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Friday, August 31, 2007

Migration underway in Grand Rapids

Well, the birds are clearly on the move here in Grand Rapids, as documented by radar and moon-watching by Dave Slager:

Here are my recent highlights from Huff Park, including a map showing where the Olive-sided Flycatcher and primary warbler flocks are hanging out:

Olive Sided Flycatcher- 1 singing! (see attached map)
PURPLE FINCH- 3, our first for the park
Blackburnian Warbler- 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler- 1
Sedge Wren- 2 singing
lots of other warblers: Tennesee, Wilson's, Black-throated Green, Maagnolia, Redstart, Black-and-White, Baypoll, Ovenbird, etc.

Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1
large mixed warbler flocks.

Get out there and enjoy 'em!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hudsonian Godwit, Snowy Egret, & Purple Martin Frenzy

Every so now and again it all just comes together. Today was such a day. While birding at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, I saw two species of birds I've never recorded in Michigan, and saw several things I've never seen in my approximately 20 years of birding.

First, for only the fourth time in my life, I saw a Hudsonian Godwit- a rather rare and beautiful creature with a very long annual migration. But unlike in my prior sightings, this bird decided it was comfortable with my watching it from very closeby. It was by far the best looks I've ever had at the species; it is an adult with 90% basic body plumage and retained wing feathers. The next bright spot in the day was another species I've never seen in Michigan- the southern Snowy Egret. Not uncommon south of Michigan, this species is surprisingly rare north of Toledo, OH.
But to really top it all off, we ended at dusk with a true avian spectacle- a mass staging of Purple Martins which we estimate included at least 20,000 individuals coming to roost in the Phragmites marsh adjacent to Lake Erie! This presumably represents one of the highest counts for the state of Michigan, but these numbers are hard to come by, and large flocks have been reported in the thousands. Estimating the numbers was a difficult thing, but here are two representative photos of the swarms of birds we witnessed spiraling out of the sky and into the marsh. It was mesmerizing to watch the flock swirl overhead!