Thursday, February 28, 2013

Birding Maple Lake and Briggs' Pond

Briggs' Pond from the Red Arrow Highway side (dam side)

         As the word gets out about Paw Paw, Michigan's great birding, more and more people are asking, "Where the heck is Briggs' Pond? How do I find all those herons, ducks, and geese?" So I thought it was time for a tell-all post people can refer to!

          Basically, Maple Lake and Briggs' Pond are in the heart of Paw Paw. Briggs' Pond appears under several names depending on where you look, so I decided I like Briggs' Pond and I am sticking to it.  From I94, take Exit 60 towards Paw Paw. This puts you on Kalamazoo Street, which is also M40.  All the locations I describe are entirely west of M-40, except for the last one. All of these locations are mostly surrounded by private property, so please behave appropriately. Keep in mind that waterfowl move, so check all locations before giving up on a particular bird.

1. Marshy area of Briggs' Pond - From Kalamazoo Street, turn west on Commercial Street. The St. Julian Winery is on the northwest corner and is hard to miss. Follow Commercial until it deadends at Briggs' Pond, next to the old Paw Paw Press building. A missionary group is slowly renovating the building, but they told me it is fine to bird from the corner of the building. This spot overlooks the marshy area of Briggs' Pond. Depending on water level it can be good for shorebirds in season. This is where I usually find American Black Duck. Green and Great Blue Herons are resident, and I often see Great Egrets here. This is the spot where I most recently saw Greater White-fronted Geese and Cackling Geese. In summer, this is a great spot for watching the resident ducks, geese and swans raise their broods. Green Herons also nest here.

2. Dam Side of Briggs' Pond - When you leave the marshy area, go back out to the first stop sign (Gremps Street) and turn left. Follow this street to the traffic light, which is Michigan - this is the name for Red Arrow Highway where it goes through Paw Paw. Turn left. After you pass the state police post, you can either find a spot to park along the road to bird Maple Lake to the north, or you can continue on the parking lot for the dam trail on the south. Check both the pond on the south and the lake on the north side of Michigan. The hybrid goose featured in my last post hangs out around the dam trail. If you bring bread, you will get to see all the local resident geese and ducks. Or even if you don't bring bread. They are always hopeful. The little trail over the dam can be productive at times. I once found a snapping turtle laying eggs back there!

3. Maple Isle - Maple Isle isn't open in the winter time, but, in season, it can be a great vantage point. Parking is across the street next to the nursery. From the Dam Side parking lot, turn right back onto Michigan and go back to the second light (Kalamazoo Street). Turn left. After you pass all the in-town residences, you will see the gate and sign for Maple Isle on the left.

4. Boat launch ramp - On the north side of the lake from Maple Isle you will see the boat launch area. Depending on the ice situation, this part of the lake can be great for diving ducks. The only access to check the east arm of the lake is from here, scoping from the sidewalk.

There are a couple of other areas where you can get some frustrating peeks at the lake, but please be mindful of commonsense, traffic laws, and privacy issues. And let us know what you see! Good birding!

This Ring-necked Duck and his odd companion hung out around the boat launch ramp this winter. 

Briggs' Pond from Commercial Street

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A hybrid goose

This interesting hybrid goose has been hanging out with three white domestic geese and the injured resident Canada Geese and their mates at Brigg's Pond in Paw Paw, Michigan.

I took these pictures before the snow flew, but these geese are still around.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter feeder

As you can see, there is a waiting list for the Burkhart thistle feeder!

Maple Lake Ring-necked Duck and friend

I was able to get some pictures recently of a male Ring-necked Duck at Maple Lake in Paw Paw, Michigan, hanging out with what I am pretty sure is a female Lesser Scaup. It makes me wonder what set of circumstances led these two individuals to be so isolated from members of their own species that they have been "forced" to be exiles together. 

The Upside of Winter

There have been a few times in my life when I have been job-free for one reason or another. A recurrent theme of these periods has always been the comment, "I don't know how I will find time to work when I go back," since somehow I have always managed to keep myself occupied. This winter, however, Bob and I are both at home full-time, and one of the agreements we made at the beginning, was that we are going to try to stay off the roads when the weather is bad. We have traded in the risks of braving the ice and snow for the risks of cabin fever. Fortunately, so far we have managed to keep ourselves entertained fairly well. Our feeding station stays lively throughout the daylight hours. Inside we have the antics of our four foots to keep us laughing. Our cats and dogs are experts at exploiting opportunities for play, food, or just plain napping. Our cat, Parker, explores art through napping. A few of his interpretations follow.

Central Park bench

I Can So Fit.

I Can So Fit 2.
Exhausted by his art.

Spending extra time with our pets is one of the benefits of the winter season. We are so grateful to still have Parker, especially, and treasure every day with him.  Despite his youth and robust appearance, he has been extremely ill twice in the last year and half, and if it weren't for our great vet, our nursing experience, and, most of all, Parker's mellow, tolerant disposition, he wouldn't be here to entertain us with his art. Thanks for being you, Parker Man.