A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Michigan Birding Trip Report - Day 5 (Tuesday 29th May 2018)

Heading out of Gaylord and travelling towards the Upper Peninsula, our first port of call en-route were the fields surrounding Pellston Airport, where a number of Upland Sandpipers were known to reside. Driving slowly around the field margins, several families of Sandhill Cranes foraged with their young, much smaller in size than the birds we’d previously seen down in Florida and as such clearly recognisable as the “Lesser” subspecies. 
Sandhill Cranes - Michigan, USA
"Lesser" Sandhill Cranes
Eastern Meadowlarks provided a welcome burst of spring song as we drove, while a pair of Killdeer patrolled the grassy edges warily. Parking up on a small lane at one of the junctions, our luck was in as we quickly located a family party of around 5 Upland Sandpipers, albeit distant - slightly wary at first but soon moving happily through the grassy tussocks as they foraged before us.
Upland Sandpiper - Pellston, Michigan, USA
Upland Sandpiper
Pellston - Michigan, USA
The fields at Pellston
Pellston - Michigan, USA
Leaving the Upland Sandpipers behind, we quickly covered ground north, a handful of Common Terns flying alongside the Mackinac Bridge crossing the imposing Lakes Michigan and Hudson the only real birds of note as several small flocks of Goosanders sped by. 
Mackinac Bridge - Michigan, USA
The Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac Bridge - Michigan, USA
Mackinac Bridge - Michigan, USA
Lake Michigan - Michigan, USA
The shores of Lake Michigan
With scattered records of Gray Jay at Hulbert Bog, we made this our first port of call, arriving from the eastern section where the thick tree cover created a vast leafy canopy above the road. Less of a bog than a forest track, Alex’s sharp hearing immediately noted the distinctive calls of a Least Flycatcher and sure enough, upon stepping out of the car (artfully dodging hundreds of caterpillars dangling ominously from the trees) we locked on to a number of birds calling in the copse. 
Least Flycatcher - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Least Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
With a rather cute looking appearance and sporting a bold eyering and thick white wing bars, Least, along with Acadian, pose less of a headache ID wise than Alder/Willow, as well as being one of the smallest empids, making ID that little bit easier. 
Least Flycatcher - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Least Flycatcher - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Least Flycatcher - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Once more we were serenaded by the haunting melodies of a number of Veery on territory, by far the most abundant species of thrush we encountered in Michigan and this time providing mouth-watering views as they perched out in the open, their mechanical flutey sounds cascading around us. 
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Veery - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Heading down the track to Hulbert Bog, our next new bird came in the form of a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets, the bright yellow crest of the male flashing as their high pitched calls filled the forest. Similar in appearance to Firecrests in the UK, these two birds turned out to be the only individuals of the trip.
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Golden-crowned Kinglet - superficially similar to a Firecrest
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Enjoying a spot of lunch in the pines, the distinctive trilling of a male Blackburnian Warbler had us soon putting our snacks down and grabbing the cameras, providing our best ever view of what is surely near the top of many people’s American warbler list. 
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Male Blackburnian Warbler - one of my favourite birds in the world
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
The king of the pines, we were treated to an outstanding performance as this smouldering beauty sang and paraded in front of us, his fiery orange throat positively glowing in the sunshine. 
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
One of my favourite species of bird in the world, Blackburnian Warblers hold a special place in my heart, and to see one so close was a magical experience I will never forget.
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Blackburnian Warbler - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
With no sign of any Gray Jays we pressed on, a lone White-throated Sparrow and the blazing tones of a male American Redstart the only birds of note in a disappointingly barren landscape. Exploring several other forest tracks further south also proved fruitless on the Jay front, the deep sand on the tracks hindering our progress and forcing us to turn back on more than one occasion. 
Cedar Waxwing - Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
Cedar Waxwing - one of only a few individuals that stopped still long enough for a photo
Hulbert Bog, Michigan, USA
The view down Hulbert Bog road
In a last attempt to find some form of life in the dense pines, we headed over to a local site where Black-backed Woodpeckers were known to reside. Again, we were met with a deafening silence, the only sign of life the hundreds of mosquitos buzzing around the car in an ominous swarm, making getting out an almost impossible task. Not anticipating there being many mosquitos in Michigan, we had come completely unprepared, all mosquito repellent clothing and net hats safely folded away in drawers back home thousands of miles away. With opening the window even a crack resulting in droves of mosquitos diving in to the car, the afternoon proved to be a bit of a nightmare, and we unsurprisingly couldn’t locate any Black-backed Woodpeckers (a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers did get our hopes up on one occasion) with just singles of both Nashville and Black-throated Green Warblers for our efforts along with a female Eastern Bluebird.
Forest Roads - Michigan, USA
The views from some of the Forest Roads near Trout Lake
With Spruce Grouse remaining heard only as their calls echoed deep in the bogs, the onslaught of mosquitos eventually proved too much, attacking us in scenes reminiscent of a ghastly horror movie and forcing us to retreat and find our accommodation for the night, a small chalet set in the peaceful and tranquil setting of Trout Lake.
Forest Roads - Michigan, USA
The bogs surrounding the Forest Roads - a haven for Mosquitoes and biting flies!
With very few towns and villages in the remote Upper Peninsula, unsurprisingly there were no local restaurants or bars around for food, the one shop for miles around also closed by our arrival, so a tea of pot noodles and grape jelly croissants was all we could muster up for the evening, watching a lone Common Loon drifting peacefully on the lake as we ate while a small Song Sparrow busied itself in the reeds.
Trout Lake, Michigan, USA
The views over Trout Lake
Trout Lake, Michigan, USA
Sadly, despite shelter, our mosquito nightmare continued thanks to a hole in the bathroom vent that ensured a steady stream could make their way in to our room come nightfall – our count of squashed mossies by morning reaching an alarming 40+ and the sinister buzzing as one approached our faces while trying to sleep making rest all but impossible.
Lake Michigan, Michigan, USA

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