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  • Terry Grabill

Michigan Big Year Part 13: May 4-9

May 4: Beth Miller had been reporting White-eyed vireo SW of Muskegon for a while. I'd casually dipped on this species at several locations and was anxious to find it. The vireo would be a life bird and Black Lake Park was only 30 minutes from school so at 3:15 I put FMS in the rear-view mirror and headed SW. As usual, I had virtually no experience with the location and as I parked and slung the bins and camera around my neck, I encountered a young man, also with binoculars, coming toward the parking lot from a trail. I asked if he had found the vireo to which he gave a puzzled look. He didn't know what that was but he had seen some pretty birds on his walk. He gave me a short explanation of the park's trails and off I went. In early May, even in mid afternoon, the forest is alive with bird song. I happily entered catbird, hermit thrush, and chickadee in my checklist. As usual, I had repeatedly played my target's calls from the Merlin app as I drove to the site. As I approached the stream (ditch) that Beth had described in her reports, the vireo sang over-and-over from the dense shrubs on the other side of the water. I managed a few decent looks at it but was not fast enough for photos. I was really going to have to work on the quick-draw with a camera! I continued on the short loop of the trail (I had, after-all, found my quarry), picking up a few more FOY birds. At trail's end, I paused by a large white pine and watched several early warblers flit through through the foliage.

# 231 Canada warbler

#232 Black-throated blue warbler

#233 Veery

#234 Philadelphia vireo

#235 White-eyed vireo (life bird)

While driving home, Andrea messaged that she was looking at our FOY hummer! I wondered if it would stay in the yard until I got home.

#236 Ruby-throated hummingbird

May 5: sitting at the back patio writing, from behind the garage came the call "che-BUNK" of a vireo headed north for the summer.

#237 Yellow-bellied flycatcher

May 6: A short walk along River Side Park in Newaygo produced a variety of birds including a super look at northern waterthrush and FOY

#238 Scarlet tanager

May 7: Andrea and I took a hike at the Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail. Not nearly the warbler diversity I'd expected but we heard a flycatcher near the river calling "free-beer!"

#239 Alder flycatcher

May 8: The first weekend of "prime-time". I was exploring Muskegon State Game Area Headquarters trail where I bumped in to a trio of birders that invited my to tag along. This threesome were also teachers so we shared teaching-during-COVID stories and found some great songbirds! I'd later send friend requests to them on social media and one has Marc Meidema has become a real cheerleader for me!

#240 Wilson's warbler

#241 Cerulean warbler (first one since 1990!)

#242 Ovenbird (Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!)

#243 Wood thrush

We parted ways and I continued south to MSGA Lane's Landing where I had some terrific views of warblers that I'd already listed, including male and female prothonotary warblers. Added FOY

#244 Bay-breasted warbler

#245 Blue-headed vireo

Continuing south, I came to Muskegon Wastewater (shorebirds had to be coming soon, yeah?" I walked the wooded trails by the headquarters office where I saw lots of action including a close eastern screech owl!

#246 Blackburninan warbler

#247 Orchard oriole

As I walked out of the trail, Tori Martell drove up and gave me a heads-up on a couple of birds by the east lagoon. There was a male ruddy duck on shore that seemed sick or injured and Tori asked if I'd take a look. Yep, right where she'd described it was the duck. I made my was down-slope to the water's edge, doing my best to not consider what was crunching underfoot. Plastic tampon applicators blanketed the shore of the wastewater lagoons. I wonder what goes through people's heads when they flush...do they think things just magically go away? Anyway, I got hear the duck and he scampered into the water. Well, considering where I was, I was NOT chasing it any farther. I had an obvious wing problem but his feet were working just fine! The road around the lagoons is long and I searched the entire shore of both of them. Finally got back to my starting point to find the bird Tori had tipped me off to:

#248 American Pipit

Andrea messaged me on my way home again. Indigo bunting was in the yard! This bird has a special place in my heart as it is the first species Andrea learned by hearing it and then searching relentlessly until she found the singer. I honestly believe that indigo bunting was the spark-bird that started her walk down this slippery slope of birding. Would it still be showing when I got home?

#249 Indigo bunting

May 9: Beth Miller had found a rare warbler at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, just west of Black Lake Park. I'd dipped on this bird my first attempt a couple of days ago at this site. I'm pretty sure I'd heard it then but wasn't confident in the ID so it went unreported. I'd met Mark, a birding man with two kids in-tow there. We searched and listened to no avail. May 9 found me there again, this time with Andrea so I felt confident. As we approached the site, Beth was there as well. the bird was another one of those 24-hour events I guess, though we did get great singing from another warbler I have trouble finding!

#250 Mourning warbler

#251 Gray-cheeked thrush


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