Muskegon Wastewater treatment facility, drive-by birding
On Sunday, May 27th, I went to the Muskegon wastewater treatment facility for a day of birding. OK, so who goes to a wastewater treatment facility to do some birding? Apparently, quite a few people do, as the Muskegon County wastewater facility is well-known among birders as being a great spot to go. There are even several websites devoted to birding there. That’s where I went this past winter to get photos of the snowy owls that had come south out of Canada. You can see photos of the owl, and learn more about birding at the facility, including info on obtaining a pass by clicking this link to my previous post about the facility.
As so often happens, I went there to attempt to photograph a couple of specific species of birds, in this case eagles and kestrels, but came away with out photos of them, but of many other species instead. I saw both of the species I went there for, but never close enough to even attempt a photo. But, I do love it when I get back from one of these trips and have to do some bird identifications before I can post something here. And, I love it when I come back with a personal best photo of a subject!
Now then, as for why I included “drive-by birding” in the title of this post. For one thing, that seems to be the way that every one else goes about it there at the facility. I noticed that the first time I was there, except for with the snowy owl, every one drives very slowly along the roads in the facility, using binoculars and spotting scopes to view the birds. On my previous visit, I thought that it was because of the bone chilling wind, and at first during the trip yesterday, I thought that it was because of the heat. I don’t think the weather has anything to do with it, it is because of the birds and the lay out of the facility.
When I arrived there yesterday, I drove to the place where I wanted to start looking for birds, parked my vehicle, and began walking, despite the heat. That didn’t work very well at all. Except for the turkey vultures that came over to investigate me….
…and this young red-breasted merganser that didn’t know any better…
… the rest of the birds were long gone before I could get them within camera range, or I should say within range of a good photo.
I walked the entire half mile down one side of the man-made lake, and it was like the parting of the Red Sea as I went along. All the ducks in the previous two photos were on, or close to shore to begin with, but as I got closer, they headed out into the lake. Once I had passed them, they returned to shore.
OK, this isn’t working, there’s no place for me to hide, no cover at all on top of the berm that contains the lake, I’ll have to try something different, I thought to myself. So I walked back to my vehicle, chasing the ducks away from shore on my return trek, but with a difference. I caught this little fawn in all its cuteness on the other side of the berm.
Those are my best photos of a fawn, ever, so I was very happy about that!
I made it back to my vehicle, drove about half way down the end of the lake, and tried again, same result, the birds all swam or flew away before I could get good photos. But, I could see other vehicles parked on the road with ducks staying right on shore for the people in those vehicles.
I may be dense, but not so dense as to see that the birds are used to cars driving slowly along the road, but not used to people walking, so I did what every one else does, drove slowly along the road.
This seems to be working much better! What else can I photograph from my vehicle?
Sure glad my vehicle has a sunroof to make some of these shots possible!
Since we’re on deer…
It quite surprised me how many deer I was seeing out in the open during the middle of a very hot afternoon, the place is crawling with them!
But even the number of deer paled in comparison to the number of gulls!
It isn’t just the waterfowl, wading birds, gulls, or deer that you’ll see if you visit the facility, there are far too many other species to list, or post photos of.
I saw, but didn’t get good photos of, meadowlark, both eastern and western, indigo buntings, eastern kingbirds by the hundreds, bluebirds, orioles, grosbeaks (both rose breasted and evening), and far too many others to even list. But that’s not all.
There are plots planted with lupines and other flowers for the endangered Karner blue butterflies, so there are the flowers to photograph as well.
I didn’t catch any of the karner blues, by then it was late afternoon/early evening, and I didn’t have any eagle pictures yet. There is a trail (road) that runs around the northern border of the wastewater facility, in a more wooded area as opposed to the southern part which is the man-made lakes and open farmed fields that I spent some time both driving and walking, I need to go back and walk most or all of it. There’s cover there for me to do my birding in my usual way. 😉
But, since I didn’t have any eagle photos, and I know that I’ll be back there again, I’ll try for the karner blues another time. Instead, I headed a few short miles west to Muskegon State Park, one of my favorite places close to home., and one of the best places to get eagle photos in lower Michigan.
I went to the eagle nest that I know about, and staked it out for a good hour or more, but never saw either of the parents return to the nest. I did manage a few no so good photos of the young ones though.
In a way, I’m jealous of those people who are able to photograph eagles that build their nests on platforms out in the open where the photographers can get spectacular shot of the eagles. On the other hand, it’s nice to see native eagles nesting in real trees again! Even if the nests are messy things in bad locations for photographers like me.
One other thing to note here, I found a fern flower!
Yes, I know, true ferns don’t produce flowers, they reproduce by spores. What I don’t know is if this was part of a real fern that produces the spores, or if this was a fern look a like that was flowering. I did try to look it up, but didn’t find the answer, besides, finding a fern flower is supposed to bring the person finding it luck, and I need all the luck I can get.
If you hadn’t noticed, I had to use the flash to get that photo, as it was getting dark by that time. I spent the entire day there in the Muskegon area, the lion’s share at the wastewater treatment facility, and yet, I feel as if I have just scratched the surface. I can’t say that I am a huge fan of birding while driving, but you have to do what you have to do to get the photos. I will be going back, there’s still too many birds left there for me to photograph for me not to go back.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!