May 1: Just as predicted, our first Rose-breasted Grosbeak male showed up today. Each year it's like viewing them for the first time all over again, their plumage is just so brilliant. I heard the distinct song of a male Baltimore Oriole, but they haven't come into view just yet. While searching for a Ruffed Grouse today that Garry observed on a drumming log near the river, we came across yet another grouse- this one was right above my head, 3 feet from the truck. The 'grouse gods' are sure putting me through the wringer lately as far as photographs go, but I'm enjoying the priveledge of viewing so many of them in close proximity. The sweet songs of an Eastern Phoebe filled the air near the river and the water levels are very near flood stage after last nights' downpour.
May 2: The Baltimore Orioles finally came in to feed- all four of them.
We also had a Wild Turkey hen scratching around the Blue Spruce this morning. She didn't stay long, but she made the American Crow feeding next to her look small.
May 4: Temperatures dropped down to the mid 20's last night, and with today's cold rain the migrant activity has stalled. We've been enjoying the antics of the deer that come in daily to feed. Lately there has been a large drake mallard that appears at dusk to feed on corn, and a yearling wasn't too sure it liked sharing it's corn with the duck. It goosed it right out of the area, literally pushing it with it's nose. Tonight a strange looking racoon, that is half covered in thick fur and half short fur, got goosed out of the area too. Deer are very curious animals and they will usually investigate any animal that ventures into their feeding area.
May 5: We spent a splendid day at Nayanquing wildlife area where we enjoyed many seasonal firsts. Many warbler species and shorebirds along with a few empids here and there. Yellow Warblers and Yellow-rumps were actively fighting over territory - bright clashes of feathers.
We sighted both a Blue-winged *and* and Golden-winged Warbler today. First time we've enjoyed both species in one day in one area. I'm finding myself a bit 'listed out' lately, in that I don't find it particularly important to keep a list of how many species I see in one area. They're all so beautiful & interesting, and I tend to spend alot of time watching one bird rather than try to see as many species as I can. One good thing about having a bum knee, I've had to sit rather than walk many days and just listen to birdsongs rather than try to find the singer. Not a bad thing by any means.
May 6: Our Red-headed Woodpecker arrived today, pretty much on time. Equally as exciting are the many yellow morels that popped up overnight in our clearing. A hen turkey made her way in to feed with the drake Mallard again, a different hen than earlier this week. Sighted our first Bobolinks of the season a mile from home and spent a very soggy afternoon in RRRA, where we enjoyed a large fallout of migrants. Rainwater and birds dripped from the trees in large numbers and at times they were right out of our window as we drove slowly down the muddy trails. What a day!
May 7: We spent most of the day in RRRA again. Heard and saw our first Wood Thrush of the season (heaven!) and while Garry fished the river, I sat on the footbridge and enjoyed many bird species as they worked their way up the waters edge. Palms that landed 3 feet from me, twitching their tail- yellow rumps that gleaned insects from the water inches from my face, and a beautiful Cape May male that never really came out of cover for long but took my breath away with his vivid plumage.
May 8: Cold rain didn't deter the female Baltimore Orioles that arrived today from pushing their way into the orange/jelly feeders. The hen turkey paid us another visit and we also had a pair of Wood Ducks stop by long enough for us to say 'hey, there's wood ducks in the trees.'
May 10: We now have 3 hummers, two males and a female. Heard our first Ovenbird on the property today and sighted a Red Admiral flitting about.
May 12: "I meant to do my work today, but a brown bird sang in the apple tree..."
(in this case it was more like "I heard the weather forecast")
With warm southerly winds and a cold front about to move in, we took off for RRRA again today- While standing below the ridge in the middle of flowering dogwoods a few days ago, I told Garry that I had a wish to capture a few images of birds feeding in the blossoms, before they blew down. Today I got my wish. I had no less than 10 Warbling Vireos pass by me at this point, gorging on insects.
May 15: My isp has been down for almost a week so I'm falling behind on much of my online-journaling. Finally had our first Indigo Bunting arrive yesterday- feathers soaked and rain dripping off his beak, he fed next to the bright goldfinches for awhile before heading back into cover.
Also had our first American Redstarts both at home today and in RRRA. While there are more colorful warblers and more elaborate songs, this congenial bird just always makes me smile with it's curious demeanor. An immature male came zipping out of cover near the river and perched near me for a good 5 minutes. Can't think of a better bird to spend 5 minutes with. In the ranch campground area, we've been enjoying good numbers of 13-lined ground squirrels. These engaging little creatures are taking up residence under the firepits and have beautiful markings.
May 16: Returned to RRRA where we had good numbers of Eastern Kingbirds, Warbling Vireos & our first Scarlet Tanager. The immature American Redstart was still in the same area, with his tiny squeaky song. Earlier we checked the access on Twin Lakes Rd, where the mosquitoes are really thick with all of the standing water. Good numbers of moths have been coming to the lights.
May 17: Good numbers of Bobolinks are now on territory near Prescott, as are many Savannah, Swamp and White-crowned Sparrows. Tree Swallows aplenty. Sedge wrens and Eastern Meadowlarks are numerous and the Osprey is still on her nest. Our woods are filled with many trillium, fringed polygala and yellow ladyslipper orchids blossoms. This is proving to be a great season for wildflowers so far.
May 20: Yesterday we did a bit of birding in northwestern Ogemaw Co. in search of Kirtlands- we observed/heard 3 singing males throughout the trip.
We had a very good view of a male Scarlet Tanager and further down the trail we sat and enjoyed a pair of Upland Sandpipers. They have the most unusual call and while the male perched nearby, the female was dipping/bobbing around in a puddle. We usually hear or see them off in the distance, so this was a real treat. Definitely the highlight of the day.
May 22: Spent a most enjoyable (and most wet!) afternoon at Tawas State park where we met up with a few NMB members. It was great to see some familiar smiling faces again & quite a few great birds. From there we stopped at the small park/turnoff north of the childrens park on 23, where we had a Laughing Gull on the beach. The childrens park was teeming with American Pipits, Grasshopper & Savannah Sparrows.
We spent a couple hours in Tuttle Marsh, being hissed at by dozens of parent geese before returning home. My favorite sighting there was a Common Yellowthroat female- a female that sang right at my face level. I'd heard them make many chipnote vocalizations before, but this was a definite song- a soft 'whisper song'. I listened in bemused wonder as she hopped about thick cover, peering at me with bright eyes shining through the brush as she fed voraciously and sang so sweetly.
May 23: Jellyheads rule! At last count we have close to 2 dozen Baltimore Orioles on the property and probably almost as many Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I'm going through a large jar of jelly, 6-8 oranges and cake after cake of suet per day, and that's not including seeds and peanuts and nectar. It's a task to keep up with all of the feeders, but I applied for the job and I take it seriously. Besides, it has pretty good perks. We now have 3 female hummingbirds and 2 males. The females often feed at one feeder together, which is a pretty rare sight here. The smaller of the males is quite a ham- while the females feed, he rises up slowly , fanning his tail feathers out real wide, then he goes into his U display, chittering all the while. Such drama! When he sees he's not getting any reaction, he then dives into the flower box beneath the feeder and eventually chases them all away. He often pins the females down right on the understory while he displays, and he often flashes his gorget at us if we're too close to his territory, which is pretty much as far as his little alert eyes can see. Gotta love 'em.
May 24: I'm becoming a bit concerned over the effects of all of this rain on the bird population, especially the ground nesters, like Ovenbirds. We had none at Tawas over the weekend, which is a first- I don't recall ever visiting Tawas and not seeing/hearing Ovenbirds. At home we usually hear at least 3 out there, but for the past few days I've just heard one and today I've yet to hear a single call. I suspect they're moving out of the area to find suitable nesting spots, as our woods resemble a marsh right now. Where it's normally high and dry, every depression holds a pool of water and that water is being filled to the top over and over again. I know we have nesting Wild Turkeys & Ruffed Grouse, as the hens have been coming in nightly to feed, but whether or not they've had a successful nest, time will only tell. So far my loon survey route has been positive, but with the lake levels rising a few of the nests on neighboring lakes could be easily flooded. We have one nestbox that B.C. Chickadees nest in every year and they've already abandoned the nest and 4 eggs. Our nights have been cold.
We're no longer joking about the rain, it's becoming a serious problem. Trails are being washed out and at this rate, I wouldn't doubt that access to Tuttle Marsh and many other low lying areas will be limited very soon if we don't get a respite. Glancing at the window, I have a female hummingbird at a feeder with nesting material stuck to her feet, so despite the hard rains she's still building a nest. But I can't help but think that insectivores are struggling to find enough to eat.
The chipmunks are being forced out of their burrows by the rising water table too. We've got several tiny little guys out there that are definitely not ready to fend for themselves, but their homes are flooded out. I like chipmunks, so seeing them so defenseless is a bit disheartening. Although I haven't confirmed it yet, Garry saw a tiny black chipmunk out there last night- it may be a possibility that our melanistic chipmunk from a couple years ago may have passed on his/her genepool, so am watching the yard anxiously to see if we have another 'Blackie' this spring.. and hoping for clear skies soon.
May 25: Well, I didn't have to wait long to confirm what Garry already knew- we have a melanistic baby chipmunk! He/she is the tiniest little thing, and just as jet-black as it's namesake. It came out from under the deck today, and romped about with two siblings- that alone made me very happy to see because our last black chipmunk was ostrasized by the rest of the chipmunk clan and really got beat up pretty bad. This rare little chipmunk has already captured my heart, it's just so precious.
May 28: We spent a couple hours in RRRA late this afternoon where we discovered an active nest with two eaglets near Devoe Lake. Good numbers of Chestnut-sided warblers and Common yellowthroats were feasting on gnats near the river, many at eye level.
May 29: The 'weekenders' are all up for the holiday, so that means the roar of lawn mowers and jetskis has begun in earnest around the area. Ugh! We took to the trails to find a bit of peace and quiet- started out at the river access where Garry fished while I enjoyed a small flock of Cedar Waxwings eating blossoms. While admiring their dining habits, a Warbling Vireo darted out of cover and went to work gathering silk from a tent caterpillar nest. Eastern tiger swallowtails were puddling along the trail and northern pearl cresents were flitting among tall grasses. Quite a few bird species were singing on territory near the rivers edge and we enjoyed good views of a Great Crested Flycatcher on the side trail. Indian paintbrush is in full blossom, despite last nights cold temperatures.
We ventured over to the Selkirk area where wild honeysuckle filled the air with heady scent and Ovenbirds were belting out their songs along with Veery and Hermit Thrush- so much kinder on the ears than a lawnmower.
Additional 2004 Journals: