Beach Tragedy and Renewal

By Peggy Ridgway

photo by Phil Odum

photo by Phil Odum

All photos courtesy of Phil Odum

   It’s been a long, hot, dry summer !  Many tourists found their way to our sugar sand beaches along Lake Huron for pleasant relief and cool breezes.

Earlier in the season several other two legged  visitors descended on our shores, but  their presence was undetected by most. When a few  Great Lakes Piping Plovers  arrived in early May, the tip of Tawas Point was mostly under water. Flooded and washed out beaches were the story all along the coast. In fact, many of the normally sought out sites were inundated with water. Therefore, this small  shorebird  that tended to nest in this vicinity,   migrated  further north towards Oscoda where the landscape provided more open beach space for the rare and protected  ground nesters.

photo by Phil Odum

photo by Phil Odum

On both the north and south side of the AuSable River mouth, two pair of the federally endangered  plovers found suitable habitat for nesting.  The rather extensive and undisturbed light colored sand areas in front of two condominium complexes were perfect.

I was excited  and felt privileged as I continued my  seasonal  volunteer monitoring of these special birds.   So far, these were the only known nests on the Lake Huron side of America !  I was trusting that the residents of the condos would honor the postings limiting access to certain sections of “their beach.” They did so, and most residents showed respect for this dwindling  species nesting practically right outside their  front doors.  What a great opportunity to observe this evolving story first hand ! Continue reading

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Pulling Together project 2016…Spotted Knapweed

Letter to Chuck Allen, State Park Director, the dedicated AVA volunteers and to all AVA members and friends:

Today was our last Spotted Knapweed pull for the season.  We had eight pulls over the past seven weeks.  With each pull the immediate improvement was impressive.  Today we cleared the areas along the service entrance road to the day-use area, as well as around the far parking lot.  We had four pullers, who worked a total of 10 hours, and pulled 100 lbs of Spotted Knapweed.  While dealing with numbers, let’s do a recall of our yearly totals:

Summer season 2013 we worked 104 hours pulling Purple Loosestrife and some Spotted Knapweed.  (Bags not weighed.)

Summer season 2014 we worked 132 hours pulling Spotted Knapweed.  (Bags not weighed.)

Summer season 2015 we worked 90.5 hours and pulled 975 lbs of Spotted Knapweed

Summer season 2016 we worked 116.5 hours and pulled 959 lbs. of Spotted Knapweed.

That’s a total of 443 volunteer hours!!!  That is remarkable for our very small group and  demonstrates an impressive heart for service.  You volunteers earned your stripes!  I am very grateful to you.

As I hang my pink hat on the hat rack of retirement (from SN organizing), I leave you with a couple of points to ponder: Continue reading

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AVA August Activities

Hey AVA Folks,

The news you have all been waiting to hear! SAVE August 23, Tuesday, for our unofficial start of the AVA Season with a pot luck at the Harrisville State Park! How does 6pm for dinner sound?  The beach is great and there are two fairly short walking trails…. if you want to come early and it is not too hot!! State Park passes are required for entrance.  Bring your beverage, a dish to pass with serving tools,  and table service!


Thunder Bay Audubon (Alpena folks) sent info about our joining them in a field trip to an abandoned limestone quarry on August 17.  Larry and I were interested in knowing more so here is some of what I have learned.  Their group is meeting at 9am in Alpena at the Walmart parking lot to car pool to the quarry and back to Alpena for lunch.  Some of us might want to join them!  I will help arrange car pools from our group and call her with numbers for lunch… if you’d like to join us.  Let me know your plans as soon as possible as she has to alert the restaurant on Mon. the 15th and you’d probably like to know if you’ll have others who can car pool north with you before then! or 989-362-2522!

Read on if you are considering going!!!!    If not, you’re excused. Continue reading

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The 2016 – 2017 Program Schedule is now available

The AuSable Valley Audubon schedule of events starting in September 2016 is now available. You can access the document parts here: 2016-17 AVA Program page FINAL August 11: and 2016-17 AVA Mailer page FINAL August 11 in PDF format.

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events or meetings!

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A Bird Behavior Quiz

 A realtor’s ad for this birdhouse might read:

10 inch x 8 inch x 15 inch one room living space w/ 3” entrance hole.

This the home

This the home

Wall covering installed by last resident.

The floor covering is white pine shavings installed by human caretaker.

This east facing home is located 15 feet above the ground on a power pole.

Location, location, location

Location, location, location

The home overlooks 40 acres of hay covered rolling hills.

Small marsh w/dragon flies and sparrows nearby.

June/July 2016 resident successfully raised 4 fledglings.

Many additional utility poles and miles of power lines are adjacent,  from which to stalk mice scurrying around on the ground.

eggs and hatchling

eggs and hatchling

Attached are photos of the house and its lovely location, the most recent resident’s hatchling (on the left of the eggs), and the house’s interior.

Interior of vacated home

Interior of vacated home

Have I given you enough information to guess who these recent residents were?

Questions?   You can reach me at

Click on the “read more” for the answer. (Also, click on any of the photos for a larger view.) Continue reading

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Tawas Point State Park Spotted Knapweed Pull Saturday August 6

Where: Tawas Point State Park, a park pass is required. Meet at the far parking lot of the day use area near the lighthouse.

Time: August 6, 2016 from 9 am – 12 pm

Come and help clean up the park and make a better place for birds.August-6th-Spotted-Knapweed-Pull-Flyer

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Tawas Lake Black Terns

Black Tern

Black Tern

One of the summer field trips that the AVA intended to host in July was a visit to Tawas Lake to try to view the Black Terns there. Unfortunately, the low lake level has prevented getting anywhere near them. Here is a brief description from AVA members Sue and Larry and a number of photos (click on any of them for a larger image) taken by them on their outing:

terns2-webterns3-webRecently,  Sue and I asked a friend who owns a pontoon boat to take us to the area in Tawas Lake  where most of the Black Terns seem to ‘hang out’.  We were investigating the possibility of offering a field trip for our Audubon members so they might observe the terns and learn about their behavior.

terns4-webterns5-webWe’ve had to postpone the field trip till next spring because the water depth has become so shallow that even with only 4 people on the pontoon boat (we had 12 people tell us they wanted to attend this field trip) , it scraped bottom in many places along the way from our dock to the tern nesting area.

terns6-webterns7-webI took a lot of photos of the terns as we watched them. The photo quality isn’t great,  but the photos document interesting behavior.


terns8-webThe terns spent a lot of time flying low over the water, then diving to the surface, but rarely going beneath the water.  We speculated they were foraging, but what was the prey???? Minnows, bugs,????  The birds fly so fast.  They don’t allow close human observation, and it’s impossible to see what they’ve picked up with only our eyes.


terns9-webSome of my photos offer possible answers to the question.  What do you think?  I’ve attached some photos of Black Terns w/o prey….Photos 1-4, and 6 as a ‘baseline’ from which to compare to the remaining photos. Photos 4, 7, 8 and 9 show terns with prey.

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This species is listed as a prohibited noxious weed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.  It poses a serious threat to rangelands and high quality areas as well as dunes and beaches.  It is in the day-use area of the Tawas Point State Park.   Each plant that we pull and discard prevents 1,000 seeds from reseeding the soil! With your help, we can improve the integrity of the park.   As the spotted knapweed is removed, native plant seeds will resprout!  It is the native plants that host the insects and caterpillars that our birds and animals need!!!

We will be pulling Wednesday mornings 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.   (Meet early…not late.)

  • Wednesday, July 6
  • Wednesday, July 13
  • Wednesday, July 20
  • Wednesday, July 27
  • Wednesday, August 3
  • Saturday, August 6 (more information coming later)
  • Wednesday, August 10
  • Wednesday, August 17

Continue reading

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Whippoorwills 4, AVA 15

–  But Both Winners!

By Sue Duncan, AVA V-P

A rather chatty and ice cream satiated group left the Oscoda McDonald’s on Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm to head off to find Whip-poor-wills and other night birds.

Although the nearly full moon was beautiful, as were the warm temperatures, the ‘Whips” were not doing ‘fly by’ maneuvers.  They called a lot, a number of them, but nobody came to check out the strangers.  We made a good size group, too, 15 of us, including a new member and friend from Grand Haven.  (Wow!) Hermit Thrush, Night Hawks and some American Woodcocks, that did fly over, made up the birding tally. Lightening bugs were also fun to see flitting about!

Due to Larry bringing his scope, Jupiter and four of its moons as well at Mars and Saturn with its rings were also enjoyed. As Ed Davis said, “Finally, a bird I can hear!”

Next up – Black Terns of Tawas Lake, in July.

Let me know if you are interested!, 989-362-2522.

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Brown Thrasher Nest

This photo and caption was submitted by AVA member Jean Howard on June 1st. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Brown Thrasher nest photo by Jean Howard

Brown Thrasher nest
photo by Jean Howard

I just discovered this brown thrasher nest in the little pine tree just outside the window in my living room.  My book says it usually takes 12-13 days for incubation.

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