Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spring 2011 - Local Birding in Southeast Michigan

(Pics enroute ... come back again)

Interestingly, today Judy and I walked locally at Streamwood  and one of our friends (and correspondent) kiddingly said "how can I know what you actually saw when you never post photos anymore"? Ya, sure - point taken.

I am quite embarassed I have not posted since February. This has been the best spring for birding around here ever in my short birding life! Yes, I have been meaning to update my blog, and I am really embarrased! I am really been proud of the fact I have a blog and that many people like it. Thanks so much! Here is my start.

Yes, it has been a great spring! What to do? Work on my hundreds of pics, and try to find words to express my excitement and joy at dozens of new lifers, or go birding? I guess y'all know my choice. I have been "doing" rather than writing. I have often posted sightings and "rambles" on the southeast Michigan birder's listserv, but my postings have done nothing for this blog.

Now the darn leaves are out, and the heat and humidity return. Maybe it is a good time to catch up.

The greatest thing about this spring was that the temperatures were cool (like a high in 50's on a good day). While we enjoyed non-freezing temps and got out birding, the plants did not have enough warmth to go "all out". It is the first time I remember migratory birds arriving before the leaves. I guess they must have had a few bugs to eat enroute to their final destinations, but I am sure the bugs were not in normal quantities. All the better for us I suspect! No leaves, lingering migrants needing more  food before continuing north, and few 'skeeters - whew! Great spring for birding for humans and photographers!

We also followed the recommendation of a scruffy man we met at Beaudette Park this winter while we were observing the diving ducks that concentrate there in open water when local lakes are frozen. We normally just go to Beaudette to see the ducks, and when they leave, so do we. Scruffy man (cloaked in winter hair camo) said Beaudette Park is great for warblers during migration. Try it. OK, fine ...

Well he was right! He also said that he often sat on a picnic table overlooking the forest and could see warblers. Right again!

We were so lucky to see two birders at Beaudette Park when we made our initial spring visit this year. We watched them surveying the trees, and respectfully paused in approach, and they waved us to come in. It turns out our "winter friend" - now clean-shaven and no longer looking  homeless - remembered us. "Dr. Bob and Judy". Easy for him - we did not look much different except for lighter jackets, and one of his birding friends is named Judy. Huh? Eventually a few synapses fired and I remembered the now-shaven Bill from our winter walks. This time he had his friend Gordon (another excellent birder) with him.

It did not look like they were seeing much until they said "look there" and named a bird. Sure enough!  Again and again!

Eventually I "got into it" and offered  places to look. They always knew the name of the bird. On a rare occasion or two (a "rattling" Baltimore Oriole for one), I could actually point out a good one for them before they saw it. Synergy!

So much fun! So many new local lifers!

We also birded other local places.

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On my own, I saw and shot a Black-throated Green Warbler right here at Streamedge!

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Another highlight was definitely meeting Kevin Rysiewski at Stoney Creek. We met him near the lake down the path heading west from the parking area by North Dam. It overlooked where I had proposed to Judy over a decade before, and actually is a good fishing spot! Kevin - also a fisherman - confirmed the fishing idea. Needless to say, my best catch was recorded there! It was I who hooked the best!

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Anyway, Kevin suggested we try the mountain bike trails at West Branch of Stoney Creek and told of wonderful birds to seek. We did so.


I later suggested to Kevin that he join the Michigan Birder's listserv. He did so. He has become an amazing contributor to "the list", providing not only bird records, but also specific mile-markers at West Branch, Stoney Creek where they were sighted. Not only has he become an important contributor to "the list", but also a wonderful resource to Stoney Creek Metro Park in compiling a species list. Great "kid"!!!  It is so nice to see Stoney Creek MP recognized as  a great birding hotspot in our area! Based on the Nature Center area, we always thought it quite boring, but we never walked the West Branch trails before Kevin suggested it.

I am so happy to report as I age: "And a child shall lead them"! (I think Kevin is in his 20's  - still a "kid" to me...). I proudly acknowledge this now as I age; yet I was - and sometimes still am - a great teacher. I find that I am learning so much from my juniors these days. And I am so proud to have the "kids" recognize me as a colleague (if you will) or at least as a birder to be befriended. What a great community this birding endeavor breeds!

Thinking here specifically about Kevin (but appropriate to many more "kids" who help us), Kevin tolerated my slower walking pace. In a way, it really did not hurt "the hunt" much. I seem to have learned that the more you slow down and wait, the more birds will come to you (hey - a "lesson"). But I remember specifically that Kevin (who knows the trails at West Branch so well) told us "there is just one more hill, then it is all down hill". Thanks! I needed that! What had started as a projected less than 2 mile flat walk had turned into about 4.5 miles on the "mid-difficulty" trails at West Branch. Whew! Yet, I doubt Kevin ever knew that when we started following him.

To our birder friends I say, if you ever pick us up along the way, or ever choose to take us with you from the start, we will go as far as we will. We have the choice to disconnect if we need to, yet we will continue to push forward. Our most memorable experiences have come by pushing ourselves. I tend to call us "fair weather birders" - and might add "lazy" sometimes. Yet, we will follow your lead when available!

Following Kevin on the trails was great. Just after the comment of "one more hill", I caught my first ever sighting of a Barred Owl in the wild! Similarly, walks with other birders always offered more new species after a time we might have normally quit on our own.

Gotta love "kids"!

Sure, even Allen Chartier is a "kid" compared to me. Certainly my buddy Ed Lewandowski; my mentor Jerry Jourdan; Darrin O'Brien; Janet "Kissin Hugs"; Cathy Carroll; Chris Goulart; so many more - sorry if I forgot anyone... just rambling ... Y'all push me and indeed I need it!

But when talking "kids",  of course James Fox, Harold Eyster, Sarah Toner, Andy Johnson - many more? WOW - real "kids"! Someday I want to bird with them! Hey, kids, lead me!

It is so wonderful to have inspirations! At this point in my life, I know I can never achieve what I might have done before, but I am so delighted that it seems like I have teachers and inspirations everywhere. Yes, and often a child shall lead!

Anyway, I dispersed a few pics throughout this  "ramble" and I hope you like.

And, once again, I thank all my mentors, friends and "kids" for the inspiration to share my "ramble"!