Saturday, July 6, 2013

Michigan, July 4-5, Grayling Area

I arrived in Grayling at about 6:00 pm on July 4, after driving through heavy rain in Ohio until I got well north of Dayton.  I left at about 11:00 am.  The heavy rain in the morning delayed packing my car for this trip.  I hoped for less traffic than leaving yesterday or last night.  On this trip I am seeking Kirtland's Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Black Tern, Black-billed Cuckoo and Least Flycatcher as well as hopefully, Golden-winged Warbler, Canada Warbler if I can find the right habitat as well as possibly, Northern Goshawk, Spruce Grouse and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  I plan to continue to the UP for some of the more northern species on this list.

By about 6:30 I was at the Kirtland's Warbler habitat along Chase Bridge Road east of Grayling at the first Kirtland's Warbler habitat marked with signs south of Route 72.  I could hear at least three Kirkland's warblers singing in the short (less than of about 6 feet high) Jack Pines.  Eventually, I got to see a Kirtland's Warbler as it flew/flitted into a tree near the road.  I could see the large size for a warbler, the gray back and wings and the black area on the face and forehead.  This bird in this light did not show any yellow on the breast, just white under-parts, but that might have been due to the way the late evening light was hitting this bird as it flew.  In the same area, there were Brewer's Blackbirds, which were scolding me as I walked along the paved road, and an upset Upland Sandpiper.  See photo below.  This was a much closer view of Upland Sandpiper than I obtained on Sunday of this week at Bolton Field near Columbus, OH.  There were Chipping Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows (seen and heard) and Field Sparrows.   I stopped at the second Kirkland's warbler habitat south of the first and heard more Kirtland's Warbler's singing for a total of at least eight Kirtland's Warblers singing during my evening visit.  I drove east on a logging road, South Branch Road and found Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hermit Thrush, typical of this more northern area.  I left the area just as the sun was setting to return to Grayling for the night having added my main critical target bird, Kirtland's Warbler.  Thanks to Dino Costanzo of the Cincinnati area for his help on directions to this spot.  This was my first visit to Grayling.  When I got my Life Bird Kirtland's Warbler in the early '90's, I went to the Mio location rather than to the Grayling location.

I arrived at the same areas by about 6:00 am on July 5.  There were still possible birds need to find in this area that I needed for the year.  There were more Kirtland's Warblers singing in both areas.  I estimated that I heard 20 Kirtland's Warblers singing on July 5.  I also heard and saw Vesper Sparrows and Lincoln's Sparrows in the Kirtland's Warbler habitat.  I met an UP birder, Wallace Whaley (spelling?) as I was moving toward South Branch Road.  He was pursuing an e-bird report of a Wood Thrush for his county list.  He gave me and showed me a location for Mourning Warbler on South Branch Road, where he had Mourning Warbler as well as a location for Least Flycatcher, both seen last month.  We parted ways at the Mourning Warbler spot.  I donned my knee high rubber boots, because the grass was high, to help stop ticks from clinging, a necessary precaution in the woods in summer.  When I got to the exact spot, the habitat looked good, thicker brushy areas, based on my previous experience with this species in upstate New York, and I heard a Mourning Warbler singing in the distance.  I was able to get closer to the bird on a  path to an opening.  I tried my new iBird Pro on my cell phone, that I had just bought.  However, this Mourning Warbler was not interested.  The song of this bird was slightly different than that on iBird Pro, and i Bird Pro was not very loud.  I'll need to adjust that.  I have an old record of warbler songs from the Ontario Federation of Naturalists and know that there is considerable variability in warbler songs.  I went back to my car and pulled out old technology, a tape recorder and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology tapes.  The Mourning Warbler song on that tape, obtained from a New York location was the exact match of the bird I was hearing.  To verify, that I was correct in this identification, I played the tape and a male Mourning Warbler came in and circled me.  See photo below.  The bill is blurred because the bird was scolding.  Thanks Wallace!  Great information!  Another new target bird for the list.  I am not sure if it was the structure of the song on the tape or the fact that the tape recording was louder than the song on my cell phone.  It was satisfying to know that my memory of bird songs is still correct!  Also, along South Branch Road were Nashville Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart as well as Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager.

I checked the spot that Wallace had given me for Least Flycatcher.  He had seen two birds near the intersection of Pere Cheney and Stephan Bridge Roads in June.  I walked this intersection about 1/4 mile in each direction but did not find a Least Flycatcher.  I tried i Bird Pro also but no luck. 

John Habig, a birding friend from Ohio, had helped me with e Bird before this trip.  I followed e Bird directions to a spot for Black Terns west of Houghton Lake on Michelson Road.  It was only about 30-40 mile south of Grayling.  I was using Google Maps to get to this spot.  Just as I exited Route 127, I lost the GPS and internet access on my cell phone, but fortunately, I still had the directions list on my phone to follow as well as Michigan DeLorme to help.  It took longer to find this location, and there were a few wrong terns (turns, pun intended), but I got to the location and found two Black Terns flying over the marsh and feeding.  See photo below.  Another new bird for the year, thanks due to old and new technology.  American Redstart was singing and Veery was giving it "veeer" call in this area. 

John Habig had texted me and sent me more information about bird reports for Michigan.  However, to use the information that I had and the new information from John, I needed internet access.  I drove back toward Grayling and stopped at the rest area on 75 south of Grayling.  I had internet access and needed to determine what bird to pursue given the daylight left and the distance to the location.   I was lucky.  Two Least Flycatchers had been reported 15 miles north at the Hartwick Pines rest area on 75.  There was enough daylight left to try for this bird.  I arrived at about 6:30 pm and walked the woods area along the parking lot.  At the south end of the parking lot, I finally heard a Least Flycatcher giving its distinctive "che-bek."  I was lucky.  The Least Flycatcher called about five times and only occasionally, probably because it was getting late and the sun was getting low enough that flying insect activity was reduced.  this bird was slowing down for the day.  The highway traffic also did not help with hearing bird calls.  I looked for the Least Flycatcher hoping to see it, but had no success.  I was able to get the Least Flycatcher to respond to the i Bird Pro song for verification, but that verification was really not needed.  The "che-bek" of the Least Flycatcher is distinctive enough that no verification was needed.  A American Restart was singing and Veery calling "veeeer" at the rest stop.

Kirtland's Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Black Tern and Least Flycatcher all target birds for this trip raise the total to 529. 

Brian McDermott from North Carolina contacted me about apparently missing Tufted Titmouse, because Tufted Titmouse is in the list of birds not see.  However, Tufted Titmouse was included on the list of birds (number 9 for the year) seen as well as inadvertently left on the list of birds not seen.  I have corrected the list.  Thanks Brian for asking.
Upland Sandpiper
Mourning Warbler
Black Tern

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