Wednesday, September 8, 2021

CBC Results for Michigan, 2020 - 08 Sep 2021

John Trapp posted this email today w/ a summary of all of the counts for Michigan from last year's CBC.


The attached scorecard (in PDF format) allows you to see how your count stacked up against the results of all other counts in the state. For purposes of comparison, I've divided the 72 circles from 2020-21 into 60 established circles (11 or more count years) and 12 unseasoned counts (10 or fewer count years). For each circle, I've compiled 17 different stats. A legend at the end of the table provides a brief description of each stat. For each of the 17 stats, the maximum value(s) are highlighted. Enjoy! And please share any thoughts you might have as to how useful this information was for you. My goal was to show that there are more ways to evaluate the outcome of an annual count than just bottom-line totals of species and individuals.

John L. Trapp
Michigan Regional CBC Editor 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

2020 Monroe, MI CBC - 20 Dec 2020

The 51st Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count, and the 121st National Audubon CBC, could best be described as the Covid Christmas Count. It was in doubt for 2020 until NAS came out with guidelines for conducting the count that included no gatherings, no car pooling, and social distancing in the field. NAS did not put any pressure on count circles to conduct the count; they felt that skipping this year due to the pandemic would not hurt the 121 year old data collection. I thought about cancelling for this year until a number of fellow participants made a push for a go at it. So, with fewer numbers this year we made it happen.

I left the house at 5 am and drove to Monroe to cover Area 5. I would be splitting area duties with Brant Georgia, who covered areas west of M125 (I'd cover east of M125 to Lake Erie). A light fog and drizzle meant that the day would be filled with clouds and low light. As a result I made sure to set the camera to high ISO so I could get at least some record images of the day's effort. 

Bolles Harbor failed to produce any owls pre-dawn, and E. Dunbar Rd. did not produce any, either. So, I drove into town and picked up breakfast and ate in my car while waiting for enough light to begin surveying. By 7:30 am enough light had appeared to see out the car windows so I drove to the south end of Area 5 and started looking for birds. The first of many Blue Jays broke the morning silence, followed by European Starlings and House Sparrows. A Red-bellied Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch were nice distractions from the monotony of the starlings and sparrows.

As I drove past a ditch a Great Blue Heron was crouched among a thin layer of ice waiting for a meal. It was too cold to move, so I was able to get some slow-shutter images at maximum ISO.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk sitting in the grass next to the road. I initially suspected that it had caught a mouse or vole, and was tussling with it, but it was actively trying to coax something out from under the ground cover. I was able to pull up and get numerous photos from inside the car. Most of my images would be soft from a combination of slow shutter speeds, low light, and convection currents that destroyed autofocus, but I managed enough keepers to remember the moment.

The hawk then flew to a railroad sign and momentarily scanned the ditches for prey. It was oblivious to my presence and allowed me to get out of the car and get some images from 50' away, get back in the car and drive by.

Farther down the road another Red-tailed Hawk was perched atop a power pole and also looking for prey. In the damp and cold morning hours it looked a bit disheveled. And, also oblivious of my presence. I'd take several photos from inside the car, drive past it to get images of it from the front, then get out the scope for some digiscoped images. It never flew until I drove away.

I returned to Bolles Harbor but found only a parking lot full of Ring-billed Gulls. Ducks were absent on Lake Erie nearby.

Woodlots were quiet, so I spent my time looking for birds at feeders. A fly-by Bald Eagle was the first of more than 50 birds I'd count before noon, but again lighting was poor.

A large flock of European Starlings were bathing in a puddle in someone's driveway, so I stopped long enough to take a few photos of the their splashings. 

Due to Covid-19 concerns, there would be no DTE Power Plant survey this year. I would spend my day driving around the perimeter of the plant looking for eagles, gulls and ducks. A drive down E. Dunbar Rd. past the fly-ash onsite yielded the first Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Bonaparte's Gulls, hundreds of mixed Ring-billed / Herring Gulls, and 4 Great Egrets! The egrets were tucked into a quiet little canal opposite the fly ash site.

My best feeder birds came in the form of 3 Wild Turkeys that were foraging in someone's yard as I drove back out E. Dunbar Rd.

I drove to the foot of Front St. where the DTE Power Plant entrance is located. 300+ Double-crested Cormorants lined the trees along the banks of the warm water discharge of the plant. I pulled over to check the canal for any ducks or passerines that might be obscured by the thick vines covering the fencing. A single Black-crowned Night Heron was tucked back in the thickets, and as I photographed it another 15 birds suddenly flushed from an unseen roost.

I walked over to the road and was able to count almost 30 Bald Eagles lining the discharge canal. A large flock of 300+ Ring-billed Gulls and Bonaparte's Gulls were foraging the warm waters of the canal. A Brown Creeper foraged along the base of a tree trunk across the road too far away to photograph.

A trip back to the backside of Bolles Harbor and the DTE fly-ash onsite yielded a convocation of 18 juvenile Bald Eagles squabbling atop one of the berms out in the fields to the west. I was there to look for American Tree Sparrows that have been largely absent in the county the past several CBCs, so I was happy to find a dozen birds foraging along the fence line. 

With winds picking up and a light rain starting to fall I decided to call it a day just after noon. I would head home and wait to hear from the rest of the count circle. Another Red-tailed Hawk was perched on the side of the road and I was able to get a few pics as it took off.

As for the rest of the group, Allen Chartier, Guadalupe Cummings, April Campbell and Spence Vanderhoof in Area 2 would finish with 50 species and 75% of the day's birds. Their highlights included  a pair of Common Redpolls and a Marsh Wren at Erie Gun Club. Allen noted that dikes were free of vegetation and mud-covered so walking was treacherous. Additional vegetation removal had left the sulfur pond open to approach and was thus duck-free. But, almost 20,000 scaup sp. on Lake Erie produced the bulk of the day's tally. A Killdeer was a nice shorebird add.

Dennis and Kathy Rohmyer had a pair of Sandhill Cranes in Area 3.

Todd and Karen Palgut covered Area 4 and found a pair of Merlin and two Long-Tailed Ducks.

Jack and Janet Volker covered Area 6 and Sterling State Park and pulled 7 Carolina Wrens out of the thickets.

Bob and Gail Pettit covered Area 7 and found the only 2 Horned Larks in the count circle. And though he covered Area 5 with me Brant Georgia has been hosting a pair of Chipping Sparrows at his feeders at his house in Area 7.

John and Kathy Flora had a flock of 10 Wild Turkeys in a field in Area 8.

We would end the day with a very respectable count of 46,505 birds and 79 species! Thanks to all who participated, and hopefully we'll have better conditions for next year's count.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

51st Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count - 20 Dec 2020

Sunday, 20 December 2020 marks the 51st Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count in conjunction with the 121st National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic there will be changes to the protocol:

We will not be meeting afterward for dinner and compilation.

Participants must refrain from carpooling - caravans are acceptable but social distancing measures must be adhered to while in the field together: wear mask, maintain at least 6 feet, avoid displays of affection...

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 40-years of data so if its not listed it hasn't been seen before in your Area.

This is an irruption year for finches: Evening Grosbeaks, Crossbills, Redpolls, and Pine Siskin so document any sightings.

If you feel uncomfortable about participating - no problem - NAS is not worried about data this year. Your health is more important.

If you are interested in participating please drop me a line at

Thanks, and

Stay safe!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

50th Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count - 21 Dec 2019

Its hard to believe that I've been participating in the Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count for over 30 years. Today I'd be participating in the 50th Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count as part of the 120th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Clear skies and temps in the mid-40's made for a pleasant day of counting despite frozen inland ponds and lack of passerines in the count circle. 19 participants would count 48,314 birds and 61 species, which is about average for recent years but well below our long-term average of 73 species and 64,500 birds.

Pat Rydzewski and I had Area 4 of the count circle and started our day with breakfast at Denny's. We made a half-hearted attempt of owling at the back end of the DTE Energy property off Laplaisance Rd. but had no luck. So, we headed down to Luna Pier to count waterfowl out in Lake Erie.

Ice was the story this morning, with slag ice stretching ½-mile out from shore. As a result, the Bald Eagles (89) and ducks (over 11K) were too far out for any decent photographing or ID'ing (as in the latter case).

House Sparrows and European Starlings would dominate the rest of our morning. But, the skies were clearing and sunlight was welcome. We would come across a lone Hooded Merganser in the canal at the end of town, but our best bird would be a Red-tailed Hawk that posed nicely for several minutes before launching from the power line across the road and flying into the sun to our right.

Driving the county we quickly became aware of the "lack" of sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches and juncos (again). I had hoped that the American Tree Sparrows that were largely absent from the CBC's in the Great Lakes Area would return. No such luck. We did find a couple, though...

We met Todd and Karen Palgut at McDonalds before driving over to the DTE Energy Monroe Power Plant for the afternoon count. We would be greeted by over 200 Double-crested Cormorants lining the trees along the warm water discharge exiting the plant. We would then also be greeted by our hosts for the afternoon, Tom Foxworthy and Daniel Okon. 

Our convoy of two vehicles drove to the Raisin River inlet of the power plant and scoped the river and shoreline. Another 18 or so Bald Eagles were soaring overhead or lining the far banks of the river along with dozens of Great Blue Herons and small rafts of Common and Hooded Mergansers. I managed to scare up an American Coot in the protected portion of the inlet canal.

As we continued on around the plant I inquired about Peregrine Falcons. Tom replied that it was a good summer for the birds and that a pair was still around. No sooner did he say this that Todd alerted us to the pair sitting high up on a railing of one of the stacks.

Lake Erie was open and largely void of birds except for a flock of 200 or so Herring Gulls and a dozen or so Great Black-backed Gulls. Several hundred more Herring Gulls roosted on the coal piles behind us while I counted 80 Great Black-backed Gulls on one roof of the plant. We would drive closer and find both adults and juvenile birds, as well as a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls that were distinguishable by their yellow legs and smudgy heads that contrasted with the white heads and pink legs of the much larger GBBG's.

Out at the mouth of the warm water discharge we were able to find a single Great Egret sitting on the sand spit (we'd see 2 more closer to the entrance to the plant). Bonaparte's Gulls, several dozen more Bald Eagles, and flocks of Mallard (construction activity next to the Lotus Ponds has eliminated the marsh habitat where wintering ducks usually congregate). The first White-tailed Deer were also seen here.

Todd, Dan, Karen, Tom, Pat

Song Sparrow. Image courtesy of Patricia Rydzewski

Returning to the power plant we looked for the Peregrine Falcons near their famous "chopping block" roost where they typically feed. Scanning the rafters and rails we saw nothing but flocks of Rock Pigeons enjoying a brief respite from predation. Suddenly, a Peregrine Falcon appeared through the smoke and soared overhead between the buildings. Tom hadn't even stopped the truck and already I was sliding out of the seat and onto the ground where I was able to get a few pics of the bird in flight before he/she landed on one of the stack beacons. 

Instead of checking the warm water discharge near the plant entrance we decided to head over to the fly-ash onsite off of Dunbar Rd. I figured we could count birds from the opposite bank this year. Good decision; I was able to find 2 Great Egrets and a Belted Kingfisher along the shoreline that we might've missed had we gone the usual route. 

Meanwhile, Pat, Todd and Karen found a Black-crowned Night Heron with a damaged wing. Pat was able to get pics of the bird while I counted gulls in the canal. I then followed the heron down the inlet to Bolles Harbor while I looked for Bonaparte's Gulls. I would find the heron foraging along the near shoreline. The only birds I heard were a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches calling to each other. 

Black-crowned Night Heron. Image courtesy of Patricia Rydzewski

Black-crowned Night Heron. Image courtesy of Patricia Rydzewski

Driving along the perimeter of the massive berms we spotted several small herds of White-tailed Deer, including a pair of antlered bucks that provided some nice images despite their position between me and the Sun. 

We would find only a couple of Northern Cardinals and American Tree Sparrows, but nowhere near the numbers we've seen in the past. Not good. An American Kestrel provided some consolation. Our day would end at 4pm with almost 200 Bald Eagles seen during the day.

In Area 2 Alan Chartier, Will Weber and Spence Vanderhoof arrived to an empty field where the JR Whiting Plant once stood. With the plant recently demolished there was little habitat for winter birds, so they had to find consolation in counting 15,000+ Canvasbacks on Lake Erie. 

Will Weber. Image courtesy of Spence Vanderhoof

Will Weber and Allen Chartier. Image courtesy of Spence Vanderhoof

Wooly Caterpillar. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier

Belted Kingfisher. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier

Monroe PP in the distance. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier

Lake Erie ice flow. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier

Where the Whiting Plant once stood. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier

Sunrise over Woodtick Peninsula. Image courtesy of Allen Chartier
Area 4 birders Dennis and Kathy Rohmeyer photographed Eastern Bluebirds from Karen Wade's feeder. They also provided most of the Red-tailed Hawks (6), European Starlings (381) and Mourning Doves (103) in the county.

Area 5 birders Anne Smith, Jackie Copeland and Karen Wade (and part-time with Carolyn Boellner this year) drove 73+ miles in 9 hours (thanks to the eBird calculations)  finding 31 species!  At the end of the day and heading toward the rendevous point for dinner, the last bird was a Merlin was spotted on top of a phone pole - a quick U-turn presented a female Merlin!  She preened for 5 minutes giving wonderful looks!  Other seldom-seen species was an out-of-water male Hooded Merganser that posed an ID problem (but finally solved)!  No Red-winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbirds, Horned Larks or Turkeys found this year, which are usually present in area 5, despite looking in all the probable places.  Still a great time! - Karen Wade

White-tailed Deer. Image courtesy of Karen Wade.

Carolyn Boellner, Jackie Copeland, Anne Smith. Image courtesy of Karen Wade.

Carolyn Boellner, Jackie Copeland, Karen Wade. Image courtesy of Karen Wade.

White-tailed Deer. Image courtesy of Karen Wade
Jack Volker covered Area 6 (Sterling State Park) on his own this year and found all of the Bonaparte's Gulls (125), Canada Geese (875), and most of the Black-capped Chickadees (22), Downy Woodpecker (23) and Red-breasted Nuthatches (2).

Bob Pettit, Larry Ludwicki (Area 7) and John Flora (Area 8) had challenging days with birds sparse and scattered across their areas. The lack of sparrows was noted. Bob also noted that the Red-breasted Nuthatch site on Bluebush Rd is no longer viable as the new owners do not have feeders.

We all met up at the Michigan Bar and Grill for the annual tally dinner at 5 pm. Our official tally would include 61 species with a count week (cw) Great Horned Owl. The table below shows totals for this year compared to the past 50 years*.

*- cells colored blue are above the 50-yr average while those in red are below

Erie Shores Birding Association (host) is grateful to the following for their assistance with this year's count. To Kristen LeForce (DTE Energy), Tom Foxworthy (DTE Energy) and Daniel Okon (DTE Energy) for allowing us access to the Monroe Power Plant for the annual survey. To Frank Rand (Consumers Energy) and Mike Favor (Forsite) for access to the former JR Whiting Power Plant Property. To Jessica Fletcher (USFWS) for permission to access the Lady of the Lakes Woods. To the Area Leaders and participants for helping with coverage of this year's count. And to all of the photographers in the group who provided images and documentation for the year's survey. Thank you! - Jerry Jourdan, Compiler, MIMO Christmas Bird Count