Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 20 City of Muskegon CBC Report

On December 20 our club conducted the City of Muskegon Christmas Bird Count.  Twenty-one people in six groups spent six hours surveying a circle within 7.5 miles of downtown Muskegon.

Dayle Vanderwier's south group of eight people counted 1,181 birds of 39 different species including a fairly dark Snowy Owl at the Muskegon Channel and the the only Cedar Waxwings (47) of the day.

Two central groups (Feller DeWitt's group of two and Charlie DeWitt's group of three) counted 993 of 17 species and 116 of 8 species respectively including the only Red-tailed Hawk and Song Sparrow of the day.

Ken Sherburn's north group of eight people counted 222 birds of 27 species in the morning including a mostly white Snowy Owl at Muskegon State Park and the only Barred Owl and Brown Creepers (4) of the day.  His group of three in the afternoon counted 149 birds of 11 species at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, all the usual suspects.

Brian Johnson began with the north group but departed and continued on to the Campground Overlook at Muskegon State Park for a shoreline count.  Two of his findings were record high numbers for the Muskegon CBC: 1 Hermit Thrush and 6 Pileated Woodpeckers (previous high of 5).  He also saw the only Cooper's Hawk, Common Redpoll, Red-headed Woodpecker and Greater Black-backed Gull of the day.

In total the participants found 2,727 birds of 50 species.

I have the Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file for National Audubon with total count numbers and an Excel (.xls) spreadsheet file with group and total count numbers if anyone wants them.  - Ric

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Two 2014 Christmas Bird Count Reports

We're processing the data from our two Christmas Bird Counts: Dec. 17 Wastewater Circle (Brian Johnson, leader) and Dec. 20 City of Muskegon Circle (Feller DeWitt, Charlie DeWitt, Ric Pedler, Ken Sherburn and Dayle Vanderwier, group leaders).

We'll post the totals once they're compiled.  Meanwhile here are four pictures (first, second and fourth by Carol Cooper) from the northside where eight people walked Muskegon State Park from 8:00 til noon finding 273 birds of 22 species (not including the thousands of distant ducks flying far out over Lake Michigan).


Saturday, November 22, 2014

November Field Trip Report

Ken, Carol, Charlie and I tolerated wet slippery conditions to bird the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve this morning.  Cell phone photo by Charlie:

For awhile there were no birds anywhere.  Really.  However, as the drizzle decreased, the birds increased, and we finished the day with 21 species.

Notable were two Tundra Swans southwest of the boardwalk, two Bald Eagle flyovers, at least three Fox Sparrows up close and personal by the feeders at the pavillion (undoubtedly aware that we had no cameras), a probable Merlin zipping through the upper branches and then out over the lake, an accipiter (probably the Cooper's Hawk who murdered Carol's cardinal a few days ago), plenty of living Northern Cardinals, some American Tree Sparrows, the sound of red-breasted nuthatch performed by a duck hunter's mallard-caller, and plenty of gunfire, several booms very close to the preserve.

- Ric

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October Field Trip Report

Without Dayle Vanderwier today, Charlie DeWitt led a group of eleven around the Wastewater properties this cold, damp, windy morning.  

Despite the conditions we recorded 37 species including a Tundra Swan, an American Wigeon, 30 American Black Duck, 3,000 Northern Shoveler, 12 Green-winged Teal, 2,000 Ruddy Duck, a Northern Harrier, 4 Bald Eagle, both Yellowleg species, 3 Pectoral Sandpiper, 75 Bonaparte's Gull, 24 American Pipit, 4 Savannah Sparrow, 7 Meadowlark and a Brown-headed Cowbird.

Thanks to Carol DeWitt for these photos of the group and an Eastern Meadowlark.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Extra Field Trips, Anyone?

     Our 2014-2015 Field Trips are posted along the left side below.  However, there are several open dates remaining if anyone is interested in organizing additional trips.
     For example, Allegan and Berrien Counties have been suggested, or the Montague area, or another trip to northern Ohio like last season.
     Besides weekdays, next year's open Saturdays include April 25, May 2 and May 30. Please let Ric know if you're interested.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Meinert Park / Flower Creek Dunes Preserve

This morning 17 people accompanied Justin Hesslinga around the Meinert Park area including the Land Conservancy of Michigan's new Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve.  Strong southwest winds made birding difficult, but forecast rains never arrived and the sun even shone for awhile.

Only eight bird species were encountered: southbound mergansers (Common or Red-breasted), a Turkey Vulture, southbound Sanderlings (four stopped briefly on the beach to chase the waves), Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, southbound terns (Common or Forsters), a Blue Jay and some Black-capped Chickadees.

This is the rare Pitcher Thistle protected and managed on the preserve:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wastewater Field Trip

Feller and Charlie DeWitt led a group of ten people around the Wastewater properties today recording 39 bird species.

Thanks to Travis Dewys for these pictures of the group and some of this morning's birds: Lesser Yellowlegs, young Red-tailed Hawk, adult Bald Eagle, and Stilt Sandpiper.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Montague Field Trip

This morning Feller led seven of us northeast of Montague around the Henderson Lake Nature Center and the Clear Springs Preserve where we recorded 14 and 17 species respectively.

Ken scans the south end of Henderson Lake.

We had several sightings of Green Heron here, plus a Least Bittern.  There were fewer birds along the north side probably due to dozens of frisbee competitors, many of them decked out professionally.

They did not frighten this pair of "wood ducks" which are ...

... according to Sibley, plastic.

Acadian Flycatchers sang at Clear Springs.  The fledgling of one begged its parent for food.  We also heard and saw at least one Yellow-throated Vireo.

Otherwise we enjoyed everyday summer birds this beautiful summer morning and didn't have enough time to bird Whitehall as had been planned.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Muskegon Lake and White Lake Surveys

July 15 Email to the Muskegon County Nature Club:

I have been working on a project with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Council, the Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce and many other local and community groups to conduct research on Muskegon Lake and White Lake and the way they are perceived by both residents and visitors. The research will be used to guide plans and investments in Muskegon County for the future.

Key to this work is getting the broadest possible cross-section of participants from Muskegon County. I am reaching out to several local organizations like yours in hopes of connecting with those individuals with a unique perspective on these issues. We have created two online surveys to make it as easy as possible for individuals to participate (click below).

Ann Tisdale
Research Associate
Traverse City, MI.

The Muskegon Lake Survey

The White Lake Survey

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Howard Christensen Field Trip

Greg Swanson led a group of seven around the Howard Christensen Nature Preserve this morning.  Although we counted 40 species of birds, this trip included many other forms of nature as well.

Chicken-of-the-Woods Mushroom 

A 15-inch flight feather from a big bird.  We'll check if this fits the dimensions of Common Raven which lives here.

(A quick internet check indicates that this is probably an American Crow feather.  Although it has a very pointy end (indicative of raven; crow's might be more blunt), the size isn't large enough for Common Raven.  If anyone with more knowledge has additional thoughts, please email me.  - Ric) 

A distant Blue-winged Warbler with food in its beak.

Common Whitetail Dragonflies were plentiful, often on the trail lumber.

Checking the marsh wildlife on the south side of the lake.

Painted Turtle

Dot-tailed Whiteface Dragonfly 

Chalk-fronted Corporal Dragonfly

Dragon flies mating.

Entering the Nature Center.

Donated bird mounts from one of the Kent County schools.

eBird Report
June 21, 2014
Howard Christensen Nature Center
2 miles
235 Minutes
Observers: 7
All birds reported? Yes

Comments: Greg Swanson's MCNC Field Trip

1 Mallard
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Mourning Dove
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Belted Kingfisher
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Great Crested Flycatcher
3 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Blue Jay
1 American Crow
3 Tree Swallow
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Tufted Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Brown Creeper
1 House Wren
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Eastern Bluebird
4 Veery
1 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
1 European Starling
2 Cedar Waxwing
1 Blue-winged Warbler
1 Black-throated Green Warbler
3 American Redstart
3 Ovenbird
3 Common Yellowthroat
1 Eastern Towhee
2 Chipping Sparrow
1 Scarlet Tanager
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
3 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 Baltimore Oriole
2 American Goldfinch

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mike Moran Photo Gallery

Thanks to Chip Francke and many others (like Steve Mueller and Greg Swanson) there is now a gallery of several of Mike Moran's 33mm color slides online.  Mike's photos used to grace the pages of our original website.  All of them were taken the old-fashioned way -- with film (and unbelievable patience)!

Michael G. Moran 1940-2008

Notice: The link to the gallery above has been adjusted to take you to all of Mike's galleries, not just the bird photos.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bluebird Trail Thanks to Volunteers !

June 6 Email:


I wanted to send you an update on our nest box monitoring project at the wastewater.  First, thank you to everyone who has volunteered so far and an extra thank you to Bob Wygant for coordinating everything.  I hope those who have volunteered were able to enjoy the experience and may volunteer again sometime.  We are nearing the half way mark for the 2014 monitoring season.  I would like to share some numbers with you, feel free to share on your website.  On the White Road Trail (40 boxes):  33 nesting attempts  4 from Eastern bluebirds, 21 from tree swallows, and 8 from house sparrows.  13 Eastern bluebird eggs, 4 young are ready to fledge any day, 82 tree swallow eggs, 10 live young to date, 9 house sparrow eggs have been shaken or holes poked in eggs.  I have attached a few pictures from the trail, please forgive the quality as I am not a photographer but thought people may be interested to see our success.  Overall, I feel this year has seen improved success.  We have fewer predator attacks but I am noticing house sparrow issues with holes being pecked in some of the tree swallow eggs (11 of the 82 eggs).

I also check 12 nest boxes on the LaPres trail.  On this trail I have 27 tree swallow eggs (5 nesting attempts) with 10 live young to date; 14 Eastern bluebird eggs (3 nesting attempts) with 5 lost due to a predator (I believe a snake or rodent as 4 eggs and 1 live young missing from nest with nest in tack).  So far no house sparrow problems on this trail.

Thank you again for your support with this project.  I hope everyone is having a great summer and hope to see you at the wastewater.

Anita Friend

Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Day: 19 People Record 127 Species

Saturday, May 17, 2014:  Charlie, Feller, Travis, Ric, Ken-1 and Jim began before 5:00 a.m. at the outer gate of Lane's Landing.

Charlie, Feller, Ken-2 and Roger ended at 8:20 p.m. along the north side of the Muskegon Channel.

Along the way via State Game Area Headquarters, the Muskegon Wastewater properties, Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve and Snug Harbor they were accompanied by Pat and Connie, Bill, Kathryn, John, Dick and Shirley, Dave and Bonnie, Brian, and Jeff.

Thanks to Charlie for the people pictures and Sherri (who was not with our group but was photographing at the Wastewater same day) for the bird pictures.  Too bad she wasn't with us or we might have added her American Pipit, Willet and Scarlet Tanager (posted on our Recent Sightings page) for an even 130!

Here, basically in the order we recorded them, are the 127 species we found and their locations:

1Woodcock, AmericanLL
2Robin, AmericanLL
3Owl, BarredLL
4Catbird, GrayLL
5Snipe, Wilson'sLL
6Sparrow, SwampLL
7Owl, Great HornedLL
8Crane, SandhillLL
10Sparrow, SongLL
11Yellowthroat, CommonLL
13Goose, CanadaLL
14Chickadee, Black-cappedLL
15Blackbird, Red-wingedLL
16Crow, AmericanLL
17Warbler, YellowLL
18Owl, Eastern Screech-LL
19Dove, MourningLL
20Coot, AmericanLL
21Teal, Blue-wingedLL
22Cardinal, NorthernLL
23Grebe, Pied-billedLL
24Heron, GreenLL
25Duck, WoodLL
26Grackle, CommonLL
27Flycatcher, WillowLL
28Kingbird, EasternLL
30Towhee, EasternLL
31Thrush, WoodLL
32Flycatcher, Great CrestedLL
33Vireo, Red-eyedLL
34Wren, MarshLL
35Merganser, HoodedLL
36Gull, HerringLL
37Night-heron, Black-crownedLL
38Cormorant, Double-crestedLL
39Grosbeak, Rose-breastedLL
40Gnatcatcher, Blue-grayLL
41Goldfinch, AmericanLL
42Flycatcher, LeastLL
43Oriole, BaltimoreLL
44Cowbird, Brown-headedLL
45Woodpecker, DownyLL
46Warbler, Black-and-WhiteLL
47Waterthrush, NorthernLL
48Phoebe, EasternLL
49Warbler, ProthonotaryLL
51Warbler, MagnoliaLL
52Woodpecker, Red-belliedLL
53Redstart, AmericanLL
54Vireo, Blue-headedLL
55Heron, Great BlueLL
56Blackbird, RustyLL
57Warbler, Yellow-rumpedLL
58Hawk, Red-tailedLL
60Thrasher, BrownLL
61Jay, BlueLL
62Bunting, IndigoLL
63Starling, EuropeanLL
64Swan, MuteLL
65Wren, HouseSGA
66Flicker, NorthernSGA
67Sparrow, HouseSGA
68Bluebird, EasternSGA
69Swallow, TreeSGA
70Swallow, BarnSGA
71Hawk, Cooper'sSGA
72Vulture, TurkeySGA
73Sparrow, ChippingSGA
74Vireo, Yellow-throatedSGA
75Sandpiper, SpottedSGA
76Rail, VirginiaSGA
77Warbler, Blue-wingedSGA
78Woodpecker, PileatedSGA
79Sparrow, VesperSGA
80Nuthatch, White-breastedSGA
81Eagle, BaldSGA
82Shoveler, NorthernWW
83Sandpiper, UplandWW
84Lark, HornedWW
85Dowitcher, Short-billedWW
86Phalarope, Wilson'sWW
87Sandpiper, LeastWW
88Sandpiper, PectoralWW
89Swallow, BankWW
90Meadowlark, EasternWW
91Swallow, CliffWW
92Scaup, LesserWW
94Turnstone, RuddyWW
95Oriole, OrchardWW
96Sandpiper, SemipalmatedWW
97Gull, Ring-billedWW
99Duck, RuddyWW
100Coot, AmericanWW
103Grebe, EaredWW
104Grebe, HornedWW
105Gull, Bonaparte'sWW
106Swallow, Northern Rough-wingedWW
107Wigeon, AmericanWW
108Turkey, WildWW
109Pintail, NorthernWW
110Falcon, PeregrineWW
111Swift, ChimneyMLNP
112Pigeon, RockMLNP
113Thrush, Swainson'sMLNP
114Sparrow, Lincoln'sMLNP
115Warbler, PalmMLNP
116Thrush, Gray-cheekedMLNP
117Finch, HouseMLNP
118Sparrow, White-crownedMLNP
119Sparrow, White-throatedMLNP
120Warbler, Wilson'sMLNP
121Vireo, WarblingMLNP
122Warbler, Cape MayMLNP
123Warbler, Black-throated GreenSnug Harbor
124Nuthatch, Red-breastedSnug Harbor
125Warbler, CanadaSnug Harbor
126Martin, PurpleChannel
127Woodpecker, Red-headedChannel

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Potluck Picnic

The 25 club members who braved the weather for our annual potluck picnic at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve Thursday evening enjoyed comradery, delicious food, and such warblers as Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-and-White, Magnolia, Wilson's and Northern Parula.  Photos (and cake) by Carol Cooper.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Northern Ohio: 10 Birders, 100 Species

Tuesday through Thursday (April 29-May 1) John & Betty, Dick & Shirley, Jerry & Alison, Ken, Dayle, John and I birded around Toledo (Magee Marsh, Metzger Marsh, Oak Openings).  Warm summer weather on Tuesday morphed to winterish by Thursday. All days were windy, but it never rained while we were birding, and we had a great time.

Highlights included "walking into summer" on Tuesday afternoon. It was shirtsleeve weather as Ken, John and Dayle walked the Oak Lodge ranger station trail at the southeast corner of Oak Openings (below).  Lots of towhees and sparrows (including Field Sparrows singing in Ohio dialect and Lark Sparrows further east along Girdham Road).

Why had we worried about too many birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk?  On Tuesday evening we had it almost to ourselves (below); the same early Wednesday morning.  Later on Wednesday and through Thursday morning there were still precious few birders, maybe half a dozen per hundred yards of boardwalk? 

Highlights at Magee Marsh included two male American Woodcocks dancing and displaying around a female with one male "winning the competition", then flying a victory circle above our heads as lightning flashed all around just before dark on Tuesday.

On Wednesday evening a Summer Tanager flew in for excellent views by John, Ken, Dayle and me.  As of this writing the local photographer who snapped several photos of this beautiful but weirdly-plumaged bird (see Sibley's drawing of the first spring male) has not sent photos, but I'll post them here when/if he does.  Probably the same bird displayed at the same place the next morning for the rest of our group (and Connie who showed up that day)! 

Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos were seen by some of us, Prothonotary and Canada Warblers by others.  Blue-headed and Warbling Vireos were everywhere, as were Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Wood Ducks.  Mama eagle kept ripping food that Daddy kept bringing to their nest near the parking lot; a Sora walked around on his ridiculous green feet shortly after noon at Metzger Marsh; we had the greatest feather-counting view of a male Rusty Blackbird just below the Magee boardwalk, and of a woodcock almost as close probing its long beak full-length into the muck while still looking up with eyes set closer to the back than the front of its head; the trumpeter swans blared on their trombone mouthpieces; etc., etc., etc.  

We tallied 100 species for the trip: red-winged and rusty blackbird, bluebird, cardinal, catbird, chickadee, coot, cormorant, cowbird, crane, creeper, crow, dove, ring-necked, ruddy and wood duck, bald eagle, great egret, flicker, least flycatcher, gnatcatcher, goldfinch, goose, grackle, pied-billed grebe, grosbeak, Bonaparte's and herring Gull, Cooper's, broad-winged and red-tailed hawk, great blue and green heron, jay, junco, kestrel, killdeer, kingbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, mallard, martin, red- and white- breasted nuthatch, Baltimore and orchard oriole ...

... osprey, parula, phoebe, pigeon, Virginia rail, robin, shoveler, sora, nine "sparrows" (chipping, field, house, lark, Lincoln's, song, swamp, white-crowned and white-throated), starling, rough-winged and tree swallow, mute (not in Ohio) and trumpeter swan, scarlet and summer tanager, blue-winged teal, Caspian and common tern, thrasher, hermit and wood thrush, titmouse, towhee, turkey, blue-headed, warbling, white-eyed and yellow-throated vireo ...

... vulture, black-and-white, black-throated green, Blackburnian, blue-winged, Canada, magnolia, Nashville, palm, prothonotary, yellow and yellow-rumped warbler, woodcock, downy, red-bellied and red-headed woodpecker, wren and yellowthroat.

For the trip our gang recorded 13 warblers (eleven "named warblers" above plus Northern Parula and Common Yellowthroat).  We thought we should have had redstarts and ovenbirds too, but did not.

Of our pre-trip "target birds" (Lark Sparrow, Summer Tanager and Blue Grosbeak) only the grosbeak eluded us, probably because we were too early in the season, possibly because they were hunkered down from the wind.

- Ric

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Four Nature Club Events in May

May 3
Grand Haven Field Trip
Ken Sapkowski

May 10
North American Migration Count
Brian Johnson

May 15
Potluck Meeting
Details in May Newsletter

May 17
Big Day Count
Feller DeWitt & Ric Pedler

This annual club event was originally 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's event will follow the same pattern that we've followed this century. A few hard-core individuals will meet at the outer Lane's Landing yellow gate before 5:00 a.m. to listen for night birds. At 5:00 they will drive the one-mile Lane's Landing road, pausing to listen along the way, and park their cars near the inner yellow gate.

From there they will add additional species by ear until the sky provides enough light to see the birds. As other people gradually arrive, the group will bird the trail north along the marsh and woodlands to the Muskegon River, then back to the cars, and then back to the outer gate.

Sometime mid-morning they'll drive up Maple Island Road to the State Game Area headquarters to bird along the Maple River and eat brown-bag lunches on the porch of the DNR office building.

Early afternoon will find them driving and birding the Wastewater properties. Late afternoon might find them anywhere, searching for species that have eluded them so far.

Supper is usually 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. In the final light of day they'll drive out to Lake Michigan and south to the Muskegon Channel in hopes of some final species.

Non-die-hards may join and leave this core group anytime throughout the day. Don't forget food and drink if you plan to lunch with us at SGA headquarters and bug repellent if you don't plan to be lunch for mosquitoes at the wetland areas. If you have a walkie-talkie, tune it to Channel 11, Subchannel 00.

We hope to see you for at least part of this annual event!  You do not need to be a club member to participate.

Click here and then scroll down to see last year's Big Day report with photos and the list of 125 bird species recorded.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sarrett Nature Center and Brown Sanctuary

On Saturday April 19 fifteen of us headed down to Berrien County to bird the Sarrett Nature Center and Brown Sanctuary.  It was a beautiful cool spring morning with plenty of birds.

Highlights of the 42 species included Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged Teal, Eastern Towhee, Wood Duck, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, White-throated, Swamp and Field Sparrow, American Coot and three Great Egret north of the nature center.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Author's Muskegon Program Needs R.S.V.P.

Author Joel Greenberg will be speaking at Muskegon's Lakeshore Museum Center, 430 W. Clay Ave., at 6:00 p.m. May 21, 2014.

His talk "Hope is a Thing with Feathers: Americans and Three Birds" will include information about the Passenger Pigeon, subject of his fourth book A Feathered River Across the Sky; the Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction.

Space is limited so please call 231-722-0278 if you plan to attend.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wastewater Bluebird Box Monitoring

Anita Friend, a chemist at the Muskegon County Wastewater System and liason person for the birding community, presented details at our March club meeting for monitoring the bluebird boxes along White Road extending east from the headquarters area.  Her instructions and images below describe in detail how that process will work.

Anyone wishing to volunteer on this project should contact Anita at the phone number below.  Bob Wygant will do the monitoring the weeks of April 7 and April 14.

   1.  Contact Anita Friend (231-724-3457) to schedule a day to check the nest boxes.  If no one has called by Wednesday, she will contact Bob Wygant and he will monitor the nest boxes for that week.

   2.  Obtain a Visitor's Pass and Field Data Sheets from the Wastewater Administration Building’s main desk Monday through Friday.  Please note that all header information is already filled in for each nest box.

   3.  Monitor the nest boxes.  Anita will demonstrate how to do this for first-time volunteers.

   4.  Return the Field Data Sheets to the main desk at the Administration Building. 

All field data is entered into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nestwatch website, and an end-of-season report will be given to the Michigan Bluebird Society.

Thank you for helping with this exciting project!  Please do not hesitate to call Anita with questions, concerns or feedback.