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Michigan Revisited, July 2017

Part 9: Seney National Wildlife Refuge

All photographs ©2017 by Mary Beth Stowe

Turned around when the noon alarm went off and headed to Seney.  What a blessing that was, and what a shock to see all the people; usually I have the whole place to myself!  (Maybe that’s only first thing in the morning…)  Added a couple of trip birds on the nature trail, including several female Purple Finches, and the requisite Trumpeter Swans!  But that time of day I was more focused on odes and butters; picked up at least one life butter in the form of a Northern Crescent (and I only counted that because Pearl apparently doesn’t get this far north), and all sorts of odes:  the most prominent one was what I’m assuming is the Chalk-fronted Corporal, although none of them had “chalk fronts”, but they’re the only dark odes with pale abdomens to occur here.  What I thought was a clubtail I think was a Racket-tailed Emerald, and the little damsels floated around and were tough to shoot:  one was one of those bluets that you can’t ID without looking at its appendages through a magnifying glass (even my friend Josh Rose, who has a doctorate in odonates, took the Fifth on that one…) L, but miraculously the shot of a Rambur’s Forktail look-alike came out, proving it to be an Eastern Forktail!  Other interesting birds included a Merlin that was making a racket, a very birdy spot near the end that included Hairy Woodpeckers and Yellow Warblers, and an Osprey doing that Bald Eagle-like call that had me going for a minute! 

Marsh at the Seney NWR headquarters building

Heading out on the Nature Trail

Into the fields...

...and into the woods!

Many wetlands dot the landscape

Visitor's center in the distance

Looping back...

Bridge going into the area where the Hairy Woodpeckers were

 Pretty much wrapped that up by four, so decided to come back as I knew I’d have a lot of work to do trying to ID these bugs!  Got ready in record time the next morning and headed out to the refuge pre-dawn; got there about a half hour before sunrise, and it was magical:  more Hermit Thrushes were fluting, another Winter Wren was singing, Sandhill Cranes were bugling in the distance, and best of all, a Common Loon was wailing!  Since the wildlife drive was only eight miles, I stopped every .3 miles, and that was great as you went through a variety of habitat, and it was glorious (especially the sun coming up)!  At one stop I heard a funny sound that I couldn’t place, then suddenly realized it was the Trumpeter Swans!  The road broke out next to a big lake (they call them “ponds”) where I counted over 20 swans and Canada Geese (would end up with 42 each by the end of the route; I may have been double-counting, but eBird didn’t question it)!  At the same stop I noticed a big raptor across the way that turned out to be the only Bald Eagle of the day!

Greeting the dawn on the wildlife drive

I always take the Fishing Route as that covers more territory, and by the end of the survey both Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows were out the yin yang, and Song Sparrows and Alder Flycatchers nearly so!  One Virginia Rail called, another Merlin was yelling, and a couple of Myrtle Warblers were singing interesting songs that I was able to record.  More loons wailed here and there, and finally saw one at the loon overlook!  But just beyond that was the best look at a loon I think I’ve ever had (at least he was in perfect light; you could even see the green sheen)!  This guy was banded, I noticed, as he rolled and preened!  A pair of Sandhill Cranes took off right in front of us as well!

Scenes along the auto tour

Had to work for some of the target ducks:  I noticed a blob on an island at one of the stops that turned out to be a female Hooded Merganser with what I assumed were her babies hiding behind her, and later another motionless blob I figured was a Wood Duck in eclipse plumage (he was also snoozing, which didn’t help…).  The Ring-necked Ducks were a little more cooperative, feeding and diving in the open water.  Towards the end of the drive things were quieting down, which meant the odes were acting up, with plenty of Chalk-fronted Corporals, including a stunning male!  A non-corporal landed which looked like an Ashy Clubtail (best guess, anyway, as the book says it’s hard to tell from the Dusky…)!

After finishing that I was curious about the other accesses to the refuge which I had never visited, so headed south to the Robinson Road access point, where they have lots of good gravel roads going deep into the refuge which are open to hikers and bikers; I ran into a couple from Missouri who were going on a long hike by the looks of it, as they had their trekking poles!  I only did about 20 minutes in, as I felt funny about leaving the car there (another car came tearing into the parking lot just as we were starting out, then tore out again, which is always suspicious in my book), but didn’t get far to start with as I was checking all those grass skippers to see if there was anything but Europeans in there (didn’t appear to be), and tons of what I suspected were emeralds of some kind were floating around but wouldn’t settle down.  Bird-wise added Savannah Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, pewee, and goldfinch to the day list, and the woods themselves were magnificent!  A lot of ski trails went off to the side, but of course I didn’t take those…  A buzzy song that I wasn’t sure belonged to a Prairie or Black-throated Blue Warbler turned out to be the latter, and this time I was able to get a quick (but mediocre) shot off!  On the way back picked up a Common Whitetail for the ode list.

Starting off on the Northern Hardwood Trail

Into the woods!

Once back at the car I was very tempted to go back to the VC and poke around the beginning of the nature trail, but then decided to check that access road to the Mead Creek Campground, which abuts the refuge property, and that was very productive:  bird-wise a male Indigo Bunting was upset with me, and added Magnolia Warbler to the trip list and a sapsucker and Nashville Warbler to the day list.  Was tickled to pick up several new odes:  as best I can tell we had Four-spotted Skimmer, both male and female White-faced Meadowhawk, and American Emerald!  Didn’t have time to explore the campground before I had to get going…

Listened to the radio well into Wisconsin (I was amazed that my phone switched to Central Time right at the state line), and even broke down and got a F’Real, and that got me into Oshkosh for the night (and I was thankful they had a room; if I hadn’t made reservations for all the Michigan nights, I would have been up the creek because they were turning people away when I checked in)! 

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