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Michigan Revisited, July 2017

Part 4: Crab Orchard NWR (IL)

All photographs ©2017 by Mary Beth Stowe

Good news/bad news:  the bad news was that I wasn't going to make it in to Fort Gratiot tomorrow, even with the early start Saturday (I’m sure all those “exercise walks” that went longer than anticipated had something to do with that), but the good news is that brother Dave says, “Take your time!” so I’m going to do just that, as there’s a NWR (Crab Orchard) right next door with several nature trails – just what the doctor ordered! J

After almost getting lost in Marion I finally got turned around and found the refuge, which was lovely, with lots of stuff singing right in the parking lot (mainly titmice, cardinals, and parulas)!  Started off on the Pigeon Creek Trail, which wound up being closed for the loop part, so I only could go as far as the blind where a Raccoon was feeding (and they always make the viewing holes either too tall or too short…L).  But picked up a few things:  a blazing male American Goldfinch sat on top of a tree, as did a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (makes it easy when it’s the only one J)!  Heard Pileated Woodpeckers making funny noises, and on the way out had a baby Robin. 

Start  of the Pigeon Creek Trail


In the woods

            Decided to go ahead and do the Auto Tour, even though I figured it would put me behind, but I’m very glad I did:  Indigo Buntings were out the yin yang, and at one spot a blue bird landed on the road just far enough away so that I couldn’t judge the size, but thankfully a bunting landed next to it confirming it as a Blue Grosbeak!  At Pigeon Creek proper, I was tickled to death to hear a Prothonotary Warbler singing, so got that one in the bag (I thought I was also hearing a Kentucky Warbler, but when I got out to hunt Mr. P down, I heard Carolina Wrens going at it, so I reluctantly took that one off the eBird list…)!  At another stop a Prairie Warbler was doing his “mouse with a toothache” song, and a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats counter-sang, so that was another missed migrant in the bag!  Eastern Towhees and Bluebirds were in good numbers (got a video of the former singing, but it wasn’t very good), and a young Red-tailed Hawk yelled at me from a dead tree.  But the crème de la crème was just past a gated road from which I had to move as a couple of researchers were coming out, where I couldn’t believe my ears:  a Henslow’s Sparrow was singing right next to the road!  Unfortunately the bank was just tall enough that I couldn’t spot him, but he was coming through loud and clear for a nice recording (so that went on eBird)!  At the Wolf Creek Causeway an Eastern Kingbird was hopping around in the grass, and a Barn and Cliff Swallow sat together (in awful light)!  After the causeway was the cul-de-sac where the researchers were working, so after checking out the joint for birds (more Dickcissels and Red-winged Blackbirds), I tried to kick up some butters and/or odes; the best in that department was a Widow Skimmer, and what turned out to be a female Widow after the initial excitement of finding something “new” J!

Pigeon Creek

On the auto tour

            Had to get going after that, adding Song Sparrow and more Canada Geese on the way (and even a pair of Mute Swans, but I think they were feral, as they’re not established this far south)!  Since I was so far behind I decided to cowgirl up and take I-57 all the way to the 94, but then realized that I-80 gave you a cutover, so I avoided Chicago after all (or at least the bad part; still ran into some city traffic, I think, and I felt terrible for the traffic going west that was stopped solid due to an accident)!  Made it as far as New Buffalo (just over the Michigan state line).

Continue to Arrival in Fort Gratiot

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