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Michigan, May 2002

Part 10: Copper Country State Forest

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

Had a rather adventurous day the next day, starting with getting snowed on yet again on my way to the Hardwood Impoundment!! (Also whizzed by several flocks of Turkeys, one male in display!) This is a small body of water northwest of Escanaba, crossed by two different roads/dikes. The first road was called Fordville Road, paved, and probably a good half-mile's hike along its length as you check out the water. It was still bitterly cold (and more so as the mean-looking clouds rolled in), but I braved it anyway and hiked across, getting the Canada Geese mad at me (although a rival pair from across the dike did try to come in and usurp things, so it might not have been "all me"). Amazingly, the "warm-weather" birds were still singing away: Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warblers, Ovenbirds, Northern Waterthrushes, and Least Flycatchers defied the winter-like weather, while a Purple Finch sounded more at home. A male Hooded Merganser shot across the dike, followed soon after by a new trip bird: a female Common Merganser! On the way back a couple of Least Sandpipers wheeled by, and a tu-tu-tu alerted me to a pair of Short-billed Dowitchers, which soon broke into song and then landed on a log! You don't hear that every day!


Hardwood Impoundment from Fordville Road, with dreary-day Canada  Goose silhouette and the island where geese were nesting

Retraced my route to Stromberg County Park, which had a boat access, but I just hiked the little trail to the spillway; that in itself was pretty impressive, especially the babbling creek on the other side where a Spotted Sandpiper was hanging out! A couple pair of Buffleheads were out in the lake, and at the boat launch pished out a singing Chipping Sparrow (up here, I wanted to make sure it wasn't a junco). A flock of winter finches flew over, sounding not quite like Red Crossbills but not quite like Evening Grosbeaks, either, so unfortunately they were the ones that got away.


Creek below the spillway at Stromberg County Park, and the impoundment from the spillway 

Headed over to Swan Peterson Road, another dike over the impoundment, but this one quickly turned to dirt, and the lake was much smaller at this place, almost more like a large bog. Picked up Blue-winged Teal for the day here, as well as a circling Osprey. Incongruously, a Savannah Sparrow was at the other end of the dike, and a Lesser Yellowlegs jumped up close by.


The shallow end of the impoundment from Swan Peterson Road with female Red-winged Blackbird


Scenes along Swan Peterson Road

This road wasn't on the AAA map, but since I had lots of time and was feeling adventurous, I decided to continue on and bird the road, banking on the hope that it would eventually come out at G38. You woulda thought I'd learned my lesson with Rodriguez Canyon (a boulder-strewn dirt road here in San Diego County that the AAA map said went all the way through, but it doesn't...): this road woulda been dicey in spots even with Jip (my Subaru), so you know no self-respecting Buick Regal should attempt it! For the most part the road was really okay, but you could tell that some truck or SUV had put some major ruts in there one rainy day, and there were still leftover potholes and muddy spots (not to mention fallen trees across the road...). Now having done it, I would still recommend it, because the birding was really great along this road, even though there's been a lot of harvesting of the trees; just remember to veer right when you come to the intersection, and stay on the main road! It eventually does dump you out on G38, but there are no signs to indicate that.

But once I got over the occasional bouts of anxiety (living by faith does that sometimes) I could enjoy the birds along this route: the highlight was probably a Broad-winged Hawk sitting in the middle of the road enjoying lunch, seemingly unconcerned about this vehicle behind him! Songbird-wise, there were lots of Butterbutts, of course, but also plenty of Nashvilles, a cooperative Palm, several Blue-headed Vireos, at least three Ruffed Grouse thumping away, both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Winter Wren, both nuthatches, Hermit Thrush, and a phoebe in the wetter stuff.  As I neared civilization (I was never so glad to hear traffic in all my life) a bona fide Evening Grosbeak flew overhead, calling as he went! Crossing Ford River just before you hit the pavement, a knock-out male Common Merganser swam by placidly!


L-R:  Palm Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk, Veery, Common Merganser, and Blue-headed Vireo

Saw that another Brown Bin Spot, Gene's Pond (someone shoulda picked up on that and called it "Gene's Pool"...), was close by, so we headed on to county road 581 and hung a right, cuz that's where the sign said to go for the campground. That road turned to dirt, too (albeit a superb one), and at two stops picked up two new trip birds: Sandhill Cranes rolling in the distance, and a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets! A stunning Magnolia Warbler also came in to pishing while freezing my buns off...

It shortly became obvious that I should have turned left instead, so headed back and found the right campground; a stop along the road in brought in an Orange-crowned and Chestnut-sided Warbler, and in a tangle further on were a pair of Lincoln's Sparrows. At the campground I parked in the big lot by the lake and got a Swamp Sparrow to come out for a peek. Hiked a little trail, and a little pishing brought in point-blank looks at a female Black-throated Green and yet another Parula! This trail looped around back towards the campground (where a guy was using one of those obnoxious leave-blower things to clean the campsites; that was a first!), but even with that noise it didn't deter an Alder Flycatcher from feeding at close range! (All the discussion on Birdchat about Empids really helped with this one!)


Road to Gene's Pond


Black-throated Green Warblers and a Black-capped Chickadee (far right)


L-R:  Canada Geese, skulky Swamp Sparrow, Butterbutt, and Chestnut-sided Warbler

But the real bird of the day was on the way out: I had stopped for a Swainson's Thrush, and then a gorgeous Rose-breasted Grosbeak right out the window, but just down the road a Gray Jay suddenly flew up by the side of the road! I went after that one: there was a pair, and when the one finally decided to come out, I heard my camera click its last shot of the roll just as he flew up into a branch right over my head! Figures! (And the Lord said, "You know, how you react to this may determine if the jay comes back out!" while I muttered in agreement...) Got the new roll in and the jay was nowhere to be seen, but a female sapsucker came whizzing in as a consolation prize. Then I suddenly noticed the jay on the ground, practically at my feet! And he just kept coming, too! What a way to get a state bird!! (The Lord was indeed merciful!)


L-R:  Two Alder Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Gray Jay, a tough bird to find in Michigan!

Made a quick stop at Bewabic State Park just to kill time; nothing outstanding, but did get some nice White-tailed Deer shots, after which I headed on in to Iron River for the weekend. Weather forecast is still "unseasonably cold" with more snow on the way...



 Aptly-named White-tailed Deer

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