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 ( 

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