Oakland Audubon Society offers free, fun filled trips for birders of all ages. They are enriching family-friendly events where participants often encounter the unexpected. As expected, my hike with their “young birders” last Saturday morning at 2,454-acre Indian Springs Metropark was no exception. Thirty-six species of birds, including five different species of swallows, were encountered during our two and a half hour meander, but my two favorite species of wildlife encountered were not birds. One had scales, the other fur. It’s not every day I witness an eastern garter snake up in a tree or go face to face with a pair of young thirteen-lined ground squirrels, but on Saturday I did.
A spectacular sunset accompanied by the primordial symphony of Sandhill Cranes settling in for the night was the crowning and most memorable moment of my spring-embracing adventure last Friday evening. That “wilder side” adventure however started four hours earlier in the Goose Meadow parking lot of the 5,900 acre Highland State Recreation Area in White Lake Township.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.” National Audubon Society
I like birds. I do not, however, look at myself as the kind of birder that maintains a life list of birds seen, nor, perhaps with the exception of Snowy Owls, will I drive a hundred miles or more to see a bird that rare in Oakland County. But after reading background information on the GBBC, and recognizing the importance of this annual worldwide bird survey citizen-scientist event, now in its 22nd year, I decided I would attend a GBBC event sponsored by the Oakland Audubon Society. The information compiled during the bird counts assists researchers at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in their study of bird species populations, and how to protect the environment we share with them. With those thoughts in mind, I promised my naturalist and avid birder friend Kathleen Dougherty from Oakland Audubon that I would accept her invitation and take part on Day 2 of this year’s event that ran from Friday, February 15th through Monday, February 18th. Continue reading →
The classic image of bird migration at the approach of winter is the sight of Canada Geese flying high above our lakes, parks, towns and cities in V-shaped flocks. As winter fades, local television newscasters sometimes bubble with excitement at an alleged sign of spring’s return, robins on a snow speckled lawn. They salute the American Robin as the first returning bird of spring when robins are reported stalking about sunny suburban lawns searching for worms between patches of melting snow. These romanticized images of bird behavior and migration are less than accurate. Continue reading →