Saturday, January 23, 2010

Peregrine wintering in Dearborn

Wintering Peregrine Falcons are not unusual in Dearborn. Most years we have at least one sighting, and one has wintered every year for the past five years. Since Ford began planting sunflowers and other crops at their local properties, this has been the most common place to find them (Merlins, too). The Ford Rouge Plant has also been another Peregrine "hot spot."

This winter we have a Peregrine in a new location. On January 4, Dearborn police officer and long-time RRBO volunteer Mike O'Leary found a Peregrine at the Village Plaza, the tallest building on the west side of Outer Drive just north of Michigan Avenue. The "A" marker on the map below is the intersection of Michigan and Outer Drive. The red arrow points to the Village Plaza building. Enter off Michigan Avenue, past the sub shop, via the street marked in green on the map.

The Peregrine has been hunting around the building and the adjacent golf course. It likes to hang out on the concrete ledge on the southwest corner of the building. The arrow in the photo below shows where it especially likes to sit.

Believe it or not, the bird is in this photo at the tip of the arrow. While it was clearly identifiable with binoculars, a scope is needed for a good photo. Although the falcon was seen yesterday (January 22) by Mike, my husband Darrin and I -- ready with camera and scope -- did not see it this morning. When we get a shot, I'll post it here, and update the latest date seen. If you happen to go by and get a look, let me know in the comments.

Updates: A day or so after I posted this, Mike let me know that he was passing the Village Plaza when he saw the Peregrine heading west along Michigan Avenue. He followed it all the way into Inkster, when it easily passed Mike's car, going an estimated 65 MPH! Apparently, it hunts rather far afield!

7 Apr: Still present.
6 Mar: Still there!
30 Jan: Seen again today at the Village Plaza.
13 Feb: Now more often hanging out on the Michigan Avenue side of the building (see comments).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dearborn CBC, 2010

RRBO has been coordinating the Dearborn portion of the Detroit River Christmas Bird Count (CBC) since 1995. The count is held each year on New Year's Day.

After last year's exciting count featuring winter finches, this year's count was very dull, with the second-lowest number of individuals in 14 years. The low numbers of raptors, Mourning Doves, and House Sparrows, and absence of any blackbirds, compared to recent years was due to most of the productive Ford properties being planted in hay and harvested this year, leaving them in barren stubble with no or few birds.

The best of these fields are the ones that are directly adjacent to a tree line where birds can roost or go for cover, with the original field at on the south side of Hubbard at Southfield being the one that has traditionally had the most birds. Here is what the field looked like this summer, after the grain was harvested and the hay bailed. This is looking west towards the Ritz Carleton hotel:

Whatever waste grain may have been left behind had long been picked over, leaving nothing for birds to eat. There is a coyote living in a den in the small nearby woodlot that I've seen several times. Here it is on count day, in the lower right.

A few fields did have sunflowers in them, but they had also been picked clean. We had very large flocks of blackbirds this fall in the sunflower fields. Here is a brief video I took in October:

A few fields were planted in a wildflower mix. Although some of the choicest plants, such as the bluestem grasses, had been de-seeded, there was still a lot of good seed left. We had most of our small birds in these fields.

The Ford Rouge Plant had not been harboring much waterfowl up to the count, since the Detroit River is still open. Among the usual suspects there was a new species for the Dearborn portion of the count: Bonaparte's Gull. This was also our first January record for this species. A few do winter in the Great Lakes, but most are found in the Gulf states or southern Mississippi River in winter.

On campus, several Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Fox and Swamp Sparrows were good finds. Elsewhere, in an undisclosed location, a Northern Saw-whet Owl was located. They are not too uncommon here in winter, just hard to find.

Afterwards, most local counters gathered on campus to exchange intelligence, warm up with a cup of coffee, and have some pizza. Below, clockwise from lower left, are Greg Norwood (territory = campus and Rouge River channel), Tom Carpenter (Rouge Park), Gary Hutman (Rouge Park), Rick Crossland (rover), me, and Jim Fowler (Ford Rouge Plant, Detroit River, compiler). Other participants missing from the photo are listed on the results page.

The majority of participants on the Dearborn count are Dearborn residents, and my own Dearborn neighborhood is well represented. Here are the Springwells Park birders: Cathy Carroll, Gary Hutman, my husband Darrin O'Brien, and yours truly.

For a complete list of the bird species seen and other stats, as well as the results of all previous years, head on over to the Christmas Bird Count page on the RRBO web site.