Monday 30 May 2016

Michigan day one

I'm sitting here in a motel on the US/Canadian border in NE Michigan thoroughly shattered. It's now Sunday evening but having finished school on Friday afternoon, it was a non-stop evening flight to Toronto and then in the car, a 7 hour overnight drive (which included the predictably anally retentive, jobsworth US border patrol) and then birding non-stop until after dark on Saturday. And then a pre-dawn start with a whole day's birding today to boot. So here's what happened on day one, Saturday 28th May.

After the overnight drive, and a paultry half hour of sleep, the dawn chorus at the junctions of Cloverdale and Broadway Road (near Hastings) started to bubble. American Robins, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbirds - all typical mix. But it was for a small near-threatened sparrow that we'd made the journey. With a bit of patience, after tracking down a few birds singing, Henslow's Sparrow revealed itself in the morning half light.
Henslow's Sparrow Cloverdale Grasslands, Michigan 28th May 2016
The fields and surrounding area was pretty birdy too - a singing male Blue-winged Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Swamp Sparrow and a calling Ring-necked Pheasant the highlights while stuff like Killdeer and Yellow Warbler are always nice to see for the first time in a while. And off northeast we headed.

Tawas Point, on the shores of Lake Huron, is one of those famed migration places - perhaps not in the same league as High Island and Magee, it still has an enviable list of yank warblers moving through each spring. Our visit on 28th May was perhaps a little on the late side, but worth the trip if you just have a read through the following highlights - Magnolia Warbler 4, Blackburnian Warbler 1, Chestnut-sided Warbler 3, Yellow Warbler 20+, American Redstart 20+, Northern Waterthrush 1, Veery 1, Cedar Waxwing 75+, Baltimore Oriole 50+, Orchard Oriole 3, Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1, Eastern Wood Pewee 2, Great Crested Flycatcher 1, Scarlet Tanager 6, Red-eyed Vireo 12+, Field Sparrow 1, Savannah Sparrow 3, Song Sparrow 5 and Eastern Kingbird 100+. These figures just show how decent a place this really is, and with the trees relatively stunted views are generally going to be excellent. And little beats yank passerine migration.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
American Redstart Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
Red-eyed Vireo Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
Cedar Waxwing Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
Chestnut-sided Warbler Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
Eastern Kingbird Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
Yellow Warbler Tawas Point, Michigan 28th May 2016
After Tawas had played on our tired minds, we headed back inland for an evening session at Tuttle Marsh - known for its Black-billed Cuckoos and Trumpeter Swans. Those were our targets anyway, but the extensive open water creates habitat for stuff like Belted Kingfisher, Ospreys and Blue-winged Teal too. To cut things short as I am pretty shattered writing this, the cuckoo played ball while the swan needed to wait. Bizarre how we were unable to locate a couple of big, white birds!
Black-billed Cuckoo Tuttle Marsh, Michigan 28th March 2016
Driving out of Tuttle, a productive stop produced Myrtle, Pine and Nashville Warblers along with Chipping Sparrow and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The late evening into the night entertainment though was harder to come by at Iosco County airfield - singing (but not seen) Eastern Whip-poor-wills and no American Woodcock either. A handful of Common Nighthawks were a little compensation.

Anyway, Michigan is a pretty nice place with a lot of land that isn't eaten up by urban sprawl. A pleasant and refreshing change! A couple of the non-birding highlights so far have included ticking off The Amish, immaturely driving through a town called Gaylord and photographing the sign as well as a few animals including Racoons, Opossums, Musk Rats, Chipmunks and White-tailed Deer. Tomorrow we'll be heading back into Canada after a morning around Munuscong.

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