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Michigan, May 2002

Part 11: Ottowa National Forest

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

What a gorgeous day on Monday! It was still freezing when I left Iron River, but the sun was shining, and it was dead calm, just a wonderful start! My target spot was the Deer Marsh Interpretive Trail, but since you had to drive miles of dirt road to get there (and very good dirt road, I might add), I figured on doing the drive-a-mile-and-stop bit on the way there.

The only trick was finding the road in the first place: the BBB gives you directions from Sidnaw (from the north), and I was coming from the south, so I planned on picking up the road the AAA map showed heading north into Ottowa National Forest from Beechwood. Well, zoomed right by Beechwood (there wasn't even a sign) and ended up taking the road up to Golden Lake, and then taking the dirt road back to the road I was supposed to take, which turned out to be Amvets Highway. (If I had been thinking, I would have gotten a National Forest map on Saturday...) But as it was, it turned out to be a great detour: there was a small open field at the first spot with a singing Savannah Sparrow, and the day's only Red-breasted Nuthatch called along here. A huge Pileated Woodpecker flew across the road, and a Ruffed Grouse drummed from deep in the woods. The usual suspects were about as well, but the real treat was yet another Gray Jay who came in and gave me a curious look!

Amvets Highway turned out to be paved most of the way back to Beechwood, where it hooks up with Gibbs City Road (I had missed the dirt road to Gibbs City yet again). But this paved road turned out to have the highlight of the day: a few miles up the road was an open area with a rather large puddle, with a rather large gathering of shorebirds! Most were Lesser Yellowlegs with a couple of Greater, and several Short-billed Dowitcher "sewing-machining" and singing while they were at it, but the real gem was a female Hudsonian Godwit! She was in with the Lessers and wasn't much bigger than them; actually, my first thought was Marbled because she looked so uniformly pale brown, but she was just way too small, and when I was able to get the scope on her (that's when I discovered it was a "her"), you could clearly see the blackish scaling on the back contrasting with the grayish wing coverts. Once she began preening she also showed off her white tail base, which clinched the ID. Other goodies for the trip included a Pectoral Sandpiper across the way, and an American Wigeon in with the Mallards and Blue-winged Teal. A group of Sandhill Cranes bugling close by (but unseen, of course) was an added treat!

       

Surprise wetland along Gibbs City Road with a vagrant Hudsonian Godwit (taken through the scope)!

I figured it couldn't get much better than that, but there was still lots of fun coming: the road became dirt again past Gibbs City, so I took up the mile-stopping again, picking up Brown Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Hairy Woodpecker for the day. The map said I needed to take a right towards Perch Lake at the next major intersection, which I did, but I wound up on a different road that did eventually go to Perch Lake, but wound around the south side and dumped you out on the north side, which is where I wanted to be, anyway (thank God for a sign that pointed you to Sidnaw...)! Again, I wasn't complaining one bit about the mixup, cuz there were some terrific birds on this road: a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo scolding me with the cutest little upslurred nasal query you ever heard, and a dueling Parula and Nashville in a budding tree, picking at little bugs in the buds! But the best warbler along this route was a stunning Cape May, new for the trip! A couple of Hermit Thrushes sparred at one stop, and the delightful Winter Wren sang at several. All in all, sapsuckers were definitely the most abundant woodpecker: at almost every stop one was either mewing, drumming, or doing their Red-headed Woodpecker imitation!

           

Blue-headed Vireos and a Cape May Warbler hung out at Deer Lake! 

       

Typical woodland habitat along the trail and nearby bog

Finally made it to the trailhead, where there are three different parking areas. The best was the middle one, which includes a little boardwalk and observation platform. At this tiny little bog everything seemed to want to come in for a picture: Palm Warbler, several Pines, Brown Creepers, and even the skulky Swamp Sparrows! But among them was yet another trip bird, I guess rather hard to get here but "step on 'em" birds back home: a perky little Wilson's Warbler! The trailhead at Marten Lake Road takes you to another spectacular overlook of Deer Marsh, where a Common Merganser fed, and some Chipping Sparrows hopped up close for pictures, but that was it.

           

L-R:  Two Palm Warblers, Pine Warbler ( can you tell them apart?), and Swamp Sparrow

   

Boardwalk through the bog, and scenes of Deer Marsh from Marten Lake Road

       

     Despite what the AAA map says, Sidnaw Road becomes paved shortly after that, so still having time, I decided to stop at the Gogebic Ridge Hiking Trail, which was on the way to Silver City and crosses highway 64. It wasn't the easiest trail (especially with a couple of fallen trees), but it was worth it when a stunning Blackburnian Warbler came down in my face! I'm beginning to think that all the Dendroica warblers have Friendly Genes in them! Heard a Merlin on the way back to the car.

Headed up to Silver City after that, praying that the next day would be just as pretty as today!

             

Chipping Sparrow (far left) and Blackburnian Warblers

   

Unknown flower and odd little fungus on trail-marked tree


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