The 2017 Washtenaw County May Count is finally a wrap! Our total of 171 bird species observed stands respectable among the totals of years past, with 132 expected species and 39 unusual species for the area. Last year we observed 176 species. This year we had dozens of volunteers fan out throughout the county, searching for birds, and recording everything in eBird, a citizen science project, though Cornell University. Now, instead of our results being buried in the obscure scientific journal, Michigan Birds and Natural History, to be published several years after the fact, scientists have access to our data in real time. Was it a light migration in mid-May for common Warbler species? Yes, it was, as we can see from our County Results. If I am a scientist studying trends from this year’s migration, I have the Washtenaw County data at my fingertips, right in eBird. For the complete count of species by Townships, click here.
Despite low bird numbers, we managed to see all the expected Warbler species except Bay-breasted Warbler, on May 13, thanks to our army of volunteers... one Nashville Warbler here, two Blackburnians there. Since I dipped all spring on Bay-breasted, discovering that the May Count did, too, made me feel a little better. Karen Markey found a Prothonotary Warbler at Hudson Mills MetroPark, where they are now breeding. Also at Hudson Mills, Karen noted a singing Louisiana Waterthrush. Louisiana Waterthrush was also observed at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve by Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy Stewardship and Outreach Specialist, Taylor Myatt, and all the field trip participants he led there on count day.
Two Kentucky Warblers were observed in York and Augusta Townships, one singing in Draper-Houston Meadows Preserve, observed by Johanna Lentz, and the other on Gooding Rd. between Arkona and Milan-Oakville Rd. observed by Greg Jacks and Jeff Schultz. A Prairie Warbler returned to the usual spot on Hankerd Rd., for at least the 5th year running. Matty and Benjamin Hack’s crew in Lyndon and Sylvan Townships tallied 19 Cerulean Warblers, our County’s only population and a modern May Count record, beating last year’s record by 2 birds.
Other passerine species also showed good diversity, if not numbers. Though we missed any Alder Flycatchers, a late migrator, Willows put up a significant 25 individuals. The Scio Township crew of Tim Gacioch and Andrew Pawuk, birding Dolph Park, had our county’s only Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a species not seen every year on the Count, as it tends to migrate later in the month. Eastern Kingbirds showed up in force, with 116 individuals, nearly 50 birds more than last year’s 69. Sparrow species made a good appearance, with good numbers of Towhees, 104, and Vespers, 6. Notable Sparrows included 2 Henslow’s in Sharon Township, and a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Draper-Houston. Grasshopper Sparrow, not always present by count day, showed up in good numbers in Sharon, Manchester, Lodi and York/Augusta Townships. No Marsh Wrens were recorded, but two observers found Sedge Wrens, doing well in the county this year. They were not present yet at the Conservancy Farm, but were singing there from late May through this writing. John Mills noted Sedge Wrens in Lima Township, and the Sharon crew observed 2, as well. A White-eyed Vireo on Lindley Rd., and Gray-cheeked Thrush in Manchester and Sharon, were welcome additions. Perhaps our most exciting passerine was the Western Meadowlark, found by Maggie Jewett, on Dexter Town Hall Rd. Many birders were able to relocate him and see or hear him in the ensuing weeks, as he sang in the long grass of a Michigan hayfield. Thanks, Maggie!!
Water loving birds were some of this year’s highlights. Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Plover were both observed, unusual birds for the count. The fluddle on Morgan Road hosted several sandpiper species. Forster’s Terns showed up both at Four Mile Lake and on Barton Pond. A pair of Common Gallinules appeared to be breeding at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve, a new location for them. And, the two Black-crowned Night-Herons observed in 2 different locations, were spectacular, one at North Bay Park/Ford Lake Boardwalk and one at Oakwoods Nature Area in Ann Arbor. We even have a photo of one in this checklist from Alex Sin. http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S36812255 Ducks unusual for this time of year showed up all over, with Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and American Black Duck among the notables.
Non-passerines such as Woodpeckers and Raptors, put on a good showing. A record setting 21 Pileated Woodpeckers, from 10 of 12 Township areas, will push the species onto our expected list for next year’s count. They are making a big comeback throughout the county. Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were still hanging around on count day, in both Scio and Ann Arbor. For raptors, Lyndon and Sylvan Townships tallied 3 Red-shouldered Hawks and a Merlin. We observed 6 Bald Eagles this year, coming close to our record of 9 from last year’s count. We have several Bald Eagle nests in our County, including notable ones at Chelsea State Game Area Four Mile Lake, and at Milan Nature Park, so the actual numbers of individual birds is sure to be higher. Three Osprey were also observed, down just 1 from last year. And this observer in Lodi Township saw a Northern Harrier fly across Waters Road. Scio observer, Tim Gacioch also noted a Harrier on Park Rd.
Game birds made a strong showing on our count, including the first Northern Bobwhite in recent years at a Sharon Hollow wetland north of Trolz Rd., observed by Dave Borneman’s crew. They also had an airborne Ruffed Grouse in Sharon Township. Ring-necked Pheasant showed a massive uptick in numbers at 72, as we only noted 29 in 2016. And, 83 Wild Turkeys made a great splash on count day.
A noted omission from this year's tally: Peregrine Falcon. We know they nested in downtown, and had 2 chicks that have both lived to fledge, so it is not a concern. I stepped in at the last minute to try to cover Ann Arbor with volunteers, and did not remember to send someone to count the Peregrines. I've checked eBird and there are no observations from that day, plenty the day after! I’ll hope to have an Ann Arbor Area Leader lined up well before next year’s count, to take care of all these details. (If you know anyone who is interested in this position, please contact me!)
Our breeding population of Yellow-throated Warblers on the Saline River were silent on May 13, but they continue to breed there, so there are no worries about the well-being of the species in our county. Greater Yellowlegs, usually noted in the county, had departed by May 13. No Golden-crowned Kinglets were found, though they are expected to be here every year, since they have historically bred at Stinchfield Woods. We were not surprised to find none there on the Stinchfield Woods census later this spring, either, then. For unknown reasons, they have not returned this year.
My most heartfelt thanks go out to all of the marvelous Area Leaders (Greg Jacks, John Mills, Roger Wykes, Ellie Shappirio, Martin Bialecki, Dave Borneman, Dan Thiry and Susan Falcone, Matty and Benjamin Hack, Tim Gacioch, and Mike Sefton and me, Juliet Berger) and their dedicated cadre of volunteers. It wouldn’t be the May Count without ALL your help. I’m looking forward to working again with all of you on May 12, 2018!!! Until then,
Good Birding to all!!
Juliet Berger, Washtenaw County Compiler