Thursday, May 26, 2011

Birds on the Beach Pt. 1

As with any birding festival, there were lots of tours and things to chose from. Many of them took place at Tawas Point, a little spit of land that juts out into the Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, here is a map of Northern Michigan...

...and a closer map of the Tawas area. The tip of the peninsula is a state park, and I had decided to camp there rather than incur the additional expense of staying in a hotel. Therefore, I didn't sign up for any of the tours at the park, figuring I would have time to explore it on my own.

The Tawas peninsula is a perfect stop-over spot for the birds who move up the Lake Huron shoreline and then fly across the Saginaw Bay. During the festival this year, 174 birds species were recorded at Tawas Point and surrounding area--this in just a four day period!

After the bus tour along the Au Sable I had dinner with a couple I'd met on the tour, then went back to the park, grabbed my gear and hit the trail.

The section of trail that leads to the lighthouse is paved. As I walked along it I could hear scores of birds in the trees and shrubs around me.

To my left I heard a bird singing and stopped to watch. I saw this bird in a pine tree and was so excited, certain it was a new bird to me. I realized later, looking through Sibley's, that it was a young Baltimore oriole, his head not yet all black. Ah well, a girl can dream, right?

I never did make it as far as the lighthouse. The birds calling from the trees on my right drew me in. The habitat was open and grassy in places, treed in others. I knew there'd be lots of birds here!

While I stood under the trees and watched, trying to figure out what birds were making all the noise, a male Yellow warbler flew into view.

After watching for some time I realized the birds making the most racket were Eastern kingbirds. This one posed nicely on a twig out on the beach.

As I watched the kingbird, movement caught my eye among the short willows on the beach. I was amazed to see a male Ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on the blossoms. I had never seen a hummer outside a garden or sugar water feeder. There were three or four of them nearby, filling up on nectar.

The sun peaked through a gap in the clouds and I spotted this little fellow hunting bugs on the sand.

What gorgeous colors! I had seen a Palm warbler last year in Florida but I had not gotten this good of a look at it. I am not sure how it got its name since there are clearly no palm trees here, but I guess the same can be said for all sorts of birds--Baltimore oriole, Nashville warbler.... Perhaps the first person to see one--well, the first white Western European, anyway--saw it in a palm tree.

Whatever the case, it's a lovely little bird and I enjoyed watching it.

Next: dance of the swallows

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