Sunday, December 18, 2022

Cold and Snowy Monroe CBC - 18 Dec 2022

Will Weber, Allen Chartier, April Campbell, Spence Vanderhoof at Erie Marsh. Image courtesy of Guadalupe Cummins

Sunday, December 18, 2022 marked the 53rd Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count. The count coincided with the 123rd National Audubon Society CBC. This year's count took place under cloudy skies, light snow and cold winds blowing from the WSW at 5 - 15 mph. Inland waters were mostly frozen while moving waters (Lake Erie, canals and rivers) were mostly open. Twenty-seven hardy souls braved the dark skies, snow and wind to tally 33,508 birds of 78 species

My day started at 6:30 am when Pat Rydzewski and Tom Mulcrone arrived at the house for a day that would cover Area 4 of the count circle and the Monroe Power Plant. For the first time in forever we'd start the power plant survey at 10 am instead of noon. And, since Area 2 participants (Allen Chartier and company) would be starting their count at Erie Marsh, I offered to survey Lake Erie from the location of the (former) JR Whiting Power Plant first thing in the morning. So, Pat, Tom and I picked up a quick breakfast at McDonalds and headed to the foot of Erie Rd. in southern Monroe at 7:30 am.

Despite spotting scopes the skies were too dark to differentiate most of the ducks covering the waters of Lake Erie. Most were Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Common Mergansers but all we could do was count the many rafts of "ducks" that numbered 7000+. Several Bald Eagles were the first identifiable birds of the day while hundreds of mostly Ring-billed Gulls swirled overhead. We were able to identify one Great Black-backed Gull on the water.

We then headed to Luna Pier where thousands more ducks awaited us on Lake Erie. Luckily, they were much closer and more readily identifiable: Lesser Scaup (4700), Common Goldeneye (1500+), Bufflehead (250+), Mallard (200+), Canada Geese (300+) and Common Mergansers (300+). Several Bald Eagles, a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls made the bitings winds worth braving.

With light snow falling we only had a short time before heading to the DTE Monroe Power Plant so we drove through the town of Luna Pier expecting to pick up hundreds of European Starlings and House Sparrows. We saw none. Surrounding fields were also conspicuously absent of passerines like cardinals, chickadees, and even mourning doves. Luckily, our luck would improve once we arrived at the power plant.






As we pulled into the small natural area parking lot just before the plant entrance I spotted a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons through the fence. The birds were roosting along the near bank and were visible only through breaks in the vegetation. Patricia got out of the car to see if any pics were possible, but could only count them as they flushed from their morning roost. 17 birds total!



As we drove into the plant I spotted the first 2 of 12 Great Egrets along the west shore of the warm-water discharge canal. Overhead the first of dozens of Bald Eagles soared.




Pat, Tom and I arrived at the parking lot inside the DTE Monroe Power Plant and met Mike Kozlowicz, maintenance engineer, who would be our host for the morning survey. We were soon joined by Todd and Karen Palgut and Justin Labadie. Together we all piled into Mike's van and drove around to the intake canal off of the Raisin River. An American Coot was among a dozen Mallard inside the intake.

We began to count Bald Eagles as soon as we reached the Raisin River. Out along the Lake Erie Shoreline the waters were relatively quiet. As we scoped the waters I spotted a Common Loon swimming several hundred yards away. Behind us near the coal piles the warehouse roof held a half-dozen Great Black-backed Gulls.  

Out at the mouth of the warm-water discharge canal we got out and walked. While Pat and Tom counted Bald Eagles I counted Double-crested Cormorants roosting along the far shore; 1200+!!!!




After surveying the canal we drove over to the fly-ash Onsite. There we surveyed the woods near Plum Creek and found dozens of Great Blue Herons, Bonaparte's Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, more Bald Eagles, and the first passerines of the morning: White-throated Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows. While tromping through the woods Todd commented on the number of American Lotus pods scattered throughout the woods; they were a long way from the lotus beds along Plum Creek.




We then drove up onto the burm and found almost 200 Hooded Mergansers swimming among dozens of Gadwall, American Black Duck and Mallard in the large lake. Out in the flats a Northern Harrier was cruising the phragmites looking for a meal.



After lunch Pat, Tom and I returned to Luna Pier to look for a Long-tailed Duck that was reported yesterday. Though we would strike out Justin found 2 a short time after we left. We would drive around the rest of the area looking for anything with wings. Lucky for us we spotted several Northern Harriers in the fields.








With light waning we packed up and headed to dinner at the Michigan Bar and Grill in Monroe. We would catch up with the rest of the CBC participants and share sightings.

Area 2 participants Allen Chartier, Will Weber, April Campbell, Guadalupe Cummins and Spence Vanderhoof started their day at Erie Marsh. Highlights for them included 297 Green-winged Teal flying in tight murmurations below 700+ scattering Gadwall from the sulfur ponds. They also had 3 Sandhill Cranes and 6 late-season Killdeer. Allen was asked to submit separate lists from multiple locations, so he shared his eBird lists from each: https://ebird.org/tripreport/92466?view=checklists













Two Carolina Wrens, 7 American Kestrels and 60 Horned Larks were the highlights of Dennis and Kathy Rohmyer, and Renee Conklin in Area 3. 

Ethan Urban found a Chipping Sparrow among numerous Dark-eyed Juncos at the cemetery in Area 4.

Karen Wade photographed a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker in Area 5. Anne Smith, Jackie Copeland and Dave Mendus all agreed it was the highlight of their day.






Bobby Irwin and Justin Labadie both found the flock of American White Pelicans that were initially pointed out to us by Mike Kozlowicz at the Monroe Power Plant. Though we missed them, Justin was able to report a flock of 9 birds near Sterling State Park. A Horned Grebe was also a nice find.

A Pileated Woodpecker was the highlight for Bob Pettit, Brant Georgia, and Larry Ludwicki in Area 7. 

John and Kathy Flora, and Dan Schwab in Area 8 get credit for finding the majority of passerines that appeared to disappear from the count circle on this cold, windy and snowy day. 

Once again we appreciate the efforts of the participants for braving the cold and wind to help make this Christmas Bird Count another success!


Below is the breakdown from each Area. Note that we had a count-week Wilson's Snipe. Brian Beauchene found a flyover snipe at Erie Marsh on Monday, Dec 19th. 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Monroe, MI CBC is Sunday, Dec 18, 2022 - 09 Dec 2022


Sunday, December 18, 2022 will mark the 53rd Annual Monroe, Michigan Christmas Bird Count that will coincide with the 123rd National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.

Participants will be asked to report their numbers (including mileage, time in field, field conditions) to their Area Leader, who will then compile numbers and submit to me.

Please use the attached tally sheets for each Area; this makes it easier for me to get results into the master spreadsheet.

If a bird is seen in your Area that is not on the tally sheet then it will need some documentation (photos preferred). The tally sheets have been prepared based on 50-years of data so if its not listed it hasn't been seen before in your Area.

If you are interested in participating please drop me a line at jerry.jourdan@gmail.com

We will meet afterward at the Michigan Grill (formerly MI Bar and Grill) at 5 pm to tally results. 

Thanks, and

Stay safe!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count - 18 Dec 2021


"MI" is short for MISERABLE. 

24 hours ago the temps were in the mid 40's and the Sun was shining. Then, overnight, the temperature dropped and the rain came. And it did not let up. At 8 am I was sitting in the car at Luna Pier waiting for the rain to slow just enough to get out and quickly scan the lake for gulls and ducks. At 1-2 degrees above freezing the pelting rain hurt.

When it finally slowed I scoped Lake Erie and found an impressive raft of 750+ Common Goldeneye while another 260 Red-breasted Mergansers flew in to join them. The ducks were close enough to the breakwall to tempt some digiscoping, but waves crashing over the breakwall quickly cured that temptation.

I was patrolling random areas during the morning hours while I waited to bird the Monroe Power Plant at noon. So, after Luna Pier I headed north toward Sterling State Park to look for the American White Pelican flock that had been reported on 14 December but not seen since. But first, I stopped at Bolles Harbor and kicked up a pair of Bald Eagles. Then, a short drive down E. Dunbar Road yielded 3 Wild Turkeys before I ran into Dave Mendus and Anne Smith who were patrolling Area 5.

I stopped by the foot of Elm Street and ran into a flock of 50 American Robins next to the Ford Warehouse. White-throated Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Flickers, and a Carolina Wren finally gave me something to photograph as the rain started to let up. Nearby Union Camp Marsh was flooded but held 100+ Gadwall swimming as a large raft while dozens of Bonaparte's Gulls fluttered over the water and flashed their bright white wingtips.




I was happy to see the hundreds of Hooded Mergansers at Sterling State Park but saw no sign of pelicans. I hoped that Jack and Janet Volker were faring a little better as they were doing the official count for the State Park.


I had hoped that the rain would stop by noon, but it continued to fall even as I pulled into the little lot next to the DTE Energy Monroe Power Plant. All I could do was count the 250 Double-crested Cormorants and look for roosting Black-crowned Night Herons, but found none. I was consoled w/ a single Great Egret at the north end of the channel and a roosting Belted Kingfisher on the railing overlooking the warm water discharge.

I met Mike Kozlowicz, process engineer for DTE, who was gracious enough to escort me around the plant despite the miserable weather conditions. After not being able to survey the plant in 2020 (due to Covid) I was grateful that I was allowed in this year. 

We drove the plant perimeter and found scattered Bald Eagles along the Raisin River shoreline. We stopped only briefly to look for ducks on the river and out on Lake Erie, which was void of any bird life. The rooftops next to the coal piles held almost 2-dozen Great Black-backed Gulls, so things started to look up. More Bald Eagles were scattering from the trees ahead of us, but otherwise things were quiet.





At the mouth of the warm water discharge I spotted a dozen large white birds lifting off the water and disappearing into the fog. Too large to be gulls they could only be American White Pelicans! After all, Mike had seen 6 of them just yesterday. While we continued to survey the plan was to loop back around to the other side of the bridge and look for them in hopefully better light. In the meantime I concentrated on counting Double-crested Cormorants and Bald Eagles (87 total inside the plant proper).





As we counted clusters of Bald Eagles (5 - 15 at a time) in the trees along the shoreline a large flock of American White Pelicans appeared overhead. Now numbering almost 2 dozen I was thrilled to finally get some pics as they soared overhead. When we finally reached the entrance to the plant the flock now numbered 42 birds forming a large V. Later in the day someone would report 60 birds back at Sterling State Park.







Although the fly-ash Onsite yielded few birds it was neat to see that the road was paved for trucks to more-safely deliver fly-ash to the top of the burm. We'd finish by early afternoon, and would call it a day. Cold and soaked, I still considered the day quite successful.

Overall we would finish the 52nd Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count with 75 species and 24,817birds. Surprisingly good diversity despite the few numbers of birds and MIserable weather.

Some highlights from the other areas:

Trumpeter Swans (8) outnumbered Tundra Swans (4) for the first time ever!

We finished with 133 Bald Eagles (71 adults and 62 juveniles).

Allen Chartier, Guadalupe Cummins, and Spencer Vanderhoof had 813 Common Mergansers at the foot of Erie Rd. (former JR Whiting Plant). This was as far north as the mergansers reached this year; Red-breasted Mergansers were concentrated farther north in Luna Pier and Sterling State Park areas. They, and Will Weber, would finish w/ 54 species that also included 3350 Common Goldeneye, 7000 Red-winged Blackbirds, another 500 Common Grackles, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Erie Marsh.

Dennis and Kathy Rohmeyer had the only Tundra Swans (4) of the day in Area 3.

Todd and Karen Palgut, and Ethan Urban, put together a 43-species day that included 4 Trumpeter Swans, 386 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Peregrine Falcon, Great Horned Owl, 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches, and 11 Northern Pintail in Area 4.

Anne Smith and Dave Mendus managed 9 Wild Turkeys in Area 5 (E. Dunbar and Laplaissance Rd.).

Jack and Janet Volker had all of the Mute Swans (145), Hooded Mergansers (250), American Coot (40), Bufflehead (120) and Bonaparte's Gulls (74) at Sterling State Park, Area 6.

Bob Pettit and Brant Georgia had to console themselves w/ Cooper's Hawks (2), Red-tailed Hawks (3), and American Kestrel during a slow day in Area 7.

John and Kathy Flora found the only Cedar Waxwings (20) in the county and reported the first Mallard (50) sighting in many years of counting Area 8.

Many thanks to these participants, and to DTE Energy for assisting in this year's Christmas Bird Survey. Hopefully, next year will bring better weather and birds. - Jerry Jourdan, Compiler, MIMO CBC.