Our May Count 2018 results are finally in (download a PDF of results with link below), and thanks to so many volunteers, about 70 of us strong, we made a great showing, under adverse conditions. 176 species were observed by birders in Washtenaw County's 20 Townships, just slightly above our 5-year average of 175.
We saw 26,322 individual birds, despite heavy thunderstorms throughout the county, all day long. In Sharon Twp, Dave Borneman and Linda Ar’s crew found a township record of 123 species, and a May Count record of 109 species was found in Lodi by my crew of 6 volunteers, which blows out our previous record by more than 10 bird species. Thanks to eBird, we now have a handle on where most of our county birds were found, down to specific locations. Huge high fives go out to David Amamoto, one of our most tech savvy volunteers, who partnered with me, helping for dozens of hours, to revamp the whole May Count system, including creating Township-specific eBird accounts, where all our data can be stored. This promises to make compiling the May Count so much simpler going forward. Please thank David, any chance you get, since without his help, I would still be hand entering everyone’s lists, for hundreds of hours, as I did last year. David also helped us to condense the data, so we can provide Count Day numbers right in this newsletter. A hearty thank you, Dave!!
This year’s count day was a tough day to bird. Despite heavy rains, thunder and lightning, almost all of us were able to cover our territories, some of us going out late in the afternoon and evening, because of having been rained out in the morning. Warblers made a great showing this count day, and we saw all the expected warbler species and then some. In fact, large numbers of migrating warblers flooded a few spots in the county, perhaps brought down by the storms. Greg Jacks and crew in York and Augusta, had a nice flock at the Maple Road troll bridge, an eBird hotspot, including Mourning, Golden-winged, and Cerulean Warbler. In 2017 birders observed 19 Tennessee Warblers, while in 2018 we got 104 of the sewing machine-like singers. Magnolia Warblers rebounded from last year’s dismal number, 5, with a substantial 110 this year. Last year we dipped on Bay-breasted Warblers, while this year we found 33. We found 1 Blackpoll last year while this year we had 21. Six Blackburnian Warblers last year were replaced by 57 this year. Last year we saw or heard 36 Yellow-rumped Warblers, while this year there were 200!! Rare warblers made a good showing, though not as numerous as in previous years, with 3 Golden-winged Warblers turning up on the Count (one in Lodi at a private residence, one found by Tim Gacioch in Scio Woods Preserve and the one on Maple Rd), along with 10 Ceruleans (9 of them in Sylvan, down from 19 last year), and a late edition Prothonotary Warbler, found on an audio tape Linda Ar made in Sharon Twp on count day. We missed Louisiana Waterthrush, though we believe it is breeding along the Huron River in Hudson Mills MetroPark. Thanks to Karen Markey and Mary Wise for braving the severe thunderstorms on foot in Dexter Twp to search for the birds there, where the weather was particularly bad. We also missed the Prairie Warbler, though it is back again on Hankerd Rd. for at least the 6th year. Unfortunately, our Saline River population of Yellow-throated Warblers refused to show on Count Day this year.
Aside from warblers, other songbirds showed up in good numbers throughout the county. Though Scarlet Tanagers were down more than 30% over last year, we still saw or heard 63 of the beautiful migrants. Our 5-year average is 97 Scarlet Tanagers. We counted 17 Gray-cheeked Thrush, usually an uncommon migrant, while Sedge Wren, which is not seen every year, boasted 10 sightings. I even saw a Sedge Wren in Lodi Twp, a first for me. Vesper Sparrow was noted in greater numbers than usual, with 12, including 4 in Lodi. We tallied 9 Lincoln’s Sparrows, way up from our count of 1 last year. 9 Grasshopper Sparrows and 6 Henslow’s Sparrows, both in greater numbers than the last few years, rounded out the unusual sparrow species. Roger Wykes found our Count’s only Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Maple Rd. in Saline Twp. Also, this year we observed 4 Philadelphia Vireos, usually a later migrant, up from only two last year. And speaking of vireos, our singing male White-eyed Vireo at Toma and Stinchfield Woods Rd. has a mate this year, for sure! Thanks to Maggie Jewett for spotting the pair on Count Day.
I moved 2 bird species from the Rare Bird List to the Expected Bird List this year: Bald Eagle and Pileated Woodpecker. When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we never could have imagined this day. With more than 70 years since the banning of DDT in North America, Bald Eagles are making a comeback in our county and throughout the country. 6 of these majestic raptors were spotted on Count Day. Pileated Woodpeckers benefitted from the demise of most of our county’s Ash Trees, and the 150+ years since we logged almost the entire state. Now these largest North American Woodpeckers have lots of dead standing and downed timber to hammer on for Carpenter Ants, and in which to build their nest cavities.
As would be expected on a day when it stormed throughout the day, raptor numbers were down almost 50 %, but we still were able to locate all the expected species, along with Osprey (6), numerous locations, and Peregrine Falcon (1), thanks to Jessica Adamczyk scoping out Central Campus. Waterfowl numbers were slightly down from the last few years, as most self-respecting ducks and geese, as well as shorebirds, had headed to northern climes before the 12th of May. Resident waterfowl, like Trumpeter Swans, continue to increase, and stragglers like Green-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler were found in small numbers on Count Day. Game birds continued to make a decent showing, with good numbers of Ring-necked Pheasant (41), huge numbers of Wild Turkey (183) and thanks to Ben Hack and crew, one Ruffed Grouse. Also, Darrin O’Brien found a Least Bittern, a species rarely tallied on Count Day, at a marshy spot on Ellsworth Rd. Birders found 3 species of Tern at Cavanaugh Lake, in Sylvan Twp -- Common, Forster’s and Black -- and 2 out of these 3 were also spotted in Dexter Twp. Birds that didn’t care a bit about the rain, Sora and Virginia Rail, showed up in more than triple their usual numbers.
Probably the most exciting sighting of the day was a Plegadis Ibis, which could not be identified to species, (either Glossy or White-faced), which Silas Bialecki found while birding a railroad grade, in Manchester. The bird flushed several times, then disappeared before any photos could be obtained. We are thrilled to have Glossy/White-faced Ibis among our bird records this year.
My most heartfelt thank you goes out to all the area leaders, for their patience when I changed the format again this year, for their recruitment and support of all the volunteers, and for their assistance with all the eBird entry. Thank you, Mike Sefton, Dan Thiry and Susan Falcone, John Mills, Dave Borneman and Linda Ar, Tim Gacioch, Ellie Shappirio, Jessica Adamczyk, Greg Jacks, Roger Wykes, Martin and Silas Bialecki, and Ben Hack. And big hugs to my husband, Scott Huizenga, who always is a willing participant and helper in Lodi Twp. with me, and this year staked his claim as a birder in his own right, by having more energy and drive to complete the count than I did, late into the evening. I am grateful to all the volunteers, that our count continues with such enthusiasm, and I’m counting on all your help again on the next May Count, May 11, 2019!!
Juliet Berger, County Compiler since 2014