Monday, 20 June 2016

Michigan day three

There'd been a fair bit of rain overnight, but the dawn skyline at Sault Sainte Marie showed signs of promise as we headed to Munuscong Potholes (about half an hour back south). This was an area that Mark and I decided to do within the last week of the planning phase of the trip, specifically targeting two species - Sharp-tailed Grouse and Le Conte's Sparrow. We considered it was the effort as you'll see.

On arrival at Munuscong, first bird of the day was a low flying American Bittern - superb! This was then closely followed by some blurry shapes in an adjacent field, that as the light got better turned into ten Sharp-tailed Grouse at their lek site. Great to see the violet display patch revealed on their necks, as well as them strutting about revealing their sharp tails!

Sharp-tailed Grouse lek at Munuscong, Michigan 30th May 2016
Whack onto that a couple of flyover Sandhill Cranes and a healthy population of Bobolinks - really nice pleasant open landscape US birding. And very few other people about too. A pretty isolated, remote location benefiting from the US's relatively extensive agriculture.

Bobolink Munuscong, Michigan 30th May 2016
Munuscong is, however, home to a bit of a prize species. American sparrows are pretty fascinating and with Henslow's Sparrow recorded on day one, it was the buffy toned, diminutive Le Conte's we were after here. Typically these scarcer sparrows are always early morning birds and this species was no exception - they seemed to like the wet grassland and although there were probably half a dozen singing males, we only managed to track down this one. Try and spot the bird - it was actually singing from this same spot for a good ten minutes!
Spot the Le Conte's Sparrow...
Munuscong also had some (in my opinion) beautifully plumaged, pristine Ring-billed Gulls, lots of Yellow Warblers, Savannah Sparrows and a couple of Alder Flycatchers. Three species of 'common' sparrow too with Savannah, Song and White-throated. The undoubted pride of place went to this Upland Sandpiper though, that decided to do a display flight and then land on a post right next to the road - exactly what dreams are made of. Or at least that's what I'd really wanted...
Upland Sandpiper Munscong, Michigan 30th May 2016
We had a quick look round the campsite area where a Blackburnian Warbler and Northern Parula were the highlights; Ovenbirds sang pretty frequently but remained fairly elusive, though a Hairy Woodpecker was a decent addition to the trip list.

We drew ourselves away from Munuscong mid morning, knowing that there was a six or seven hour drive ahead. All went pretty smoothly to be honest - the Canadian border lacked the supercilious attitude on the yank side and to top it off, I got caught for speeding (55mph on straight roads with traffic is no use really) and got let off by a lovely Canadian policeman who wished us on our way with 'you'll be blown over by Algonquin'! Let's hope so...

An evening trip out from our base in Huntsville, Ontario produced at least one Eastern Whip-poor-will calling away. Try as we might, among the vast number of midges, we couldn't see the species once again. Can't win them all I suppose.

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