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Michigan, May 2002

Part 2: Jackson/Kalamazoo Wildlife Areas

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

The next day explored some little wildlife areas between Jackson and Kalamazoo; my main target was Dahlem Nature Preserve, but since that didn't take me long to check out I had time for two others on my way west. All three were mainly beautiful mixed woodland with some boggy areas or wetlands. All three were also only accessible from their single parking lots, but had lots of trails.

Dahlem's official greeter was an Eastern Phoebe that had built a nest right outside the gift shop! I first took a little loop trail that had a boardwalk through a bog, and here in this open area I picked up a cooperative Least Flycatcher and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. A warbler was singing that I suspected may have been a Chestnut-sided, but I just couldn't rule out Yellow, and of course the silly thing wouldn't come out to pishing (got Butterbutts, Catbirds, and a gnatcatcher going though...) Goldfinches were all over the place, and Eastern Towhees were either admonishing me to drink my tea (even though I'm a coffee drinker J) or telling me in their own language what they were ("tow-hee!"). A Northern Waterthrush sang near a building close to the trailhead.


Dahlem Center with Eastern Chipmunk Official Greeter


It’s hard to believe such a wild-looking place is in the middle of suburbia!

After a short rest I took one of the longer trails that also skirted some open fields in addition to more woodland. This place is famous for their bluebird program, and boxes were all over the place, although it looked like Tree Swallows were utilizing them. A knockout male bluebird did pose for me, though! In the woods got a great look at a singing Wood Thrush, and that elusive little Yellow-throated Vireo finally showed himself! At a resting spot a Redstart came right down to eye level at one point, and a Field Sparrow gave great views. The trails are well marked and a map is stationed at almost every intersection, so it's hard to get lost.


"Bluebird Field" and deep woods trail


Next stop...

The next stop was Whitehouse Nature Center, run by Albion College. The habitat here was very similar to Dahlem, but the Kalamazoo River runs through it, providing more lush wetland habitat. It was here I picked up two state birds: Northern Parula right in the parking lot, and a singing Yellow-breasted Chat along the Marsh Trail! A Canada Goose pair did their "car alarm" the whole time I was on that trail, so hearing things was a challenge...did manage to kick up Belted Kingfisher in here, though.


Kalamazoo River and Canada Goose

This place has even more trails than Dahlem, so after a rest I crossed the bridge, hung a right at the first opportunity, and ended up doing the River's Edge Trail. Picked up Acadian Flycatcher along this trail, along with a knockout Red-bellied Woodpecker, several singing Blue-winged Warblers, a flock of Cedar Waxwings, a chattering Ruby-crowned Kinglet, an Indigo Bunting sounding deceptively like a goldfinch, buzzy Black-throated Green Warblers, and a very cooperative Swamp Sparrow. By this time the interpretive center had opened, so I sat on the observation deck for awhile, enjoying Black-capped Chickadees at point blank and Downy Woodpeckers coming in to the suet, as well as White-throated and Song Sparrows (the latter are very rufous here compared to ours in San Diego), and a knock-out Baltimore Oriole that came in close. Chipmunks were all over, as well as Fox, Red, and Gray Squirrels, including the local black morph.


On the Marsh Trail with Common Yellowthroat

Moochers at the feeder...


L-R:  White-throated Sparrow, skulky Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Chipmunk, Baltimore Oriole

Still had time after that, so the next suggested place in the Brown Bin Book was the Binder Park Zoo, believe it or not! Reason being, the zoo has a chunk of land adjacent to the actual zoo itself, with three nature trails that essentially overlap, each loop a little longer than the other. I took the middle one, and even at midday had several goodies: Tufted Titmice courting all over, Great Crested Flycatchers wheeping at each other, and several warblers I wasn't sure of vocally: I suspected Nashville and Black-throated Blue on a couple (had seen the former earlier in the day, so at least he was safe), but near the trailhead I heard a wheezy upslurred song that I suspected was a Prairie, and thankfully he came out for a view! Another state bird! I had learned the hard way that sometimes Prairies can sound like Black-throated Blues, so I wasn't 100% sure I had heard the latter earlier. However, I think it's safe to say (after reviewing the recordings) that BTB is either very slow or stays at the same tempo, whereas the Prairie tends to accelerate, even if the song itself is slow. Also added Ovenbird and Scarlet Tanager to the trip list in here.


Entrance to the nature trails at the Binder Park Zoo, with American Robin, Michigan's state bird

Headed in to Kalamazoo ("Kazoo" to the locals) with a modest 63 species for the day; not bad for mostly land birds!

Continue to West Lake Nature Preserve

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