Birding Michigan, Part 2: Shiawassee NWR

ShiawasseeNWR-MI_LAH_4434

On the bank of the Shiawassee River, in central Michigan, Shiawassee NWR was touted as “a critical migration stopover site for waterfowl.” We were there on the last day of August, just over a year ago. With habitats ranging from marshes to forests to prairie, and a long list of bird species, some of which I’ve rarely (if ever) seen, I was hoping to see more than just waterfowl.

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In Pursuit of Snipes

redwood-forest-santa-cruzHave you ever been on a snipe hunt? These nocturnal adventures are a classic part of summer camp. After explaining that a snipe is a small, furry creature, your counselor hands you and your cabin mates each a pillowcase and a flashlight. Then you’re turned loose in the dark and spooky woods (illustrated at right) to practice your “snipe call.” At various times, your counselor may ask, “Did you hear that?” or “I just got a glimpse—it went that way!” Of course, this sort of snipe is a mythical beast, and you are the butt of a practical joke that the counselors will find hilarious.

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Birding Manitou Lake

Below dam_LakeManitou-CO_LAH_2110With the high plains sizzling in 90+ degree heat, I was desperate to escape to somewhere cooler. Plus, I really wanted to see some birds. That’s why I headed to the hills—or, more accurately, mountains. There’s an advantage to living right next to the Rockies. In less than an hour, I was at 7,700 feet, surrounded by ponderosas, birding at Manitou Lake. A day-use area popular with the fishing crowd, this five acre lake is also a birding hotspot. You have to get there early, especially on weekends, but the abundance of wildlife is worth the extra effort.

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Red-Winged Blackbirds

As birders, we have a tendency to sneer at common species, even disparaging them as “trash birds.” One of my birding resolutions for 2011 is to learn to appreciate all species, no matter how mundane. Learning more about their lifestyles is a step in that direction.

red-winged-blackbird_fcnc-co_lah_1218-aEven before I was a birder, I could identify the male Red-winged Blackbird. Found in shallow marshes and other wetlands around the country, the black bird with the red and yellow shoulders is a familiar sight. Even the little drainage pond at the end of our street, with its sparse patch of cattails, is home to a few of these noisy blackbirds. Continue reading “Red-Winged Blackbirds”