Greater White-fronted Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese by Goyo P
Greater White-fronted Geese, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

Thanks to Scott Jennex for finding these. The GWFG were standing around some open water in the middle lagoon.

If you are in Lenawee County this weekend be sure to take a drive around Round Lake and Devils Lake. There is still plenty of deep open water where several species of waterfowl are still hanging out. Yesterday I found the following; Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Canvasback, Northern Shoveler, and Coot among the other more common birds.

Good Birding,
Gregg

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Bluebird Monitoring

Bluebird Monitoring by Goyo P
Bluebird Monitoring, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

We recently contacted the City of Tecumseh for permission to place Bluebird nest boxes on City property. The City has graciously allowed us to do this. Boxes will be installed by Gregg Perez with the City approving the locations. So far we have permission to place boxes at Smith Park, Brookside Cemetery and Tecumseh High School.

If you have any spare Bluebird nest boxes that you would like to donate or would like to volunteer to adopt/monitor a Bluebird nest box please contact Gregg ( gregorioperez 7 2 AT yah oo. com ). Since monitoring requires checking the box once a week we also need back up monitors in case somebody cannot check their nest boxes due to vacation or illness.

If you have a Bluebird nest boxes on your private property and would like to learn how monitor them we would love to help you get started.

In order to keep this announcement brief please check out the Michigan Bluebird Society website for answers to all your Bluebird related questions.
http://www.michiganbluebirdsociety.org Due to the frozen ground it may take us a few weeks to get the boxes installed. So please take some time to peruse the MBS website.

Other Items of Interest….

Robert Pardee and Gregg Perez will be leading a bird walk at Hidden Lake Gardens on March 16 starting at 9:00 am. Meet in the Visitor Center parking lot. Rain out date will be the following Saturday. A gate fee is required for entrance into the Gardens.

Bird Walk @ Powell Nature Sanctuary, April 20, 8-11 am. Johanna Lentz, Janet Kauffman and Gregg Perez will lead the walk. RSVP: Matt Schultz (517) 643-6864 or mschultz@michigannature.org

Bird Park in February

Late February by Goyo P
Late February, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

Evans Creek has been high lately from the rain we received last Tuesday. The creek runs through Bird Park and flows into Globe Mill Pond where it joins the River Raisin. The trail that runs along the creek to the end of the peninsula is not that long; maybe only a quarter mile? I like that it’s a short dead-end trail. It does not get as much hiker/walker/jogger traffic. To me it’s a park that is best enjoyed slowly. If you go there often you will see a variety of birds but never all at the same time. It’s almost as if the park features a new bird during every visit. I suppose it must in order to compete with its neighbor, the Tecumseh Center for the Arts who features a new show every week. On the other hand there are several species of birds that can consistently be seen there. The most “regular” sighting being the Northern Cardinal. I hear/see a lot of Carolina Wrens there. White-throated Sparrows are fairly common if you’re patient enough to wait for them to appear out from the scrubby underbrush. And then there’s everyone’s favorite bird the Black-capped Chickadee. I just heard the Belted Kingfisher the other day. They like to perch on the overhead wire near the end of the peninsula. It wont be long before the trees are dripping with warblers. I saw my first Yellow Warbler of the year in Bird Park last spring. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter you want to take it very slow as walk the trail. Walk too fast and you will flush the waterfowl. Walk slow and you have a good chance at seeing a dabbler in one of the few places in Tecumseh that has open water year-round. Even if you don’t see any birds it’s always nice to just sit down to listen to the creek flowing by while watching the snow falling lightly on pond. Enjoy and good birding!

Presidential Birding

I’m very fortunate to have President’s Day off from work.  I’m even more fortunate that I live within walking distance to one of the best little parks in Lenawee County.  That is Indian Crossing Trails Park in Tecumseh (MI).  I thought today would be a good day to hike the trails in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count.  This bird count isn’t the biggest or most popular bird count of the year but I still enjoy it.  It’s nice to get out and say hello to the locals (birds and people).  I said hello to several Black-capped Chickadees and Titmouse.  Heard and saw several Brown Creepers.  Downy Woodpeckers seem to be around every corner.  Canada Geese and Mallard can always be found wherever there is open water…and lately there’s always a Mute Swan or two with them.  Today the geese were by Standish Dam.  I wanted to get a closer look to see if there were any Cackling or Greater White Fronted Geese among them but I would have flushed them all trying to get a better vantage point.  So I let them be and continued down the north trail along the river.  This trail always seems to be the most active during all four seasons.  Today was no different.  I found large flocks of House Finches mixed with American Goldfinch.  At one point I stopped along the trail to give some looks at a large flock of House Finches.  And then as birds tend to do they suddenly all flushed for no apparent reason.  Two seconds later the apparent reason appeared.  A Coopers Hawk came souring in low and fast, crossed the trail 30′ in front of me and then disappeared across the river.  Just as I was thinking to myself…”that was cool”…a Bald Eagle glided right over me just above the tree tops.  No matter how many times I see the Bald Eagles in Tecumseh it never gets old.  They are magnificent creatures.  On the way back I managed to kick up two Great Blue Heron, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Kingfisher.  I was satisfied.  I had seen some nice birds.  But the best was yet to come.  Walking along Globe Mill Pond in route to my car I spotted a hawk circling over the pond.  With no obstructions around me I was able to get a good look at it.  At first it looked like a Red-tail…but this hawk had a striped tail.  As it came closer and closer I was able to get a great look at its underside before it flew 50′ over my head.  I was able to see the angular red barring on its wings and chest.  Classic Red-shouldered Hawk!  A life bird for me.  Yep…I’m pretty spoiled to have Indian Crossing Trails in my back yard.  I love Tecumseh!

Gregg Perez, Tecumseh, MI

They’re back!

White-winged Crossbill by Goyo P
White-winged Crossbill, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

That’s right! White-winged Crossbills are back in town. I found a few the other day at Brookside Cemetery in Tecumseh. These birds can be somewhat elusive. They do have a unique call but whenever I see them they are silent. I typically sit quietly and look for movement. One good sign that Crossbills have been in the area are the cone droppings beneath the tree. At Brookside it’s fairly obvious if the tree is near the road. Crossbills are not the only cool bird in town. There’s that wiley Merlin that appears about every ten days sitting atop the conifer by the Tecumseh Center for the Arts. Local birder Scott Smith counted 140 Pine Siskins at his feeder in Adrian. Greg Links spotted a Northern Shrike at Ramsdell Park today. Fox Sparrows are starting to show up in many locations including Heritage Park and Bicentennial Park. All this bird activity is great! But, I’m noticing a lack of waterfowl in the county. I’m guessing it could be the lack of wetlands. Lenawee has very few, and the few that we have are dried up from the drought this summer. Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area is about 98% dried up. Even the reliable sewage lagoons in Morenci have produced very few birds. If you know of any places that are bringing in waterfowl please let us know. Anyway, it’s still pretty exciting to be outside birding in Lenawee County. Let us know if you find any awesome birds!
Gregg

Tecumseh’s Merlin

Merlin by Goyo P
Merlin, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

No, I’m not talking about some magical wizard. I’m talking about Falco Columbarius…a small falcon of the Northern Hemisphere. This small falcon has been hanging out in Tecumseh. I spotted it one day as I was walking south on Maumee Street. I usually carry my binoculars when I go for walks so naturally I stopped to try and ID a bird that was perched on the tippy top of a very tall conifer in front of the Tecumseh Center for the Arts. As soon as I got in focus I said to myself “Sharpshin (hawk)”! A moment later I thought, “that tail is too short for a sharpie”. It took a few moments for the realization to hit me. I asked myself…”Is that a Merlin?” I walked around the tree slowly, trying not to spook it. It watched me closely. Suddenly it took off and naturally flew away and down to become immediately obstructed by the tree. It was one of those moments where I was pretty sure about what I saw…but there was a little doubt and I had no photo to prove it or confirm it. Oh well..that’s the life of a birder. But when I started to walk north three hawk-sized birds zipped over my head and headed west. Naturally they immediately became obstructed by trees. I sprinted to a clearing and tried to catch a better glimpse. But it was too late. They were far off and too small to ID. I finished my walk and figured…oh well…I guess I’ll never know.

A week later I happened to be driving by the TCA. Just out of curiosity I looked up at the tip of the conifer and low and behold the Merlin was there. Instead of stopping I quickly drove home and returned with my scope and camera. I got my shot of the Merlin. I finally had my proof.

The Merlin is not always on the TCA conifer. But I tend to see it there most in the evening. Occasionally I would see it flying from the southwest to perch in the conifer. One day I decided to walk in that direction. I looked for tall conifers. To my surprise the Merlin was perched on the tallest conifer right across the street from the Tecumseh Library.

A lot of people have seen the Merlin now. I’ve seen it a dozen times in the last month. But is it a year round resident? Who knows? I do know that the late Bob Arthurs of Ann Arbor spotted a Merlin at the Brookside Cemetery last winter. Is it the same one? Maybe. The only way to know is to keep our eyes peeled. Take a peek at the tallest tree tops in Tecumseh. Is there a bird up there? Is it just a Crow? Take a look. It just might be Tecumseh’s magical Merlin.

Owl Prowl @ Hayes State Park

Tonight, seventy-eight people took a slow stroll through Michigan woodlands at Hayes State Park to look for owls.  Chelsea, the naturalist at Hayes State Park, led the walk and played Screech and Barred Owl calls through her iPod to draw them in.  Although no owls cooperated tonight I don’t think anyone left disappointed.  It was a calm night.  The temps were in the 40’s.  And, midway through the walk the moonlight broke through the clouds.  We all huddled around a bonfire before and after the walk.  It was truly a beautiful night to take a stroll though the woods.  Before I left Chelsea thanked everyone for coming.  I was happy to hear her say in her closing statement that the woods are not a scary place.  We should all take time to stroll through them to hear the sounds of nature.  Soon after I overheard many people tell their own personal stories of owls in their own back yard.  I was pleased to see such a big crowd show up for a birding event in Lenawee County and I’m looking forward to more nature based activities at Hayes State Park.  Kudos to Tracy Ball who organized the event.  For more information about events at Hayes State Park visit their website.