Tricolored returns!

5/2: Finally a more productive morning, with strong movements West. Slightly lighter winds than yesterday, but still out of the ESE, with light periodic rain and rolling banks of fog—essentially ideal duck conditions this season. Mysteriously, though, this wind direction meant that today essentially all fliers were riding with the wind—the opposite of most other days so far this season. Possibly a result of other environmental factors/weather patterns elsewhere. Started the morning with a good red-breasted merganser push, with 73 in the first hour, though many of these were either flying short distances or heading around the Headlands towards Trails End Bay, so may not have been migrants. Stronger migratory movements later on. Had some late-ish Aythya headed past by mid-morning: 4 redheads, a lone male greater scaup, and ten unidentified; and by late morning, the loons and grebes began to move in decent numbers, with 18 loons headed West in a sudden burst of activity just before fog rolled in at 10AM, and a min-fallout of 7 red-necked grebes just after the fog’s arrival. One Caspian tern headed West, and two great blue herons headed North. 

eBird list:

Displaying male red-breasted mergansers, and a rather disinterested female preening above.

Evening count started slow, with notably fewer buffleheads, and at least one immature male in the mix (going to be a bit more precise sorting through female-type birds now that immature males have begun to come through). Some nice surprises near the end: a Caspian tern flyby, a calling sora (FOY), a calling Virginia rail (heard last night faintly, but called for sure tonight, FOY), and the third rarity on the season, a passing WILLET (Rare). The bird was first heard calling, and spotted in flight a moment later, winging East. The distinctive call and the bold black-and-white wing markings were a winning combination!

eBird list:

5/3: Another productive morning. Light Northwest winds had held up a dense bank of fog when I arrived, but this began to lift around sunrise to reveal a dispersed but massive raft of several hundred long-tails and red-breasted mergs, a handful of loons, and many small groups of red-necked and horned grebes. As the fog continued to lift, more birds became visible, and the mergs and long-tails began to move (primarily West, and East, respectively). Grebes were only sporadically seen in flight, with most opting to drift West instead. Loons flew in good numbers, with 49 passing West (29 in the third hour). Still no red-throateds. Good shorebird/wader day, with three great blue herons, four killdeer, a FOY spotted sandpiper, and a lone sandhill crane. Small flock of Bonaparte’s gulls passed West near the end of the count.

eBird list:

Very slow evening, with only the pied-billed grebes and a single bittern of the usual marsh assortment calling. Bufflehead numbers much diminished, and no notable gulls/shorebirds/waders. 

eBird list:

5/4: Glass-still morning, with temps around freezing early, but warmer air later on with a light breeze. Almost no movement: three greater scaup males (getting late), a couple scoter flocks, and a few loons flew, and little else. Big rafts of red-breasted mergs and long-tails continue. Notable pulse of passerines this morning, with pine siskin, goldfinch, blue jay, robin, red-winged blackbird, flicker, and grackle making trial forays Northward, but always returning. Of greater note were single flyovers of common redpoll (pretty late in a typical year, but not unreasonable given the very slow start to spring this year), and brown-headed cowbird (FOY), and a flock of (minimum) 60 black-capped chickadees, which made a couple trial forays but very quickly changed their minds. Wonder if this is a taiga-breeding group ready to migrate, esp. as numbers have been steadily increasing this past week, and the flock is very mobile. 

eBird list:

Between the morning and evening count, I biked some of the trails around French Farm Lake, and turned up a whole assortment of long-awaited spring arrivals: several palm warblers, singing blue-headed vireos, and a single waterthrush all put in their first appearances, and purple finch, pine warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler were singing in good numbers. Still a big raft of buffleheads, a few lesser scaup, a group of ring-necks, both common and red-breasted mergs, and resident mallards, loons, wood ducks, and mute swans were all present on the lake. 

eBird list:

Blue-headed vireo, French Farm Lake trails

Very productive evening count, with calm water and pleasant temps. Two soras heard calling, along with a ticking snipe, the usual pied-billeds, two bitterns, and a distant sandhill pair. Woodcock has been silent for two nights now. Big flock of rusty blackbirds (FOY) flew in to the tamaracks behind the count area, and stayed for about half an hour, and the female red-winged blackbirds had finally arrived back at the marsh, which set the local males into a frenzy of chases, displays, and songs. Stealing the show, however, was the night’s main surprise: the return of the TRICOLORED HERON from a few days ago. Managed to get pictures this time, so hopefully these will suffice for the Michigan Records Committee. The bird flew in from the West and landed East of the count location. Keep your eyes peeled if you’re in the area!

eBird list:

Tricolored Heron (Rare), Trails End Bay, 5/4/19

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