My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Another Muskegon County Wastewater birding trip

On Saturday, July 27th, I made yet another birding trip to the Muskegon County Wastewater facility. It seems so weird to post one of these under the Michigan Nature attractions category, but if the shoe fits…

Muskegon County has updated their website to include a section on birding at the wasterwater facility, here’s the link.

And, for those of you who don’t click the link, here’s a blurb from the website.

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The variety of habitat at the Wastewater System includes over 1,000 acres of even-aged conifer and dryland white and black oak woodlots; over 5,000 acres of alfalfa, corn, and soybean cropland; 20 miles of drainage ditches, 60 acres of treatment ponds, 11 miles of shoreline around 1,700 acres of storage lagoons; a few hundred acres of natural upland grasslands; and assorted wetland marshes and potholes. Because of this, the 11,000-acre treatment plant is considered one of the best birding sites in Michigan. At least 256 species of birds have been documented at the facility (two-thirds of all species ever recorded in Michigan). Possibly the rarest bird ever documented in the state was seen here in April of 1985, a White Wagtail.

Tens of thousands of geese and ducks spend part of the winter at the site, sharing the area with Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, plovers, sandpipers, and dozens of other bird species. At other times of the year, birders might see Red Phalarope, Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Gyrfalcon, Eared Grebe, or American White Pelican.

The Muskegon facility is located adjacent to the Muskegon State Game Area, which helps draw birds to the wastewater system. Birders are welcome at the facility provided they obtain a pass at the wastewater system office before touring the site. Birders that can show membership in a birding organization can be issued annual passes. Contact the office at 231-724-3440 for more information.

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As you may be able to tell, it’s far more than a wastewater treatment facility, here’s a few more of its many uses.

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Opportunites for recreation abound at the wastewater facility on its vast tracts of open land. Be sure to obtain the appropriate passes and permits from the office before you venture out.

Hunting and Trapping

A variety of opportunites exist for hunters at the wastewater.

Observatory Campus

The Muskegon Community College Observatory is located on the site.

M.M.A.R. – Muskegon Michigan Area Rocketry Launch Site

The Muskegon Michigan Area Rocketry launch site is on the property.

Snowmobile Trails

Over 20 miles of groomed snowmobile trails pass through the property.

Radio Controlled Airplane Field

The Port City RC Club maintains their field on the site.

Beagle Club

The Port City Beagle Club holds some of its events at the wastewater.

Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever maintains approximately 250 acres of pheasant habitat on site

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So, with that stuff out of the way, time for my day there. As is the usual, I saw birds, lots of birds, too many birds. πŸ™‚

I came home with 500 photos, the majority of the photos are of shorebirds, notoriously hard to ID. I’m still plugging away at some of the birds, but here’s the highlights.

IMG_9086

Still unidentified sparrow

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Semipalmated sandpiper

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Short billed dowitcher

Short billed dowitcher

Male dickcissel

Male dickcissel

Male bobolink

Male bobolink

Female dickcissel

Female dickcissel

Unidentified white bird

Unidentified white bird

I just happened to run into Ric, the President of the Muskegon County Nature Club while I was there, at the time when I photographed the unidentified white bird in flight. I’m planning on going on their next field trip in August, and will be joining up at that time.

Whitetail doe and fawn

Whitetail doe and fawn

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Gulls

Gulls

Juvenile gull in flight

Juvenile gull in flight

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

Baird's sandpiper

Baird’s sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Red-necked phalaropes

Red-necked phalaropes

I am not 100% sure on all my identifications, I’ve done the best that I can. Getting to know all the species of shorebirds is a lot tougher than I thought that it would be, especially this time of year. Some of the birds have already molted to their winter plumage, some, like the red-necked phalaropes are partially through molting.

I have another shot to share, a flock of wood ducks.

Wood ducks

Wood ducks

I sure wish that I could have seen a few of those earlier this year before they molted! As soon as the wood ducks spotted me, they swam up into a culvert, completely hidden from sight, what tricky little devils they can be!

Anyway, if you do go to the Muskegon County Wastewater treatment facility, take an excellent field guide with you, or an expert on all species of birds, as you never know what you are going to find!

My photos of the unidentified white bird have been posted on the recent sightings page for the Muskegon County Nature Club. As I noted earlier in this post, I will be joining them on their next field trip, so hopefully I’ll have some expert advice and tips to share after that trip. That field trip will also be at the wastewater treatment facility.

One more thing before I end this, once again, the “curse” of the wastewater facility struck my photos. The weather wasn’t great, but my photos should have been better. I was very close to the bobolinks and the dickcissels, close enough that I should have gotten photos with the wow factor way up there. I swear, there really is something in the air there that affects photography. The farther I was from the area where the actual treatment of waste occurs, the sharper my photos were, like the red-tailed hawk.

Anyway, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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13 responses

  1. Weird thing about that ‘curse’ of the wastewater facility. Perhaps it gives off some vapor the human eye doesn’t notice, but the camera lens does. Still, some great shots you managed. Also great you’ll have some help identifying.

    July 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    • The eye may not notice the vapors, but the nose does!

      July 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm

  2. You certainly did see a lot of birds. Another good outing.

    July 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    • Thank you, I enjoyed it, hope that you did.

      July 28, 2013 at 5:57 pm

  3. I’m so glad that I don’t have to ID birds along with plants! That shot of the flying gulls is amazing. If it was mine I’d crop out the power lines and frame it.

    July 28, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    • What do you know, there are power lines in that shot, I hadn’t noticed. I find birds are generally easier to ID, at least for me, but my opinion may change if I have to do too many more shorebirds soon. BTW, thanks for the comment!

      July 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm

  4. Five hundred photos! Those are a heck of a lot of photos to process. Enjoyed looking at everything you saw and photographed.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    • Thanks, I have to take a lot of bad photos to end up with a few good ones. πŸ˜‰

      July 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  5. A beagle club?!! I want to join! πŸ˜€ Looks like an awesome day of birding! That shot of all the gulls in flight is pretty terrific. (I, too, noticed the power lines. πŸ™‚ ) My favorites of this bunch are the two of the lesser yellowlegs. I look forward to your report after your field trip with the group!

    July 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    • Thanks Amy. I didn’t check into the beagle club, but I’m sure that it’s for hunting beagles. I’ll post the gulls minus the power lines, plus two other shots of them this weekend. I hope to get better shots of both of the yellowlegs next month with the group, I’m looking forward to that trip already.

      July 30, 2013 at 1:09 am

      • Haha, yeah, as you know, our beagles aren’t hunters! LOL πŸ™‚

        July 30, 2013 at 8:45 am

  6. Can they re-brand as “repurposed water”? Regardless, a wastewater plant by any other name would smell as, er, whatever it smells like!

    July 30, 2013 at 11:55 am

    • πŸ™‚ Actually, they do brand it as re-purposed water, but they don’t sell it. It’s used to irrigate crops, and to form marshland habitat for wildlife. But yes, it does smell the same. πŸ˜‰

      July 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm