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Sunday, May 23, 2010

One of those days (and weeks)

So, after a Cinnamon Teal was found yesterday at Pointe Mouillee (at a time when my family had arrived from across the state, thus my inability to chase), I was hopeful upon arriving at first light that the bird had not moved on. Mike Overway and I arrived at the same time and began biking the dikes to the teal spot to begin our search. However, we were interrupted by this sound a short distance from the dike:

This being a species I've never heard sing in person (the time in FL as a 8 yr old doesn't count!), and never seen (the adult, that is- my state bird being a downy juvenile at Maple River SGA in Aug 1998), I had to stop and spend some time with this bird. After some waiting and listening to its intense singing, it eventually emerged, swum across an opening, then flew to the dike and walked across the dike I was walking on:The only way to describe this experience is that it was one of the most memorable ones I've had in a long time. I have waited a LONG time to get a good look at this species, and the payoff was immense.

So, finally we pulled ourselves away from this bird and began our Cinnamon Teal search. For the first 30 minutes the bird was not present, and then, it appeared in flight from the middle of Long Pond and landed not far from us, but in horribly backlit conditions in zone 3:
It then flew low to the northwest, into the interior of the Nelson unit, where we could not see it at all. After another 5-10 minutes it again appeared in flight, heading southeast back into the interior of the Long Pond unit where it hid apparently for much of the day. When it retires to this area, the bird is absolutely not visible from any vantage, so chasers will have to be patient. We again had the bird briefly in flight around 11:30AM and lost it again in the middle of Long Pond.

To cap off this incredible day, instead of having to chase my state Kentucky Warbler in Berrien County, right as I was getting ready to leave Mouille for the daunting trek, I received word of a new Kentucky in Hillsdale County, much closer. I arrived on the spot at 1:30PM and had my fourth state bird of the week! Here are the final two state birds (the Purple Gallinule from Tuttle Marsh on May 15 and the Western Kingbird from Tawas Point on May 16):What a day, and what a week it has been! This is the kind of stuff that keeps us birders going...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Purple Gallinule

As has happened 2 years straight now, while on my way to Tawas Point for the birding festival I received a phone call letting me know of a really rare bird just found near Tawas. Last year it was a Painted Bunting at a feeder in Mikado, which I missed by about 10 hours. This year, it was this beauty which Karl Overman clued me in to:

The bird was seen well between about 9:40AM and 11:00AM when I took these photos. Some final searching tips for those interested in chasing it. First, the location on the dike from which to search is shown in this photo, where a 10 foot wide break in the willows on the east side of the dike allows the greatest visibility for viewing east across the ~80 ft wide channel.
The location of this vantage is: 44.36690N 83.47276W (at google maps you can copy and paste these in to get an aerial view of the location), and it is approx. 250-300 feet prior to the second wooden structure you encounter as you walk north on the dike. As stated by Jim Lesser, the bird was east across the 80 foot wide channel, foraging surreptitiously in the grasses along the edge of the 'canal', and was repeatedly lost from view for up to 15 minutes at a time. It also moved several hundred feet north and south along that edge, to the point that it wasn't visible except through the dense willow foliage on at least one occasion. To the north of the 10 foot wide opening is another, smaller, opening where the bird roosted last night. Leonard Graf marked this location on the trail with this willow tree and stick assemblage:In any event, this bird is well worth going after. It is a beaut, as well as a great rarity (a would be 9th state record pending acceptance by MBRC).