Unusual feeder visitor

February buck with horns - 2/16/2015

February buck with horns – 2/16/2015

This feeder visitor of the non-bird variety stopped by our East Tawas feeders recently. Deer are not uncommon visitors to our bird feeders. They often pass through and check the ground beneath the feeding stations and clean up any dropped seeds and drink the water our of the bird bath. A few days prior to this the backyard deer census was 19 at one time. Yesterday, however, this guy passed through in the company of 4 other small deer and because it was mid-February and he still had his horns, we captured this picture. Enjoy.

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AVA Feb Meeting Topic – Bluebirds

Helping Bluebirds To Thrive In Michigan

Our guest speaker at the February meeting was Kurt Hagemeister, co-founder and current President of the Michigan Bluebird Society – a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to bluebird conservation in the state.  He has over 16 years experience as a bluebird landlord in the Ann Arbor area where he maintains 6 nesting boxes each year.  Mr. Hagemeister lives on a 2 1/2 acre property which has been certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat that has attracted over 86 species of wild birds.

guest speaker Kurt Hagemeister

Kurt Hagemeister, Michigan Bluebird Society

The Michigan bluebird society was started in 2001 and became a 501(C)3 in 2004.
Its members reside all around the state.
Their focus is Bluebirds and other cavity nesters. Their web site resides at www.michiganbluebirds.org

Mr. Hagemeister’s presentation covered the key elements which are necessary to attract bluebirds year round. The key elements needed are food, water, and nesting sites.

History of the Bluebird in North America

It is well worth noting that extinctions happen when people don’t care. Some historical examples are the Carolina parakeet, the Ivory-billed woodpecker, and the passenger pigeon. This is important when reviewing the history of the Bluebird in America.
Originally, it was not very common. The bluebird’s range expanded with deforestation as continent was settled. Fence posts and meadows helped created by farming helped with nest sites (fence posts) and food (insects in the meadow grasses). But the expanded populations fell again with expanded city and suburban development and later, DDT.

The Eastern Bluebird is the type seen in our area. It partially migrates. It is a member of the thrush family (as are robins). It is a cavity nester. It eats insects and berries. It increasingly winters in Michigan in expanding numbers. The bluebird’s current northern winter boundary is approximately the US-10 corridor. Other types of bluebirds are the Mountain Bluebird and the Western Bluebird.

Bluebird Nesting

Bluebird presentation table with handouts and box examples

Bluebird presentation table with handouts and box examples

Bluebirds get competition from house sparrows, wrens, and starlings for nesting cavities. Attributes of a good nest box construction model include 3/4″ wood, drainage in the bottom of the box, screws vs. nails, top ventilation and a clean-out opening. Some common types of boxes are the Peterson box, Gilbertson box, North American Bluebird Society box, slot entrance box and the Wild Birds Unlimited box. Keep nest boxes away from dense habitats as house wrens like these areas and are very aggressive.

Food for Bluebirds

Bluebirds Like wad open grassy habitats, 1-2 acres per pair. Their favorite summer and nestling foods are small soft-bodied insects of all types.

Please see the Michigan Bluebird Society web site for additional information and links.

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Trumpeter Swans at Westgate Overlook

Trumpeter Swans at Westgate Overlook - photo by Ed Cole

Trumpeter Swans at Westgate Overlook – photo by Ed Cole

This photo was submitted by AVA member Ed Cole. Taken on January 2, 2015, Ed and another AVA member, Peggy went looking for trumpeter swans before all the open water in the Au Sable River froze over.

They found most at the Westgate overlook on River Road near M 65. They counted about 180 there that day. Of those, about 16 were cygnets. This photo is of one group of them.

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2014 Tawas Circle Christmas Bird Count Summary

The annual Christmas Bird Count, Tawas Circle, was conducted on 20 December, 2014. The compilation of all data collected on this day is available in this PDF file: CBC Tawas Circle 2014

Continue reading

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Hermit Thrush at Tawas Point

Photo courtesy of Phil Odum. Taken December 6th at Tawas Point State Park.

Hermit Thrush photo by Phil Odum

Hermit Thrush
photo by Phil Odum

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Snowy Owls in Eastern UP

This update was sent via birdnet and was forwarded to us courtesy of Larry VanWagoner. It was posted by Steve Baker of Straits Audubon on December 5th:

Today the Straits Area Audubon had a field trip to the the Eastern UP.  Five Snowy Owls on the Rudyard Loop was a nice start. The Dafter Dump was swarming with Herring Gulls and at least 9 Glaucous Gulls plus a single adult Great Black-backed Gull and 25 Bald Eagles.  
The real highlight of the day was an incredible concentration of Snowy Owls in the Pickford area. Between 3 pm and 5 pm we tallied 28 Snowy owls in just a few square miles!  Nine could be seen from one spot . We were very conservative in our tally and did not double count if there was any doubt. The most productive area was between M-129 and Hancock Rd. and south of M-48 to Townline Rd . We did not find the Short-eared Owls seen along 23 Mile Rd. on earlier trips.  Good birding! Steve Baker

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New field trip added for April 2015

We have added a new field trip to dovetail with our April 2015 program. The April program will feature a representative from the Gaylord NOAA weather service office. The speaker’s program topic will be how Doppler radar can be used to track bird migration.

Weather permitting, two weeks following our April meeting we’ll car pool to Gaylord…1:45 minutes via M-55 and I-75 to visit the National Weather Service office. We’ll spend an hour touring the site and learning about how this office gathers weather data and disseminates it through a myriad of weather products for society’s needs. i.e. farmers, boaters, fire suppression, airplane pilots.

The trip to Gaylord isn’t included in our printed program. Weather permitting, it will take place Tuesday, April 21, 2015 @ 10AM at the Gaylord office. More information about drivers, departing time, and lunch arrangements will follow at the March AVA meeting. Please add this trip to your calendar.


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November 11 Joint AuSable Valley and Thunder Bay Audubon meeting

Guest Speaker Richard Castle, Consumers Energy

Richard Castle, Consumers Energy, Natural Resource Manager for Hydro Generation

Richard Castle, Consumers Energy, Natural Resource Manager for Hydro Generation

Our speaker was Richard Castle of Consumers Energy. Richard is the Natural Resource Manager for Hydro Generation. He spoke about what Consumers Energy does and what their Hydro Operation does.

All Consumers Hydro operations are managed under land and water management plans approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The land management plan covers three main areas: recreational development, forestry, and wildlife management.

Consumers Hydro Operations manages 13 river hydros in Michigan, located on the Manistee, Muskegon, Ausable, Grand, and Kalamazoo rivers. All operations are regulated by FERC.

CE-slide-riverhydro-webJoint management teams are in place for each of these areas, with representatives from Consumers, the USFS, Michigan DNR, USF&WS, and the Michigan hydro re-licensing coalition. These groups meet regularly to perform consultation on operations and land management for each area.

Each land management plan has five sub-plans: buffer zone management; wildlife, threatened-endangered species, and forestry; bald eagle management; recreational development; and lease/license facilities.

Consumers manages over 12,000 acres. These areas are open to the public with the following rules: hunting is allowed; snowmobiles allowed on trails; no ATV’s or UTV’s; no camping or fires, take out what you bring in; and Leave No Trace. Enforcement is by CE Hydro Patrol in cooperation with the DNR, US Forestry Service, and local law enforcement agencies.

Consumers places a strong emphasis on wildlife management. Within their managed properties, they have programs for the endangered Indiana bat, the Karner Blue Butterfly, Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, etc. They also have programs for nest-box placement, milkweed planting, warm season grass planting, timber cuts, and a bat box program.

Thunder Bay Audubon news

Linda Klemens, TBAS President

Linda Klemens, TBAS President

Linda Klemens, TBAS President announced that next year (2015) is the fiftieth anniversary of TBAS.

Sunrise Coast Birding Trail

The birding trail is getting closer to a reality, with sign design selected and areas selected for sign placement. Keep an eye out on the US-23 Heritage Route site for more information.

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AVA October Field Trip notes


“Well, that was fun, and we were doing something very different” was the comment and general consensus following our Wednesday, October 29, 10:00 a.m. geocaching field trip. After the field trip we stopped for lunch at Augie’s-by-the-Bay, which gave us more time to discuss GPS units and the sport of geocaching.

If you weren’t at the October 14th meeting of the AuSable Valley Audubon you missed GeoCaching 101, which was prepared and presented by Gary and Donette Spiekerman.   If you missed it, you might be asking, ‘what on earth is geocaching?”

Geocaching is a fun sport that is growing in popularity. The Geocaching.com website states, “Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that is happening right now, all around you. It is a treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are 2,522,392 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.”

Geocaching will take you to amazing and beautiful places or places in your own town that you’ve never seen. You will be amazed at all the locations where geocaches are located. To start finding geocaches, go to geocaching.com; create your free account. (You can read all about it there.) From there you can pick the geocache that you wish to find and navigate to its location using your GPS unit. Some are hard to find and you’ll be excited with each find. After finding the geocache, sign the logbook and put the geocache container back in the same spot as you found it. Then log your find on the geocache.com website. It’s that easy!!!…and fun.

For today’s field trip we searched for five East Tawas caches and found each one. After signing each logbook we added one of our AuSable Valley Audubon Emergency Rain Ponchos to the cache. Each member got a chance to use a GPS unit and follow the directions to the five cache sites. Our AVA participant members had a very good geocaching morning.

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Season ending M-55 Roadside Cleanup a success


Pre-cleanup organization provided by Sue Duncan

Pre-cleanup organization provided by Sue Duncan

AVA’s September M-55 Highway clean up took place on Monday, 9/22. The volunteers had wonderful weather. Special thanks to David and Ruth Golm for providing  the cider and donuts  for our ‘tailgate party’.

Fourteen people helped to make easy and rapid work of our assigned 2 mile route. We collected a total of 14 bags of trash which included a house roof ventilator and the detached enameled stove top of a 4 burner kitchen gas range.

Bob K. suggested we begin saving the found parts and assemble a car from the many vehicle parts we’ve collected. We certainly have found lots of vehicle front end plastic parts that have fallen from cars after collisions with deer.

Our volunteers - Thank you for all you do.

Our volunteers – Thank you for all you do.

Thanks to our M-55 Road Cleanup coordinators Sue and Larry for all they do. (And for the photos!)

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