Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gifts of the Earth

Sometimes the first few days of Spring feel like a series of presents from the Earth. Even though I am often just doing errands and not really birding, my mother taught me that it is rude to ignore an offered gift. So, this morning while I stood waiting for Shine the Whippet mix girl to finish her business, I got goosebumps watching a group of three Red-tailed Hawks soar over head, followed shortly by a Sandhill Crane. Then I was roaring down 38th Avenue on my way to Kalamazoo, when out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed something white out in the corn stubble. Some quick action on the brakes and the letter R on the gear shift got me into position to see these guys. You can't really see the yellow spot on the bill in the photo, but it was obvious through binocs. 

Tundra Swans, Van Buren County

I did make it to Kalamazoo eventually, and on the way home decided to make a quick stop at Briggs' Pond in Paw Paw. Lucky for me, it is on the way! : ) In addition to a few coots, I saw a few of these guys - this one looked like he was just climbing out of his winter bed in the bottom of the pond.

Painted Turtle, Briggs' Pond
Earlier in the week conditions were definitely more winter like. We saw this Sandhill Crane at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery on Monday. You can barely see our first Green-winged Teal of the season facing away from the camera a little to the right of the crane.

Sandhill Crane, Green-winged Teal and Gadwall, Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery
And these Northern Shovelers standing on the ice at Three Oaks Ponds on Saturday were wondering what happened to the water.

Northern Shovelers and Ring-billed Gull, Three Oaks
Come to think of it, it feels like this week I had a front-row seat to the show I have been looking forward to all winter - The Coming of Spring. Don't change the channel now, folks. The show is just getting started!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery and Briggs' Pond March 18, 2013

     Four intrepid birders braved freezing temperatures, brisk winds and freezing rain today to bird Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery, Maple Lake and Briggs' Pond. At Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery, the usual suspects were joined by Horned Grebes. Only a single immature Trumpeter Swan was seen, but we didn't get to all the ponds. Our first three Tree Swallows of the year were cruising the ponds hopefully. A large mixed flock including American Tree Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows was working the area around the maintenance garage, and while we were trying to get on a couple of Eastern Bluebirds, a small flock of waxwings landed in the top of a little tree only a short distance from us. We were thrilled to get scope views of the Cedars, as well as two Bohemian Waxwings.
     After this, we moved on to Maple Lake in Paw Paw. Once again, we found many Horned Grebes and all three Mergansers, as well as the other expected diving ducks. The lake is completely ice free now, so the birds have dispersed and views are much more distant than they have been.
    To wrap up our day we checked out Briggs' Pond at the end of Commercial Street in Paw Paw. Just as we decided there wasn't a whole lot going on, a Merlin zipped across the pond and landed on the tippy top of a dead tree, and waited while we all got great scope looks, and a so so picture.

       We parted ways agreeing that we had been well rewarded for our efforts, and eager to do it again soon. Yay, Spring! Bird on!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Signs of Spring

One of the local sign of impending spring is the appearance of the blue barrels on 45th Street. The old maples here have been harvested for their sap for many years.

Waiting for the sap to rise

Diving Duck Bonanza at Maple Lake

Oodles of diving ducks were concentrated at the north end of Maple Lake in Paw Paw today. This is the area where the boat launch ramp is located. The ice situation presently steers the birds close enough to shore for some excellent viewing opportunities. Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, and Redhead are all present, numbering in the dozens for each species. Common Goldeneye are also numerous, although less so than the others. There is still a single Ring-necked Duck hanging out here, as well as the ever present semi-domesticated Mallards, etc. I'd suggest that if you want to see these birds, you go soon. The next few days are forecasted to be warm, and the ice that is concentrating the birds will soon be gone.

Hooded Mergansers

Common, Goldeneye and Merganser


Ring-necked Duck

Some of the many Mergs and Goldeneye
For directions on birding Maple Lake, see the post previous to this one. Good luck, all!