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Michigan Revisited, July 2017

Part 6: Port Huron State Game Area

 (and More Family Time...)

All photographs ©2017 by Mary Beth Stowe

            Dave bemusedly told me I was on my own today J so I was looking forward to hitting the State Game Area.  The forecast was for “severe thunderstorms” in the morning L, so after the morning routine I headed out (and thankfully it wasn’t raining at the time), and the rain (and lightning) definitely started on the way there!  It was tremendous, and the Lord protected me from any lightning strikes, but it was something!  I stopped at all the recommended stops and did pick up a few things that were singing despite the wet, most notably Veery, Wood Thrush, and Indigo Buntings.  Consulting Allen Chartier’s ABA Birder’s Guide to Michigan, the route I followed started at Shoefelt Road, then went through what we called “Baird’s Hill” as kids (which I think was really “Beard’s Hill” if it was named after the road), and then made a right on Kingsley.  The route then jogged over to Cribbens and up to Hewitt where I turned on Graham (that was the road that had birding buddy Harriet Davidson’s favorite “dip” where Eastern Phoebes nested), then to the end of the road before backtracking, going right on Comstock, then left on Cribbens again.  By that time the rain was letting up, and along Cribbens were some dead trees where the birds were just coming alive!  In short order I added Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Towhee, and a family of Baltimore Orioles!  I was basically doing the BBS protocol when I could, and once the rain stopped I could really bird in earnest:  in the fields added Savannah Sparrows, and poking around in the Ruby area added Chestnut-sided and Blue-winged Warblers to the list!  Ovenbirds were singing, and Field Sparrows were pretty plentiful (Song Sparrows were out the yin yang, as were crows…).  Just outside of Ruby itself picked up a calling Merlin and a mom Turkey with four little ones! 

That pretty much gave me a nice 25 mile route, so headed back to SR 125 (“Baird’s Hill”) and stopped at the three big parking areas near the river.  I hiked a little bit of the trail at the top of the hill, and had a glorious view of Black River down below and the woodlands across the way!  The trail quickly started doing downhill with some dicey “steps”, so I retraced my own steps and then headed to the next stop which is right near the bridge where Cerulean Warblers are supposed to be (not today), but since there was a truck parked there (and you never know what kind of characters are using the area) I didn’t linger.  Next I went in what Allen calls the “short road”, and hadn’t hiked too far before coming across a smoldering campfire, then heard voices down the trail, so I figured the campfire belonged to the “truck guys”, so headed back to the car.


View of Black River from "Baird's Hill"

That pretty much took care of the birding for the day, so I grabbed some KFC and then swung by Dancer’s World to pick up the house key from Audrey; she was working on that dress that uses the Swarovski crystals, so I figured Clay or Keith would get a kick out of that…  I had offered to pick up some ingredients for her pasta chicken, so I swung by Kroger’s (after finally finding it) and not only picked up the chicken and mushrooms but also the field food for next week while I was at it, and reasoned that if I did my laundry the next day, I could be packed and ready to go Saturday morning and maybe get up to Mio in time to really scout that route good!

It runs in the family:  while Keith and I sell Swarovski Optics at the Alamo Inn, Audrey sells dresses with Swarovski crystals in Dancer's World!

Once home I took a shower, did the data input, downloaded the pictures, and tried to catch up on the journal, but it wasn’t long before Laura and Dieter and the kids came, followed soon by Chris, Rosaleigh, and Christian, and we just had a great time!  Chris’ kids had brought their coloring books, which were those fancy ones that are supposedly for adults to use as “stress therapy”.  After dinner everyone migrated outside to pick raspberries or catch fish (Rosaleigh caught a huge Pike)! 

Dieter and Dave discuss some important topic (probably golf ☺)...

...while Audrey prepares dinner for the gang!

Laura and Hagen watch the proceedings...

Later Hagen watches over baby sister Mady as she plays in his train set!

Rosaleigh and Christian, my other great-niece and nephew!

Dieter entertains his daughter with a ball on his head!

After dinner the fam retires to the back yard...

Hagen catches another Bluegill...

...while Roseleigh bags a big Pike!

Dave and Chris (Rosaleigh and Christian's dad) extract the hook the thing swallowed...

The next morning I decided to hit the Game Area again, seeing as it was supposed to be a beautiful day, and in checking Bird’s Eye I saw where someone had been there four days before and had all sorts of stuff that I needed!  So started at Shoefelt Road again, where the Veeries and Wood Thrushes were singing away (got some good recordings today, I think)!  Instead of stopping at the big parking areas on SR 125 (I didn’t want to be making left turns with rush hour traffic), I decided to head up Wildcat Road and make a left on Metcalf, just for something different.  Somewhere along this road was a large raptor in a tree, and he was far enough away for me to fuss over it until I realized it was a Turkey Vulture…  The minute I got there I remembered that this was the old Henslow’s Sparrow area, and one of the jumping off places for the annual Death March with Jack!  This time, though, I was hearing a “Traill’s” Flycatcher that was just distant enough to be confusing, so I hiked the trail enough to get a good “listen”, and it was indeed a Willow Flycatcher, complete with the little rrrrip! call!  And while I was recording him, I was thrilled to hear a pheasant crow in the distance! J

Dawn chorus at the end of Shoefelt Road:  the ethereal songs and downward whistles of the Veeries are prominent, with the high-pitched ringing calls of Cedar Waxwings, a rollicking Common Yellowthroat, a high-pitched American Redstart singing please-please-send-me-E-mail!, and finally an Eastern Towhee admonishing us to "Drink your tea!"

Habitat at the end of Shoefelt Road

Habitat along Metcalf Road

The old "Henslow's Sparrow Field" (none there now, sadly)

From there zigged and zagged up to Graham Road, and then following the same route I did the day before:  to the dead end, then taking Comstock to Cribbens and down, but cut over on Metcalf again to check the areas along Kingsley, then taking that down to Abbotsford Road and the Ruby area.  I think it was at one of the parking lots on Graham Road that actually had a decent gravel trail down the hill and to what looked like a target shooting area (I think this may have been the quarry area Jack took me to once), and that turned out to be a great hike, the highlight being what I’m calling a Midland Clubtail until told otherwise – just a stunning little ode!  Butters wouldn’t hold still, but what I thought was a new satyr was just the northern race of the Little Wood Satyr, the same species we get in the Hill Country (where it’s called the Viola’s Wood Satyr).  One of the big frits was down there, too, but wouldn’t settle down for a pic.  On the way back up a Wood Thrush and an Ovenbird sang a nice duet for a recording session! J

View of Black River from Norman Road (I think)

The decent trail from Graham Road

Down at the "bottom"

One of the stops on Cribbens hit pay dirt, too, when I heard a whit that turned out to be another Willow Flycatcher that came right up for pictures!  In the same spot a Twelve-spotted Skimmer posed, and a Yellowthroat popped up.  On another obscure road I heard what sounded like a weird Northern Parula, but eBird flagged that as “rare”, so I was desperately trying to call it out before it finally did a song I recognized – turned out to be a Blue-winged Warbler! J  On another road with more trees, an empid popped up that had a pretty good eyering (more than a Willow would have, anyway), so just for kicks and grins I played the Alder song, and he came right out!  Unfortunately he wouldn’t say anything in return, but I took a step of faith and counted him as such (thankfully there would be tons of Alders in the UP, so I could safely count it for the trip).  The creek crossing on Cribbens (I think it was) was quite birdy as well, with the day’s only Hooded Warbler (I had heard something at another crossing that I initially thought was a Hoodie but I later wrote it off as a Yellow), and a couple of Chestnut-sided sang along the dirt portion of Abbottsford Road.

Port Huron SGA chorus starts with the bouncing ball of a Field Sparrow, the teeping of a Northern Cardinal (with another singing in the background), the descending he-he-he call of a Baltimore Oriole, the short pik of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the burbling of a House Wren, and one rollicking song from a Common Yellowthroat.

Cribbens Road (I think)

Plum Creek

Tiger Lily

Ruby Cemetery

Abbotsford Road

Twelve noon came before I had even hit the 125 parking areas, so since it was warming up I called it a morning, especially since I wanted to check out that nature area near the Meijer’s that everyone told me had Mute Swans.  I found the place okay, but apparently checked the wrong pond – it had a dirt dike around it, and to get off it and back to the parking area I had to cut through the dirt lot of this maintenance yard, then squeeze around their gate!  Got a Great Blue and Green Heron out of it, at least…  As seems to be the case lately, I found the “right” trail too late to walk it, so no swans (at least of the Mute variety) this trip… L

Fort Gratiot Nature Center Area

Headed over to Audrey’s store afterwards, and she opted to have me keep the key as she still had work to do, so I headed back where Laura had the kids over for lunch; they were outside (all I had to do was follow the trail of Fruit Loops J), but it was too hot out there for me, so I came back in to start laundry and do data entry et al.  Somewhere in there Hagen came tearing into the laundry room and finally got out that a duck was out in the yard!  I followed him out and there was a female Mallard near the pier; guess Laura was feeding her! J  Eventually Audrey and Dave trickled in at different times, and Audrey and I eventually made it out the door to Chicken in the Rough!  (Dave had a reunion going on…)

I suggested to Laura before she left that they join us for breakfast the next morning, and that sounded good!  So the next morning, after a very pleasant sit out on their back porch waiting for them to get ready (Dave was impressed with the bird list just from there), we headed over to Marie’s, and I was good and got oatmeal, hash browns, and OJ!  Afterwards we took pictures over at the McMorran fountain (I confessed I had never walked up to it) and said our goodbyes; it truly was a wonderful time, and I’m so glad I went!


Family pics:  with Dave, Laura, and the kids left, with Dave center, and with Audrey right

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