Saturday, May 28, 2011

Birds of Presque Isle County, Michigan

A group of birders explores one of the many wetlands that dot Presque Isle County, Michigan. This county is in the extreme northeastern corner of the lower peninsula, and is without doubt one of the most scenic locales in eastern North America. The county is full of biodiversity, lying at the interface of northern boreal forests, southern deciduous woodlands, and massive Lake Huron defining its eastern border. CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode #5 to hear a story that I penned about Presque Isle for Bird Watcher's Digest.

I first visited this area last year, to lead a birding trip for NettieBay Lodge. Not fully knowing what to expect, I was utterly blown away by the incredible bird diversity, not to mention all kinds of amazing flora. Apparently word got around, as this year we had enough interest to fill two back to back trips of ten people each, with a good number already signed on for next year's forays, which will also be limited to ten people each. The dates of next year's trips are May 17th thru 24th, and if you would like to attend please contact Jackie at NettieBay, RIGHT HERE.

A Black-billed Cuckoo poses in a tamarack. Often furtive and retiring, this cuckoo allowed our first group extended views through the scope. We returned to this very spot with the second group, but no cuckoo. But, and dig this, following is a list of birds that we DID see or hear at that very locale in a short period: Ruffed Grouse, Sandhill Crane, Upland Sandpiper, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Canada Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Purple Finch, and more.

That's just one quick stop, and not an atypical one. Most of the above-cited birds are breeders, as were the vast majority of the 153 species that we tallied in a week.

A Broad-winged Hawk sits quietly in the dim light of early morning. This species may be the most common breeding raptor in this area, and we had great looks at a number of them. Those were only the local yokels. Our trips to the Lake Huron shoreline netted far more, including an excellent movement of migrant raptors on May 25. That day, we counted about 130 Broad-wings, 30 Bald Eagles, a Merlin, an American Kestrel, a few Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, and a smattering of Turkey Vultures. Apparently the Presque Isle County shoreline of Lake Huron is a major raptor corridor, and I can only imagine what it must be like during migratory peaks.

A gorgeous male Chestnut-sided Warbler tees up for the group. This species is one of the most numerous breeding warblers, and is joined by at least 19 other nesting warbler species. Of prime interest among this group is Golden-winged Warbler, Kirtland's Warbler, and Mourning Warbler. We had them all, with great looks, although the golden-wings didn't arrive on territory until Day 2 of the second group.

A pair of Common Loons plies the waters of one of the many glacial lakes in Presque Isle County. The bird in the foreground is preparing to "snorkel", or swim with its face under the water looking though the glassy depths for fish. The wild, haunting yodels of loons is a common sound in these parts.

Looking a bit like he's been shot in the chest, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak peers curiously at your narrator. This species is without doubt one of the most numerous breeding songbirds in this area. We record them at every stop, and their slurry robinlike song becomes a familiar melody.

Normally a skulker, this Swainson's Thrush was uncharacteristically confiding. These buffy-faced forest wraiths nest locally, but are greatly outnumbered by Hermit Thrush and Veery. Wood Thrushes are rather rare.

A definite target bird for many is the Upland Sandpiper. We found a few reliable spots this year, the best being in a large cut-over jack pine plain. By using our van as a blind, we were able to watch this bird and its mate from 25 feet away. The Upland Sandpiper gets the longest distance traveled award for Presque Isle County residents. They winter in the pampas of Argentina and that region, some 6,000 miles to the south.

A Virginia Rail that's come out of its shell, this little fellow scuttled through the cattails and clambered up a grassy embankment to view your blogger from two feet away. We also found Least Bittern in this marsh, which is listed as a threatened species in Michigan.

Following is the comprehensive list of bird species that we found, from May 19-26, should you be interested.

1. Common Loon


2. Pied-billed Grebe

3. Double-crested Cormorant

4. American Bittern

5. Least Bittern

6. Great Blue Heron

7. Great Egret

8. Green Heron

9. Mute Swan

10. Canada Goose

11. Wood Duck

12. Mallard

13. Hooded Merganser

14. Common Merganser

15. Red-breasted Merganser

16. Turkey Vulture

17. Osprey

18. Bald Eagle

19. Northern Harrier

20. Sharp-shinned Hawk

21. Cooper’s Hawk

22. Red-shouldered Hawk

23. Broad-winged Hawk

24. Red-tailed Hawk

25. Rough-legged Hawk

26. American Kestrel

27. Merlin

28. Ring-necked Pheasant

29. Ruffed Grouse

30. Wild Turkey

31. Virginia Rail

32. Sora

33. American Coot

34. Sandhill Crane

35. American Golden-Plover

36. Killdeer

37. Spotted Sandpiper

38. Upland Sandpiper

39. Ruddy Turnstone

40. Wilson’s Snipe

41. American Woodcock

42. Ring-billed Gull

43. Herring Gull

44. Common Tern

45. Black Tern

46. Rock Pigeon

47. Mourning Dove

48. Black-billed Cuckoo

49. Yellow-billed Cuckoo

50. Barred Owl

51. Northern Saw-whet Owl

52. Common Nighthawk

53. Whip-poor-will

54. Chimney Swift

55. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

56. Belted Kingfisher

57. Red-headed Woodpecker

58. Red-bellied Woodpecker

59. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

60. Downy Woodpecker

61. Hairy Woodpecker

62. Northern Flicker

63. Pileated Woodpecker

64. Olive-sided Flycatcher

65. Eastern Wood-Pewee

66. Alder Flycatcher

67. Least Flycatcher

68. Eastern Phoebe

69. Great Crested Flycatcher

70. Eastern Kingbird

71. Horned Lark

72. Purple Martin

73. Tree Swallow

74. Northern Rough-winged Swallow

75. Bank Swallow

76. Cliff Swallow

77. Barn Swallow

78. Blue Jay

79. American Crow

80. Common Raven

81. Black-capped Chickadee

82. Red-breasted Nuthatch

83. White-breasted Nuthatch

84. Brown Creeper

85. House Wren

86. Winter Wren

87. Sedge Wren

88. Marsh Wren

89. Golden-crowned Kinglet

90. Ruby-crowned Kinglet

91. Eastern Bluebird

92. Veery

93. Swainson’s Thrush

94. Hermit Thrush

95. Wood Thrush

96. American Robin

97. Gray Catbird

98. Brown Thrasher

99. European Starling

100. Blue-headed Vireo

101. Yellow-throated Vireo

102. Warbling Vireo

103. Philadelphia Vireo

104. Red-eyed Vireo

105. Golden-winged Warbler

106. Tennessee Warbler

107. Nashville Warbler

108. Northern Parula

109. Yellow Warbler

110. Chestnut-sided Warbler

111. Magnolia Warbler

112. Cape May Warbler

113. Black-throated Blue Warbler

114. Yellow-rumped Warbler

115. Black-throated Green Warbler

116. Blackburnian Warbler

117. Pine Warbler

118. Kirtland’s Warbler

119. Palm Warbler

120. Black-and-white Warbler

121. American Redstart

122. Ovenbird

123. Northern Waterthrush

124. Mourning Warbler

125. Common Yellowthroat

126. Wilson’s Warbler

127. Canada Warbler

128. Scarlet Tanager

129. Northern Cardinal

130. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

131. Indigo Bunting

132. Eastern Towhee

133. Chipping Sparrow

134. Clay-colored Sparrow

135. Field Sparrow

136. Vesper Sparrow

137. Savannah Sparrow

138. Song Sparrow

139. Lincoln’s Sparrow

140. Swamp Sparrow

141. White-throated Sparrow

142. White-crowned Sparrow

143. Dark-eyed Junco

144. Bobolink

145. Red-winged Blackbird

146. Eastern Meadowlark

147. Common Grackle

148. Brown-headed Cowbird

149. Baltimore Oriole

150. Purple Finch

151. House Finch

152. American Goldfinch

153. House Sparrow



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