Winter 2016 Pine Siskin Irruption in Northeast Michigan

Pine Siskins at a Tawas area feeder.

Pine Siskins at a Tawas area feeder.

Around the middle of January bird enthusiasts began to notice increasing numbers of Pine Siskins at their thistle feeders.  This small brown heavily streaked member of the finch family normally resides in Canada.  However, when seed production of natural winter food sources is low, the birds will venture south.  Such was the case with reduced cone production of the White Spruce, a major food  of the siskin.

Thus, we here in NE Michigan have experienced thousands of these birds in our area seeking food.  Scientists refer to this vast influx as an “irruption.”

 

Pine Siskin Irruption Map winter 2016

Pine Siskin Irruption Map winter 2016

AuSable Valley Audubon member, Peggy Ridgway, sent out a request to birders from Tawas to Mackinaw City requesting that they report to her the numbers of siskins visiting their feeding stations.  “The numbers started rolling in,” stated Ridgway. She received over 50 replies.  “Many stated that they had as many as 50-150 feeding daily and folks were going through the thistle like crazy,” she added.  Ridgway also noted that a few individuals were hosting 400 and 500 birds daily ! (Click on the map for a larger view.)

A few reports came from the West side including Traverse City, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Charlevoix.  However, observers were only seeing 10-15 at feeders.

“We probably won’t experience an irruption like this for many years to come!  So, we might as well enjoy the show. One day, they will just suddenly be gone as suddenly as they arrived,” concluded Ridgway.

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Local USFS Biologist and AVA Friend and Member Honored

PaulThompsonfairwell-1webSeveral members of AVA and a representative from Ducks Unlimited gathered on Jan. 7 to say farewell to U.S. Forest Service biologist Paul Thompson.

Paul will be leaving the headquarters in Oscoda and transferring to the Cadillac field office. He will continue his biologist position, but will shift his focus from Kirtland’s Warbler to the Great Lakes Piping Plover and other endangered species.

For the past eight years, Paul has led the Kirtland’s Warbler field trips
during the Tawas Point Birding Festival. His expertise and fine presentations were appreciated by all.
PaulThompsonfairwell-2webPaulThompsonfairwell-3web

Paul also assisted AVA on numerous other projects and he will be missed by all.

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Local Predator Bird at a Hunt

Sharp-shinned Hawk with Mourning Dove

Sharp-shinned Hawk with Mourning Dove

Sharp-shinned Hawk with Mourning Dove

Sharp-shinned Hawk with Mourning Dove

Here are a couple of photos submitted by AVA member Patsy Mortimer. She stated that they are of: “A juvenile sharp-shinned hawk nabbed a mourning dove at our feeder in Hale Jan. 17.”

Not all birds eat seeds, but all birds need to eat. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

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Informational Meeting about the GBBC Feb 3 in Oscoda

One of the announcements made during the January  AVA membership meeting was of an upcoming informational talk about the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The meeting will be held on February 3rd in Oscoda at the Robert J. Parks Library on Skeel Avenue. The meeting will be held from 1-3 PM.

Check out this opportunity for some background and information on how you can participate. The Great Backyard Bird Count will occur on February 12-15 this year.

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AVA Meeting presentation – Tawas Pt. State Park Initiatives

Our AVA meeting hosted one of the rangers from Tawas Point State Park, Micah Jordan as speaker. MicahJordanAVAspeaker-5194He spoke to a number of infrastructure upgrades scheduled to begin at the Tawas State Dock in downtown east Tawas. This is a three phase project, with phase one to begin within the next few months. The number of boat slips will be greatly enhanced by the end of all the phases.

Micah also spoke to the planned decommission of the Tawas Point lighthouse light and what is in process to keep the Fresnel lens at the lighthouse in a historical setting. He also answered some questions from the meeting floor about the proposed replacement light mast at the tip of the point near the current foghorn location. We wish to thank the staff of the Tawas Point State Park for providing us the speaker and this information.

Updates from members were also presented about the Christmas bird count which recently completed and some teaser information about the May Tawas Point Birding Festival. There was also a reminder that many volunteer openings are in need of people to help make the 2016 festival successful.

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2016 is Centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty

The piping plover is one of many bird species that has benefited from the protections of the Migratory Bird Treaty, which marks its 100th anniversary in 2016.

The piping plover is one of many bird species that has benefited from the protections of the Migratory Bird Treaty, which marks its 100th anniversary in 2016.

(Note: This information and photo are taken from the Jan. 7, 2016 MDNR news release. See the release on the DNR site for the complete story and further information.)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners are kicking off a yearlong celebration of the Migratory Bird Treaty’s 100th anniversary throughout 2016.

To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100. To sign up for DNR Wildlife Viewing emails, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the red envelope.

We have the birds, get out there and see them!

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November Trumpeter Swan Viewing Field Trip a Success

(This article is courtesy of AVA member Larry VanWagoner. Click on any of the photos for a larger version)

photo courtesy of Jean Howard. Taken at Alcona Pond

photo courtesy of Jean Howard. Taken at Alcona Pond

AuSable Valley Audubon member Maggie B. led six AVA’ers around Alcona Pond during midday on Saturday, 11/14.

AVA members view the swans at Alcona Pond

AVA members view the swans at Alcona Pond

We found  approximately 30 Trumpeter swans.  We followed them from one side of the pond to the other, and eventually got close enough to see the red line along their beaks with the scope.  The swans spent a lot of time with their butts in the air (feeding), but we got to see them preen, take off, land, and have an argument.  There were about 10 gray swans (this year’s signets)  among the white ones.  There was  ‘honking’ constantly during our observing time.

Swan viewers - photo by Maggie Berch

Swan viewers – photo by Maggie Berch

After we finished exploring Alcona Pond, Maggie invited us to her home.   Her home sits high on a bluff overlooking Alcona Pond.  Now I see how she so easily keeps track of the swans.

The group drove back down M-65 and had lunch at the Bear’s Den, and then we all drove to West Gate Overlook where an additional 15 or so Trumpeter swans were foraging in the river below the observation deck nearest the facilities.

West Gate Overlook - photo courtesy of Maggie Berch

West Gate Overlook – photo courtesy of Maggie Berch

As we were leaving West Gate, we heard Sand Hill Cranes approaching, and were treated to two ‘V’s of cranes (about 180 birds total)  passing  ~300’ overhead.  They were headed south.
Thank you to Maggie for spending a good share of her day guiding us to her swan observing places. We had a very relaxing and fun day.

Sandhill Cranes overflight at West Gate Overlook - M. Berch

Sandhill Cranes overflight at West Gate Overlook – M. Berch

Check out more Trumpeters here Continue reading

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November Meeting Topic Michigan Glacial Geology

Our November meeting speaker was USFS Soil Scientist Trevor Hobbs. His Presentation was Legacy of Ice – Reading Glacial Landscapes of Northern Lower Michigan.

local geological bedrock layers

local geological bedrock layers

 His fascinating presentation covered a range of items:

  • What do we know?
  • A Glacial Geology Primer
  • Michigan’s Bedrock Geology – the surface that the glaciers overrode
  • Some new geologic interpretive projects on the Huron-Manistee National Forests
  • Connections between glaciers, land forms, soils, and forests
  • Emerging technology

The following images show where some of the new interpretive panels will be placed and a couple of the panel images in draft form. You can click on any of the images to view in a larger format.

Proposed interpretive panel locations

Proposed interpretive panel locations

Graycalm Sand

Graycalm Sand

Sand Dunes and Wetlands

Sand Dunes and Wetlands

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Crane Viewing Field Trips

Sandhill Cranes! Lots!

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

On October 26th, the AVA held a field trip to a crane viewing area near Prescott. (Not any kind of “official” viewing area, but just an area where you can usually spot cranes.)

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

No cranes were counted during this outing, but our AVA crane observer Larry VanWagoner had counted a record 2479 during an evening view the previous week. Here are some great sunset shots as the cranes fly in to the roosting sites.

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

photo courtesy of Curt Phieffer

Update after the 29th field trip with information provided by Sue Duncan:

AVA’s field trip to Prescott to view the Sand Hill Cranes was held on two different days(Mon. 10/26 and Thu. 10/29).  We held two field trips to accommodate the 18 members and three guests who wanted to attend.    Monday we were witness to a near full moon at sunset, cold blustery weather, and hundreds of cranes squawking on their way to the roost.  About 24 hundreds to be more accurate.

Thursday was different.  There was no moon.  And, for the first time, near sundown, 3 hunters entered private land bordering the roost.  They proceeded to shoot and kill at least two Canada Geese when the geese approached the mitigation ponds.  The sound of guns firing disturbed the hundreds of cranes at and approaching the roost.  Many left the area, not to return before dark.

The official count of this year’s cranes was done Wed. 10/28, and yielded 2488 birds; the largest number ever at the Prescott roost.

Both times,  after sunset,  we drove a mile south from the roost to the Cafe International to find a more comfortable human habitat.

The following photos are courtesy of Sue Duncan. Thanks Sue!

Watching for the cranes

Watching for the cranes

There's some over this way!

There’s some over this way!

Our AVA president at the binoculars

Our AVA president at the binoculars

Food afterward in a people friendly atmosphere

Food afterward in a people friendly atmosphere

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Tuttle Marsh wader

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

This photo was taken on September 1, 2015 at Tuttle Marsh by Jean Howard, AVA member. Click on the photo for a larger view. 

Thank you Jean!

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