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

Muskegon Birding, I always get the bird

How do I top a day like yesterday at Roselle Park in Ada? Simple, I go to Muskegon, where I always get my bird. It’s better than getting skunked!

Skunk in the grass

Skunk in the grass

Muskegon is my favorite place for birding, as regular readers here know. I was thinking about that today, there have been so many times that I’ve read online about a certain species of bird being sighted there in Muskegon, and during my next visit, I manage to track one down. It started back when I went to see if I could find Mike the snowy owl, and that continued today.

I may not always get all the species of birds that I would like to, but I have always managed at least one, today didn’t end that streak. One of the species I went after was red-headed woodpeckers. They used to be regulars at the feeders at my parent’s house when I was growing up, no more. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers, they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later, as you’ll see in the photos.

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

OK, let me go back to the beginning. I did a quick tour of the lagoons at the wastewater facility, and found a few birds to photograph.

A few waterfowl

A few waterfowl

There were thousands of waterfowl in the lagoons, which I more or less ignored. All the ducks were in their fall plumage, so I didn’t want to waste time chasing them. I’ve learned to wait for spring for some birds, ducks especially. But, I found a few other subjects to photograph around the lagoons.

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

American crow

American crow

American crow

American crow

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit

American pipit

Sorry for so many of the pipits, but the yoga shots cried out to be posted.

I then headed for the north end of the wastewater property, which is mixed farm fields and woodlots. Almost the moment that I shut the door of my Subaru, I was photographing birds.

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

I walked right on the edge of the woodlots, and it was there that I almost stepped on the skunk above. That photo wasn’t cropped at all. That’s the second time that I’ve been only a few feet from a skunk and not been sprayed, I’d better start paying attention, my luck may not last.

I won’t post all the birds that I saw, as some would be repeats of yesterday, and others that I have been posting photos of a lot recently. I will put this one in though, a flock of sparrows, note the two in flight to the left of the photo.

White crowned sparrows

White crowned sparrows

They were in the brush under the red-headed woodpeckers as I was photographing the woodpeckers, all the birds in sight kept me hopping!

What the heck, I’m going to throw in this bad shot as well. It’s of two bluebirds in flight, sort of.

Eastern bluebirds

Eastern bluebirds

The reason that I’m posting that very bad photo is the story behind it. One of the bluebirds was perched, I was just lining up for a shot of it, when the second one flew up and bitch slapped the first with its wing, which caused the slappee to set off in pursuit of the slapper. I can’t say as if I’ve ever seen that before.

Having gotten the red-headed woodpecker, and since I wasn’t seeing anything special there at the wastewater property, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, as I haven’t been there since this spring.

I hadn’t gone far, when I spotted a bird in a net.

A netted bird

A netted bird

Brian J. from the Muskegon County Nature Club was banding birds, hence the nets. I stopped and chatted with him for quite a while, I could have cheated and gotten two lifers had I been so inclined. He netted a Tennesee and Orange-crowned Warbler while I was there, neither of which I had seen before.

I left Brian to his work, then set off for a stroll around the preserve, here’s what I came up with.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk decided to do a few yoga movements as well.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk doing yoga

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk doing yoga

Puffball

Puffball

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

Flower

Flower

This next one is a juvenile white-crowned sparrow…

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

…this is what the adults look like, quite a change.

White-crowned sparrows

White-crowned sparrows

I’m going to finish this one off with a few photos of a Nashville warbler making a meal of a caterpillar’s cocoon.

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

I did make a serious effort to find one of the lifers for me that Bruce had banded earlier, with no luck. They were probably moving fast to get out of the area after being netted, although Bruce said that he often catches the same birds multiple times. That’s OK, I got the woodpecker which was one of my goals for the day, so I was a happy camper. I stopped back at the nets and talked to Brian for quite a while, and learned more about birding in that time than in any of the books that I’ve read. Great guy, I’ve bumped into him before, and he’s always willing to share his knowledge!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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18 responses

  1. OMG I just LOVE that skunk shot!! Wow, how blessed you were to get those wonderful shots of the red-headed woodpecker!! I, too, remember seeing them as a child and really miss their presence. It looks like you had another fabulous day. That series of the Nashville warbler eating the cocoon is awesome as are the shots of the white-crowned sparrows – one of my favorites! (Oh, I suppose I need to stop saying such and such a bird is one of my favorites, since really they are ALL my favorites! LOL) Thanks for another great post!

    October 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    • Thanks, the skunk shot looks better from at home than it did when I shot it. I hope that the red-headed woodpeckers can make a come back now that the forests are being allowed to grow back.

      October 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm

  2. Who knew birds did yoga! Live and learn! Some great shots again. I think you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with your new gear.

    October 14, 2013 at 1:41 am

    • Thanks, the birds have to stay limber because they never know when some jerk is going to start chasing them around. 😉

      October 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

  3. Glad the weekend was a good one. I like the shots of the woodpecker hiding acorns, and I’ve never heard of the American pipit. It’s a cute little bird. Those are great shots of the crow too. I like running into knowledgeable people on the trails. That happened to me yesterday too-an 81 year old guy I had trouble keeping up with!

    October 14, 2013 at 6:24 am

    • Thanks! The birder in me is most proud of the woodpecker shots, the photographer part of me is most proud of the crow photos, as solid black birds are hard to photograph well.

      The pipits seem to be around in numbers, I saw them first while on vacation up north, then again in Muskegon. But, that’s one of the things that I love about my project to photograph all the species of birds, I learn something new every day, either outdoors, or looking things up online.

      I’m used to being passed on the trails, even old women using a walker pass me on a good trail, that’s how I see so many birds.

      October 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

  4. You DO always get the bird. wow

    October 14, 2013 at 7:33 am

    • Thanks Judy!

      October 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

  5. I *love* the yoga birds!!! And the red-breasted nuthatch looks like he’s saying something to an off-screen neighbor. 🙂

    October 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

    • Thanks Lori, I thought that the pipit was just too cute not to post, I’m glad some one liked those shots.

      October 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

  6. The red headed woodpecker is a knock out.

    October 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

    • Thanks, I’m not about to disagree with that!

      October 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

  7. I never see the Red Headed Woodpeckers down here in Indiana, so I appreciate getting to see them through your eyes/lens! Gorgeous birds! Oh, and I’m glad to know you didn’t have to go out and buy tons of tomato juice after seeing the skunk. 🙂

    October 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    • Thanks, I didn’t need tomato juice because I was seeing the right end of the skunk.I won’t be doing any skunk tail shots for the purposes of identifying them. 😉

      October 17, 2013 at 1:19 am

  8. A great photo round-up! I’m a big sucker for Red-Headed Woodpecker photos, they have to be one of the most photogenic birds in North America.

    I saw a small flock of Hermit Thrushes yesterday, sometimes I wonder if these are birds you’ve seen some days earlier up north!

    October 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    • Thanks, it’s quite possible that we see the same birds, or at least the same flocks a few days or weeks apart. There’s big numbers headed south, waves of hermit thrushes, bluebirds, sparrows, and of course, millions of yellow-rumped warblers. I’m seeing almost as many of them as robins this fall.

      October 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

  9. Ok..I am just plain darned JEALOUS !! As if seeing a skunk wasn’t cool enough, But no, you have to throw in that Red Headed Woodpecker. Which alone is awesome. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, you had to add the Nashville Warbler and the Red Breasted Nuthatch. Green with envy.

    October 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    • Thanks, if I had been willing to cheat, I could have gotten a Tennessee warbler and another lifer after they had been banded.

      October 29, 2013 at 2:12 am