This follows up on a recent note I sent to a Michigan birder's list this week. I had suggested today might be a good day to see some diving duck things (like mergansers) at Belle Isle.
In a way I hope no one went out today based on my posting because we saw very few mergansers. We saw the Hooded Mergansers (4) still in the smaller “Lagoon” at the west end– that’s about all.
But there was still a (smaller) Scaups’ raft on the northwest end (along the drive shortly after you enter the isle) – with a couple of Goldeneyes (new for us!) mixed in. Cool!
Also a couple hundred Canvasback ducks (also new for us – very pretty!) were in the Blue Heron Lagoon (park along the road between lighthouse and Nature Center) – but they were on the other side and far away. Binocs would have been fine for ID, but not great.
I just scanned a map I got from the Nature Center and posted it on PBase. By the way - the Nature Center security guard told us all restrooms are closed for the winter except the one at the Nature Center (helpful info when you drive quite a way!!!). (There are also a couple of “porta-pottys” at the nailed-shut restroom by the statue in the middle of the roundabout by the police station). Use the map in conjunction with Allen’s map in his “Guide”. Also read his “story” about Belle Isle birds – I found it very helpful!
Map is at my PBase site: http://www.pbase.com/doctorbass/image/119809654.
I will put some pics there later.
Today most of the birds were farther away than last time– a scope would have been helpful! I have a few possible scenarios: 1) many more people on a weekend, 2) bright sunlight – the food fish for divers were probably spookier and at greater depth (I think this is the answer), and 3) the Canvasbacks were tired of being shot at and found a “quiet corner” (we did not see them before). I do not know much about Mergansers, but they are “fancy” birds and I tend to believe fancy birds are spookier and just “do their own thing” differently.
We were there from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. It was a perfectly lovely day – in the afternoon it was 48 degrees with little wind! The weather almost invited the picnic we chose to forego.
I wish we lived closer! I suspect the observations change daily if not hourly! We drove the isle a second time before we left and the Scaups were gone – darn fickle flappy feathered friends indeed!
A "raft" (maybe 3 dozen) of Scaups (I suspect mostly Lesser - I just have to get the raised forehead ID factor figured out...!)
Common Goldeneye (few - with Scaups)
Ring-billed Gulls (hundreds - I could not see any other gulls with them)
Canada Geese (many hundreds! - no "collared" geese)
Domestic Geese (the same white one and other one we saw earlier this week)
Starlings (two flocks)
Mallards - only a couple of dozen (too much competition for feeding?)
Pigeons (many, but not as many as I would expect during a feeding episode)
Mute Swans (10)
Hooded Merganser (one male, three female)
Bufflehead (one female only)
Coots ( uncommon - with Canvasbacks)
Canvasbacks (a couple of hundred in northeast end of Blue Heron Lagoon - wonderful!)
It was a weekend, so we were not too surprised about families feeding the birds. The geese and gulls were especially interested - gulls "win"! And, then the gulls always wanted to take the food away from whichever other gull got it! Lots of noise making - "it's mine"!
Anyway, it was a great day just to be “out”!!! I hope you enjoyed the day in late November Michigan as much as we did!