Friday, June 17, 2011

2011-06-15 Wetzel SRA (Macomb County), Michigan

2011-06-15 Wetzel SRA (Macomb County), Michigan
I will probably put more words and pics here later, or at least add other pics to my PBase site. I got lots!

Judy and I had the great fortune to bird with Janet Hug today at Wetzel SRA. We had only met her once before - at Kensington MetroPark - serendipity! - but we have been Facebook friends for a long time. Janet is a really great photographer - especially for birds.

We slowly birded for about 2 1/2 hours and walked a mile and a half (per Judy's inseparable pedometer).

I was really proud to able to put Janet on her first Bobolink of the year. Other birders have done that for me ("do you have a whazzit?") on many occasions, but this was my first time leading the way. Better yet, the Bobolink came with a matched pair - even I got great pics of both the posing male and the much harder female! The male kept up antics - including overhead aerial when a nest is nearby - to draw attention away from the family. Once we figured out we were near the nest location, we shot a few pics and left them to their normal activities.

Singing male Bobolink
Janet's pics will be much better. I just felt really proud I could put her on the exact spot for the Bobolinks (must be the name - smile...) she needed this year.

In addition, Janet had brought her iPod, so when we saw a brief glimpse of a dinky bird at the edge of the pond, she could play and verify the lovely song of her lifer Marsh Wren we were hearing. High fives! What a lovely gurgling wren song! Lacking Aaron Copeland, anyone have ideas of an extant classical music composer to whom to suggest the song as an adapted inclusion in a musical score?

My "lifer" companion, photo-biographer, and general love of my life - Judy - took a pic of Janet and me at the start of our walk.

Judy took another on the trails. It is fantastic that DNR keeps the main trails mowed but does not mess with the natural habitat! In my experience locally, Wetzel is truly unique! We are in the Savannah Sparrow habitat. Bobolinks are just "aways down the road". You might notice the fact Janet has her pant legs tucked into her socks. We do as well. Our normal protocol at Wetzel is to "tuck and spray" lower extremities with DEET as a tick barrier. It is not a big deal, but it is easy and helps.

The Bobolinks were in the same area as last week , but a different specific location. It leads me to suspect that there at least two breeding pairs there this year. We started at "6", and the Bobolinks were at "3".  Round trip was 1.5 miles. Last week they were between "3" and "4".

We were lucky enough to get pics of both the posing male, and the feeding female. We watched the female with bug in mouth - probably a dragonfly - checking out several locations before heading back to the nest. My guess is that she wanted something for everyone.  On many occasions I have seen my "deck birds" stuff their cheeks before leaving. Maybe a big family is why? I suspect Momma Bobolink was just trying to make sure everyone would get something. She tried (bug in mouth) in at least 4 spots before heading to the nest. Fascinating! I think if I ever wanted to take home a dragonfly for the kids, I would take one first, and then go back out for more for the others. On the other hand, I am not sure what I would do faced with gaping mouths and no knife or ability to wield one to slice my catch. Certainly I would not want to give my kids the impression of playing favorites!  "Sorry 'Bobeeta', 'Junior' eats first!"  Well there were plenty of d'flies, so I am sure "every-bob" got fed! :)

Female Bobolink with d'fly food for kids
The most abundant bird was the Savannah Sparrow. We must have seen at least two dozen, and were quite amazed at the morphological variations we observed.

- insert Savannah pics -

Oh! Not to forget other "flappy things". Lots of dragonflies and many butterfly species. I think dragonflies must be the preferred food of the blackbird family - which includes Bobolinks  - who would have thought about birds eating dragonflies?  OK, I can see the resemblance between Bobolinks and RWBB. Learning am I!

I well remember watching a dragonfly last year at Holland Ponds and waiting for it to land so I could get a pic, when a female Red-winged Blackbird caught it in the air and took off. I wonder about the "ode guys"  (dragonfly catchers) with big nets trying to catch dragonflies when a bird with essentially tweezers (i.e., bill) can catch them in mid-air. Now THAT would be a pic! I can just imagine a cartoon of good buddy Darrin O'Brien chasing "odes" with tweezers. Ha!

OK, Darrin, here are a few for you to ID for me. I am calling them all "clearwing dragons" because I can see right thru the wings. For communication reference I named them all myself. I'll update after you have a look.

Note: I just updated the photos with the right names per Darrin's IDs - Thanks Darrin! Not a true "Clearwing" in the bunch - so much for my naming efforts... I must have been thinking about the Hummingbird Clearwing I shot on the next trip - but that was a butterfly ... OK, now I can see it - or see thru it as the case may be - clear wings are rare in b'flies, but too common in d'flies to mean anything. Interesting!

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) - I called it Yellow-striped abdomen clearwing
Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) - I called it Rocky Clearwing 
Per my reference, this  looks like an immature male. Interesting that I thought it was a totally different species than the abundant bulky white-tailed things that are so common there.

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) - I called it Yellow-butt-dot Clearwing

We had a wonderful day, and can't wait to bird with Janet again. Great fun! Not only that, but she again showed me a new trick with my camera. I actually read my camera booklet, but never knew what some things meant in practice. I have been too complacent just getting a pic to possibly adjust to get a better pic - and obviously need help. (Thanks Janet! My Clay-colored Sparrow pics a couple days later benefited greatly!)
Wetzel is an amazingly unspoiled natural place so relatively near us. I highly recommend any local birders to visit the Wetzel  "Friends"  website, and if you are a Facebook user, to "Like" them (link on the referenced page). Community support for such unspoiled places is essential to guarantee perpetuity - especially in these hard economic times.

We anticipate birding with Janet again soon.

What fun!!!

Note: Rob Golda (Hiking Michigan) made a great map for Wetzel SRA. Another fantastic addition to Wetzel was the recent posting of trail maps by the Michigan DNR (per my photo above) on posts at trail branches so you can see where your are and where you might want to travel. We really appreciated these - thanks DNR!!! Between Rob's map and the DNR signposts, it is really easy to navigate! Check it out!

1 comment:

Darrin O'Brien said...

Ode IDs: Widow Skimmer, Common Whitetail, Dot-tailed Whiteface

I do catch a number of odes with my fingers since I normally don't have my net during lunch hours. However, the dragonflies are normally perched. Grabbing one out of the air would be something, but then didn't the Karate Kid grab a fly with chopsticks? ;^)