Sunday, January 16, 2011

Birds of the Upper Peninsula Part II: by Sunwiggy

My guest blogger, Sunwiggy's, previous post about looking for birds in Michigan's Upper Peninsula generated a lot of interest, so I invited her back to describe more of her wacky adventures Up North. Photos once again are by my dad. Thanks to both of you!

I've had two wonderful birding weekends, without getting out of my Jeep! My birding successes are proof that you can have a glorious time seeing birds in the cold, snowy and blowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan, without ever leaving the warmth and comfort of your vehicle. My lists are short, but, I like to think, choice.

Last Sunday, January the 9th, I decided to go to Baraga Plains, in search of the gray jay. Baraga Plains are the best, if not the only, place to see such birds as the gray jay and the black-backed woodpecker. I got The Husband to go, so he could do the driving; it's not a good idea, I've discovered, to try to drive and bird at the same time. He's pretty good at spotting birds, too, which just shows that he's driving and birding at the same time! No gray jays or black-backed woodpeckers chose to put in an appearance, but we were delighted by the antics of a small flock of pine siskins. They looked like they were playing in the snow. One little guy flew along the side of the road, dipping down to knock the little snow caps from the tops of small pine trees as he went. Was he just having fun? Do birds play?

I suggested we return home through the country, which turned out to be a very long drive through the Ottawa National Forest. We saw a plenitude of deer, but no birds. I was becoming a little cranky by the time we got out of the forest, in the vicinity of Pelkie, when I glanced out the Jeep window and saw an eagle's head looking back at me from a snowdrift! One quick UTurn later, and we discovered 2 eagles, and 2 crows, all sitting in the snow by a deer carcass. Wish we'd remembered we had our camera along!

Yesterday, Saturday the 15th of January, was very cold, 5 degrees and windy. There was a rich variety of weather, snow squalls one minute, blinding sun the next.

I knew we were going to be drive-by birders again, and off we headed to our favorite bird feeders. My very favorite of all is located on Traverse Bay River Road, out by Rice Lake. There are 2 deer carcasses hanging off tree limbs; one appears to be primarily the rib cage portion of the deer, the other, the haunch. There is also a more traditional seed feeder. That venison is a prime draw for all manner of woodpeckers, nuthatches, blue jays, and chickadees, both the boreal and the black-capped. The birds like it so much that The Husband wants to hang some fatty beef ribs on our bird feeder! We've found the Rice Lake Road area to be a good place to see ruffed grouse, too. There are also farms along Rice Lake Road, with goats, making it a good place for my other hobby, goating, and the open fields attract snow buntings, too. The other feeder is located out by Rabbit Bay, on Rabbit Beach Road. It has classic seed and suet feeders, and gets a variety of birds, including American tree sparrows.

And today, Sunday the 16th of January, was also rewarding. The bird feeders in Copper Harbor were catering to all of the regulars, and we hit the jackpot at a very good feeder, located on Farmers Block Road North, 5 or 6 miles north of Ahmeek. I spotted a dozen around-robin-size birds in the trees around the feeder. The light was truly terrible. The Husband and I were inspired to get out of the Jeep and train our binoculars on the birds, arguing in a not-very-loving manner over what birds they might be. Luckily for marital-harmony-in-birding, the lady of the house came outside and IDed the birds for us as pine grosbeaks. She was very pleasant, and told us what friendly birds pine grosbeaks are, and that they have lovely calls and songs. Between our conversation, and the deeing of the chickadees, and yarking of the white-breasted nuthatches, who were also present, I didn't hear any singing from the grosbeaks! My husband and I have both noticed how friendly and just plain nice people are in the UP...even if they think you're a little weird!

As a last, I've-just-got-to-see-a-bird-today, resort, there's always a drive by The Bird Man of Dollar Bay's place. He has lots of pens filled with exotic birds, and there's nothing like a snow white peacock, posed in the white, white snow, for bird beauty.

The Husband wants to rent snowshoes and try them out, so my next adventure will take place in the Lake Linden School Forest; I get very "birdy" vibes when we drive by. I'll need those snowshoes, too; according to, as of January the 12th, we've had 83" of snow, with 28" on the ground. ---Sunwiggy

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