Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Warbler mania along Lake Huron

A beautiful male Blackburnian Warbler works its way through a white cedar on the shore of Lake Huron in Presque Isle County, Michigan. Our group headed afield bright and early this morning to explore the shores of this beautiful Great Lake. In spite of fog and drizzle, coupled with temps in the low 50's, we found scores of birds. Things got hot and heavy at Thompson Harbor State Park, with two major movements of warblers. Lots of diversity and numbers, and after the second encounter with a large mixed flock, we didn't think things could get any better. They did.

Our group shelters under the eaves of a building at 40 Mile Point, north of Rogers City. We stopped here to eat lunch. Soon after spreading the food out on a picnic table and digging into the goodies, Deb Marsh exclaimed "Canada Warbler!". Glancing over at a lakeside shrub revealed the bird, and we abandoned our lunches to wander over for a better view. Upon rounding the corner of a building, we quickly saw that there were a lot more birds present than that Canada Warbler. A huge mixed feeding flock was working its way up the lakeshore to our location, and soon the trees were alive with flitting warblers and other songbirds.

For the next two hours, in spite of misty fog and light rain, we stood and watched scads of warblers move through the trees and shrubs. It was probably the biggest congregation of warblers that I've seen in the last twenty years. It was hard to focus on single birds, as others would flit through in the backdrop and it was tempting to follow each new bird. Multiple species were often in close proximity in the same tree. As one big wave would dissipate, another group would come along after a brief lull. At peak times, dozens of birds would be in view, flitting maniacally through all levels of the forest picking off midges and other insects. It was impressive, to say the least.

In all, we saw 21 species, and many of them in large numbers. Getting exact estimates was tough, because it was impossible to glass all of the birds as they moved through in the misty dim conditions. For many species, probably dozens of birds passed by. For those interested, here's what we saw:

Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler

Such occurrences are probably not that uncommon along this part of the Lake Huron shoreline. You've just got to be in the right place at the right time.

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