Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Breeding Species of Lake St. Clair Metropark

[Lake St. Clair Metropark, MI. June 2013]

A varied array of breeding species can be found at Lake St. Clair Metropark that either nest in the park or the surrounding area. Those featured here include:
  • Virginia Rail
  • Least Bittern
  • Great Egret
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Wood Duck
 Let's start with the Virginia Rail:


A medium-sized rail -- in between the Sora [much smaller] and the Clapper Rail [much larger] -- this secretive rail is rarely seen.


In Spring and early Summer, however, the Virginia Rail is quite vocal. It's distinctive kik-kaddick-kik and grunting sounds can be clearly heard at dusk or dawn.



Plumaged in brown, black and grey, the color scheme is decidedly cryptic; however, the orange bill and the white chin and grey cheeks are quite distinctive.


Unlike Virginia's Warbler, Virginia Rail isn't named after anyone -- it is named for geography (much like the Carolina Wren) although it isn't restricted to the state of Virginia. In fact, this rail has a huge range that covers much of North America while in winter, it moves South to Central America and the Southern US.


Long-toed, short-tailed and long billed, Virgina Rail prefers digging for grubs in the mud; in fact, its scientific name rallus limicola means "mud-dweller" rail.


The expression "thin as a rail" is erroneously thought to refer to being as slender as a bird of the rail family (rallus). However, the expression refers to a "rail" as a "narrow bar" as in the rail of a fence or a rake.



Apart from Killdeer, the only other breeding shorebird found here is the Spotted Sandpiper:


Seeing this sandpiper wintering in Florida, one would be forgiven for calling it the "spotless sandpiper"; however, in breeding plumage, there are spots a-plenty.

This is a polyandrous species and common across the entire US.



On the heron front, Great Blue Heron and Great Egret are widespread:


As are Green Heron; but not as commonly seen:


The big "miss" was the failure to photograph Least Bittern; all I could manage was a faint glimpse through the reeds:


A yellow warbler, was much more cooperative:

Male Yellow Warbler


With regard to waterfowl, wood duck breed at this park but are too wary to give good looks:


This female flew in and quickly hid herself:


While a female red-breasted merganser was less skittish:


All in all, a satisfactory excursion to a suburban park that is overrun by hordes of recreationists on weekends but still manages to provide adequate habitat for some choice breeding species.


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