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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Port City Beagle Club holds some of its events at the wastewater.
Pheasants Forever maintains approximately 250 acres of pheasant habitat on site
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!