|©2010 Nate Crawford|
Final Tally: 85 Spp. and 61,800 birds
My day began at 3 AM with a rude wake-up call from the alarm clock. Out the door at 3:50 AM I was heading off to start the 111th National Audubon Society / 41st Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count. I was hoping to pick up an owl or two before meeting the guys at the J.R. Whiting Plant in s. Monroe Co. at 7 AM. Long story short, I dipped. I had even walked the Lake Erie shoreline and the bike path with the hopes of calling out a Screech Owl, but failed miserably.
sun to rise Allen counted ~125 Great Blue Herons along the ice shelf near the warm water discharge of the power plant. The herons would flush and fly in all directions before long, so it was good that we got a count before they dispersed. Meanwhile the lake was alive with thousands of unidentifiable ducks and gulls that would have to wait for daybreak to be counted.
|(L/R) Allen Chartier, Mark Wloch, Will Weber|
few more keepers, (2).
With enough illumination we were now able to scan the lake and pick out Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Greater Black-backed Gull, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck, American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, American Coot, Greater Scaup, and thousands of Lesser Scaup.
We then took a mile long hike south along the lakeshore, hoping to find the Orange-crowned Warbler. Though we found several Winter Wrens, Downy Woodpeckers, dozens of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees we failed to find the warbler or Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Along the way I received a call from security telling me that they could NOT open the gate to the Lady of the Lakes woods because the lock was frozen. Meanwhile, attempts to refind the American White Pelican failed. The bird was gone, and would not be relocated (until Nate would find it later in the day).
photos of the bird as it foraged among the grape vines, but it tended to stay obscured by vegetation. Still, I was able to get enough pics to verify ID. This is only the 2nd CBC record for Michigan for this species. Additional images were provided by Allen Chartier (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5).
|©2010 Mark Wloch|
Hooded Mergansers swimming. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get an accurate count through to vines covering the fence, so I pulled alongside to track the birds. A pair of Winter Wrens appeared next to the car, and one even landed on my driver-side mirror! I chased the pair along the fence, but had to settle for obscured captures w/ the camera.
Great Egret flew along the shoreline. I was able to digiscope an image for record.
oblivious to our presence. Surprisingly, four Killdeer flew in and joined the starlings among the dead fish. As we watched them a male Northern Harrier made several passes over the field.
in flight and on the ground.
as it passed by, then disappeared into the native prarie restoration.
Highlights of the count circle areas were reviewed with some interesting sightings:
83 Wild Turkeys were counted in Area 8, which also led all areas in Red-tailed Hawks (12),Mourning Doves (513) and Dark-eyed Juncos (271).
An unseasonal Tree Swallow was the highlight of Area 7, first reported earlier in the week and refound today on the Raisin River west of Raisinville Rd. 45 Snow Buntings were a high for the count circle. A Rough-legged Hawk was also one of two seen today. Karen Potts was also able to get a couple nice images of American Kestrel, American Robin, and Horned Lark.
Common Mergansers (200), American Robins (169) and Great Black-backed Gulls (45) were high counts for Area 6.
Fox Sparrow and Northern Mockingbird were highlights for Area 5. The Monroe Power Plant count yielded 156 Great Blue Herons and 63 Bald Eagles (16 adults and 47 juveniles).
Six Eastern Bluebirds and 3 Winter Wren were highlights in Area 4.
Area 3 had high count for Horned Larks (135) and most raptors, including a nice Rough-legged Hawk.
Area 2 (Whiting Plant/Erie Marsh) once again provided the most species (63) with notable birds being the American White Pelican and Orange-crowned Warbler, 37 Swamp Sparrows, 1 Fox Sparrow, 22 Winter Wrens, 4 Great Horned Owls, 1 Wilson's Snipe, and 4 Northern Pintail. Allen Chartier provided some additional commentary on this area's totals:
"It is possible that the fish kill from several weeks ago, when the temperature dropped rather suddenly, may have contributed to the large number of birds still present at the Whiting Plant, in addition to the abundance of open water there and completely frozen water everywhere else. Away from the lakeshore, gulls were extremely sparse this year where most years they are flying overhead everywhere in our area. The number and variety of passerines along the shoreline at the plant was exceptional this year. The dominance of Ring-billed over Herring Gulls and Scaup over Common Mergansers suggests that gull and waterfowl migration had not progressed as far as in most years we've done this count.
At the Erie Marsh Preserve, they had apparently done some burning since last year, as there were some more open spots that had previously been solid stands of Phragmites. These areas seemed to be favored by greater numbers of sparrows than we normally find here, especially Swamp Sparrows. The good numbers of raptors, including 6 Red-tailed Hawks and 4 Northern Harriers, might have been taking advantage of the greater visibility of prey in the more open areas. Along the dikes, especially along the unfrozen channels leading out from the Sulphur Pond, songbirds were numerous and we saw many sparrows and Winter Wrens diving into holes in the snow, apparently to forage on the bare ground underneath, which was odd. Also unusual was the behavior of some waterfowl that were apparently hiding under ledges of ice at the base of the dikes. Near the start of the walk, we watched as two Mallards, an American Coot, and a female Wood Duck swam out from under an ice ledge that didn't appear large enough to shelter even one individual. This mixture of species was also unusual. At another spot a Mallard, three American Black Ducks, and four American Coots swam out from underneath a ledge, that appeared to extend underneath the dike but we couldn't be sure. The large number of Winter Wrens is something I can't explain...I've only had this many in a day once before, on Belle Isle in fall migration in October." - Allen Chartier
|©2010 Mark Wloch|
My deepest thanks go out to Mark, Nate, the Area Leaders, and all who participated in this year's count. A special shout-out to Terri and Joe Janssen, who went out after dinner and found an Eastern Screech Owl after learning that we had not recorded a single one today!
A gallery of all images submitted can be accessed here!