phil jeffrey:: Michigan, June 11-14th 2004
David Speiser and I took a trip to Michigan for Kirtland's Warbler and various boreal species over a long weekend June 11-14th.
Trip planning for the northern Lower Peninsula was easy - a simple choice between the Grayling and Mio tours. Since the ABA "Lane" guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula had not been published, most of the trip planning was based extensively on trip reports from Bob Royse and other online sources (see below).
I've got to emphasize that DEET (and possibly a bug hat) are an absolute necessity on a trip like this - mosquitos were aggressive everywhere in the Upper Peninsula and late in the day in boggy areas you could get 50+ mosquitos as close personal friends within 15 seconds of exiting the car.
(For directions etc refer to my Michigan trip planning guide)
Day 1: Friday June 11th 2004. We left Manhattan at 1am and drove overnight across I-80 to Piney Tract in western Pennsylvania for various grassland birds. It was overcast and raining, but we still managed to find the target Henslow's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. Sundry other birds included Chipping Sparrow, Yellow Warbler and Prairie Warbler.
Another six hours of driving had us at Nayanquing NWR north of Bay City in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Yellow Warbler and Chipping Sparrow were abundant, but we also had more interesting species like Black Tern, Caspian Tern, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, American Bittern, Wood Duck, Empidonax sp. (probably Alder), Great Egret and Green Heron.
After Nayanquing we proceded further up I-75 and F-97 to the intersection of Odessa Road and Turney Ranch Trail in northwestern Ogemaw Co to look for Kirtland Warbler. We found a colony of several birds in young Jack Pines west of the intersection. With a dearth of higher perches, finding the warbler proved more difficult than hearing them sing, but we did get our "insurance" Kirtland's Warbler for the trip. Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Chipping and Field Sparrows were also in the general area.
Day 2: Saturday June 12th 2004 Rain accompanied the 7am Kirtland's Warbler tour out of Grayling but thankfully the showers were intermittent and all 24 of us saw a singing male perched up for an extended period. Other Kirtland's were heard but not seen. Also at this site were Scarlet Tanager (an orange male), Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher. Black Flies were numerous but not pathological.
After the early morning Kirtland's, we went straight up I-75 and across the Macinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula. The rain had ceased but the weather remained dark and overcast. Almost immediately after turning onto M-123 a few miles north of St. Ignace we saw a Merlin hunting along the road. North of Trout Lake, we turned onto FR-3344 in the hopes of finding Connecticut Warbler and other boreals. We saw or heard Least and Alder Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Nashville Warbler and Chipping Sparrow inside the first mile, however the Connecticut was not to be found. Further along 3344 we had Sedge Wren and Common Yellowthroat in one of the bogs.
After turning onto FR-3145 we found Hermit Thrush and further on a Hairy Woodpecker. At the same site we heard a fairly close Ruffed Grouse "booming" from the forest. We never saw this bird, however. Mosquitos on this road varied from annoying to downright horrendous, especially in the boggy areas.
Returning to M-123 we went north and crossed M-28, going a mile to the Bear Butt Bar in Eckerman where we saw several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeders. We then returned to M-28 and went west to Seney NWR. The visitor center was already closed, so in rather windy conditions we went around the auto tour loop. Common Loon, Ring-necked Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Trumpeter Swan, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, singing Scarlet Tanager (h), Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, were found around the loop. Surprisingly we did not find Sedge Wren, probably due to the weather conditions.
Leaving Seney we headed east on M-28 to M???; and went north on CoRd-??? through deciduous woodland where we added American Redstart and Blackburnian Warbler and heard Veery. This road was not particularly eventful but potentially quite birdy. It looked like M-???? would also be quite interesting, if we had had the time.
Heading east on ?535? and connecting with M-123 north of Newberry, we went to the Auger River, pulling off on Skyline Dr and birding the edge of M-123. The hoped-for Le Conte's Sparrow were not to be found but there was quite a swam of mosquitos.
We gave up and went south to Newberry for the night.
Day 3: Sunday June 13th 2004. We headed north out of Newberry at 4:40am to get to Vermillion Road north of Paradise for dawn. Despite scanning much promising Spruce Grouse habitat we didn't find a grouse until we bumped into Patrick Santinello and he directed us back to a displaying male Spruce Grouse behind the concrete slab on the south side of Vermillion Road. There was also Vesper Sparrow at that site and two fly-over Evening Grosbeak. We also heard Bay-breasted Warbler along this road.
Proceeding on to Whitefish Point, there were many Evening Grosbeak at the feeders, along with Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, a single Northern Parula. Cliff Swallows and Chimney Swifts were overhead. Red-breasted Merganser and Common Loon were the only birds of note on the lake. A Gray Jay was found by David behind the visitor center, but did not come to the feeders.
We stopped at the Lone Pine access south of Tahquamenon State Park river-mouth in hopes of Le Conte's sparrow but none were too be found (the habitat looked like it had gone too far in succession) but we found Alder Flycatcher and a veritable hoard of mosquitos instead. Returning to the rivermouth campground we found an assortment of warblers including Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Pine.
Moving further south to M-28, we went west to Basnau Road at Hulbert's Corner to investigate the Hendrie River Swamp/Hulbert Bog but apart from hearing Winter Wren, the foliage was too thick to see much. We then drove east on M-28, pausing to find Savannah Sparrow at the abandoned Raco Airfield. We worked our way to Grays Rd in Munuscong WMA and after some searching found Le Conte's Sparrow, several Savannah Sparrows, Upland Sandpiper, a fly-by Sharp-tailed Grouse and Bobolink.
Returning west via M-48 we passed through more grassland, finding more Bobolink and Savannah Sparrow.We returned to FR-3344 north of Trout Lake and found essentially the same species of the previous day (plus Red-breasted Nuthatch) but again no Connecticut Warbler.
A wave of thunderstorms hit along this road and persisted while we drove west to Newberry and stopped for food. As the weather cleared for a short time we went north of Newberry up CoRd 500 in an unsuccessful attempt to find the burn north of Swamp Lakes (but some very entertaining driving along a narrow and wet Swamp Lakes Road). Returning to Newberry we checked Dollarville Flooding and despite some promising habitat on the south side of the road to the campground we failed once again to find Black-backed Woodpecker. We did watch a male Northern Harrier harassing an adult Bald Eagle, however.
Before exiting the UP we checked Soo Junction Road, north of M-28 and east of Newberry, in fairly abysmal conditions for a last stab at Black-backed Woodpecker but found essentially nothing and ended up heading south on M-123 in increasing fog.
Day 4: Monday June 14th 2004. This was just a driving day from Gaylord MI to New York City - nothing of note was found, although Pileated Woodpecker and Belted Kingfisher were seen on the drive.
|Common Loon (Seney NWR, Whitefish Point)|
|Double-crested Cormorant (Mackinac Bridge)|
|American Bittern (Nayanquing NWR, Munuscong WMA)|
|Great Blue Heron|
|Great Egret (Nayanquing NWR)|
|Green Heron (Nayanquing NWR)|
|Blue-winged Teal (Seney NWR)|
|Northern Shoveler (Nayanquing NWR)|
|Ring-necked Duck (Seney NWR)|
|Red-breasted Merganser (Whitefish Point)|
|Bald Eagle (Dollarville Flooding)|
|Merlin (M-123 nr. Moran)|
|Ring-necked Pheasant (heard at Nayanquing NWR)|
|Spruce Grouse (Vermillion Rd nr. Paradise)|
|Wild Turkey (Piney Tract in western PA)|
|Upland Sandpiper (Munuscong WMA)|
|Wilson's Snipe (Seney NWR, Munuscong WMA)|
|Herring Gull (Macinac Briidge)|
|Caspian Tern (Seney NWR, Nayanquing NWR)|
|Black Tern (Nayanquing NWR)|
|Pileated Woodpecker (Seney NWR)|
|Cliff Swallow (Whitefish Point)|
|Winter Wren (heard at Basnau Road/Hulbert Bog)|
|Northern Parula (Whitefish Point, Tahquamenon State Park)|
|Magnolia Warbler (heard)|
|Black-throated Blue Warbler (heard)|
|Black-throated Green Warbler|
|Bay-breasted Warbler (heard)|
|Mourning Warbler (heard)|
|Eastern Towhee (Grayling area)|
|Field Sparrow (Grayling area)|
|Vesper Sparrow (Vermillion Road nr. Paradise)|
|Grasshopper Sparrow (Piney Tract in western PA)|
|Henslow's Sparrow (Piney Tract in western PA)|
|Le Conte's Sparrow (Munuscong WMA)|
|Swamp Sparrow (FR-3344)|
|Dark-eyed Junco (Grayling area)|
|Indigo Bunting (Nayanquing)|
|Yellow-headed Blackbird (Nayanquing WMA)|
|Evening Grosbeak (Whitefish Point, Vermillion Rd)|