Monday, June 9, 2014

Spring bird survey results

Over the months of April and May, 127 bird species were recorded on campus, bringing the 2014 total to 139 species. For the city of  Dearborn, the 2014 species count is 141. The best day was 8 May with 73 species reported, including 19 warbler species. The previous 5-year average for April-May counts on campus is 131, so this year was only slightly below average. Big misses (excluding several species mentioned in the warbler account below) included Black-billed Cuckoo and Willow Flycatcher. Flycatchers in general have seemed scarcer here in recent years, although this year we had good numbers of Least and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.

The entire survey season was severely hampered by major construction on campus directly adjacent to the Natural Area. In particular, there was daily jackhammering in the parking structure, which served as a giant amplifier and made hearing anything in the northern half of the area nearly impossible. Fortunately, the prolonged cold of early spring delayed leaf-out, so many birds were easy to see.

It was a good year for warblers. Despite missing Golden-winged Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Hooded Warbler (which although rare is still recorded almost every year), we recorded 28 species. Highlights included:
Prothonotary Warbler -- A silent individual along Fairlane Lake on 9 May.
Connecticut Warbler -- Singing male 27 May.
Prairie Warbler -- One reported on 10 May.
Yellow-breasted Chat -- One along the south bike path was the first Dearborn record in 8 years.

Other highlights included:
Osprey -- Individuals seen around Fairlane Lake on 18 April and 14 May.
Bald Eagle -- Flyovers on 15 and 17 April were the third and fourth records for campus for the year.
Olive-sided Flycatcher -- One on 28 May by the Fair Lane Estate boathouse.
Acadian Flycatcher -- Singing along Fairlane Drive on 21 May.
Eastern Bluebird -- A male by the EIC on 14 May. 
Summer Tanager -- A male near the EIC on 24 May.
Bobolink -- A male singing high in a tree in the forest adjacent to Fairlane Lake on 28 April tied an early spring date for Dearborn, and was radically out-of-habitat!

An interesting Baltimore Oriole first found by Dr. Orin Gelderloos and his field biology class on May 21 and present through at least the end of the month near the north bridge over the Rouge River, behind Henry Ford College. It had the typical plumage of an older male, except it had no black on the head or face, and just a smattering down the chin and chest. The head color was a glowing golden orange, and the bill color was horn/beige, rather than the usual blue-black. Thus, it apparently had some sort of lack of melanin in the head -- quite stunning and unique!