|Long-tailed Ducks doing Long-tailed Duck things|
|Horned Grebe, non-breeding. I hope to see them in breeding plumage one day. Also, I realized when I was editing the photos that this poor thing is missing a foot |
(that's it's footless leg sticking out behind it.)
After that we didn't see any new species in the canal, though we searched for some time. I knew some scoters and a Harlequin Duck had been seen the day before, and I hoped they had moved out into more open water. We watched the mergansers for a bit, hoping someone new might float by, then headed to the car and over to the south pier parking lot. On the way I stopped to check the harbor and had a small flock of Tundra Swans fly by, for MBY #69.
|Female Red-breasted Merganser|
|Male Red-breasted Merganser taking off|
We donned our spikes and walked out onto the icy pier. The big lake was fairly calm thanks to the off-shore winds but the pier was crusted with ice from waves pushed into the harbor from the northwest the previous day. We picked our way carefully along, checking the ducks as they dove and popped up here and there. The ducks we were looking for had frequently been seen with the long-tails, so we checked each and every one. Lisa spotted a lone Purple Sandpiper feeding on the water's edge among the boulders. Most of the surfaces were frozen, some with tick, opaque, gray ice and some with clear and smooth, but apparently there was enough exposed algae for this bird to pick through to find enough to eat.
|Purple Sandpiper toughing it out on the ice along the pier.|
We walked out as far as the bend in the pier, at which point the ice was so gnarly and bumpy that we didn't dare go farther, even with spikes. I looked longingly at the ducks at the end of the pier and scanned them with the scope, but couldn't pick out any oddities. We did see a lone Snowy Owl way out on the end of the north pier, which helped explain the blood and body parts we'd seen strewn along the pier.
|Long-tailed Duck, becuase you can't ever have enough Long-tailed Duck photos.|
At this point in the season I have seen most of the species that regularly occur at home, with the exception of Red-breasted Nuthatch. There is always the chance for a less-common bird to appear, but I wasn't holding my breath. We have hoards of Blue Jays who dominate the feeders, scooping up pounds of seed a day to cache in some secret location, and I think they are keeping some of the less-aggressive birds away. So imagine my surprise this morning as I was walking to the office and heard an unfamiliar call from the oak above my head. I paused and listened, then continued on to the office. As I started up my computer I looked out the window to see a juvenile Evening Grosbeak (MBY #70) at the feeder! I was hoping we'd have another shot at seeing one in spring as the flocks moved north, but apparently there's at least one still hanging around. These birds are very rare winter visitors here. Despite their name they are members of the finch family, and every 7-10 years they and other finches "irrupt" and flow south in huge numbers in search of food when the pine/spruce/larch cone crop is poor in the forests to our north. I was able to get back to the house and get a few photos for record.
Lake Muskegon Channel, January 25
#68) Horned Grebe (also lifer)
#69) Tundra Swan
Home, January 26
#70) Evening Grosbeak