Monday, September 21, 2015

Detroit River Hawk Fest '15 - 20 Sep 2015

After several days of SW winds and a Saturday morning storm front, Sunday was looking to be a great day for hawk watching at Detroit River Hawk Watch at Lake Erie Metropark in s. Wayne Co., MI. Skies were going to be clear-to-partly cloudy with winds from the NE. Coupled with the 'peak' of Broad-winged Hawk migration occurring at this time in September the anticipation (and crowd level) was high for a huge movement of raptors across the river. They did not disappoint. Although birds were high, there were several large kettles of birds during the late morning hours, and a steady stream of birds late in the afternoon that pushed the day's count to 20,491 birds. Of that total, 20, 145 were Broad-wings!

Robin and I parked at the Lake Erie Metropark Marina and rode bikes down to the boat launch where the count was being held. A large crowd of hawk enthusiasts were present, and I immediately immersed myself among them. Very little breeze was present, and only a trickle of Sharp-shinned Hawks moved through before 10-10:30 am. These birds were high in the sky, which didn't portend good luck for photography today.

The first kettles of Broad-winged Hawks didn't materialize until ~11 am and they were high overhead, as well. But they kettled just next to the sun and provided limited viewing and photographing before streaming west.

The largest kettle came a short while later, producing about 3600 birds! The birds streamed directly overhead, then congregated behind us, allowing great views and some nice photographs. Among them was a single Swainson's Hawk (light-phased juvenile) that several of us failed to notice.

An Osprey made a close pass mid-afternoon and was the highlight until things got busy just as I left at 3 pm. Birds were far to the south and streaming across the river at a height that was barely in binocular range. As late afternoon would progress the birds would gradually drift northward until directly overhead. By then, I was already home and chasing kittens through the grass while trying to put the car away.

Big numbers are expected for Monday, as well.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Recent Yard Treats - 19 Sep 2015

This Nashville Warbler appeared throughout the day last Saturday here in Brownstown and represents the 2nd warbler seen this fall. My first, a Chestnut-sided Warbler appeared a few days earlier, but was too quick to photograph from the back window.

Last appearance of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was this past Wednesday. But last Saturday a pair of birds were squabbling near the feeder and I managed to digiscope one bird attempting to drink from below the flower / port. I had no luck following it as it flew to the Cardinal Flower just below.

After Sunday's great outing to Holiday Beach I came home and spent a half-hour looking for migrating hawks from the back yard. I found 2 Broad-winged Hawks, and a pair of American Kestrels (at left) soaring overhead. Score!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

HawkFest 2015 @ Holiday Beach, ON - 13 Sep 2015

Robin and I crossed the Ambassador Bridge and traveled to Holiday Beach Conservation Area for their annual Hawk Festival. A strong NW breeze was blowing on a clear-to-partly cloudy and conditions were ripe for a great flight. It did not disappoint. Holiday Beach would report 8,000+ birds, while Detroit River Hawk Watch would report 16,000+ birds. Most (~7500) were Broad-winged Hawks with Sharp-shinned Hawks pulling fewer numbers but giving much closer looks. The day's summary from HawkCount is here.

We arrived about 10 am and headed to the Hawk Tower where a dozen birders were actively following Sharpies that were blasting by at relatively close range. I spent some time photographing them against a bright sun that produced dark exposures.

As the first Broad-winged Hawks appeared a Swainson's Hawk was among them, but I missed it. I was busy trying to photograph the close-approaching birds.

As I glanced down along the shoreline I noticed a group of people milling around the trailhead; a Red-tailed Hawk was sitting on the trail and was spreading both wings in a threatening posture. It would sit in this catatonic state for about 20 minutes; enough time for me to get down and take some digiscoped images. BTW, it had just been banded and released and wasn't quite over the experience. It flew away shortly.

Meanwhile, a number of mist-netted Sharp-shinned Hawks were being brought to the base of the tower for measurements and release.

A Merlin was also captured and made a great subject even after release.

I returned to the tower top for a bit and photographed more hawks, including a nice Red-tailed Hawk.

My Digiscoping Demonstration never got off the ground. It was impossible to compete with the number of hawks being released nearby, as folks were glued to the stage. We didn't mind. I took a few pics of fly-by Sharpies, and watched a nice kettle of about 2000 Broad-wings flying north of the tower.

We would head back across the bridge at about 1 pm.

Next week is the Detroit River Hawk Watch Festival, and many are anticipating an even bigger flight! Stay tuned...

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Not-So Humbug Morning - 07 Sep 2015

Sunrise brought rich, crimson skies and wet, dewy vegetation at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway. Today was going to be a hot one, with temps in the upper 80's and humidity near 100%, so I began to second-guess my decision to wear waders. But it wasn't too bad. The scenery (and birds!) more than made up for the bit of discomfort.

As the sun rose over the Detroit River the Double-crested Cormorants were nicely back-lit against the red skies. The main pond was still, with a velvet-buck foraging along the far side (near the road) while I watched a pair of Great Egrets forage closer-by.

As I looked around me the fields were nicely back-lit against the rising sun. Non-native Setaria grass (thanks for the ID Julie Craves) and spider webs bejeweled the landscape.

Large clumps of Boneset grew all around me, while newly-flowing Goldenrod popped up in sporadic locations.

I worked my way around construction equipment and made for the start of the trail at the north fence. I hadn't explored the trails in several years and was anxious to see what new surprises might be in store. Creatures were starting to stir, and a Monarch Butterfly larvae made a most-endearing subject for the flash. Nearby, boxelder bugs were congregating on milkweed pods that had yet to open. Rough-leaved Dogwoods (thanks again, Julie!) lined the trails and obscured my view of the ponds to my right.

The sun hadn't quite reached the trails, yet, so the ground was wet and lines of silk were everywhere! One point for waders...

With the place still under construction there hasn't been much trail maintenance, so the path was encroaching ahead of me. Not too bad at this point, but it will be much cleaner looking (I'm assuming) once the refuge opens for regular visitors.

As I walked I looked, and listened, for birds. Black-capped Chickadees were all about, and an occasional White-breasted Nuthatch broke the monotony of their song. Eastern Wood-Pewee could be heard in the distance singing its "Pee-a-wiiii" song, but I couldn't relocate it without leaving the trail.

The woods were quietly impressive. I love seeing the massive oaks and the dark, shadowy trees fading in the distance. Clumps of mushrooms (ID unknown at this time) were sprouting everywhere; on the trail and off.

As I returned toward the fields I finally got close enough to a pair of House Wrens that chattered at my presence. They were two of about 8 total wrens seen and heard during my walk, but the only two that were close enough point a camera at.  They didn't disappoint!

First signs of autumn were present, as well. The Hickory Trees were starting to brown-up and show some of the their mottled, yellow colors. A single Staghorn Sumac showed brilliant red leaves against the still-green vegetation lining the small stream that exploded with Wood Ducks on my approach.

With the heat coming on and the sun starting to bake me, I didn't spend too much time back in the field. But I did want to grab a few pics of the sunflowers and milkweed growing in sparse patches.

A lovely way to start a Labor Day Holiday.

Thank you, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, for allowing me access to this gem of nature on the Detroit River! More photos to follow.

Detroit River IWR -- Humbug Marsh (restricted access), Wayne, Michigan, US
Sep 7, 2015 7:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments: Hot, humid, relatively quiet morning; Special access.
35 species

Canada Goose 15
Wood Duck 4
Mallard 7
Ring-necked Pheasant 1 heard only
Double-crested Cormorant 25
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 2
Green Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Ring-billed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Tree Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 8
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
House Wren 8
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 30
Song Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-winged Blackbird 24
Common Grackle 12
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 2

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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