Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Robert H. Long Nature Park - Commerce Twp. - MI

2009-08-05 10:20 am-1:30 pm
Today was different at Robert Long! We arrived and immediately noticed something was quite different than the times we visited before. We saw no egrets, no herons, no shorebirds. We saw lots more mallards at the entrance area, but very few goosers. There were still quite a few gulls in front of the gazebo, but not so many as previously. Weird! OK, what was the difference. I came up with a few ideas after walking a bit:
1) It was a beautiful day for weather! A cold front had just come thru and the temps were pleasant! (A reason I had chosen to go today!). Then, I remembered my bass-fishing days where a cold front would put down the bass, and wondered if birds responded similarly to cold fronts. (Geez! Sounds like another of my "Dr. Bob questions"...)
2) As we walked, it became apparent they had recently mowed (probably yesterday) the grass on the open spaces and the edges of the trails
3) The lake had receded quite a bit, exposing many more yards of shoreline, and causing a strong "fishy smell" from the dying algae and microscopic organisms.
Hey! When you notice a big difference in a place you know fairly well , it is up to YOU to hypothesize why there may be the difference. ( is called "science"... the questions you ask, and your observations may cause science to go forward - or, at worst, to make you learn more!).
Shortly thereafter, another reasonable hypothesis presented itself. The "dog guy" was ahead of us today. We normally get there ahead of him, but today he had already worked all of our normal areas with his unleashed decoy-fetching dog. He usually works the dog at the four areas most open to observation and photography.

We sat for awhile hoping to allow the park to restore itself, but with little immediate results. Fortunately, by the time the "lunchtime birders" showed a up a couple hours later, the park had "reset", and the "show" was not too much different than usual - with two huge exceptions. We saw only one Great Blue Heron today (a flyover), and three Great Egrets (one far away across the lake, and one perched in a tree in a corner, and one in front of the picnic shelter). Also, it was interesting to note the normal gull population off the shelter had been reduced all day, and at lunchtime, was practically non-existent.

In all, the number of species was about the same, but the mix was quite different.

We characterized it as a "Cormorant Day" since we had one Double-Crested Cormorant alight and "hang out" on a snag within easy reach, and just sat there posing while Judy shot her first shots of a cormorant, but otherwise to me it just seemed weird for this wonderful spot.

We again enjoyed learning more from the birders we encountered (thanks to "Stylurus" (Darrin), and Mike Mencotti for sharing suggestions!) and added two new species to our list.
Species list follows:

Mute Swans
Canada Geese
Barn Swallows
Ring-billed Gulls
Pied-billed Grebes (2)
Eastern Kingbird
Wood Ducks
Great Blue Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
Belted Kingfisher
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Egrets
Northern Flickers (3)
Downey Woodpeckers (inc. one juvenile)
Grackle (1)
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Lesser Yellowlegs?
Plover sp. ?
Plus turtles and two muskrats. Also, a really neat brownish dragonfly that refused to sit for a pic.
The following is how I started the blog tonight. I did it first to provide background for the "birders list"on some questions I had asked. I end my blog with requesting experienced birders to please reply to my questions - there and here.

For now, I am just adding a few lousy pics of a "kid" Downy Woodpecker and parent in just about the worst lighting situation possible! Heavy shade and bright sunlight. The point I want to make here is that the "kid" seems to be able to eat well and be self-supporting, but at one opportunity, the kid is acting like he is "starving" and assumes the universal pose and behavior for "birdie feed me". I have never before seen this in woodpeckers. It further justifies my idea of universal birdie kid behavior that triggers feeding by any adult bird nearby. It would have been really great to see a Redwing Blackbird or someone else trying to feed this "poor starving kid", but for the most part in this encounter even the parent ignored the kid! I think the kid is too old!).
Q: When is it in "birdie years" that a parent suggests the kid leave the nest?
The following are pics are the kid Downy WP with a background parent ("Da Momma"?). He has his "flaps down" and knows how to sit a perch.

Now, here is the "starving kid pic" (lousy as the pic is, I hope the message is here!) Momma? Look at me! I'm starving! See? I have my wings in the right position! I am trembling! Momma? Momma! Is anyone out there?)

Please feed me!

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