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Stop 6 - Great Lakes Region : MAGEE MARSH / CRANE CREEK (OH), OAK OPENINGS (OH), POINT PELEE (ON), GRAYLING (MI), WHITEFISH POINT (MI), SENEY NWR (MI), NICOLET NF (WI), FISH CREEK (WI), CREX MEADOWS WA (WI)

The following page is devoted to my roadtrip photos of birds from various birding hotspots in the Great Lakes region. Clearly, I did not photograph every kind of bird that can be found at these locations, but I have provided a selection of some of my favorite photos of the birds I did happen to see as I passed through.

From Cape May, I headed west towards the area around the Great Lakes. The area around the Great Lakes sees birds travelling on both the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, and therefore has a spectacular volume and variety of birds passing through during migration. My primary destination in this area was the popular warbler hotspot at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (also known as Crane Creek) on the southwest end of Lake Erie in Ohio. As I continued my westward travels, I stopped briefly at a number of other great birding locals in the area around the Great Lakes. These included Whitefish Point in Michigan (known for its raptor and shorebird migration); Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan (a nice midday stop to stretch the legs); Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin (to find some rare Wisconsin specialties which I never found); Fish Creek in Wisconsin (where I stayed with my grandparents for a few days, and found plenty of birds at the nearby Peninsula State Park); and Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in northwest Wisconsin (to add some brush prairie and wetland birds to my growing road trip list). Overall, my species list for the Great Lakes was second only to my list for southern Texas.

Primary Stop: Birds I saw at Magee Marsh WA / Crane Creek, Ohio

(and a few photos from the nearby Oak Openings Metropark, Ohio (Quick Stop #1) and Point Pelee, Ontario (Quick Stop #2))

May 15-20, 2008

My primary birding destination in the Great Lakes area was Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (also known as Crane Creek). Birds often congregate at the lush forest and marshland of Magee Marsh before continuing north across Lake Erie (or, if the winds are favorable for flight, they might instead continue over the lake and congregate at Point Pelee on the north side). I spent most of my time walking on the popular boardwalk in the patch of forest near the beach.Warblers (and warbler-watchers) were everywhere. Often the ever-constant warbling symphony would be interrupted by an enthusiastic stampeed to a recently-sighted Mourning or Connecticut Warbler or a good-natured argument over the identification of a specific bird call or a nondescript juvenile. In the four days I was at Magee Marsh, I saw most of the 28 different warblers I saw around the Great Lakes (I saw 41 different warblers on my entire trip). One day, I found a particularly active tree along the edge of the parking lot; within the hour, I had spotted 17 different warblers in this tree-needless to say, that day I never left the parking lot! Of course, there were many other kinds of birds too, and I generated quite a species list while I was in the area. I also spent a day each at the nearby Oak Openings Preserve Metropark in Ohio (to find a red-headed woodpecker and hooded warbler) and Point Pelee in Ontario (another spring migration hotspot located just north of Magee Marsh, on the Canadian side of Lake Erie).

I was told I could find Red-Headed Woodpeckers (one of the birds I wanted to photograph on my trip) at the nearby Oak Openings Preserve Metropark just west of Lake Erie. I knew I'd been given a good tip when the minute I stepped out of my car in the park, a Red-Headed Woodpecker flew out of the tree beside my car. Having achieved my goal within minutes of my arrival in the park, I set about looking for a Hooded Warbler, known to nest in the area. I heard it's call but could not find it, but when I returned to that spot in the evening, I achieved my second goal of the day with a nice photograph of a Hooded Warbler.

(A highlight of this area on the west side of Lake Erie that I went to, especially in the Spring, is all the different species of warblers that pass through on their migration path. I saw 28 different kinds of warblers in the area around the Great Lakes(compare this to the total of 41 for the entire trip), and for the warbler fans out there I've separated my photos from this area into "warblers" and "non-warblers".)

Warblers

OVENBIRD
PARULA:
    Northern
REDSTART:
    American
WATERTHRUSH:
    Northern
YELLOWTHROAT:
    Common

WARBLER:
    Bay-Breasted
    Black-and-White
    Blackburnian
    Black-Throated Blue
    Black-Throated Green
    Blue-Winged x Golden-winged ?
    Blackpoll
    Canada

    Cape May
    Chestnut-Sided
    Connecticut
    Hooded
    Magnolia
    Mourning
    Nashville
    Palm
    Prothonotary

    Tennessee
    Wilson's
    Yellow
    Yellow-Rumped (myrtle)

Non-Warblers

BLACKBIRD:
    Red-Winged
BLUEBIRD:
    Eastern
BUNTING:
    Indigo
CARDINAL:
    Northern
CATBIRD:
    Gray
CHICKADEE:
    Black-capped
COOT:
    American
CORMORANT:
    Double-Crested
COWBIRD:
    Brown-Headed
CROW:
    American
CUCKOO:
    Black-Billed
DOVE:
    Mourning
DUCK:
    Wood
EGRET:
    Great
    Snowy

FLYCATCHER:
    Alder
    Great Crested
    Least
GNATCATCHER:
    Blue-Gray
GOLDFINCH:
    American
GOOSE:
    Canada
GRACKLE:
    Common
GULL:
    Some kind
HERON:
    Great Blue
HUMMINGBIRD:
    Ruby-Throated
JAY:
    Blue
KILLDEER
KINGBIRD:
    Eastern
KINGLET:
    Ruby-Crowned
MALLARD
MARTIN:
    Purple
MOCKINGBIRD:
    Northern

NUTHATCH:
    Red-Breasted
    White-breasted
ORIOLE:
    Baltimore
    Orchard
OWL:
    Eastern Screech
PHOEBE:
    Eastern
ROBIN:
    American
SISKIN:
    Pine
SPARROW:
    Chipping
    Clay-Colored
    Field
    House
    Lark
    Song
    White-Crowned
    White-Throated
STARLING:
    European
SWALLOW:
    Bank
    Barn
    Northern Rough-Winged
    Tree

SWAN:
    Trumpeter
TANAGER:
    Scarlet
TERN:
    Forster's
THRUSH:
    Gray-cheeked
    Swainson's
TITMOUSE:
    Northern Tufted
TOWHEE:
    Eastern
VEERY
VIREO:
    Blue-headed (aka Solitary)
    Philadelphia
    Warbling
    White-eyed
VULTURE:
    Turkey
WAXWING:
    Cedar
WHIP-POOR-WILL
WOODPECKER:
    Downy
    Red-bellied
    Red-headed
WREN:
    House

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)

Warblers


Ovenbird, Magee Marsh.

Northern Parula, Magee Marsh.

American Redstart singing away (male), Magee Marsh.

American Redstart (female), Magee Marsh.

Bay-Breasted Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Black-and-White Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Blackburnian Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Black-throated Green Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Backpoll Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Blue-Winged x Golden Winged (?) Warbler, Oak Openings.

Canada Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Cape May Warbler (male), Magee Marsh.

Cape May Warbler (female), Magee Marsh.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Connecticut Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Hooded Warbler, Oak Openings.

Magnolia Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Mourning Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Nashville Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Palm Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Prothonotary Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Tennessee Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Wilson's Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Yellow Warbler gathering nesting materials, Point Pelee.

Yelllow-Rumped Warbler (myrtle variety), Magee Marsh.

Northern Waterthrush, Magee Marsh.

Common Yellowthroat, Magee Marsh.

Non-Warblers


Red-Winged Blackbird (female), Magee Marsh.

Red-Winged Blackbird (male), Magee Marsh.

Eastern Bluebird, Oak Openings.

Indigo Bunting, Oak Openings.

Northern Cardinal (male), Magee Marsh.

Northern Cardinal (female), Magee Marsh.

Gray Catbird, Point Pelee.

Black-capped Chickadee, Oak Openings.

American Coot, Magee Marsh.

Double-Crested Cormorant, Point Pelee.

Brown-headed Cowbird (female), Point Pelee.

American Crow, Oak Openings.

Black-billed Cuckoo, Magee Marsh.

Mourning Dove, Magee Marsh.

Wood Duck, Magee Marsh.

Great Egret, Magee Marsh.

Snowy Egret, Magee Marsh.

Alder Flycatcher, Magee Marsh.

Great-Crested Flycatcher, Magee Marsh.

Least Flycatcher, Magee Marsh.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Point Pelee.

American Goldfinch (male), Magee Marsh.

American Goldfinch (female), Oak Openings.

Canada Goose and Gooslings, Magee Marsh.

Common Grackle, Magee Marsh.

Gull of some sort, Point Pelee.

Great Blue Heron, Magee Marsh.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Point Pelee.

Blue Jay, Magee Marsh.

Killdeer, Magee Marsh.

Eastern Kingbird, Magee Marsh.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Magee Marsh.

Mallards, Magee Marsh.

Pair of Purple Martins, Magee Marsh.

Northern Mockingbird, Oak Openings.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Magee Marsh.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Oak Openings.

Baltimore Oriole (male), Magee Marsh.

Baltimore Oriole (1st year), Magee Marsh.

Orchard Oriole (male), Point Pelee.

Orchard Oriole (1st summer male), Point Pelee.

Eastern Screech Owl, Magee Marsh.

Eastern Phoebe, Oak Openings.

American Robin feeding her babies, Magee Marsh.

Pine Siskin, Oak Openings.

Chipping Sparrow, Oak Openings.

Clay-Colored (?) Sparrow (adult breeding), Magee Marsh.

Field Sparrow, Oak Openings.

House Sparrow (female), Point Pelee.

House Sparrow (male), Point Pelee.

Lark Sparrow, Oak Openings.

Song Sparrow, Magee Marsh.

White-Crowned Sparrow, Magee Marsh.

White-Throated Sparrow, Magee Marsh.

European Starling, Magee Marsh.

Bank Swallows, Magee Marsh.

Barn Swallow, Magee Marsh.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Point Pelee.

Pair of arguing Tree Swallows, Magee Marsh.

Trumpeter Swan, Magee Marsh.

Scarlet Tanager, Magee Marsh.

Forster's Tern, Point Pelee.

Gray-Cheeked (?) Thrush (note lack of distinct eye ring, gray coloring), Magee Marsh.

Swainson's Thrush (note more distinct eye ring than Gray-cheeked), Magee Marsh.

Northern Tufted Titmouse, Oak Openings.

Eastern Towhee, Oak Openings.

Veery (note red-brown color compared to Gray-cheeked and Swainson's), Magee Marsh.

Blue-Headed Vireo (aka Solitary Vireo), Magee Marsh.

Philadelphia Vireo, Magee Marsh.

Warbling Vireo, Magee Marsh.

White-Eyed Vireo, Magee Marsh.

Turkey Vulture, Oak Openings.

Cedar Waxwing, Magee Marsh.

Whip-Poor-Will, Magee Marsh.

Downy Woodpecker, Point Pelee.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Point Pelee.

Red-Headed Woodpecker, Oak Openings Metropark.

House Wren, Magee Marsh.

Quick Stop #3: The search for Kirtland's Warbler near Grayling, Michigan

May 21, 2008

By the time I left the area around Magee Marsh, I had caught warbler fever. One of the few warblers I had yet to photograph was the Kirtland's Warbler. This is a rare bird that nests exclusively in jack pine forests of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Fire suppression and nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds has led to a drastic decline in the species. Although recent habitat management has improved the bird's population, in 2007 it was estimated that there were no more than 5,000 Kirtland's Warblers. The best way to see it is on (free!) tours conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service or Forest Service out of Grayling or Mio, Michigan. An hour of standing in the rain and wind in a jack pine forest near Grayling, and I had my photo of Warbler #40!



Kirtland's Warbler perched on a branch of a jack pine in a protected area about 15 minutes south of Grayling, Michigan.


Brown-Headed Cowbird. A female cowbird lays her eggs in the nests of other species, who then raise the young cowbirds instead of their own young. This was contributing to the decline in the already-endangered Kirtland's warbler, so cages have been set up in some of the Kirtland's warbler breeding grounds in order to capture the Brown-Headed Cowbirds.

Quick Stop #4: Birds I saw at Whitefish Point, Michigan

May 22, 2008

On my drive through the area around the Great Lakes, I stopped at a few other birding locations. One of these locations included Whitefish Point in Michigan, a popular raptor and shorebird migration site on the south side of Lake Superior. It was rather windy and cold while I was here, discouraging bird activity, but I added a few new species to my growing list of birds I had seen on my roadtrip, such as the Purple Finch, Red-Necked Grebe, and Red-Breasted Merganser.

CHICKADEE:
    Black-capped
FINCH:
    Purple

GOLDFINCH:
    American
GREBE:
    Red-Necked

GULL:
    Some kind
JAY:
    Blue

MERGANSER:
    Red-breasted

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)


Black-capped Chickadee.

Purple Finch (male is red, female is in the background).

American Goldfinch.

Red-necekd Grebe.

Some kind of Gull.

Blue Jay.

Red-breasted Merganser.

Quick Stop #5: Birds I saw at Seney NWR, Michigan

May 22, 2008

After leaving the cold and wind of Whitefish Point, I stopped at the nearby Seney National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find a Yellow Rail (the refuge is known for this bird). I did not find a Yellow Rail, but I was happy to add the Ring Necked Duck to my roadtrip list (I had seen it home in the Pacific Northwest, but not yet during my travels). I also found a Pine Warbler, which I had seen at Cape May, but not in the Midwest yet.

CATBIRD:
    Gray
DUCK:
    Ring-necked

KINGBIRD:
    Eastern
LOON:
    Common

PHOEBE:
    Eastern
SPARROW:
    Savannah
    Song

SWAN:
    Trumpeter
WARBLER:
    Pine

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)


Gray Catbird.

Ring-necked Duck.

Eastern Kingbird.

Common Loon.

Eastern Phoebe.

Savannah Sparrow buffeted by the wind.

Song Sparrow.

Trumpeter Swan.

Pine Warbler (female) (?).

Quick Stop #6: Birds I saw at Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin

May 23, 2008

My travels also brought me past Nicolet National Forest in Michigan, so I decided to stop and see if I could find any more birds for my list. I saw a Ruffed Grouse, a specialty of the area, but I was unable to get a photograph before it flew off in a fluster of ruffled feathers. The forest seemed filled with flycatchers - had I known their calls better, I would have been able to confidently identify them, but from my photos the white breasts and eye-rings (one had a bold eye-ring, one had a fainter eye-ring) suggest they were Alder and Least Flycatchers.

FLYCATCHER:
    Alder
    Least

GROSBEAK:
    Rose-Breasted

HAWK:
    Broad-winged

SPARROW:
    White-throated

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)


Alder (?) Flycatcher. This one has a less distinct eye-ring than the other, but both have white breasts.

Least (?) Flycatcher. This one has the more distinct eye-ring than the other, but both have white breasts.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Broad-winged Hawk.

White-throated Sparrow.

Quick Stop #7: Birds I saw at my Grandparents' House in Fish Creek, Wisconsin 

May 24-26, 2008

Since my grandparents live in Fish Creek, Wisconsin (which lies on Green Bay), I took the opportunity to stop and visit them for a couple of days. Although I took a break from the photography for awhile, I did sneak out the camera for a few quick shots of some birds I saw at the nearby Peninsula State Park. There was a good showing of warblers and flycatchers at Welcker's Point on the north end of the park, and I also added a American White Pelican and Northern Flicker to my roadtrip list.

BLACKBIRD:
    Red-Winged
BLUEBIRD:
    Eastern
BUNTING:
    Indigo
CHICKADEE:
    Black-Capped
CORMORANT:
    Double-Crested
COWBIRD:
    Brown-Headed
FLICKER:
    Northern
GNATCATCHER:
    Blue Gray

GOLDFINCH:
    American
GRACLKE:
    Common
HUMMINGBIRD:
    Ruby-Throated
KILLDEER
KINGBIRD:
    Eastern
ORIOLE:
    Baltimore
PELICAN:
    American White
PHOEBE:
    Eastern

REDSTART:
    American
SPARROW:
    Chipping
    Field
    Song
    White-Throated
SWALLOW:
    Nothern Rough-Winged
    Tree
TANAGER:
    Scarlet
TERN:
    Caspian
TOWHEE:
    Eastern

VIREO:
    Red-Eyed
WARBLER:
    Bay-Breasted
    Black-Throated Green
    Blackpoll
    Canada
    Tennessee
    Wilson's
    Yellow
    Yellow-Rumped (myrtle)
WATERTHRUSH:
    Northern
WOOD-PEWEE:
    Eastern

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)


Red-winged Blackbird (I just love these blackbird on cattail photos, I've got several!), Peninsula State Park.

Eastern Bluebird, Peninsula State Park.

Indigo Bunting, Fish Creek area.

Black-capped Chickadee, Fish Creek area.

Double-crested Cormorants, Peninsula State Park.

Brown-Headed Cowbird pair, performing mating dance, Peninsula State Park.

Northern Flicker, Peninsula State Park.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Peninsula State Park.

American Goldfinch, Peninsula State Park.

Common Grackle, Fish Creek area.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Peninsula State Park.

Killdeer, Fish Creek area.

Eastern Kingbird, Peninsula State Park.

Baltimore Oriole (female), Peninsula State Park.

American White Pelican far into the lake, Peninsula State Park.

Eastern Phoebe, Peninsula State Park.

American Redstart (female), Peninsula State Park.

Chipping Sparrow, Peninsula State Park.

Pair of Field Sparrows, Fish Creek area.

Song Sparrow (?), Peninsula State Park.

White-Throated Sparrow, Fish Creek area.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Fish Creek area.

Tree Swallow, Fish Creek area.

Scarlet Tanager (male), Peninsula State Park.

Scarlet Tanager (female), Peninsula State Park.

Caspian Tern, Fish Creek area.

Eastern Towhee, Fish Creek area.

Red-Eyed Vireo, Peninsula State Park.

Bay-Breasted Warbler, Peninsula State Park.

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Fish Creek area.

Blackpoll Warbler (male), Peninsula State Park.

Blackpoll Warbler (female), Peninsula State Park.

Canada Warbler, Peninsula State Park.

Tennessee Warbler, Peninsula State Park.

Wilson's Warbler, Peninsula State Park.

Yellow Warbler (female), Peninsula State Park.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (myrtle), Peninsula State Park.

Northern Waterthrush, Fish Creek area.

Eastern Wood-Pewee, Peninsula State Park.

Quick Stop #8: Birds I saw at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, Wisconsin

May 27-28, 2008

My last stop in the Great Lakes area was Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in NW Wisconsin, which comprises 30,000 acres of brush-prairie and wetlands. I spent an evening and morning driving around on the dirt roads photographing marsh birds out of my window. I also spent the night in my car parked in the middle of the meadows, enjoying the alien calls of the bitterns, grouse, and rails. Although I heard the grouse and rails, I unfortunately didn't see any, but I did add a number of birds to my roadtrip list, such as the American Bittern, Sandhill Crane, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Nighthawk, Ring-necked Pheasant, Green-winged Teal, and Black Tern.

BITTERN:
    American
BLACKBIRD:
    Red-winged
BLUEBIRD:
    Eastern
CHICKEN / ROOSTER
CRANE:
    Sandhill
DUCK:
    Ring-necked
    Wood
DUNLIN
EAGLE:
    Bald
FLYCATCHER:
    Alder
    Olive-sided

GOOSE:
    Canada
GREBE:
    Pied-billed
GROSBEAK:
    Rose-breasted
HAWK:
    Broad-winged
    Red-tailed
HERON:
    Great Blue
KILLDEER
KINGBIRD:
    Eastern
LOON:
    Common
MARTIN:
    Purple

NIGHTHAWK:
    Common

PELICAN:
    American White
PHEASANT:
    Ring-necked
PHOEBE:
    Eastern
PLOVER:
    Semipalmated
SANDPIPER:
    Semipalmated
    Spotted
SPARROW:
    Chipping
    Clay-colored
    House
    Song

SWALLOW:
    Tree
SWAN:
    Trumpeter
TEAL:
    Blue-winged
    Green-winged
TERN:
    Black
THRASHER:
    Brown
VIREO:
    Yellow-throated
WARBLER:
    Yellow
YELLOWTHROAT:
    Common

(My favorite photos are highlighted.)


American Bittern.

Red-winged Blackbird.

Eastern Bluebird.

Chicken (Rooster) crossing the road.

Sandhill Crane (juvenile)?.

Ring-necked Duck (male).

Ring-necked Duck (female).

Wood Ducks flying by.

Dunlin.

Juvenile Bald Eagle flying high above (bad photo, sorry).

Alder (?) Flycatcher (these flycatchers are so difficult to identify without the call).

Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Canada Goose family crossing the road.

Pied-billed Grebe.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Broad-winged Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk (juvenile).

Great Blue Heron.

Killdeer.

Eastern Kingbird (these guys always pose so nicely).

Common Loon.

Purple Martin.

Common Nighthawk.

American White Pelicans (and a couple Black Terns in foreground on right).

Ring-necked Pheasant.

Eastern Phoebe.

Semipalmated Plover (left) and Semipalmated Sandpiper (right) (these small sandpipers are so hard to distinquish).

Spotted Sandpiper.

Chipping Sparrow.

Clay-colored Sparrow (adult nonbreeding) ?.

House Sparrow.

Song Sparrow.

Tree Swallow.

Trumpeter Swan.

Pair of Blue-winged Teal.

Green-winged Teal.

Black Tern flying by (I tried to get a better shot the next day, but couldn't find them).

Brown Thrasher.

Yellow-throated Vireo.

Yellow Warbler.

Common Yellowthroat.
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