Saturday, March 22, 2008


Spring officially arrived to Michigan in the very early morning hours (most of us call it night!) this past Thursday, March 20. I decided to go out birding and see what was around. The skies were clear and great for photography, but the wind was howling at 15-20 mph, preventing me from doing any sound recording. And, the morning temperature of 25 degrees (f) wasn't very spring-like! At Metro Beach Metropark (,-82.82095&spn=0.082032,0.1581&z=13), I found this Killdeer on the edge of a frozen puddle, which characterized the morning to that point.

But as I walked around, scouting out the banding area for this coming spring, there were definite signs of the season. A male Cooper's Hawk, sexed based on his small size, was breaking off branches and adding them to the nest in the maple tree where there had been an active and successful nest in 2006. He was clearly not the same bird that nested there before, as he was a second-year bird. He could be aged second year because he was still retaining his brown-backed, streaky-bellied juvenile plumage and had a bright yellow eye.

These birds have nested in the area for several years, and both adults and young have become very tolerant of the presence of well-behaved humans. The female, easily told by her larger size, was found perching near the ground in the same area as the male. Although she is not retaining her juvenile plumage like the male, she also can clearly be aged as second-year because although many of her back feathers are blue-gray, there are still some juvenile brown feathers mixed in. Her eye is no longer yellow, but a pale orange color, which will probably become deep maroon as she ages (this is somewhat variable). She was showing the black-capped, pale-naped feature that is very characteristic of the species, distinguishing her from the similar Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Then, as I was describing the butterfly-like display flight of the male Cooper's Hawk to a friend that I had run into, the male was seen doing this display flight. Great timing!

On Friday, March 21, I spent the day in Kalamazoo helping banders with their horde of Common Redpolls and, hopefully, we'll learn something from this winter's exceptional invasion. And, as if to remind us that, in Michigan, winter isn't over until Old Man Winter says it's over, we got another snowstorm.

If you'll forgive me going into geezer-mode, and as I stated in my last posting, this winter has been very similar to the winters I've experienced in the 1960s and 1970s both in temperatures and in snowfall amounts. The snowfall for this winter in southeastern Michigan has been ranked in the top ten, so those of us who are weary of this long, hard winter can take heart in that it was at least a little unusual in some ways.

I am eagerly awaiting the emergence of the Western Chorus Frogs, Spring Peepers, and the four species of "mole" salamanders we have here in southeastern Michigan.

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