This morning we drove up Co-65 to Charlevoix and stopped at Fisherman's Island State Park. Skies were mostly clear and temps were to hit mid-high 70's, so it was an ideal morning to walk the beach. At the foot of Bells Bay Rd. I scoped the lake, but found no birds on the water. A small flock of Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches were feeding on White Pine cones that had fallen onto the road nearby.
Walking the beach toward Fisherman's Island we initially found no birds. Then, a flock of Canada Geese flew out over the water from the dunes to our left and I managed a few flight shots. An adult Bald Eagle was then seen soaring over the trees at the tip of Fisherman's Island. Shorebirds were absent, and only a few Song Sparrows were seen flying in and out of the phragmites and ground willows lining the dunes. A Red-breasted Nuthatch trumpeted from somewhere along the shoreline cedars.
As I reached the island I managed to flush a Swamp Sparrow, and saw a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos feeding in the cedars. As I chased them I began hearing a high-pitched whistle coming from the shoreline. Hiking through the phragmites I finally recognized the "ker-wii" of an American Golden Plover.
Quickly setting up the scope I grabbed several digiscoped images of a single bird (2), (3), (4), (5)in basic plumage. After a few moments I spotted a second bird nearby, and proceeded to digiscope both birds from about 40 yds. As I followed them w/ the scope another 4 birds appeared behind several large boulders. While I waited for them to appear I spotted a Dunlin feeding among the shallow rocks lining the shore. I managed a few digiscoped images of it before moving on.
Walking back toward the car I hiked through the dunes hoping to scare up an Ammodramus sparrow, but dipped. The Ground Willows were pretty, however, so I stopped to grab a couple pics.
As we drove out of the state park I spotted my first 'winter' hawk: a Rough-legged Hawk soaring over the quarry on Bells Bay Rd. Pulling over, I leaned out the window and grabbed some flight shots as it soared toward me. As the clouds cleared and sun appeared the light-phased bird stopped and hovered directly over the car. It circled a couple more times before drifting off to the east. What a terrific bird!
Returning home along Co-65 we spotted three Sandhill Cranes feeding in a field just north of M-88.
Driving home on Sunday morning I spotted a late Eastern Meadowlark along US-127 S near Mt. Pleasant.