Wednesday, May 7, 2008

105 on a bike

Well, I didn't really set out to put a big number up in one day on a bike but it worked out that way on Tuesday. I would have been better off, however, with a smaller number had it included a Kentucky warbler.

After a series of days spent working into the wee hours of the morning at work getting frustrated at not being able to get out in the peak migration when I arrived home at 3 am I had 2 choices, one was to go to bed and roll out of bed on my day off at 11am, or I could just start biking. Sleep is for the weak right? After repairing a couple of bike lights, I headed south, picking up sora and sedge wren not far from the house and hearing woodcock and horned larks at various points. The larks were singing a much longer clearer song than the thin short song they sing during the day. Vesper sparrows were starting up pretty well as well as I biked down through Weesaw into Galien. After checking a few flooded fields along US12 in the pre-dawn finding only lesser yellowlegs and solitaries, I arrived at the Avery Rd flooding whose holding of a marbled godwit and long-billed dowitchers for a few days spurred this insanity. Those 2 birds were gone however (DOH!). There were good numbers of birds on the pond, again mostly the lessers and solitaries, but one greater was obvious in the deeper water. Two semipalmated plovers were new for the year and a pheasant called as well (a bird I totally should have had by now). I continued on to 3 Oaks where a group of about a dozen dunlin and a purple martin were the main new additions.

I continued on to Forest Lawn Rd where cerulean warblers were practically the dominant song (grrrr... after not being able to find a single bird a week ago). I started to doubt myself but fortunately one started singing quite close which was easy to track down in the still very thin canopy. One parula called and a white-eyed vireo sang nearly continuously, saving me the trip down a fairly dangerous dirt hill on Lakeside. The casino has at least doubled the traffic on the road and it took me a while to finally hear a yellow-throated warbler in this, one of the only sites in Michigan where they are regular. I was still lacking Louisiana waterthrush but decided to continue on as I can get it considerably closer to my house and decided to get to the New Buffalo Marsh in hopes of hearing something interesting there. It was too warm, however, and I added little. The lakefront was very quiet, perfectly calm and I could see waterfowl on the lake a LONG ways away, which I suspect were all loons and cormorants though only one of each were close enough to be certain.

I then headed up to Floral Lane, which is really where I should have started since the big shorebirds were gone at Avery Rd but Kentucky warblers have been seen there the last few days at Floral, regular overshoots but not breeders. The other southern warblers I can get later in the spring (though of course it was nice to get them out of the way). There were good numbers of warblers there, most notably 3 golden-winged's, as well as another white-eyed vireo (which I would happily trade at this point for a blue-headed), but I was unable to find a Kentucky. I spent an hour and a half there resting my legs and looking, but in the end gave up (a bank thermometer read 77 degrees, probably not ideal warbler weather).

When I added it up once finally home I found I had tallied some 105 birds, 35 of which were new for the Bigby list over the 60+ miles biking. My eyes were by far the sorest body part between the wind (mostly created by the bike as it was calm going south and a tailwind on the way back (thank goodness, otherwise I might still be out there)), the pollen, and dusty roads. Somewhere along the way some bird was Total Township Tick #1500 for the county as well. At any rate, I should be on a pace to go over 200 for the Bigby year assuming catastrophe doesn't strike...

If I'd REALLY planned stuff/foreseen the future, I would have biked for the Kentucky in the morning allowing me to chase the neotrop corm (not for the Bigby year) in the afternoon before coming over to Ann Arbor where I am now for a conference. Oh well. Cormorants are ugly anyway. There's 2 birds over here that would be state birds for me, Bell's vireo and lark sparrow in adjoining counties but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go after them ... may have to wait to find them in Berrien.

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