24th May 1981 - 29th May 1981
Overnight in Ann Arbor staying with Terry Walsh, a contact of Roys, who was our guide to the local area today. Our first stop was the University Arboretum where we found our target species with little difficulty, seeing 5 White-breasted Nuthatches and a Tufted Titmouse, also a Red-bellied Woodpecker and our only Yellow-billed Cuckoo of the trip. In the trees there were 4 Eastern Fox Squirrels and 2 American Red Squirrels. Then we went to Zeeb Woods, about 3 miles west of Ann Arbor, where we saw 3 more White-breasted Nuthatches and 5 Acadian Flycatchers. About 40 miles further west, near Jackson, is Haehnle Sanctuary, a marshland reserve and just as we arrived the rain set in, we scanned the area and saw 10 Sandhill Cranes in the distance, and, heard and saw 3 Wood Frogs. On the way back we spent some time at Waterloo State Recreation Area seeing 4 Cerulean Warblers, 2 more Acadian Flycatchers, 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a White-breasted Nuthatch, 25 Eastern Chipmunks and heard a Kentucky Warbler.
In the evening we saw 4 Nighthawks over Ann Arbor and we returned to Zeeb Woods in the hope of seeing Eastern Screech Owl, very frustrating we heard 3 and saw none.
We drove northwards through the night, by dawn we were in an area of undulating moorland with scattered coniferous forest, we made for the Prairie Chicken Management Area near Marion, where after crossing a rough field to the hide we watched 4 male Greater Prairie Chickens displaying. We found 5 Henslow's Sparrows singing in the rough grass near the hide and near the road saw 11 Brewer's Blackbirds, 2 Upland Sandpipers, a Northern Harrier and a bit further northwards rescued a Spotted Turtle from the road.
Continuing north we stopped in an area, marked on the map as Fletcher Road, here we saw lots of Vesper Sparrows, 7 Clay-colored Sparrows, 5 Upland Sandpipers, a Raven, a Red-tailed Hawk and Detlef almost caught a Smooth Green Snake. The area was alive with butterflies, which pleased Detlef, the swallowtails were very impressive and while searching for them we flushed a Sharp-tailed Grouse.
We continued to Grayling.
Laurel at Fletcher Road
Detlef at Fletcher Road
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
7am found us at the Forestry Headquarters in Grayling where the daily Kirtland's Warbler tour began. After an illustrated talk, the leader took us to the Richardson Road area, near the pen trap for Brown-headed Cowbirds which parasitise these warblers. Although not an ideal day to see these often skulking birds, as it was a cold, overcast, windy morning, we managed to obtain brief but good views of 3 Kirkland's Warblers, 2 males and a female, and we heard 2 more. Also in this area we saw an Eastern Bluebird, Crossbills and a Great Northern Diver flying over.
Later, we continued north on Route 75 as far as Burt Lake, it was brighter by now and we saw 2 Northern Parulas, a Northern Waterthrush and heard Golden-crowned Kinglets. An impressive suspension bridge crosses the Mackinac Straits and in the Upper Peninsular of Michigan we found the forests more extensive and the villages fewer and further between. During a brief stop at Trout Lake we saw a flock of about 60 Pine Siskins, then we stopped at several places along the southern edge of Lake Superior State Forest, a vast expanse of quaking bog, conifers and bushes. The ground below the dense mixed woodland proved very difficult to walk on and any excursion far from the road held a real danger of us becoming disorientated. We spent the rest of the day here seeing a Pileated Woodpecker, 2 American Woodcocks, 2 Ruffed Grouse, a Hermit Thrush, 4 Evening Grosbeaks and a Wilson's Snipe. Later we continued to Paradise.
Brown-headed Cowbird trap
Brown-headed Cowbird in trap
Overnight in Paradise, a small town/village which is not well named, it was a cold, overcast, damp dawn, we drove slowly along Vermilion Road which cuts through the coniferous woodland to the north of Paradise, where you are supposed to be able to see Spruce Grouse by scanning the woodland floor and lower branches, but we didn't see anything.
We drove to Whitefish Point which juts out into Lake Superior, an area of gravelly sand and dune grass with some small thickets backed by coniferous forest. As we walked out to the point we counted 14 Great Northern Divers, a Black Scoter, 2 White-winged Scoters, 23 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Goosanders and 3 Long-tailed Ducks on the water, patrolling the dunes was a Northern Harrier, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was seen in the bushes and there was a flock of 20 American or Buff-bellied Pipits feeding on the ground ahead of us.
As we approached the pipit flock they flew, landing several hundred yards away, Laurel had spotted a smaller bird flying in the flock and we all edged closer, it was a bunting, dull by american standards, but very distinctively marked, it was creeping mouse-like through the dune grass in front of us. After much discussion and reference to the Peterson Field Guide we concluded that it was a male McCown's Longspur. Later, when we were joined by Mike Jorae from the Bird Observatory, we learnt that this was a 1st state record. As conditions improved we spent the next 2 hours watching, sketching, photographing and note-taking.
On the way back to the car park we saw a flock of 16 Evening Grosbeaks and as we drew up to the cafe in Paradise there was a larger flock of around 150 birds feeding in the road opposite.
After a late breakfast we returned to Whitefish Point by another route, this time past a pool where 2 Sandhill Cranes were wading in red-stained water, above us we saw a large flock of birds of prey circling, there were about 50 Broad-winged Hawks, 2 Red-tailed Hawks and 2 Rough-legged Buzzards.
A little further on we saw a male grey phase Ruffed Grouse in full view near the road, at the point we watched the McCown's Longspur again and found a Lapland Bunting, exploring the woods we saw a Hairy Woodpecker, a flock of very mobile Black-capped Chickadees of which 10 were Boreal Chickadees.
Later we drove south to Sault Sainte Marie.
Above photos and illustrations of McCown's Longspur
Overnight in Sault Sainte Marie, we made an early start this morning along Nine Mile Road where, in the sun, a Le Conte's Sparrow was singing its buzzy song from the top of a grass stem, we heard two more. We also saw a Sedge Wren and a Pileated Woodpecker, the area was close to Lake Huron where we counted 20 Goldeneye and 6 Great Northern Divers.
Later we spent time in Lake Superior State Forest, where an Olive-sided Flycatcher sang from a tall tree, a Black Bear crossed the road infront of us and we saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the pines, with another two heard, also we saw a Slate-colored now Dark-eyed Junco, a Snowshoe Hare and found a flowering Pink Lady's Slipper.
We decided to do a circular tour via Newberry which took us past the Upper Tahquamenon Falls where we saw 3 Ring-necked Ducks and had a superb view of a Broad-winged Hawk perched in a tree.
At Augar Creek there was a Beaver Lodge, although we didn't see any Beavers, but Detlef caught a dragonfly which landed on his shirt, after our return to England we learned that it was a very rare species called Williamsonia fletcheri and that we had collected it from a previously unknown locality.
In the evening we began our long drive south during which we glimpsed a Porcupine in the car headlights.
Pink Lady's Slipper.
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco
Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Beaver Lodge at Augar Creek
Still in Michigan we arrived at Burt Lake about 2am, we tried the tape for owls, for half an hour nothing, then a weird, maniacal laughter shattered the eerie silence above us, a pair of Barred Owls had been attracted and scared the pants off us! Suddenly hearing this deep, unearthly cackling left us spellbound and several times the birds kept it up for 3-4 minutes at a time, we managed on two occasions to see one of them clearly in the torch beam and follow one of them in flight across the track.
We then had a long drive to Sarnia where we crossed back into Canada.
Was on Laurel's wish list.