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  • Terry Grabill

Michigan Big Year Part 12: May 2-3

Migrant songbirds were coming in droves now.

May 2, Sunday. Just some local driving to reliable sites turned up some FOY birds.

#221 Eastern kingbird (my favorite bird! My new license plate is EAKI)

#222 Tennessee warbler (in our yard)

#223 Warbling vireo

#224 White-crowned sparrow

#225 Northern waterthrush

May 3. Ms Thomas, my student teacher is going to make a terrific addition to some school's science department. She has really hit her stride in terms of growth and confidence. On a purely selfish note, this has allowed me to get caught up on organizing and filing in my classroom and, of course, planning after-school birding! American avocets in Grand Rapids? Alright. 3:15 found me rolling out of the school parking lot and heading south. GR is only an hour away, so, plenty of time to hunt for the avocets if necessary. I messaged Jim Markham again ( my GR expert) and got the low-down. They'd been seen all day on Reed's lake right where I'd found the night-heron. While traveling, I'd gotten reports of sightings of the birds from several points around Reed's Lake. Terrific, it's a pretty big lake. I stopped at the park where I'd seen the night-heron...nope, no avocets. I began to quietly count the number of times I'd dipped on avocets this year...at least twice in Monroe County...and at least twice in Muskegon County. Self-doubt is a demon I've grappled with forever and now, with a big lake and sightings from at least a half-dozen vantage points, it was creeping in again. The most recent report was from the library deck. I'd gotten used to the suspicious looks as I carried my binoculars, spotting scope and tripod, and camera around "normal" people. I'd ceased to explain unless someone asked for an explanation. The library deck overlooks Reed's Lake and offers a good view of its entirety. Avocets are shore birds and, as such, should be wading near shore, right. Nothing. Well, my friend Keith told me he saw the one at MWW swimming with the geese. I scoped the whole lake, all the time assuming the deep was was a waste of my time. I stood back and took a long drink of water, all the time keeping an eye to the water. Over the trees past the far shore came a flock of birds, probably starlings. They flew as one, just like starlings....or...wait..shorebirds! In flew a flock of over 20 with tan heads and black-and-white bodies. They settled together in the middle of the lake next to a large raft of ruddy ducks.

#226 American avocet

While it seemed I'd spent a lot of time on Reed's Lake, there was still plenty of daylight and another report was egging me on. Gerald R. Ford airport was a short distance SE of the lake and some grassland birds had been showing.

#227 Bobolink (Andrea's favorite bird, in fact, her new license plate is BOBOLNK!)

#228 Henslow's sparrow

Millennium Park is on GR's SW corner. I'd never birded it and had no idea what to expect but, a life bird had been showing for several days and this was my chance. As I mentioned, I had no experience with the park but, how big could it be? Well, big. Millennium Park is big and my GPS stopped me along the road that had no obvious "trailhead" Without a lot of daylight left, I put the 4-ways on, locked up, and found an opening that finally led to a trail. I arrived at the site and searched. Another couple came looking for the same bird and left. I could hear the bird calling just off the trail in the thick undergrowth. A life bird, however, is not something you just let go with a vocalization. Keep looking... After a short time, two men with "birding expert" written all over them showed. I know I'd be embarrassed that I didn't know who they were if someone were to tell me now. I was more interested in finding this bird. One of the men had been here before and found it. It was difficult, with light fading and my truck illegally parked, to leave the site without a visual, but ...

#229 Worm-eating warbler (life bird)

Driving home, I felt good about the lists I'd posted. I'd taken the route home that took me past mud flats, hoping to catch some shorebirds. At a stop sign east of Grant a familiar, ethereal flute-like song played...

#230 Hermit thrush

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