Saturday, March 1, 2008

Northern invaders & hummingbird arrivals

I have had precious little to write about in the past month or so, partly due to a computer crash but also due to not getting out much for various mundane reasons.

I have been thinking a lot about two very different aspects of bird distribution recently. The winter in southern Michigan this year has reminded me of what I have long considered "normal" based on patterns from 15-20 years ago. Lots of cold and frequent snow. Although tied to food sources and not weather, we have been visited by some northern species in what appears to be unprecedented invasions. Common Redpolls have been very common this year throughout the southern half of Michigan (except at MY feeders!), and along with them an extraordinary number of Hoary Redpolls, many of which have been confirmed with photos. Even Ohio and Indiana have seen good numbers of redpolls this year; quite an unusual event for them. The Common Redpoll in the photo below was visiting the feeders at Belle Isle in the Detroit River. This year there have been several reported there, probably for the first time ever.

Even more extraordinary this winter is the southerly invasion of Pine Grosbeaks and Evening Grosbeaks. Pine Grosbeaks especially seem to have come south in numbers greater than the last time I remember them in the Detroit area, which was in the late 1970s! Evening Grosbeaks have also moved south, but in small numbers, but again both species have set records by going south into Ohio and Indiana.

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting invasion this winter has been the Bohemian Waxwings. From late December through early January, the individual in the photo below was not only the first ever on Belle Isle, but only the third record for Wayne County! The first record was a lone individual from Dearborn in January 1945 (record published by Alice Kelley), and the second record was 7 in Detroit in January 1970 (J. Bartell, published in Michigan Bird Survey).

Large flocks are being reported around Lansing, Mount Pleasant, and in Berrien County, and individuals have drifted south into Indiana and Ohio.

It has been a very interesting winter to be sure, but I'm getting restless for the winter to be over and the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to return. In just the past few days, the first individuals have made landfall on the Gulf Coast. Check out the map on the website of my friend, Lanny Chambers, to watch them make their way north.

Only two more months and they'll be back in Michigan!


Jochen said...

Hi Allen,
last year, a winter not quite as interesting as this one it seems, I also started to count the days until May sometime in February/March. May around the Great Lakes is a magical month, and I'll be missing it greatly this year.
Cheers and happy birding trails,

Allen Chartier said...


I really enjoyed your grayscale representations of the months on your blog. It is absolutely accurate for the Great Lakes region between November and March!