The big story of the 2019 Washtenaw May Count is YOU, the volunteers. This year we turned out an absolutely astounding number of volunteers, 105 of us, counting every township, every bird, every species, and posting it all to eBird. Organizing, recruiting, and helping you find your places to volunteer to bird the Count was a delight for me, with so many new volunteer individuals and groups joining in. Thank you to the new group of Feibai and Jack Yang, Judy Wade, and Maryse Brouwers who turned up our County’s only Ruddy Ducks and many warbler species at Gallup and Furstenberg Parks. Dominick Fenech, a new WAS member, happened to bird several underbirded areas in Superior TWP and was able to make a super contribution to that township’s tally. Ann Arbor had several new volunteers like Edgar Otto and Craig Perdue, birding Matthaei Botanical Gardens and South Pond. Keith Dickey, Ben Winger, Jason Contrucci, and Dan Ezekiel made first time contributions in Ann Arbor, as well. Lima and Freedom Townships had a new area leader, Jim Law, who recruited several great birders for a good count. Thanks to Mike Bowen for volunteering for the first time in Lima TWP. Thank you to Carol Watson, who came back as a volunteer with Dawn Holloway in Saline TWP. I can’t mention all 105 birders. However, I can’t stress enough how much your efforts mean to this count. Several years ago, State birders stopped compiling an annual Michigan bird migration count, but we kept counting in Washtenaw. With our data now all being shared with eBird, we’re making a significant citizen science contribution to understanding bird migration in our area.
Warblers were the next big story in this year’s Count. Probably because of the spring’s wet and cold weather, and north winds preventing northward migration, many of the early warblers were still around during the second Saturday of May. For example, we posted a record number of Palm Warblers, 187, usually only in low double digits by our count day, and more twice our usual number of Yellow-rumpeds, 442, also usually on the downswing by this time. Orange-crowned Warblers posted in double digits at 10, for the first time in recent memory. Other Warblers were here in record numbers, as well, on their way up North for breeding, though perhaps because of the cold, many were not singing. Good thing the experienced birders knew where to look in their traditional hotspots. Here are some examples of our astounding numbers of warbler species— Northern Parula, 278, up from 75 last year, Nashville Warbler, 214, doubled from last year, Northern Waterthrush, 33, usually scarce but found in in 12 of 20 townships this year, Black-and-White Warbler, 119, up from 43 last year, Black-throated Blue Warbler, 127, nearly quadrupled from last year, and Black-throated Green Warbler, 251, more than doubled from last year’s 108. Karen Markey posted our only Louisiana Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warblers at Hudson Mills, for Dexter Township. It was a good day for Warbler lovers, like me.
Shorebirds were a big non-story. The cold, wet conditions apparently sent them on their way, many missing Washtenaw altogether. Normally common on the second Saturday of May, Least Sandpipers were totally absent. Roger Wykes’ discovery of 6 Short-billed Dowitchers on Arkona Rd. , was the single unusual shorebird species for the count. However, though they’re wading birds, not shorebirds, a record 2 American Bitterns were found by Dave Borneman and Linda Ar’s crew in Sharon and by Silas Bialecki and Jeremy Siegrist, in Manchester. My husband, Scott, and I found a Least Bittern in Lodi, near where one was found last year.
The last fact I’ll mention is our Scarlet Tanager total, 71, substantially below our six-year average of 87, but up from last year’s low of 63. We’ll have to see what the long-term trends show for my favorite bird. Check our tallies for details on other bird species.
Check for details in the tally spreadsheet, published in the July/August edition of the WAS Newsletter, and posted here. I’m already looking forward to the 2020 May Count and I’m counting on all of you to be there!!!
As always, I am for the birds,
Juliet Berger, May Count Compiler and President, Washtenaw Audubon Society