Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Four Nature Club Events in May

May 6-7
Berrien County Bonus Field Trip

Ken Sapkowski led 12 of us around Warren Dunes and Warren Woods State Parks, Three Oaks, Galien County Park and the Kessling Preserve.  Saturday and Sunday were both beautiful but very cool and quite windy, which undoubtedly kept the birds down.

Nevertheless we found many wonderful birds (I added 26 species to my Michigan Year List) including Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Scarlet Tanager, Swainson's Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common and Forster's Terns and Prairie Warbler.

 Galien River

 On the bridge at Warren Woods State Park

 Yellow-rumped Warbler at Warren Dunes State Park

 Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Warren Dunes State Park

Prairie Warbler at Warren Dunes State Park

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May 13
Censusing Spring Birds
Brian Johnson

     Although the annual North American Migration Count is no longer being conducted the second Saturday in May, bird species information from those sites is still of value.  Some of us will continue to count at our old N.A.M.C. locations and send that data to Brian.  For more information, contact Brian or Ric. 

- - -

Thursday, May 18, 2017 
Potluck Picnic Meeting and Bird Walk
Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Our annual Potluck Picnic Meeting will be in the pavilion at the center of the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve in North Muskegon (entrance on Lake Ave. just west of the Veteran's Memorial Causeway).  The meal will begin at 6:00 p.m.  Please bring your own picnic plates and utensils.
The brief business meeting will include election of officers for our 2017-2018 season.  Then we will take an evening bird-walk around the preserve.
Hope to see you there!

- - -

Saturday, May 20, 2017 
Big Day Count
Feller DeWitt

This annual club event was organized by Margaret Drake Elliott and George Wickstrom long ago.  Locations have changed over the years, but the basic purpose has remained unchanged: a group of us spends all day trying to find the maximum number of bird species within the confines of Muskegon County.
This year a few hard-core individuals will meet at the Lane's Landing outer gate before 5:00 a.m. to listen for night birds.  This is one mile north of the Muskegon County Wastewater entrance on Maple Island Road in the low area just after the road crosses Mosquito Creek.  Be careful pulling into and out of Lane's Landing!  Cars on Maple Island Road travel fast!
At 5:00 we will drive in on the one-mile Lane's Landing road, pausing to listen along the way, and park our cars near the inner yellow gate.
From there we will listen for additional species until the sky provides enough light to see birds.  As other people gradually arrive, our group will bird the marsh trail north and into the “prothonotary woods”, then up to the Muskegon River if the footing allows.  
 After returning to our cars, we will drive up Maple Island Road a little over a mile and turn left into the entrance of the DNR's State Game Area headquarters.  We will bird along the Maple River the rest of the morning and then eat our brown bag lunches on the porch of the DNR headquarters building.
For a few hours in early afternoon we will look for birds on the Wastewater properties.  This will be mostly from our cars so a walkie-talkie tuned to Channel 11, Subchannel 00 can be helpful, but is not necessary.
Our later afternoon schedule will be determined by what species we still need.
The core group will eat supper at the North Muskegon McDonald's followed by a walk around the nearby Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve.  Then it's out to Snug Harbor at Muskegon State Park to walk the fringes and trails.  Before the light fails we will drive out to Lake Michigan and south to the Muskegon Channel in hopes of counting some final species.
Anyone may join and leave our core group at anytime throughout the day.  Don't forget food and drink if you plan to lunch with us at DNR Headquarters.  Waterproof footgear is recommended for the morning walks as is bug repellent for the wooded areas.
We hope you can join us for at least part of this annual event.

- Ric Pedler

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 22 Field Trip Report

Twenty people participated in this morning's field trip to Grand River Park in eastern Ottawa County.  Ric's sincere apologies to those who got wet feet after we promised no such thing.

The Young ...

... and the Not-As-Young

We were amazed to see the Grand River within its banks this morning.  On our "dry run" for this trip on April 11 the water was approximately at this yellow line:

After birding along the river, we might have been wiser to head to Grand Ravines Park North.  Our feet were dry until we walked the trails south and away from the river.  Go figure.

On the brighter side, we did find 42 species of birds this lovely cool day including black-billed swans (3 Tundra/Trumpeters flew over us at the boat launch ramp), Double-crested Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk (4 presumably migrating overhead), Virginia Rail (calling north of the parking lot), Sandhill Crane, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Brown Creeper, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and Eastern Meadowlark.

Heading southwest we came upon a Garter Snake, perhaps a sign that we should turn around?  

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the morning.  The park had lots of birds today; imagine what it will have in May!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Two Upcoming Events

May 5-7 Bonus Field Trip
Berrien County
Ken Sapkowski

Many of us will be watching for spring migrants at several Berrien County locations this first weekend in May.  Those of you who have received Ken's emails regarding this trip will get another no later than Thursday, April 13, or contact Ken.  Anyone not on Ken's email list who would like to be added should contact Ken or Ric.

Still Want to Count Birds on May 13?

Although the North American Migration Count no longer exists, Brian Johnson is still interested in collecting Muskegon County bird information on the second Saturday of May.  Some people who used to census birds for the N.A.M.C. will continue birding their same locations and sending their numbers to Brian.  If you would like to be part of this, please contact Brian or Ric.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 18 Field Trip Report

Despite the drizzly gloomy conditions, six of us certifiably foolish overly gungho dedicated birdwatchers headed out to the Wastewater properties on Saturday the 18th to find what we could find.

Among the 35 bird species we located in 2 hours and 20 minutes of driving around the properties were American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Golden Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle (immature flying by Carol Cooper),

Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Herring Gull (portraits by Charlie DeWitt),

Pileated Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Horned Lark, American Robin, Song Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark.

Here also is a shot Charlie took through thick foliage of a Ruffed Grouse along the Lane's Landing road on March 15:

- Ric

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

HWA Training at Hoffmaster

Heidi Frei and other members of the Michigan DNR conducted an indoor/outdoor training session about Hemlock Woolly Adelgid this afternoon at Hoffmaster State Park.

Most of the trainees were land-manager-types, but there were a few birders as well: Curtis Dykstra, Dick Good, Jill Henemyer and Ric Pedler.

Good News / Bad News for our own Dick Good; he found some HWA on a hemlock in the north campground area.

DNR officer tagging the branch where Dick found the adelgid.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18 Field Trip Report

Today was a beautiful "early spring" day, sunny and cool with temperatures in the forties and several first-wave-of-migration birds.  And it's February!

The warmth meant few waterbirds at Grand Haven.  Highlights included a Herring Gull (don't ask), Cedar Waxwings and both mergansers.

Pigeon Lake provided Red-winged Blackbirds and a Common Grackle.

(Birding is a dirty and thankless job.)

The Hemlock Crossing feeders were virtually birdless!  So our group of thirteen walked along the Pigeon River in hopes of finding the Northern Mockingbird.  No luck on the mocker, but on the walk back we enjoyed three Sandhill Cranes circling and calling overhead.

The woods were alive with the spring voices of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and unpiliated woodpeckers.  A Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead.

At noon a beautiful Bald Eagle circled us as we said our good-byes in the nature center parking lot.  Seven people then headed for home.

Five others took a circuitous route to farm fields southeast where Curtis Dykstra told us Horned Larks would be singing and displaying.  We found several singing but were able to see only a few.  When on the ground, they were invisible.  Five did fly up and around us in what may have been some kind of display.

All told this field trip recorded 30 species.  Thanks to Feller for leading, to Curtis for the information, to Carol for the pictures, and to everybody for the excellent company!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21 Field Trip Report

Seven of us followed Charlie DeWitt around the Muskegon County Wastewater properties this unseasonably warm morning, walked the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and enjoyed pizza at Bernio's in North Muskegon on Charlie DeWitt's field trip.  Foggy, cloudy conditions persisted until we left the restaurant.

Notable among the 17 species at the Wastewater were Gadwall, American Black Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Snowy Owl, Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting

Snowy Owl

The Nature Preserve gave us 15 species including Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin and American Tree Sparrow.

American Tree Sparrow

Golden-crowned Kinglet by Casey Irwin

After the trip ended, Casey continued out to the Muskegon Channel and saw this raft of Long-tailed Ducks:

- Ric

Friday, January 20, 2017

Carol Cooper Wins the 2016 Contest

Our Birding Contest has a new winner.  Carol Cooper was presented the 2016 trophy at last night's meeting.  She saw more bird species last year in Muskegon and Ottawa Counties than anyone else in our club.  (Thanks as always to Dee DeWitt for creating the wonderful prize!)

Carol receives her trophy from Ric Pedler.
(photo by Charlie DeWitt)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Muskegon Christmas Bird Count

Fifteen people spent several hours censusing birds in Muskegon County on December 17, 2016.  In three basic groups (north, central and south) they found 3,632 birds of 57 species.  These numbers were submitted to the National Audubon Society as part of the Christmas Bird Count conducted annually all over North America.

Highlights within the count circle (15 miles in diameter centered downtown) included a Double-crested Cormorant on "Nugent Lake", 668 Mallards, 953 Long-tailed Ducks on Lake Michigan, 3 merganser species (Hooded, Common and Red-breasted), 3 grebe species (Pied-billed, Horned and Red-necked), a Killdeer at Muskegon State Park, 24 Eastern Bluebirds, 8 American Robins and a Partridge in a Pear Tree a Song Sparrow at the Snug Harbor boat launch.

On January 7 Brian Johnson posted a detailed report of our December 21 Wastewater CBC.  Click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Please Remove Bird Feeders from Hemlocks

December 8 Email:


The DNR has just issued a request of all Visitor Centers and offices in the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid hotspots here along the Lake Michigan shoreline to remove all bird feeders from areas adjacent to or near Hemlock trees in an effort to control the spread.  It might be a good idea to let your members know that it is recommended to remove bird feeders from home yards with Eastern Hemlock in an effort to protect those trees from the spread of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.  It is a known fact that birds carry the crawlers and spread the infection.

Thanks for spreading the word.  Happy Holidays.

- Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman, 
  Hoffmaster State Park