I am sure many reading this blog have been wondering the past month where my report of my trip to Michigan in April was. Well, I have excuses. I've been working hard the past month finishing up my AP classes, and I simply haven't gotten around to posting photos or a report. So, here is the first batch of my photos from the trip, over a month late. I don't have the time to write a full report, but here are some photos with short descriptions.
The main purpose of the trip was to investigate two colleges in western Michigan, Hope College in Holland and Calvin College in Grand Rapids. I took this American Robin photo in Holland. I didn't like Hope College, or Holland for that matter; my mom and I saw few birds during the few minutes we poked around the area (though, of course, that was not the only reason I didn't like the college or the city.) However, robins were abundant. Robins are relatively uncommon in California, so it was a treat to see and hear them in masses again.
This unspectacular photo shows a very nifty bird. The Midwest experienced a massive invasion of White-winged Crossbills this winter. I angrily read of crossbills being seen within a couple miles of my old house. I had never seen one before. And, just as luck would have it, almost all of the birds had departed by the time I arrived in Michigan. A handful were sticking around Brighton State Recreation Area in Livingston County, so we stopped there on our way from Grand Rapids to Detroit. I easily located several quietly feeding in the tops of some tamarack trees. After a few minutes they became restless and took off. I was happy to see at least a few after reading about hordes of them all winter. Interestingly, in several years I saw an extraordinary number of rare birds within a few miles of the crossbill spot: White-eared Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Bullock's Oriole, Spotted Towhee, and Townsend's Solitaire. These may sound ho-hum to the seasoned Californian, but to Michiganders these species are rare and exotic.
A rare sight in California, but a common one in the Midwest: a sprawling corn field. One of the days we were in Michigan I went birding with a few old friends of mine, including my mentor Karl Overman. We made the long drive to Mercer County, Ohio, to chase a flock of Smith's Longspurs that had been reported from this field. It's a good three and a half hours of driving to get there; fortunately, we easily found the birds. Another life bird for me, but unfortunately the birds were not cooperative for photographs.
This photo shows a meadowlark, more specifically a Western Meadowlark. Now, a Western Meadowlark is not a big deal in California, but in Ohio it is. The day I went birding with Karl and several other birders we also made a short detour to see it. A state bird for me.
Our vanload of birders also hit Oak Openings Metropark, a beautiful park west of Toledo. Oak Openings is one of my favorite spots for spring and summer birding. Several species breed there that are extremely difficult to find elsewhere in Ohio, including Lark Sparrow, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak. I photographed this White-breasted Nuthatch at the nature center feeders.
Another visitor to the feeders at Oak Openings was this cute little Red Squirrel. We don't get these guys in Southern California, so it was nice to see them again. I used to spend countless hours attempting to keep them off my bird feeders in Michigan.
Another interesting sighting at Oak Openings was this beautiful Blue Racer. We were walking along a road, seeing Red-headed Woodpeckers, Field Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and others, when I looked down and nearly stepped on this snake.
We couldn't bird northwestern Ohio without a stop at Crane Creek. This legendary migration hotspot located on the shore of Lake Erie is an incredible spot for seeing warblers and other migrants in the spring. Unfortunately, I was a few weeks early for the big rush. In fact, birding was quite dull along the boardwalk. However, I enjoyed strolling along the boardwalk I've stalked so many times. I visited Crane Creek every year, starting in 2000 (almost a decade ago!) The most interesting bird we saw was an Eastern Screech-Owl that popped out of a tree cavity when Karl began imitating its whistled call.
Common Grackles, though obnoxiously common in Michigan and Ohio, are truly beautiful to behold when the sun strikes them. This one was rummaging through the leaf litter at Crane Creek. Pretty handsome guy, eh?
That's all for now. Hopefully I'll get some more up soon. It was an excellent trip. I liked Calvin College in Grand Rapids, so we will be going back in the fall to take a second look. It was also great to go birding again in Michigan and Ohio and see old friends.