Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Forget "No". Here is "Yes"! Snow Buntings and Horned Larks in Oakland County

On my last blog I mentioned several places where we failed to see birds we might have expected. Here is a "ramble" about one place that has now produced!

"Dutton Fields" (Dutton and Lapeer Roads in Oakland County - off the service drive connecting the two) made for some incredible winter birding a couple of years ago. My friend Ed Lewandowski had seeded the basically barren area in the same place (Geez, Ed really knows his local areas!!!) and drew in a host (flocks!!!) of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and even a few Lapland Longspurs. He posted the location and his sightings to the se-Mich birders list. It was an amazing year at this place, and drew in dozens of birders. We enjoyed large flocks of Snow Buntings to join the normally present Horned Larks! I really shot some good pics of Snow Buntings in flight, as well as on the ground. Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs were "lifers"!

(... In retrospect, I think it might have been Jan Olesen - now in Florida - who had reported Horned Larks across the street by the hotel where we saw out first ever Horned Lark the year before Ed even seeded Dutton- cool! Thanks Jan!). Before now, nothing there this year or last ...

Last year with the weird winter and just generally my non-motivation, not much to report.

So, I thought I would try again. I just posted that I had visited this spot a couple of days ago. I saw nothing! I had hoped the Horned Larks would be there for my "year bird",but nothing! It was interesting that all the previously-present heavy machinery had disappeared along with the company trailers. And, all of the rubble had also been removed! I suspected they might want to sell the site and had cleaned it up. They leveled much of the area within the immediate vicinity of the road to clean it up even removing most of the nearby stubble... I had few hopes.

OK. Well, anyway I went there and "seeded" it on Friday (2013-01-11). No birds. Hey! You can get cheap bird feed at Aco Hardware on sale. For maybe $5 per bag you can get 20 pounds! Not the "oilers" people like for their feeders, and with lots of crushed corn and stuff, but interestingly enough, just the stuff lots of winter birds like.

BTW, I even started mixing it in with the mostly pure "oilers" I was putting on my deck, and my American Tree Sparrows and Northern Juncoes have reappeared after a two week absence. Coincidence? How would I know - my "experiment" was totally without a "control group", but I like it and it is cheap!

Anyway - back to the story ...

For y'all who remember Dutton a couple of years ago, I offer a couple of pics Judy took of me today. Now it looks like an abandoned field. It does not look like much, but watch for flights of fluttering frivolous fantasies!

I went back yesterday out of curiosity. I expected nothing after only one day. But I found Snow Buntings!!! Geez!!! "If you seed it they will come"!!! (Reminds me of a movie ...!) And yes, grammatically, it also fascinates me - "I seed it", not "I saw it". With chuckles, I wonder that some kids today might not understand ...  :) (... this is a Facebook thing for making a "happy face"... I suspect it will not work here ...) I seed it and they came!!!

To prove it, I offer the Snow Buntings:

Pure luck and timing I suspect. I was there about 2:30 - 3:00 pm. I recorded 10 Snow Buntings and 8-10 Horned Larks.

Judy and I went back today - again about 2:30 - 3:00 pm. All we saw were Horned Larks (6), but they were not as spooky as Snow Buntings and allowed me to get out of the car - moving slowly! - to get a pic or two.Geez! It was so windy! But fortunately the bright sun allowed some pics that even I with advanced age and being buffeting by winds could capture.

YES! I not only shot my Horned Larks, but was lucky enough to get the Snow Buntings yesterday!!! Two great species for Oakland County and my "year list". Better than that, I suspect that the birds know another "fast food place" to include in their travels, so I suspect and hope they will tell their "birdie friends"! Maybe we will have another great year of special winter birds!

I can almost guarantee Horned Larks (incredibly beautiful birds!!!) on a visit, but at present, I think you will need some good luck to see the Snow Buntings. Try hanging out for a half-hour or more and rub your good luck charm.

Everyone - please tell me (direct e-mail or on the se-Mich birder's list) your experiences there! Especially if the Lapland Longspurs join the flock!!!

Good birding y'all!!!

- "Dr. Bob"


Kim Smith said...

That's it, I'm heading over there to check it out tomorrow! I've already got the buntings and larks for this year's list, but a Lapland Longspur would be a lifer for me if they show up too. This spot is so close to home I really should check it every day. Thanks for the heads up that the birds are there!

"Dr. Bob" said...

Thanks for the update Kim! I read your blog and glad you saw the Horned Larks and Kestrel. And, I am especially happy your experience triggered a new blog! I love your writing!!!