A Year of Birds
The first week of May, my friends and I drive back north from North Carolina. There are plenty of birds to see, but we are in a hurry to make the long trip. Finally, we are back home, and to reward ourselves, my friends and I indulge in a quick trip to some of our favorite bird viewing sites. We are rewarded with the sight of egrets and a blue heron. In the nearby canals are pairs of common mergansers that have mated swimming.
On the way home, there is a sandhill crane right next to the road off the bay, so I grab a quick photo.
Then, as we drive the dirt road that leads to the house, I see three male wood ducks in some water that has collected next to the road. I stop and grab another photo of these beautiful birds who are using this tiny patch of water as a home. May is starting out nicely for birdwatching!
It is sunny but still chilly when I go outside to walk, and see Rosie, the rose-breasted nuthatch looking at me. Rosie pecked the ground, looked up at me, and repeated this several times. Finally, I realized that Rosie wanted to be fed. I went inside, got a handful of sunflower seeds, and scattered them for this delightful little bird.
It is now May 5th, and the great migration is in full swing, with some amazing bird watching opportunities. I realize that migration actually starts much earlier, often in February, and the “migration” that most people become aware of is during peak travel times for the birds. During these peaks, I get to see visitors from other places, such as the lesser yellow leg that stopped by to feed in the marshes off of Lake Huron. He was probably fueling up for a flight to either Canada or Alaska, where these beautifully marked birds breed in the summer.
I am also starting to see some of our regular summer visitors. I spotted a pair of green herons in another inlet off the lake; one flew away, and the other flew into a cedar tree where I was able to get some photos. The egrets and herons are also everywhere in Squaw Bay and are starting to visit the small inlets off of the smaller bays.
I also saw my first killdeer on a lawn near the bay. It looked right at me, seemed unafraid, and I got some nice photos of him. And of course, Robins, the state bird of Michigan, are everywhere.
Two days later, I was walking on the beach with friends, and saw a pair of killdeer near the rocks. One flew away, and the other took on the job of leading us away. After a time, he realized that we were no threat, and began feeding and drinking out of the bay waters. These birds are beautifully marked, and when they open their wings, a rusty orange color can be seen beneath.
Now, it is May 10th, and the weather is getting warmer, up in the sixties (F). While I was outside, I saw a delightful sight: the first hummingbird of the season, resting on a leafless tree. Several of the trees are starting to bloom, and with the daffodils opening, other flowers will soon follow and provide nectar for these tiny birds.
I have also seen the wood duck again, and have gotten some photos of him in his little pool of water beneath the trees. He is usually hanging out with other male wood ducks, or a male mallard, although I have on occasion seen him swimming alone.
As May gets warmer, there are more and more birds to be seen in the marshes, fields, lakes and woods. I saw a red-headed woodpecker, the first I have seen in the area, in a tree. The egrets are also starting to show their full plumage, and are beautiful.
The other day, I saw the most beautiful juvenile up in a tree. He flew off when he saw me, but it was breathtaking to see his markings.
Then, a group of sandhill cranes came flying to a nearby marsh. They are beautiful birds, but look quite ungainly when they fly in – as if they shouldn’t be able to stay up in the air! But they do, and began feeding heavily at a nearby marsh.
While mallards are common ducks, they are still beautifully marked. I saw a female in the pond where the wood ducks were seen; she seems to have taken this spot over now that they have moved on.
The cormorant can be seen by the river, perched on his favorite log. I caught him when he was sitting in the sun with a little friend – apparently the log perch can be shared!