Sunrise Coast Birding Trail Dedication May 2

New Birding Trail to be dedicated on Michigan’s East Coast

The Sunrise Coast Birding Trail (SCBT) is a grassroots effort by three Michigan Audubon chapters- AuSable Valley Audubon, Thunder Bay Audubon Society and Straits Area Audubon Society. The focus of the trail is to offer public access and information to some of the best birding hot spots in Northeast Michigan. The trail also offers an additional tourist attraction to the Sunrise Side.

The new trail begins at Shoreline Park in Oscoda, near the mouth of the AuSable River. The trail then follows nearly 150 miles ofSunriseCoastBirdingTr-sign-web the Lake Huron coast to Mackinaw City. Twenty- eight birding sites in the region are highlighted. Maps with directions and descriptions will be available in mid-April. They will be available at various places along the route such as Chambers of Commerce, lodging facilities, restaurants, and travel centers.  Metal signs identifying sites or travel directions to various locations will make it easy for the visitor to follow. See the example at the right.

More information is available through the Michigan Audubon’s “Go Birding” page, Heritage 23’s page at, and Michigan DNR’s page on Michigan Birding Trails (we now have five) at DNR > Wildlife & Habitat > Viewing Wildlife > Birding Trails.

Trail dedication will take place in three locations, Oscoda, Alpena, and Mackinaw City on May 2. See the Sunrise Coast link above for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count Summary is available

Cornell Lab and Audubon have published the results of this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count. Many new records were set. Check out the results in the GBBC Newsletter available here.

Great work and congratulations to all who participated.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Bird That (supposedly) Shouldn’t Be Here

Red-headed Woodpeckers? Here? Now?

Red-headed Woodpeckers - photo by Larry VanWagoner

Red-headed Woodpeckers – photo by Larry VanWagoner

According to the current batch of birding field guides, there should be no red-headed woodpeckers anywhere in Michigan, let alone northern Michigan, in February. Noteworthy, is the fact that the U.S. Forest Service has included habitat areas within their forest management plan specifically for these and similar birds. These birds are easy to find in the fire-break clear cut areas created by the USFS to protect against wildfires running amok should they occur on managed lands.

Two of our AVA members, Larry and Sue spotted around fifty red-headed woodpeckers in the Sand Lake area during the Great Backyard Bird Count. The birds have apparently established a colony in a habitat that the US Forest Service has managed for just that eventuality since 2010.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off