Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crane Creek State Park (Magee Marsh) Ohio

2010-04-27 11:00 am - 3:00 pm Magee Marsh

This was the first time we ever went there. Last year as a new birder I kept reading about this special place from postings by Michigan birders. Yes, it is a great place, and I can see where it might really be "magical" at times! I wanted to go before the leaves obscured the birds (so we could take photos) and before the crowds of birders arrived. Mission accomplished! We caught two "lifers" plus a mink never seen where I shot it at the beginning of the boardwalk! Judy called out "Critter!" while I was changing my memory card (go figure, the one time I needed to do this!) and yet I managed to get the camera up before he left!

Magee Mink!

There were a few people from a local bird club pulling the invasive Garlic Mustard in the area and when I showed my pics to one of them, he walked me around to show it to the rest - including the "Mayor of the Boardwalk" - so I know it was a really cool sighting! Retrospectively, it was probably the presence of the club members off the boardwalk that spooked the mink to run. These are the only good mink pics I ever shot!

There were only about a dozen or so (10 to 20) birders on the boardwalk. It was great! Everyone was very friendly and helpful with what we saw - with the  exception of one photographer who kept getting in front of me when I saw a bird. A "fancy lens a...ole" he was. He probably sells his photos. I just wonder if we could ever find out how to sort out reputable photographers from the trash? I was so upset I did not want to ask for his card or website. You probably know the type - if not this specific trash guy.

Anyway, my pics are free as usual. If I ever get a good one that you want, just let me know and I can sell you a higher quality one very cheaply - or just give it to you. I wish I had a fancy lens , but I am quite happy that my 70-300 mm catches some good stuff. Well, the secret is (sssh!): shoot lots, delete 90%, and just go birding and have fun!

Ed Levandowski had told me thatI would get all the Ruby-crowned Kinglets I wanted at Magee. Well, he was almost right! I saw lots! But these guys were so cool, I still want more! Even though I caught the red crown, I would love to see it raised more!

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Another "lifer" was the White-throated Sparrow. I saw them a couple of times, but the most interesting thing was watching them "leaf-rustling" near the beginning of the boardwalk. These guys and a House Wren were lots of fun as they picked through the leaves - looking for bugs I think. Besides them, a female Red-winged Blackbird was doing the same thing, but I had seen it before, so it did not impress me so much.

White-throated Sparrow

House Wren on tree before "leaf rustling" 

OK, so here are a couple of pics for discussion. I thought I was shooting a Great Egret, and just liked the posing and fishing, but after I saw the pics I think I might have caught the mythical "Great White Heron". What do you think? The bill is black or dark on the upper side and is very thick!

"Great White Heron"

Not too many warblers seen yet. A Palm Warbler and a Yellow-rumped Warbler (aka, "butter butt").
 Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Here is the species list:

Purple Martins - lots - nesting at park office ( I shot my best pics so far - they were very close!)
Barn Swallows - lots - nesting at park office
Tree Swallows- lots
Great Egret- 5
Red-Winged Blackbirds - lots
Rusty Blackbird?
Palm Warbler - 1
Yellow-Rumped Warbler - 2
Double-Crested Cormorants - 6
Kingfisher (heard)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets (many) (Lifer!)
Mallard - a few
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher - few
White-Throated Sparrow - a few (Lifer!)
House Wren - a few
Eastern Phoebe?
Hermit Thrush - 2
Great Blue Heron - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Grackles - many
Painted Turtles - 5
Mink - 1

OK, to close with a pic, here is the best Painted Turtle pic I ever shot. Cute!

We will be going back next week (mid-week) to see perhaps some "magic" - like the "raining warblers" gestalt some website mentioned for this time period!

Go Bird! Go Magee Marsh!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010-04-11 Wetzel State Rec Area, Michigan

2010-04-11 Wetzel State Rec Area, Michigan 2:30 - 4:15 pm

Judy and I made a trip through Stoney Creek Metro Park to Wetzel State Recreation Area to look for birds.

We had a great picnic at Stoney (Thanks Judy! The mix of olives and pickles in the same bag was great!). By chance we met Jan Olesen at two places there, and as we spoke with her at Baypoint Beach she pointed out a lovely Eastern Bluebird atop a tree. I guess I generally ignore tree-toppers right now thinking they are RWBB or Robins. This was nice for autofocus cameras! No sticks in the way! Judy got her best Bluebird shot!

Previously while walking the Nature Center trails I shot a camo moth amid leaves. It always buried its head into the leaves. I think this worked for two reasons. First, it seemed like a deer - "if I can't see you, you can't see me"! (Yeah, but your butt is hanging out...). And, second, it was indeed the perfect camo!

Anyone know the name of this moth?

Then we went to Wetzel State Rec Area in Macomb County. This was the first time we had gone there. Ed Lewandowski told me about recent good birds there and I always listen to Ed. I was especially interested in the Ruddy Ducks. I had mentioned to Jan at Stoney that we would probably go to Wetzel, and by the time we had finished our lunch at Stoney Creek and arrived at Wetzel, Jan was just leaving. She told us exactly where the Ruddy Ducks were found. All of the good birds were in the southwest lake of the northern set of ponds. Got that? Well check out the DNR map of Wetzel and you can see what I mean:

Wetzel is a really neat area now! I think in the summer it will be incredibly hot (no shade around the paths around the lakes!) and probably no ducks. Previously I had seen a video of Wetzel taken from a camera in an RC airplane. OK, I thought. Interesting. Well I got 4 when I added 2+2. The DNR pic had "airstrip" as part of the legend. I thought a small private air field. It turns out there is a very active Macomb County RC group that leases part of Wetzel as an airstrip for remote-controlled planes. The DNR keeps it mowed for them, and I was told by a member that this is active almost any day - especially on weekends. Cool! A private airstrip for RC craft! The buzzing did not seem to bother the birds at all. I think the club has been there since 1967  - I forget - well a long time anyway. And RC planes do not have the same silouhette as raptors. OK. For a "trippy" video of Wetzel using a one ounce cam on a RC plane check out:
1) Amazing to put a video cam on an RC plane!!! What technology!
2) You have to check out the DNR map and then go there to appreciate what you are seeing! The pilot was not looking for ducks!

Oh, am I rambling? Sure! It's all fun! I tried to stay away from the airfield other than a cursory look at the activities lest I covet yet another flying object! However, next time (having gotten our present Object of Desire -think Bunuel movie- Ruddy Ducks) we will probably check out the action. I can easily imagine wanting a plane! (Yet with forseeable finances, never...)

Time for a pic. There were lots of Mute Swans (hated by many, but still so beautiful and interesting!) building nests around Wetzel (lakes near main entrance). Some of these nests rise many feet above the lakes! I mean many feet (like 4 feet)! Some of the birds are really compulsive! We watched one closely for awhile.

It just has to be perfect!
Oh - just go soak your head!

I highly recommend Weztzel SRA now. It has good accessible paths (well, a bit wet if coming up from the southern entrance) and clean primitive fixed restrooms in two locations and really good ducks! I am not good with the bitty flighty feathered things coming soon, but the mid-height vegetation along the margins of the southwest lake of the northern group sure looked interesting for possibilities soon.

Lest I ramble too far and miss my dinner, I offer a few pics and a species list.

Common Merganser and Killdeer
Common Merganser and GW Teal
Lady Merganser
We got our Ruddy Ducks! "Tippy Tails"! Lifers!

When you see us in the field, please forgive our wrap-around shades! It's an age thing (also smart!).

But be sure to say "Hi" to us!

We dipped on the Shovelers seen by Ed and Jan, and the Greater Yellowlegs seen by Jan, but here's our list of wet birds (most from SW lake in N quad):

Ring-Necked Ducks - 2 dozen - most abundant
Ruddy Ducks - 8 (4 pair)
Common Merganser -2 (one pair)
Mute Swans - 11 (+ several more mostly nesting - on the more northern ponds)
Buffleheads - 3 (1 pair + 1)
Redheads - 3
Mallards - 2 (1 pair)
Green-Winged Teal - 1 female
Killdeer - 1

I hope you enjoyed the ramble. Go check out Wetzel soon! We will be going back!

Thanks to Ed Lewandowski who told us where to go; and Mike Mencotti who told us about the tails recognizable from a distance; and to Jan Olesen who specifically told us where they were that day! Hey! It took three experienced birders to put us on Ruddy Ducks, but we got them! Thanks so much!

A great day!!!