Friday, December 26, 2014

Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count Results - 14 Dec 2014

Winter Wren
Sunday, 14 Dec 2014 marked the 45th Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count. The count date was the first of a two-week count period for the 115th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. As is our custom, we conducted the Monroe count by alternating between the first Saturday and first Sunday of the count period. This year's count was a bit more merciful than last year's blizzard-cancelled-rescheduled-downpour-count with generally cloudy skies and temps between 48-55F. Still water and open water were open, and no snow or ice covered the ground. We would end the count day with 72 species and almost 48,000 birds.

Red-tailed Hawk
During the morning hours Patricia Rydzewski and I covered the northern half of Area 8 while Mary Trombley and Scott Jennex covered the southern half. We found mostly European Starlings on our route, but did come across a nice Red-tailed Hawk first thing in the morning. I thought the highlight of the day was going to be my hearing an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing 'Pee-a-wii', but it turned out to be yet another starling doing a perfect mimick... Meanwhile, Allen Chartier, Will Weber, Sarah Toner and Spencer Vanderhoof found 3 Tree Swallows and a Great Egret at the Whiting Power Plant in s. Monroe Co. Allen was also able to get some pics of several Lesser Black-backed Gulls that are reliably seen each year along the shore of Lake Erie.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Great Egret
We then headed to the Monroe Power Plant for the yearly bird survey hosted by DTE Biologist Matt Shackelford and retired DTE Biologist Tim Walsh. Kim Leforge (DTE), Mark Houston (DTE photographer), myself, Patricia, Mary, Scott, Todd Palgut and Don Burlett participated in the afternoon count of the power plant and nearby fly-ash onsite. Gull numbers were down, but we managed several hundred Bonaparte's Gulls along the warm water discharge. A Great Egret near the boat dock was a nice find, and I was able to get some digiscoped images from across the channel.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle numbers were good again this year. We would end the day with 89 Bald Eagles, more than half seen at the DTE Energy (Monroe) Power Plant.  Overcast skies and skittish birds made photography a challenge (again), but we managed a few birds.

Ducks were largely absent on Lake Erie. The open waters, and early cold snap a few weeks ago pushed many of the scaup, mergansers, etc. farther south into Ohio waters. The same would hold true for blackbird spp.; the late afternoon migration into Erie Marsh never materialized, so our total numbers for the day would be about 50,000 birds short.

Peregrine Falcon
A pair of Peregrine Falcons were a nice find (thanks, Todd!) near the stacks of the power plant. One adult bird was found on a corner railing, but was mostly obscured. A second adult soared overhead for a bit before landing in the open on the face of one of the stacks!

I never get tired of photographing the (many) White-tailed Deer that are rampant at the power plant and onsite. Curiously, we saw no deer at the onsite this year. Last year we counted almost 400! Meanwhile, one of many Smallmouth Bass were being caught in the discharge canal by local fishermen.

My personal highlight bird of the day had to be this Winter Wren. Don Burlett first saw a female Common Yellowthroat on a pile of fresh-cut logs in the woods under the fly-ash transfer lines. A Winter Wren then appeared momentarily as we got out of the car. When I played the call of the Winter Wren this little guy popped up onto the logs, and for the next 5 minutes entertained us with a remarkable display that included chatter, preening, and dance. Pat and I shot over 300 photos each trying to capture the gorgeous little fellow in the late afternoon light.

female Common Yellowthroat

Pine Siskins
Meanwhile, in other parts of the count circle, the Area 5 group of Ann Smith, Rita Montague, Karen Potts, Diane Kovach and Jackie Copeland found Pine Siskins for the first time in many, many years!

American Goldfinch

Northern Cardinal

Tundra Swan
As always, thanks to a great group of volunteers who helped to make this another successful Christmas Bird Count. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy Kwanza to all! See you all in 2015!

Red-tailed Hawk

Dark-eyed Junco (female)

Todd Palgut, Scott Jennex, Mary Trombley

Great Black-backed Gull

Mary, Todd and Scott

Downy Woodpecker