Sunday, 12 February 2017

Michigan Birding

Yesterday, the Sault Naturalists had an outing in Michigan to look for Snowy Owls and whatever other interesting birds were around.  13 members from the club, including myself, split into three vehicles and headed south from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Our first stop was at the Dafter Post Office.  The highlight species here was the Pine Grosbeak, which there was probably at 25 of.  They were flying all around, collecting grit from the road and really enjoying a crab apple tree that still had apples on it.  There was a Downy Woodpecker, a Pine Siskin, some European Starlings and a bunch of chickadees as well.

We continued on, making our way to the Dafter Dump.  Along the way, we saw many Bald Eagles and a Rough-legged Hawk.  I spotted the hawk as it landed on a tall, distant conifer.  We stopped and got out the spotting scopes to get a better look at it.  It then took off, giving us a good look at it flying and luckily it came slightly closer and landed again.  After more eagles, we got to the dump.  Since the dump was closed, we had to observe from the entrance.  There were many Herring Gulls, eagles, crows and ravens.  I was able to get a brief look at a Glaucous Gull before it flew out of sight.  Apparently, a Thayer's Gull had been seen there earlier in the day, but not again by us.

We then headed down to Rudyard to check out the Snowy Owls.  Almost right away, we found one sitting on a fence post.  While observing it, we realized it was one of four visible from our location.  We got some good looks of a few flying as well as they kept moving around.  One of them was on a telephone pole just down the road, so we headed down and got some decent photos of it.  We stopped for lunch in Rudyard, then headed south down Centerline Road.  We managed to see three more owls along this stretch and got some decent photos.

One of the many Snowy Owls observed during the day.
Next, we traveled over to Pickford.  There is a house in Pickford we a feeder that usually attracts all kinds of birds.  We parked right beside a crab apple tree and there was an American Robin enjoying the fruit.  Our eighth Snowy Owl was seen on a nearby rooftop.  We saw chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches and a Mourning Dover at the feeder.  I saw a bird and put my binoculars up, thinking it was another goldfinch.  However, it wasn't.  It was a sparrow, but definitely not like any sparrow that should be around this time of the year.  Right after I called out "sparrow" to the group, someone mentioned that a Lincoln's Sparrow was a continuing rarity in Pickford.  That made sense, as this sparrow I had seen had fine streaks on its chest.  It didn't stick around in the feeder area for very long, but one other member from the group, Christopher, managed to get a look at it.  After we consulted the field guide, it was obvious that it was in fact the Lincoln's Sparrow that we saw.  A lifer for me!  We waited for a bit, and I was hoping to get a photo of it, but it never came back.

Another continuing rarity in town was a Western Meadowlark.  We moved across town to where it has been seen as recently that morning.  Some Mourning Doves were around, but not much else.  Christopher and I walked up the road ahead of the group in search of the meadowlark.  We found the ninth and final Snowy Owl of the day, perched on a pole in a backyard.  Then, we heard a bird calling that didn't sound like anything we'd expect to hear.  We were able to clearly hear it, but could not see where this bird was.  Obviously we had our hopes up that it was the meadowlark.  As the call ended, I pulled out my phone and played the call for the Western Meadowlark.  It definitely seemed like a match to us!  The rest of the group caught up and a lady came out of the house we that we heard the call coming from behind.  Since she knew we were looking for the meadowlark, she told us that it was just on her back deck minutes before.  It made sense that we heard it not too far from her back deck then.  Since just hearing a bird counts, another lifer!

It turned out to be a very good day of birding!  Lots of fun seemed to have been had.  On the drive home, our vehicle saw another Rough-legged Hawk and a Sharp-tailed Grouse to finish the day off.  

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