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Michigan, May 2002

Part 15: Mackinaw State Forest

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

We definitely hit the "law of diminishing returns" with no new species the next day, but it was just a lovely drive through state forest lands and two Brown Bin Spots: Tomahawk Creek Flooding and Pigeon River Country Elk Range, both of which are in the Mackinaw State Forest.  Birding the road going towards the lake and campgrounds, picked up the usual Chipping Sparrows, Pine Warblers, and Ovenbirds.  I was surprised at how full these out-of-the-way campgrounds were (but I suppose I shouldn't have been: it was Memorial Day weekend, after all...)!  The lake was serene with a Killdeer at the boat ramp (well, the Killdeer was upset...), a Spotted Sand along the shore, and a Bald Eagle on the opposite shore.  A Common Loon circled low over my head as I was changing film...

   

Tomahawk Creek Flooding with Killdeer

   

Common Loon checking things out over the lake

I followed a road around that looked like it might access another part of the lake, but it actually went through some mega-harvested parts of the forest (picked up Field Sparrow in there, though, and in a bush along the edge, a Brown Thrasher).  At the road's end (or at least as far as I wanted to take the Buick) it looked as though a little trail went into some moister habitat, so I parked and checked it out: indeed, there was a tiny little marsh with Yellowthroats, both Swamp and Song Sparrows, and of course Redwings.

 

  Wild Turkey near the campground

 

Mom Canada Goose shooing her brood into the marsh

Instead of exploring Tomahawk Road further, I decided to do the Elk Range route, "across the street" from highway 33.  This proved to be a delightful little route, even though I didn't see any Elk (a fisherman I ran into said, "They're all at my house...").  I'm glad the Forest Headquarters building was open, though, because they have a detailed map of the area, and even the AAA and BBB maps put together didn't cut it!  To begin, I traveled south on 33 to County Road 622 and made a right.  From there the BBB directions were okay, because there were at least street signs along the way: you eventually run into Tin Shanty Road, and make a right.  From there all the signs are down, though; it was only by the grace of God I happened to run into the Headquarters building!  While there a pair of Evening Grosbeaks was hanging around, and both a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Purple Finch came to their feeder.

   

Typical hardwood forest habitat, with Purple Finch guarding the headquarters sign...

Official map in hand, I decided to go back to Osmun Road (where there's a big sign that says "To M-68") and headed north.  The designated Elk viewing spots are areas of open fields (looked great for sparrows, and I did indeed get Vesper in one of them), but most of the habitat was mixed woodland.  Actually, the drive coming up Tin Shanty was absolutely gorgeous, as the trees were just coming into leaf, and the sun shining through them was just glorious!  Again, however, there was a lot of traffic on these dirt roads, and parked trucks with their owners hunting in the woods, I'm sure (did run into several Turkeys here and there).

After that initial Elk Viewing Spot, there was a road to Cornwall Creek Flooding (I'm learning that a "flooding" must be a small reservoir, because every one of them has a little dike and spillway), so I took it, and told myself, "No more 'seasonal roads'!!"  This one was pretty bad, with deep ruts and bumps, but it wasn't all a loss: picked up three species of swallows down there and another loon, plus the day's only Black-throated Blue Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo on the way out.

They recommended you take a left on Webb Road (look for the signs to Pine Grove Forest Campground), then another left on Fisherman Road about three miles down, but that was another "seasonal road" that looked pretty bad, so seeing as it was getting late, I opted to take Webb Road all the way to Wolverine and I-75.  Closer to "town" you ran into more farm area, where Eastern Bluebirds and Kingbirds showed up (as well as Bobolink flying overhead), and shortly before the freeway even had Upland Sandpipers!

But I'm getting ahead of myself: all during the "woodland" route I had stopped every mile, and the birding from the road was just fabulous: Ovenbirds were at almost every stop, along with Nashvilles being very common, but there were also lots of "I'm tempted to land on you" type birds such as the Chickadees, Black-and-whites, Black-throated Greens, Magnolias, Redstarts, and even a Ruby-throated Hummingbird scared the gee whiz outta me by zooming right up to my backside!  In fact, at one stop, a Nashville was singing very close to the road (as well as a Winter Wren), so I pished at it hoping it would come out for pictures, and it seemed like everything but the Nashville came in my face!  An open area had an Indigo Bunting, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and a Blue-winged singing an aberrant song, while in one of the wooded areas a Parula was singing one of those Cerulean-like songs; fortunately he came right out, and he was a beauty!  At one of the many bogs a family of Canada Geese crossed the road, and at another stop a Scarlet Tanager chip-PAAAed at me.  In a tangle actually got to hear a Lincoln's Sparrow singing, and another atypical-looking Broad-winged Hawk flew over that I just couldn't turn into a Goshawk...  And speaking of "northern" species, there's no shortage of Ravens in this area, despite what the range maps say!  We're also back into Great Crested Flycatcher and Warbling Vireo country as well.

   

Black-capped Chickadee along Webb Road

 

        

L-R:  American Redstarts (female left, male right), and Black-throated Green Warbler

           

L-R:  Black-and-white Warblers and Magnolia Warblers


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