Saturday, May 14, the second Saturday of the month, dawned cold and wet. There were freezing conditions forecast, with gale force winds, and it was nearly so at 5 a.m. when my husband, Scott, and I set out from home to begin our Spring Migration count in Lodi Township. All over the county, birders were up early - obscenely early - to count birds. 91 birders, to be exact, 20 more than last year. All pitched in for a massive volunteer effort to count all the birds, all the species in our county.
All told, we had 72 parties of birders, fanning out throughout Washtenaw, bearing binoculars and a passion for birds. I am right in the middle of it, the county compiler, and I drag Scott along for the ride. Actually, he’s the driver. (And he packs a mean picnic. Ask me about the warm lobster bisque…)
We have area leaders who take charge of one township or two or even three. Most of them have done this for years and are old hands at it. Some, like me, are relatively new. We recruit and organize volunteers and get our territories covered. We bird, ourselves, all day, and then crunch the data and get it over to the compiler for tallying. Volunteers hunt down rare species we know of that are on territory, such as the Prairie Warbler on Hankerd Road for at least the 4th year, and find new ones we are all surprised about, like the Franklin’s Gull at Ford Lake. Our volunteers are the best in the State, no doubt about it, because we consistently rank at the top counties in the State, in numbers of birds, volunteers, hours and miles birded and numbers of parties year after year. And we are usually in the top 2-3 counties for numbers of species. And we have no Great Lakes shoreline.
This year was no exception. Despite the terrible birding conditions, including 40 mph winds in some areas, and sleet in most, we found, together, 178 species of birds. Among the rarities, a Short-billed Dowitcher and Willet on South Pond, a Black Tern at Scio Church and Parker, a Connecticut Warbler at 4 Mile Lake, Common and Forster’s Terns, a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Yellow-throated Warbler, a Kentucky Warbler, an Eastern Whip-poor-will, and a Northern Goshawk. We saw 28,959 birds, 138 bird species on our expected list (only missing the Alder Flycatcher) and 40 species that were rare enough to be off the main list. Next year Pileated Woodpecker will make it onto the expected list as we found 20 of them this year in the County. And this year, volunteer efforts found 103 of my favorite bird, the Scarlet Tanager, up almost 20 birds from last year. Special thanks to new Ann Arbor Area Leader Norka Saldana, who took over for Sarah Toner, and who recruited a record number of volunteers who covered nearly all of the dozens of Ann Arbor parks, a feat never before attempted. Also, many thanks to Greg Jacks, who took over in York and Augusta Townships for John Farmer. I cannot thank Roger Wykes enough, who is my birding mentor and helps me compile the stats, and who ably compiled this Count for countless years before me. Thanks to our returning area leaders, Mike Sefton, Matty and Ben Hack, Ellie Shappirio, Dave Borneman, Dan Thiry, Diana Kern, Martin Bialecki, and John Swales. And me in Lodi…we found a Black Duck. Please continue your amazing volunteer efforts, area leaders and other participants. I will need your help, as always, and I appreciate you all more than I can say.
For the exact numbers and species by township, click here to download the data (PDF).
Juliet Berger—Spring Migration Count Compiler
Short-billed Dowitcher by DickDaniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons