On Saturday (January 16, 2016), 16 intrepid birders attempted to see what sorts of wintering birds could be found. We started by cruising the country roads of the eastern part of Washtenaw County, specifically Vreeland and Gotfredson Roads. We enjoyed a couple of cooperative Kestrels and a nice flock of Horned Larks in the snowy fields, but were unable to locate the previously seen Snow Buntings.
I'm sure that if we'd spent more time searching, we could have eventually found them, but we had a date to keep with a deer carcass! More specifically, it was a date with a pair of Bald Eagles standing sentry over this relatively fresh food source. (They weren't doing too well of a job, though, as many area crows were enjoying the spoils, as well.) As participants oohed and aahed over the eagles, my 7 year old daughter chose to spend her time staring through binoculars at the dead deer.
From here, we jetted down to Crosswinds Marsh to check out the enormous flock of gulls that congregate across the street at the base of the area's dump. Literally thousands, as well as many, many more soaring over the dump itself. We could only search through a small portion of the flock. Who knows what types of goodies could have been hidden in the swarm. A Ross's Gull for all we know... The group was impressed by the large number of Great Black-backed Gulls which made their presence easily known among the others with their bold coloring and enormous size. The highlight, though, was a pair of Glaucous Gulls that put on a show for us, soaring around and showing off their all-white wingtips. A male Northern Harrier (AKA "Gray Ghost") coasting past was icing on the cake.
The final stop was Lake Erie Metropark to see what sorts of waterfowl might be around. As very little of the Detroit River had iced over, the waterfowl was not as concentrated as we would have liked. Most individuals were well, well, well out of eyesight. At one point we saw a Bald Eagle flapping past far out. This caused thousands and thousands of waterfowl to take flight. Even though this was extremely out of identification-view, it was still a really interesting sight to see. It looked like a swarm of insects buzzing around. But who knows what species could have been with them. A Steller's Eider for all we know...maybe this speculation is going too far... Closer to shore, though, we were able to see a nice number of Coots, Gadwall, American Wigeons, and winter-plumage Ruddy Ducks to name a few.
After I left, the group was also able to re-locate a reported Northern Mockingbird around the toll booth.
By Bryn Martin