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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lake St. Clair in Spring with Sora, Yellow Warbler, Wood Thrush and Golden-crowned Kinglet

[Lake St. Clair Metropark, MI. Spring 2016]

As if to atone for Michigan's long, hard winter, the arrival of Spring transforms, what had been a largely bird-barren landscape, to feathered life -- unfrozen water beckons waterfowl while marshes attract rails and wrens. The forest floor and grasslands sprout thrushes, blackbirds and sparrows.  

With such an explosion of avian life, Lake St. Clair is nothing short of a miracle of renewal which, in turn, invites birders to explore its resident as well as migrant species. Signature species such as Wood Thrush, Wood Duck and Golden-crowned Kinglet herald the changing of the seasons. Indeed, the arrival of Spring is almost a sacred event in the annual calendar of birding as it brings the magic of migration to our continent.

In photographic homage to the miracle of Spring, we offer the following eclectic collection of species:

Ducks and Rails
  • Sora
  • Wood Duck

Sora is a tiny rail that can be located by the "whinny" call they make and this particular individual was found in the same way at the edge of the marsh.

While the rail's grey and brown plumage blends in perfectly with the marsh, the Wood Duck drake is a real standout:

Unlike the Mallards that are ubiquitously conspicuous, the Wood Duck remains reclusive -- confined to the inaccessible interior of the wetlands.

  • Wood Thrush
  • Veery 
  • American Robin
Wood Thrush is our brightest thrush:

Wood Thrush comes to us every Spring from South America and makes our forests come alive with its hauntingly beautiful song. Like many of our neotropical migrants, it crosses the Gulf of Mexico in a single overnight flight.

Veery is another thrush from S. America (in this case, Brazil).

Unlike the Wood Thrush and the Veery, the American Robin or "Garden Thrush" is equally at home in suburbia as it is in forests:

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Myrtle Warbler 
Perhaps our most anticipated family of songbirds are the warblers and the Yellow Warbler is a breeding species at Lake St. Clair: 

The male (above) in breeding plumage is truly resplendent while the female below is considerably duller:

Common Yellowthroat is another breeder:

This is a skulking species and, unlike the Yellow, quite difficult to see. The female (below) is a dull version of the male but without the mask:

Unlike the Yellow and Common Yellowthroat warbers, the Myrtle Warbler is just passing through:

This species will continue to its breeding grounds in Northern Michigan.
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow is found across the Continent:

However, note that, compared to the Western Subspecies, the Eastern race has black lores.

White-throated Sparrow is another attractive sparrow:

Other familiar species included Swamp Sparrow:

... and, Song Sparrow:

  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
The Icterids or New World Blackbirds are a large family of songbirds including Orioles, Meadowlarks, Blackbirds and Grackles.

The Baltimore Oriole is a breeding species at Lake St. Clair as is the abundant Red-winged Blackbird:

Rusty Blackbird, however, is a species in passage:

Brown-headed Cowbird were displaying to attract a female's attentions:

The rest:
  • Tree Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Creeper
Tree Swallow is a breeder at the park and at this time, these swallows are busy looking for tree cavities:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow briefly alighted to gather nesting material:

Kinglets can numerous in migration one day and gone the next:

Brown Creeper is hardy species and found at the Park year-round:

The sheer diversity in species is testament to the varied habitat that can be found at Lake St. Clair Metropark; and, Spring is the magical season that brings out the full richness in the birdlife that can be found here in Southeast Michigan.

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