Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving- Family and Birds

For Thanksgiving, I made the drive from Minneapolis to Lansing, MI to spend some time with family. Although my stay was short, I certainly made the most of it. After spending Thanksgiving day with the family, I got relatively little sleep before heading for Holland State Park and Muskegon on the shore of Lake Michigan. My dad and I left Lansing early on Friday and got to Holland State Park just after sunrise. A friend, Rick Brigham, met us there. While we didn't see the Little Gull I was hoping for, we did see a couple Red-throated Loons, a fly-over Rough-legged Hawk, flocks of White-winged Scoters and Tundra Swans. Not a bad way to start the morning.

We then drove an hour north to Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon County. While there were no recent reports from the area, I always make a point to bird this county. Between Pere Marquette and the Wastewater, good birds can pop up at any moment. Once we got to Pere Marquette we started walking the breakwall. This breakwall is famous for hosting Purple Sandpipers every winter, but none had been reported for the past few weeks. However, it wasn't long before I spotted a shorebird working the rocks. Sure enough, Purple Sandpiper. The birds found here are notorious for being very obliging, and this one was no different.

Purple Sandpiper
We continued along the breakwall and scanned the north breakwall where we had our first two Snowy Owls for the day. On the way back, we had an adult Iceland Gull on the beach with the rest of the gull flock.

On to the wastewater were we quickly had another Iceland Gull. This one allowed better pictures and closer approach.

Iceland Gull
We accidentally flushed another Snowy Owl along the dikes, had a few flyover Snow Geese and a Peregrine Falcon. At the dump we had good gulling: 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Thayer's Gull and at least 1 Glaucous Gull.

Thayer's Gull

We dawdled until sunset and we hoped to find Short-eared Owls. We had to wait until after sunset when it was quite dark for the birds to appear. Two Short-eared Owls put on a show for the last bit of remaining light. At this point, it was nearly impossible to get a photo, but that didn't stop me from trying. I managed one identifiable picture of the bird. Pulling this off was nothing short of a miracle. I'm not proud of the picture, but I'll count it!

Short-eared Owl
Three new photo birds in one day this far into the year is outstanding! Especially when I had no idea that these birds were around.

The next day I went with my uncle to Cleveland. Little Gulls were basically a given and a Red Phalarope was sticking around. We got there to find a mass of birders enjoying the Red Phalarope. Unfortunately, the bird has a broken leg. It was feeding and pooping and able to fly and it couldn't have been more cooperative. The bird was within spitting distance!

Red Phalarope
We worked the Bonaparte's Gull flocks all day but still couldn't come up with a Little Gull. We were on a time crunch and as we were already half-way back home, I got a text that a Little Gull had been found. Bummer! Fortunately, I still have time to get that bird for the year.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! With less than a  month left in the year, I'll be frantically trying to find new birds when school isn't consuming my life. Stay tuned!

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