Another Muskegon trip, another lifer
On Sunday, November 3, 2013, I made my monthly birding trip to the Muskegon area, and once again I was amply rewarded with great birding.
I had planned on starting out by hiking P. J. Hoffmaster State Park early in the morning, then hitting some other birding spots in the afternoon. However, Hoffmaster is right on Lake Michigan, and from checking the weather from home, I could see that lake effect clouds were over Hoffmaster, so I decided to change my plans. The clouds alone wouldn’t have been enough to change, but I also just received two pairs of hiking boots to break in, and I also hadn’t been feeling 100% the past few days. So I opted to begin at the county wastewater treatment facility, and go from there. But, things were so good there, that I never left until late afternoon.
In fact, it was so good that I have decided to do two posts on the day, because I spent some time photographing a pair of peregrine falcons hunting together, and I think that they deserve their own post.
OK, where should I start, at the beginning would make sense, but my first shot of the day was of a flock of mallards that I have cropped so that the photo won’t work in the slide show at the top of the page. So instead, I’ll post this photo out of order, then go back to the beginning. 😉
That seemed to be the star of the show on Sunday, with almost all of the many birders whom I spoke with asking me if I had seen it.
It’s an insight into how good the Muskegon area is for birding, with thousands of birds, including some rather rare species, most people were complaining that they weren’t seeing anything out of the ordinary on that day. This post will end up being quite long because of the number of species of birds that I did get photos of, and I only managed a fraction of the species there, but it was still considered an off day of sorts to many of the birders.
OK, back to the start. I planned on checking what are known as the grassy cells to look for the Wilson’s snipe that had been seen earlier in the week. I never did find it, but I hadn’t even made it to where I planned to park and start wandering around on foot before I started shooting photos.
They may be only mallards, but the numbers of them feeding in one of the cells that had a large puddle in it was impressive.
There were two red-tailed hawks perched in the trees on the west edge of the grassy cells, I guess hunting wasn’t good there, for first one…
…then the other flew off to better hunting grounds.
With thousands of Canada geese all around me, I had to take a few photos of them in flight for practice.
I spotted this small bird which I haven’t been able to ID yet.
There were flocks of horned larks in abundance.
I didn’t find the snipe, so I decided to try another spot, and as I was driving past one of the man-made lakes, I shot this photo of a few of the northern shovelers who have arrived for the winter. They form groups on the water and work together to agitate the water to stir up food for themselves.
Later in the day I shot this photo of a male, I may as well throw it in at this point.
I went past the man-made lakes to a small area of mixed field and trees, and found the following, but no snipe.
I never got a look at the chest of the meadowlark to tell if it was an eastern or western meadowlark, since both are seen in the area, I’ll play it safe on the ID.
I found this doe, I think that it was one of this year’s fawns, as it had the forlorn look of a fawn that had just been driven off on its own by its mother. During the fall is when whitetail deer breed, and the females drive their young of the year away as mating season approaches. The poor little fawns are left on their own for the first time in their live’s, and they always have a sad, lost look about them. I have seen the mother deer driving their young away, and it is something heartbreaking to see, as the fawns can’t fathom why their mother has suddenly turned against them.
The good news is that once the breeding season is over, the fawns generally find their mothers again, and are allowed to rejoin them. Next fall, the mother of this one won’t have to drive it away, its hormones will take care of that as this one goes in search of a buck.
I think that this swan that flew over me while I was snipe hunting was a trumpeter, but I’m not 100% sure of that.
My snipe hut wasn’t going well, no snipe, so I headed to yet another spot, driving past the south end of the man-made lakes, pausing to shoot photos of a flock of about 100 Bonaparte’s gulls cavorting near the edge of one of the lakes.
As I was approaching the east end of the grassy cells for another look around that area, I saw a flock of snow buntings in the distance.
When I went for a better photo of them is when I saw the peregrine falcons from my previous post.
And the rough-legged hawk.
And a northern harrier.
Still no snipe, but I did find a few greater yellowlegs hanging around yet.
There were many small flocks of American pipits scattered all around the area.
Still no snipe, but I managed to stay busy taking photos.
So far for the day, I had mixed driving from spot to spot with short walks around each spot, I needed to stretch my legs out, so I headed to the north end of the facility to walk the woodlots there, and here’s a sampling of the birds I saw there.
The other birds I saw while hiking the woodlots were mostly the same species I see at home on a regular basis, so there’s no need for me to post more photos of them here.
All in all, I would say it was an excellent day of birding, even if I never found the snipe of spotted a merlin as I had intended to search for earlier in the week. I got another lifer, the rough-legged hawk, and more good photos of some of the species that I could use better photos of, and best of all, it was just a great day to be outdoors. What more can I say, I suppose that I could attempt to list all the species of birds that I saw, but I didn’t take notes, I was too busy shooting photos, and without notes, there’s no way I could remember everything that I saw. I would estimate that I saw close to 100 species of birds that I could ID in total, and hundreds or even thousands of some of the species there, like the Canada geese and some of the ducks.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!