Monday, June 19, 2017

Conservancy Farm Grasslands - 18 Jun 2017



Earlier in the week Jack Smiley and Professor Siri Jayaratne reported Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Henslow's Sparrow and Sedge Wren at Conservancy Farm in Superior Township. Since everyone in Michigan had been posting photos of Dickcissels from all over SE Michigan I felt it was time I got in on the fun. So, I grabbed the gear and headed to Conservancy Farm via Willow Run Airport in Romulus.

The grass around Willow Run Airport had just been mowed, so I thought my chances for an Upland Sandpiper were about nil. I was correct. Savannah Sparrows were all over the place, though, so that was good. I even heard several Eastern Meadowlarks singing from the burns to my left as I drove the south end of the airport. A Bobolink was perched on the fence to my right, but flew off as I pulled up.
I heard a Dickcissel singing next to the fence to my left, but refused to show itself. Winds were picking up so I wasn't too surprised. I would see two more Dickcissels before driving out of the airport.

An American Kestrel was perched on the fence and flushed as I drove by. I felt bad as it had just dropped the mouse it caught in the field nearby.

I arrived at Conservancy Farm and saw several Eastern Bluebirds perched on the bluebird boxes posted around the organic gardens. Debbie Edwards-Onoro and her husband were there, and I got the chance to meet them and chat a bit before we continued around the garden area.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were perched in the shrubs near the fence where feeders were placed. I had my first experience of watching a male court a female by performing an arial, U-shaped flight pattern by swooping down on a female while flaring its gorget feathers. For several minutes it swooped up, then swooped back down trying to impress one of two females in the area. I managed to get lucky and a get a few digiscoped images of the male as he turned my way. Gorgeous!



A small sparrow was singing inside the garden area and making a "Zeep" call that had us thinking Henslow's Sparrow, but it would take a bit of research to conclude that it was a baby Song Sparrow. Note the dark bill. Baby Savannah Sparrows and Henslow's Sparrow have yellow bills.



Bobolinks were thick in the grasslands behind the farm. I spent a bit of time trying to photograph a male in flight, but overhead skies were dark and producing seriously back-lit subjects.


A Sandhill Crane flew overhead and I managed a few pics as it passed by. When I reviewed images I was stunned that it could fly at all; look at the extent of molt on its flight feathers! This was not a lousy Photoshop job trying to clone out background defects...

I walked out the two-track toward the woods and heard the familiar "Tslik" of a Henslow's Sparrow. I was about 3 feet from the bird, but could not get it to show itself. I had to settle for listening to it call below my feet while listening to the Sedge Wren singing 50' away. It too refused to show.

So, I settled for digiscoping some singing Savannah Sparrows nearby. They did not disappoint. Larry Urbanski arrived shortly after, and we listened for the Henslow's Sparrow, but it quieted down as the winds continued to pick up.





I returned to the garden area and finally got close enough to digiscope a nice male Bobolink singing 60 feet away. I heard a Dickcissel singing several times but failed to see it. By now, however, winds were howling and it was time to head home.



On the way out I got a few photos of a House Wren as it spent several minutes on the edge of the picnic bench in the yard.

While driving down Denton Rd I spotted a Wild Turkey walking across the road. Traffic was light enough for me to be able to get a few pics as I drove by.

I decided to make another run through Willow Run Airport on the way home. Despite the winds a single Dickcissel perched itself on the barbed wire fence and sang away "Dik-Dik-Cere-Cere-Cere" while nearby Red-winged Blackbirds flushed at my arrival. The Dickcissel didn't appreciate their flying so close...


Once it had regained its composure the Dickcissel continue to sing away as I photographed it from the middle of the road. Despite the winds it provided some of my best photos of the morning.




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