Monday, July 8, 2013

Bulletin 178 - Michigan #3 more birds and other things

I had a birding trip to northern Michigan in early June. I was accompanied by my stepson Seth for his first birding trip and we had a good time birding and photographing together. Also, we met some friends (Dutch and Bonnie Zonderman) from Northern Michigan and birded with them the first day to see the Kirtland's Warbler.

I employed a guide in the Upper Peninsula, Skye Haas. He doesn't have a web site yet, but his email is here. I would highly recommend him to anyone heading that way.
We got nice views of a banded Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum). You can see red bands on the , legs. This warbler is IDed by the rufous cap, brown back and yellow underparts and rump.

Palm Warbler

Here is a 3rd year Bald Eagle. It takes them 4 full years to get their adult plumage complete.

Bald Eagle - 3rd year
One raptor I needed was an adult plumaged Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus). This one perched on a phone wire was intent on a meal in the ditch below and didn't mind when we parked right beside him.

Broad-winged Hawk - adult
A moment later he pounced on a small mammal in the ditch beside the road, almost at our feet.

Broad-winged Hawk - adult
As he flew off, our guide saw the mammal in his talons and said it was a Star-nosed Mole.

Perhaps the most interesting finding on the trip was a pair of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis), with 2 chicks only a couple of days old. The group was walking across the highway. All the cars stopped fortunately. One of the parents called the chicks down into the ditch. The other walked away from the group and proceeded to do the broken wing act to draw attention away from the chicks. I have seen Killdeers do this, but never such a large bird. Skye said he had seen that performance only 1 time previously with the cranes.

Here is the 2 day old chick.

Sandhill Crane - chick
Here is the one parent putting on the broken wing performance on the road.

Sandhill Crane - adult
He continued to walk farther away from his mate and the chicks and went down in to the roadside ditch. He then spread both his wings apart. Both parents were calling to each other while this was occurring.

Sandhill Crane - adult

Here is the other adult in the sunlight. Notice how rusty reddish the plumage is. I did not know that these cranes looked that color. It doesn't show in the bird guides. They are overall gray with a few rusty wing feathers. Skye said it was peculiar to that area, as there is a lot of iron in the ground water. When the birds preen, they put water on their feathers and gradually they become that rust color. Interesting!

Sandhill Crane - adult
Rusty colored due to iron in ground water
We were hoping to see some large mammals, but struck out. We did have an encounter with a Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). He was in a large open field, and when we got out, Seth left his car door open. We were photographing him and he circled around back to the car. I was afraid he would get into the car, but instead crawled under. This is my first photo of this mammal.

Here he is in defensive posture with the quills raised up on his back.

From behind, he is well armed. Pity the poor dog who takes on a porcupine and gets a face full of the quills.

Porcupine - from the back

As he got further away, he let his quills down.

We also found a good sized Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).

Snapping Turtle
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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