For me, this is the time of year to head north, far north to the border between the U.S. and Canada to open the summer house in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, Sugar Island. The island lies between Lake George and Lake Nicolet on a shipping lane heading to the Soo locks, which connect Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes.
Sugar Island is a wonderful place for birding, as there are large tracts of undisturbed forest and grasslands with minimal development. There are also several parcels of land managed by the Nature Conservancy. Truly a birders paradise! Merlins nest in the area forest and loons nest in Masta Bay.You can hear their eerie calls in the wee hours of the morning. Lots of lovely warblers, Wilson’s ,Nashville, Magnolia, Black-throated green, Black and white, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Yellow, Canada and Redstarts singing everywhere! For most of these warblers this area of the country is their summer home.
The entire Upper Peninsula area has much to offer the expert or casual birder. Within less than 45 minutes from Sault Ste Marie, you can be on Lake Superior viewing a variety of shorebirds, ospreys, eagles and sandhill cranes. Just a bit further down the shoreline, you pass through the wild and scenic Hiawatha National Forest. Next you enter Paradise, Michigan, 11 miles from Whitefish Pointe Bird Observatory, a major migration corridor and 10 miles from the gorgeous Tahquamenon Falls State Park. So if ever you get the opportunity to visit the Upper Peninsula, GO!!…. you will not be disappointed with the majestic forest, dramatic shorelines, fabulous weather, outstanding birding and the chance to just breathe in the beauty of the Great Lakes area.
I had the great good fortune to recently be in West Virginia with an enjoyable and interesting group of fellow birders and two awesome guides. Bill Hilton Jr., New River Birding & Nature Center’s Consulting Director and Bill Thompson III ,editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, showed us a fabulous weekend of hawk-gawking and warbler walking in the New River Valley. On Saturday morning we hiked a part of the Allegheny Trail to Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory, an old fire tower that is now used to watch and record raptor migration.
It was foggy, windy, cold and cloud-covered to start but we waited out the weather which turned to clearing skies and sunshine. We were then pleasantly greeted by a variety of raptors riding the winds through the valley. Our list included sharp-shinned hawk, cooper’s hawk, peregrine falcon, black vulture, turkey vulture and several gorgeous bald eagles. Many of the birds were right at eye level and gave us magnificent views. We even had a sharp-shinned and a cooper’s fly by simultaneously, giving us a wonderful opportunity for comparison in size and form.
On Sunday morning, we met at Wolf Creek Park, a beautiful piece of property under development, with an eye on preserving the natural environment and the future home of the New River Birding and Nature Center. We traveled down the boardwalk into a beaver created wetlands, which are surrounded by a lovely pine and deciduous forest, to see many warblers, sparrows, woodpeckers and a few raptors. The black- throated blue warbler, red-breasted grosbeak and Nelson’s sparrow were just a few of the highlights on our morning walk.
It was a fabulously entertaining and educational weekend with a superb group of participants, guides and hosts. I hope to return in spring to enjoy the New River Birding and Nature Festival, April 29-May 4, 2013.
Fall migration is in full swing and it is a busy landscape if you are a birder or birdwatcher! It is a feeding frenzy at some of the neighborhood feeders…cardinals, chickadees, downys and nuthatches around the forested areas and yards…and in my grasslands area in Chicago, Illinois, many goldfinches and house finches! And to the surprise of a mourning dove, of which we have an abundance, a gorgeous juvenile cooper’s hawk (accipiter cooperii) snagged one right out of the air! It jumped around ,made a few adjustments to the position of the prey…then defeathered and had a meal right on top of the fence. I enjoyed the visit!
If you haven’t joined up already don’t forget about August 24-26 is PLEDGE TO FLEDGE weekend
Check out http://www.pledgetofledge.org for more information about getting involved.
This is a (poor) photo of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and her two young nesting on the channel marker in the St Mary’s River ,in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, which is the confluence between Lake Huron and Lake Superior right before the Sault Locks.
So much very cool birding in the Upper Peninsula. Ospreys, loons, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and merlins…40 species in all!
I recently visited Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Paradise, Michigan in search of the Piping Plover (charadrius melodius). And I was not disappointed. It is the fourth year running that this lovely little sparrow-sized, sandy colored bird has returned to the point to breed. They are considered an endangered species on the shores of the Great Lakes.
The birds, nests and chicks are closely observed by the WPBO monitor, as the plover is highly sensitive to human activity. And there is plenty of human activity at the Point with the lighthouse, museum, and the lovely stone beach along the shores of Lake Superior. The Point is also home to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a birders paradise at any time of the year.
The plover nesting area is well-marked with signage declaring it a closed area and is sectioned off, with additional protection in the way of wire nest enclosures to protect the chicks from predation.