Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spring surveys: Week 7

This past week saw a reduction in the numbers and diversity of birds, with 80 species recorded on campus. Daily species totals ranged from 38 to 58, with an average of 51. Nearly every day had wind directions from the north or east, which are not conducive to good migratory flights. As might be expected this time of year, the trees are fully leafed out, more female migrants are present, and the combination of hard-to-see and not-singing made for a challenge.

Of the 18 warbler species recorded in the past week, the highlight was a female Connecticut Warbler on 26 May. Unfortunately, it was seen briefly and not relocated. The dominant
warblers are the mid- and late season varieties: American Redstart, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler, although numbers are small.

The other "good bird" was the third spring 2009 record for Summer Tanager, this one a female on 23 May. It was also seen briefly before disappearing.

Kingbirds have finally been on the increase, but small Empidonax flycatchers are still scarce. Both species of cuckoos have been seen this week, with the first Yellow-billed Cuckoos arriving on 22 May. On 25 May, three were seen together -- and one was carrying a stick, perhaps preparing to build a nest.

There are still a handful of Swainson's Thrushes being found every day. Other lingering migrants include Black-throated Green Warbler (one heard today) and White-crowned Sparrow (an individual recorded nearly daily up through yesterday).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring surveys: Week 6

Seven days of surveys yielded 95 species on campus for the week ending 20 May. We tallied over 80 species on both 16 May (82) and 18 May (86, our season high so far). On 18 May, there were 23 species of warblers recorded, with the only regular expected species missing being Cape May.

New spring arrivals this week included Lincoln's Sparrow on 15 May; Black-billed Cuckoo, Blackpoll Warbler, and Mourning Warbler on 16 May; and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Olive-sided Flycatcher on 17 May. Also notable were American Woodcock and Golden-winged Warbler on 18 May.

The last couple of days clear nights with south winds swept most of the migrants away, and we await another wave. Flycatchers remain quite scarce. We've had very few Eastern Kingbirds, one Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and only a couple of sightings of Alder/Willow Flycatchers. Least Flycatchers have been consistent, but we've not recorded more than three on any day. Also conspicuous in their rarity have been Yellow Warblers, which are typically very common. Five has been our top count. Black-throated Blue Warblers are usually less abundant, but have also been rare this spring so far.

Elsewhere in Dearborn...

The big stony vacant lot at the corner of the Southfield service drive and Rotunda has been Dearborn's shorebird "hot spot." On 14 May, a Dunlin and a Semipalmated Sandpiper showed up there. These were both 3rd city records. All week there were plovers (up to 10) as well as one to five Least Sandpipers. Another Dunlin showed up on 20 May for the fourth city record. Horned Larks have been regular, American Pipits have been seen several times, and on 15 May a Northern Mockingbird was seen running around catching bugs!

Among the lumps and rocks, small shorebirds can be tough to see. Several of us have been checking the lot daily. Sometimes visits 20 minutes apart can yield completely different results!

"Psst. I think someone is watching us." Two Semipalmated Plovers.


Other faunal news...
Truly odd was this Beaver photographed by Mike O'Leary at the Greenfield Village oxbow pond. We'll see how much tree trimming the Village allows!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring surveys: Week 5

Surveys were completed every day for the week ending 13 May. The week began rather dismally, but a total of 97 species were tallied on campus by week's end. There were some highlights:
  • An Osprey snagging a fish from Fairlane Lake on 8 May.
  • A Peregrine falcon flyover on 12 May.
  • A Red-headed Woodpecker counted on the North American Migration Count on 9 May.
  • Hooded Warbler, also found on that count.
  • The second Summer Tanager of the season on 10 May.
Twenty-one warbler species were found during the week, although only Yellow-rumped Warblers and Nashville Warblers were counted in two-digit numbers. The day with the highest warbler diversity was on 12 May, with 16 species.

Mid-migration has been stalled. There were few new arrivals this week: Blackburnian Warbler on 8 May, Eastern Wood-Pewee on 9 May, Bay-breasted Warbler on 10 May, and Orange-crowed Warbler on 11 May.

Weather fronts favorable for migrant movement were just not happening this past week, but things look set to change for the next few days. We should see the rest of the expected migrants, as well as larger numbers.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dearborn's North American Migration Count

The North American Migration Count takes place the second Saturday each May. It aims to take a "snapshot" of migration, and is compiled on a county basis. My husband Darrin is the coordinator for Wayne County, and we covered the city of Dearborn together on May 9.

The first half of the day was spent scouring the U of M-Dearborn campus -- my daily spring bird survey deluxe. Joining us was our good friend and RRBO supporter Jamie Jacob. A cold front was approaching, and while the first hour or so was okay, the winds quickly kicked up, making it difficult to hear or see birds. As I indicated in my last spring survey post, birding has been a bit slow lately. We ended up with just 76 species for the campus. Our highlights were a Hooded Warbler in the floodplain along the Rouge River, and a Red-headed Woodpecker in the swampy area near the river at the north end of campus. It was one of only 14 warbler species seen on campus. The first Eastern Wood-Pewee of the season was found. There was an obvious increase in the number of Baltimore Orioles and White-crowned Sparrows over the last few days.

Julie and Jamie, hitting the trails.

After campus, we checked out all the various sunflower/wildflower plantings around the city. The sunflowers are, of course, all spent and sagging. The wildflower fields have all been recently mowed, and several fields were not planted last year at all. Thus, they did not have ideal habitat. But we were hopeful for shorebirds at some of the fields with large puddles -- there have been Least Sandpipers in a couple recently. But we were skunked other than Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper. The wetland area near the Ford Rouge Complex visitor center is really maturing, and we had a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. After these locations and a few others, time was running out. Darrin wanted to hit Grosse Ile, and I still had to roam around our neighborhood (where I had 30 species).

The species total for Dearborn was 83. Here is our list:

Canada Goose 67
Wood Duck 3
Mallard 10
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 7
Green Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 6
Cooper's Hawk 2
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 13
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull 39
Herring Gull 2
Rock Pigeon 9
Mourning Dove 35
Chimney Swift 11
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 11
Downy Woodpecker 12
Hairy Woodpecker 4
Northern Flicker 9
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Least Flycatcher 3
Eastern Phoebe 5
Great Crested Flycatcher 4
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Warbling Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 4
Blue Jay 59
American Crow 2
Tree Swallow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 25
Cliff Swallow 6
Barn Swallow 13
Black-capped Chickadee 10
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 5
House Wren 14
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Veery 2
Swainson's Thrush 1
Wood Thrush 3
American Robin 165
Gray Catbird 18
Euro. Starling 261
Cedar Waxwing 6
Tennessee Warbler 3
Nashville Warbler 21
Yellow Warbler 4
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2
Magnolia Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 8
Black-throated Green Warbler 4
Blackburnian Warbler 2
Palm Warbler 4
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Ovenbird 4
Northern Waterthrush 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Hooded Warbler 1
Scarlet Tanager 4
Chipping Sparrow 11
Savannah Sparrow 11
Song Sparrow 11
White-throated Sparrow 4
White-crowned Sparrow 78
Northern Cardinal 34
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 11
Indigo Bunting 8
Red-winged Blackbird 46
Common Grackle 27
Brown-headed Cowbird 59
Baltimore Oriole 33
House Finch 5
Pine Siskin 2
American Goldfinch 43
House Sparrow 94

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring surveys: Week 4

This week, 92 species were recorded on campus. Most of the new arrivals and good numbers occurred early in the week. By week's end, diversity and abundance were petering out, with only 46 species and under 300 individuals being recorded today (versus 73 species and nearly 700 individuals on 2 May). So most of the early-season migrants have moved out, and the mid-season wave has not yet arrived.

Some notable species were a flyover Common Loon on 4 May and a Summer Tanager on 3 May. The Red-headed Woodpecker was last seen on 30 April, and the Prothonotary Warbler on 2 May.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring bird walks

The Environmental Interpretive Center is having four Saturday morning bird walks. Registration is required. I've posted the details here.