30 (rejected) White-faced Ibis, at least I don't need to worry about their genetic purity or countability.

We spent some time at some much nicer cattail marshes than exist in Berrien, but couldn't find a bittern, got rained out from a grouse stop, but were able to add the 2 large owls upon returning for a total of 138.


Cory J. Gregory said...
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Matt said...

enough were concerned that I couldn't describe red legs, or a red eye (though one linked a picaso page of hybrids - half with red eyes) that the width of white and description of the facial skin as bright enough to remind me of the base of a Hudwit's bill wasn't enough.

Cory J. Gregory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.