Thursday, July 19, 2018

House Wren Slo-Motion - 17 Jul 2018

I spent a bit of time this evening out in the field behind the house trying to video capture House Wrens bringing food to almost-fledged youngster(s) in the bluebird box. I set the Sony a6300 to high-speed capture while attached to the spotting scope so that I wasn't too close for the parents. I managed to capture 3 clips that I merged into a single slo-motion video. I had to scrap another 30 minutes of video when the parent(s) refused to come to the box, but instead scolded me from the nearby branches.

Here's the video:

Monday, July 16, 2018

In Search Of... 08 Jul 2018

King Rails! Jan Palland photographed what appeared to be a pair of King Rails with 4 babies in the Long Pond Unit yesterday. I decided to go see if I could find them this evening. That meant having to hike through thistle and other sorts of pickery plants.

I would dip on the rails, but did have a chance to chase a Dickcissel through the Long Pond meadows next to the North Causeway. That included some bushwhacking and trudging through very soft mud. But I got a few pics, and even found a cooperative Bobolink on the way out.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shorebirds Have Returned! - 07 Jul 2018

Fall migration is officially on! After almost 2 weeks of unbearably hot weather a cold front moved in Thursday night, bringing cooler winds and southbound shorebirds to SE Michigan.

This morning I rode the Middle Causeway to the Pumphouse and headed south to check the Bad Creek Unit. Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers had arrived! I managed to photograph a flock of 11 Short-billed Dowitchers flying overhead.  Though the flooded field is quite grassy, there are patches of open water farther south that held more shorebirds, so check them out!

Note barring on flanks of left bird and spotting on right bird; both presumed to be L. h. hendersonii

Seeing 10 Sandhill Cranes in the Bad Creek Unit was a nice treat, as well.

I headed back to the Middle Causeway and rode out along the east side of the Lautenschlager Unit to see if it held any shorebirds. The unit was dry and grass-covered. The only consolation was a Dickcissel singing next to the trail. If flew off before I could photograph it. So, I turned the scope on a singing Indigo Bunting. 

The west end of the Long Pond Unit looks like it will be good for shorebirds in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the dike is grown over with thistle and Bull Thistle that are 6' tall that will tear you apart if you attempt to ride through them w/ a bike. I know, I have the scratches and blood as proof. Still, It will be worth checking out in the coming weeks.

Heading along the North Causeway toward the Vermet Unit I found good habitat in the Long Pond Unit near the northeast corner. A pair of Short-billed Dowitchers were foraging among a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 dozen Caspian Terns, and about 4 dozen Mallard.

The west end of the Vermet Unit may be good for shorebirds in the coming weeks, but right now is high enough to deter any migrants.

I rode out out past the Vermet along the North Causeway past Cell 5/6 and found it flooded. A dozen Redhead and half-dozen Pied-billed Grebes were the only inhabitants.

Greater Scaup and Redhead
The north end of Cell 4/5  held a small raft of Redhead. Among them were a Lesser Scaup, a suspected Greater Scaup, and a Canvasback.

Lesser Scaup

Redhead and Canvasback

I then rode south along the Banana to check out Cell 3. It actually has open water and good mudflats in its center, but is completely obscured by willow trees and heavy vegetation. One will need to bushwhack in order to see any potential shorebirds; I will try in a week or two.

The Humphries Unit is high with water, but the cattail marsh looks nice. There were no ducks or coot to be seen.

I then headed back west along the Middle Causeway and spotted 3 Yellow-headed Blackbirds flying by as I looked overhead at a calling Greater Yellowlegs.

Back at the Pump House I counted a flock of 70 Tree Swallows that included a few Bank Swallows and Barn Swallows.

A trip to the Antennae Farm on Haggerman Rd. yielded 4 calling Dickcissels. I found 12 just last week, so the area is good for them and Bobolink. I even spotted an Eastern Meadowlark near the fence. Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrows are also common here. Just make sure to stay to the far right of the road and drive w/ two wheels on the grass. The ruts in the middle of the road will eat your car or truck.

So, best bets for shorebirds right now are:

Bad Creek Unit - large flooded field; scope needed.
Walpatich Unit - south end has shallow water; north end worth checking.
Long Pond Unit - west end, and north side along North Causeway.
Vermet Unit - west side, but currently high with water.
Cell 3 - center had mudflats and open water, but bushwhacking required. Take care to not sink in mud or get stuck.

Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe, Michigan, US
Jul 7, 2018 7:07 AM - 9:17 AM
Protocol: Traveling
11.214 mile(s)
Comments:     Breezy, but clear and cooler; first shorebirds of the fall have arrived!
42 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  72
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  76
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)  1     Cell 5
Redhead (Aythya americana)  24
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)  1     suspected male among Canvasback and Redhead. Rounded head and bill nail that is large. Head more rounded than nearby Lesser Scaup.
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  1     Cell 5
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  8
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  2
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  3
Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)  10     Bad creek unit; all ten birds together and easy to count. 11 birds were seen last week in Long Pond Unit.
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  24
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  10
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)  15     Bad Creek Unit. A flock of 11 flew overhead;
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  8
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)  1     Bad creek unit; single bird along shoreline with bright eye-ring and clean white breast. Disappeared in grass before I could photograph it.
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)  8
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)  19
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)  12
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  2
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  12
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)  2
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  2
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  35
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)  24
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  24
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)  5
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  72
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  3
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  2
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  6
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)  1
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)  8
Dickcissel (Spiza americana)  1     Laughtenschlager unit along side of dike. Flew off before I could Digiscope it. Seen by Mike Mencotti, as well. Singing "Di-di-Di"
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)  3     Middle Causeway
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  36
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  6

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 ( 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Horned Grebe! - 28 Jun 2018

The fall migration season is still about a week away. July 4th is the unofficial start of the fall shorebird season. The first Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Lesser/Greater Yellowlegs will arrive to a mudflat near you.  But not tonight.

I haven't been out in several weeks, so I was happy to bike and bird the state game area. Parking at Mouillee Creek I rode out to the Pump House to see if any shorebirds were around. None. The mudflats were covered with vegetation, but still may be worthwhile when the shorebirds do arrive.

Indigo Buntings were abundant this evening. I spotted several along the dikes, but none were cooperative. I had to take long-distance photos as they tended to flush like a March Pintail.

I found nothing exciting to report until I reached the SW corner of Cell 4. I saw several pair of Redhead, and a pair of Lesser Scaup. But one bird was showing a flash of yellow on the head that looked out of place. When I got the scope on it I realized I was looking at a Horned Grebe! Wow, I've never seen one this late in the season.

This bird was gorgeous! And, in perfect light, so I spent a half-hour digiscoping it from about 50' away. It kept fluttering its wings while it preened, but then would rise up, flap its wings, and spin 180 degrees before settling back down.

I then circled around Cell 3. There is a patch of open water, but its buried in willow trees. It may attract a good many shorebirds, but some bushwhacking will be required in order to see anything.

I found a painted turtle sitting in the middle of dike between Vermet and Cell 4, so I picked it up and rode down to the North Causeway where I let it go. In the NW corner of the Vermet Unit I found 9 Sandhill Cranes, plus 3 more that flew in as I moved on. An Osprey appeared overhead carrying a large branch; made for a nice silhouette.

A note to all. If you decide to ride the dike separating the Long Pond and Nelson Units, wear sleeves. I took the dike immediately west of the Long Pond and had to ride "through" 4 ft tall thistle overgrowing the trail. That wasn't so bad until I ran into 6' tall Bull thistle that left me bloodied by the time I got the bike through it. The only good news out of it was learning that the west end of the Long Pond should be good for shorebirds in the coming weeks.

I returned to the car and took a drive down Haggerman Rd. Another word to the wise: Stay to the right side of the road and hug the grass - the center of the road has deep, deep ruts that will eat your car or truck.  But, it was worth the risk as I found up to 12 Dickcissels singing along the fence line and Antennae Farm. Another dozen or so Bobolink were actively nesting in the area, as well.  I was able to get some wonderful digiscoped images of a female and male Dickcissel.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Kayak Birding - 16 Jun 2018

It was hot and humid this evening, but a great time to be in the kayak. I put in at the Roberts Road boat launch at Pt. Mouillee and paddled almost ¾ of the shoreline to the Middle Causeway. The waters were calm, and it was wonderful to disappear into the cattail marsh. Highlights included a Least Bittern and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Common Gallinules and American Coot provided a few nice photos, as well as several Great Egrets up close.

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