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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lake Michigan waterfowl and reviving the blog

All- (assuming you're still out there checking this blog!), I first have to admit being negligent on updating the blog. Usual excuses, yada yada. I will say this, however: I will be updating it more regularly now that a few important deadlines are behind me. Let today be the first day of a new era for Avian Tendencies!

So, I was lucky to bird all day today, from Traverse City (for the male Harlequin Duck which has been seen for some time now and the 9+ year long Eurasian Collared-Dove "colony" south of town) down the Lake Michigan shoreline as far as we could get before dark, scanning for Barrow's Goldeneyes and other rarities at various vantages. It was a beautiful day, with light winds, mild temperatures, and generally lots of birds. First off, I missed the Harlequin in Traverse due to freezup of most of the bay, but this was made up for later in the day (read on). Our stop at Chums Corner to check on the status of Eurasian Collared-Dove at this site was successful in locating a single Collared-Dove, and one which convinced us adequately that it was neither an African Collared-Dove, nor a hybrid/backcross African X Eurasian Collared-Dove. The underside of R6 featured extensive black in the outer web (though not extending laterally all the way to the edge, but very close to it). Importantly, this black extended farther toward the tip of the feathers than the black of the inner web of R6 and the black of the other rectrices. Furthermore, the undertail coverts were darker than the surrounding feathers, and the primaries were considerably darker than the upperparts. Here are some photos.Here is the undertail pattern, which was perfectly symmetrical.
Next it was on to a slew of stops along Lake Michigan, starting at Frankfort and ending at Pentwater. We were very interested in searching for the possible adult male Barrow's Goldeneye reported 2 weeks ago at Manistee and not seen since. Unfortunately, despite looking through 1000+ Commons, we did not find the/a bird. We were treated to over 900 White-winged Scoters (and 0 Surfs!), including at least 500 at Portage Point in Manistee Co., possibly a lot more than this in actuality. Ring-billed Gulls put in a good showing, at a bare minimum of 1300 birds for the day (mostly at Ludington Harbor, where 950 were present).

A real treat has been checking the Ludington Storage basin outflow twice in the past couple weeks. The angle of viewing from the bluff is spectacular- you are overhead of the waterfowl a couple hundred feet with perfect frontlighting (sun behind you). The distance and lightinging (late day, overcast) were not great today but I just had to try a digiscoped video of displaying Red-breasted Mergansers.

But of course the real excitement at this site were the 3 Harlequin Ducks which were still present despite not having been reported since late January by Brian Allen and David Dister. The 2 gorgeous males and single female were still present, though very distant, and this video and photo was all I could manage.

This is the most Harlies I've seen in Michigan at one place.

All in all this was a much-needed, very relaxing day with a good friend. I need to do this more often...