Sunday, December 20, 2015

City of Muskegon Christmas Bird Count

Three groups of our club members and others conducted the City of Muskegon Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015.  (See numbers above.)

These photos of the north group birding Muskegon State Park from Snug Harbor to the Channel to the Lake Michigan shoreline show the cold, dry, partly cloudy conditions.  Strong northwest winds kept most birds hunkered down and out of sight.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21 Field Trip Report

Thirteen of us put up with snow covering the ground, filling the air, and melting on our binoculars at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve this morning.  Eight continued on to Snug Harbor.  We recorded a dozen bird species at each location and a total of 16 species for the day.

Notable at the preserve were 15 American Tree Sparrows, a Pied-billed Grebe, 3 Fox Sparrows and a first-year White-crowned Sparrow.  Snug Harbor provided another Pied-billed Grebe and an appropriate sixteenth species: Dark-eyed Junco (the "snow bird").

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 17 Field Trip Report, Etc.

Seven birders recorded 27 bird species this morning on Charlie's field trip to Black Lake Park.

It snowed briefly as we walked along the ditch bordering the south side of the property and duck hunter shotguns occasionally blasted west of us by the lake.

Birds of note included Eastern Phoebe, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sandhill Crane (2 flying overhead), Hermit Thrush, Hairy Woodpecker (excavating a tall tree stump),

American Coot (200+ on the lake despite the hunters), Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Cooper's Hawk (flew over the meadow, then perched in a distant tree),

and this pair of curious Eastern Bluebirds:

The sun came out for our last half hour but it still remained cold!

- Ric

PS:  Thanks to Greg for conducting Thursday's meeting while Carol and I dealt with the aftermath of a branch falling on our garage roof.  No one hurt and not a lot of damage, but definitely memorable!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

September 19 Field Trip Report

The rain stopped before our monthly field trip began.  Seven of us walked the protected trails of the Kitchell-Lindquist Dunes Preserve and the windy north side of the Grand Haven Channel this morning recording 30 species of birds.

In the woods of the preserve we saw Swainson's Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, a female Scarlet Tanager and some warblers including Yellow-rumped Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawk migrated overhead.

The highlight was a sleeping Eastern Whip-Poor-Will brought to our attention by a mobbing group of chickadees and nuthatches that must have mistaken it for a raptor.

Merlin greeted us at the north pier parking lot and seven Sanderling fought the strong winds while foraging along the Lake Michigan shoreline north of the pier.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 15 Field Trip Report

Twelve of us (not counting unexcused tardy individuals) birded the Wastewater properties this morning without seeing a single Tree Swallow!.

 Photo by Carol Cooper

We recorded 50 bird species (49 not including the pair of Egyptian Geese in Churning Lagoon #3, or 51 including the eight phalaropes in non-breeding plumage swimming too far out on the West Lagoon to I.D.) notably Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Sandhill Crane, White-rumped Sandpiper (SE corner of East Lagoon), Bank, Barn & Cliff Swallows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Cedar Waxwing, Dickcissel, Bobolink and a Common Raven flying from the landfill to a sprinkler unit east of Swanson where it "crawked".

 Great Blue Heron by Carol DeWitt

Without enough dry habitat in Churning Lagoon #2 shorebirds were confined to the small lagoon (#5) and the edges of the big lagoons.  We gave eBird 24 Killdeer, 9 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 12 Lesser Yellowlegs, 6 Least, 1 White-rumped, 1 Pectoral and 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper.  Sparrows were limited to 2 Chipping, 4 Field and 9 Song.

Bobolink by Charlie DeWitt

As always, lots of fun birding with a great group of people on a beautiful day!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 18 Allegan Field Trip Report

The original plan was to walk a one-mile loop on the Allegan State Game Area in the morning followed by lunch at the Crane's Orchard Restaurant.  Instead (thanks to an impressive and beautiful storm front), we headed up to Crane's as the rains came, then returned to the SGA for a partial walk at midday after the skies had cleared.

Led by Feller DeWitt, nine of us recorded 26 bird species including a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, a pair of Eastern Towhees, families of Tree Swallows and Eastern Kingbirds, 20 Sandhill Cranes, 3 Dickcissels, Barn Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings and plenty of sparrows (Field, Grasshopper, Chipping and Song).

Pardon the blurry images, but prior to the storm this Dickcissel sat for pictures, showing off his rubber-necked ability to preen.

Do not try this at home!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20 Snug Harbor Field Trip Report

Our group of twelve found 50 bird species at Snug Harbor (Muskegon State Park) this beautiful morning.  See the complete report and pictures posted today on our Recent Sightings page.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30 Montague Field Trip Report

Rains were light to moderate as Dayle Vanderwier led five people (Henderson Preserve) and four people (Clear Springs Preserve) bird-watching northeast of Montague this morning. 

No cardinals or chickadees all day!  No ducks either, though it was a good day for them.  Of the fourteen species at Henderson, notable were Green Heron, Cedar Waxwing and Black-billed Cuckoo.  Of the twelve species at Clear Springs, the Belted Kingfisher and a Magnolia Warbler were the highlights.

Of the three species outside the windows of the Harbor View Grille in Whitehall during lunch, best were the 12+ Chimney Swifts.

Despite the damp conditions, everyone had a good time!

Hope to see you on our summer field trips (see side bar for dates and places).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 23 Big Day Count Report

Another very large THANK YOU to all nineteen people who took part in our Big Day Count Saturday (May 23, 2015).  A special thanks to Marc Miedema for bringing his little tape player and Travis Dewys for taking photos of the event.

It was cold and the birds were not easily gotten.  Here are the 108 bird species that we found and where we found them:

Lane's Landing:  American Robin, Whip-poor-will, Northern Cardinal, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, American Woodcock, Pied-billed Grebe, Canada Goose, Common Yellowthroat, Gray Catbird, Wood Duck, Red-winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Mourning Dove, Common Grackle, Sandhill Crane, Marsh Wren, European Starling, Mallard, Tree Swallow, Wild Turkey, Alder Flycatcher, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Least Flycatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, American Goldfinch, Great Crested Flycatcher, American Crow, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Wood-pewee, Black-capped Chickadee, Baltimore Oriole, Downy Woodpecker, Indigo Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Warbling Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Sora, Barn Swallow, Least Bittern, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue Jay, Brown Thrasher, Double-crested Cormorant and Turkey Vulture.

Muskegon County Wastewater System:  Killdeer, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Shoveler, Eastern Meadowlark, Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Bank Swallow, Blue-winged Teal, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Brewer's Blackbird, Wilson's Snipe, Horned Lark, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, American Wigeon, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Rock Pigeon, White-rumped Sandpiper, Ruddy Duck, Belted Kingfisher, American Coot, Eared Grebe, ** Black Scoter **, Bald Eagle, Horned Grebe and Bonaparte's Gull.

State Game Area Headquarters:  House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Scarlet Tanager, House Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Blue-winged Warbler, Bobolink, American Bittern, Vesper Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve:  Caspian Tern and Mute Swan.

Snug Harbor:  Common Loon.

Muskegon Channel across from USS Silversides:  Purple Martin.

Ellis Road:  Eastern Phoebe and Chipping Sparrow.

- Feller DeWitt

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Final Club Meeting of This Season

Our annual potluck picnic meeting was Thursday May 21 at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve pavilion.  Everyone enjoyed the food, companionship and a bird walk afterward on a cool, beautiful evening.

Thanks to Carol Cooper for many of the preparations, the cake and these photos from the event.

New Book on Birds of Ottawa County

A new book, Birds of Ottawa County, Michigan: An Annotated Checklist, includes the most up-to-date information on the 328 species of birds that have been observed in Ottawa County over the years. Each species account includes current breeding status and describes when the bird is present in the county and how likely you are to see each species at the appropriate time of the year. There is additional information on range, natural history and locations for many species. There are also seasonal bar graphs for each species that quickly show when each bird is present and how common it is when it is present. In addition to the species accounts and graphs, the book lists over 20 of the best birding locations and provides valuable information about birding in Ottawa County.
The book is coauthored by Chip Francke, Carl Manning, and Judi Manning. The authors volunteered all their time writing and researching this publication. Ottawa County Parks funded the project and all proceeds from book sales will go to the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Michigan artist Amelia Hansen including an original color painting of Pileated Woodpeckers for the front cover. Over 25 of her excellent black and white bird illustrations are found throughout this publication. Amelia was chosen to be the 2015 International Migratory Bird Day artist. You can see more of her work at the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center. Local Muskegon graphic designer Amy Gustin completed the layout of the book and created the seasonal bar graphs.

The 156 page book costs $14.95 and can be purchased at the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center located at Hemlock Crossing County Park in Port Sheldon Township (closed Monday). For more information, please call 616-786-4847.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Howard Christensen Field Trip Report

Five of us enjoyed Greg Swanson's guided tour of the Howard Christensen Nature Center this morning.  

Of 49 bird species, we found only seven warblers (Blue-winged, Nashville, Black-throated Green, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellow-throat).  Not even a Yellow!  And no bluebirds!

Notables included the waterthrush, Ruffed Grouse, Common Raven and Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Others were Green Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sandhill Crane, Great Crested Flycatcher (vocalizing all over the property, including a pair at their nest), Veery, Wood Thrush, Eastern Towhee, Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager.

That's the least-blurry tanager photo.  Greg suggested I post the blurriest as a Vermillion Flycatcher:

And if you believed that, then you'll also believe that these are birds:

Suffice that we enjoyed everything from snails to frogs to pigs (Penelope) this beautiful spring morning.

- Ric

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


May 9, 2015
North American Migration Count
Brian Johnson

May 16, 2015
Howard Christensen Nature Center
Greg Swanson

May 21, 2015
Potluck Picnic Meeting
Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve
Ric Pedler

Potluck picnic supper at 6:00.  Bring a dish to pass.  Park in the outer lot and walk in to the pavilion.  Brief business meeting afterward including election of officers for 2015-2016.  Conclude with a bird-walk around the nature preserve.  

May 23, 2015
Feller DeWitt

The hard-core group will go all day from 4:45 a.m. until dark.  Beginning at the outer gate at Lane's Landing we will spend several hours birding the Lane's Landing marsh and woods.  Then it's State Game Area headquarters for late-morning birding and brown-bag-lunch at the headquarters building.  Early afternoon at the Wastewater properties.  Late afternoon wherever necessary species may take us.  Supper at the McDonald's restaurant in North Muskegon, then to the other side of the interersection looking for birds at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve before heading west to Muskegon State park's Snug Harbor woods and north side of Muskegon Channel.  Everyone is welcome to bird with us all day or any part of the day.  Our object: to count as many bird species as possible in one day and have as much fun as possible doing it.

May 30, 2015
Montague Area Field Trip
Dayle Vanderwier

The same as in past years, we will meet at McDonald's on Apple at US-31, leave there around 8:00 a.m. going to Henderson Nature Preserve, then Clear Stream, and ending up at the White River Nature Trail in Whitehall.

(See the Sidebar for our three summer field trips.  Details about those will be posted here later.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Meeting and Field Trip

Vice-president Judy Fleener presided over our meeting on Thursday night April 16. Kathleen Hansen and Barb Jensen presented their program "Ospreys".

Ken Sherburn and Liz Notman led our Saturday April 18 Field Trip at the Upper Macatawa Natural Area.  Several club members and others enjoyed a morning when both the weather and the birding improved as the day went on. 

Bonnie Kott recorded the following list of 40+ bird species seen by the group and Carol Cooper provided the pictures of a baby Painted Turtle, Hermit Thrush and Tree Swallow.

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Virginia Rail
Sandhill Crane
Wilson's Snipe

Gull (species)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Black-and-white Warbler
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 21 Ottawa County Field Trip

On Saturday morning Feller DeWitt led a group of 14 from Harbor Island to Chinook Pier (added Charlie) to Grand Haven State Park to Pigeon Lake to Hemlock Crossing.  We counted 44 bird species along the way.

Highlights included Pied-billed & Horned Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Song Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon and Wood Duck on the island, White-winged Scoter at the pier, Long-tailed Duck at the park, Brown Creeper and Pileated Woodpecker at the lake, and Eastern Bluebird, American Tree Sparrow and Pine Siskin at the crossing.

Thanks to Carol Cooper for these photos from Hemlock Crossing:

Our Gang, relaxed

Pine Siskin, acrobatic

Red-bellied Woodpecker, male

White-breasted Nuthatch, female, plus siskin

Friday, February 20, 2015

February: Beautiful Program / No Field Trip

For those who braved the cold weather Thursday night, Charlie DeWitt's beautiful photos and information about the plants and wildlife around Black Lake was well worth the effort.

There was no February Field Trip.  We canceled the Allegan trip due to unpredictable weather.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January Fieldtrip: Wastewater and Northside

Eleven of us birded the Wastewater properties this morning and eight continued to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve and a late lunch at the Main Street Pub and Eatery in North Muskegon.

The Wastewater provided 24 bird species including Snow Bunting, Snowy Owl and eagles of various flavors.  Highlights included four Wilson Snipe in the open water ditches of the rapid filtration lagoons and six Common Raven (3 east of Swanson northeast of the East Lagoon and 3 more at the landfill).

We found 20 species at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve including a Tundra Swan and an American Robin.

Thanks to Ken Sherburn for leading the trip and to Travis Dewys for his photos of birders and Snow Buntings at the Wastewater and an American Tree Sparrow at the nature preserve.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pictures and Awards at January 15 Meeting

On Thursday evening January 15 Carol Cooper presented a program of photographs with musical accompaniment: beautiful pictures of Michigan birds, wildlife, plants and landscapes most from the Greater Muskegon area.

Ken Sapkowski received his top birder trophy (hand-crafted by Feller DeWitt) for finding 290 species of birds in Michigan last year (sixth best in the state!).  Ric Pedler earned a seedy trophy for finishing last.  Others in the contest were Charlie DeWitt, Feller DeWitt, Carol Cooper and Kathryn Mork (not pictured).

Photograph by Glenda Eikenberry using Carol Cooper's camera.