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Michigan, May 2002

Part 18: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

Migration is definitely winding down, as nothing new showed up the next day (although it was another rainy day, on and off). According to the checklist, this stop had the potential for a few new species (Prothonotary Warbler, Black Duck, and Marsh Wren would all have been nice), but I was either in the wrong habitat or they just didn't come my way. But at least I got to hike some nice trails.

Started at the bottom end of Shiawassee NWR, south of Saginaw. It rained all the way to Headquarters, where it quit the minute I pulled into the parking lot, so I decided to stroll this little interpretive trail (and I do mean teeny) around their little pond; kicked up some Waxwings, a Catbird, House Finches, and some bunnies, as well as a singing Alder Flycatcher.

Drove down to the Ferguson Bayou Trail after that, picking up Savannah Sparrow and Horned Larks in the fields on the way. This is an almost five mile hike if you want to cover the whole thing; ideally, I was planning on taking the Short Loop, but a clap of thunder sent me back to my car (still got dumped on, but at least that was the only clap I heard)! I would have loved to have seen the whole thing: you start off through farmland with Redwings, Pheasants, and Tree Swallows, then onto a dike with willows, then bayou-type wetlands on either side (this could have been a good spot for the Prothonotary, perhaps, but just had Yellows and Yellowthroats in here). Didn't see much, but heard Warbling Vireos, Pewees, Indigo Buntings, Titmice, Cardinals, and Great Crested Flycatchers galore, plus lots of tame Goldfinches in the parking area. Drove down to the fishing access after that, where I picked up Eastern Kingbird and Bobolink for the day.


Ferguson Bayou Trail with rain-dotted plants


Flowers, American Goldfinch, and Killdeer

Backtracked into Saginaw (saw the seedy side of town, that's for sure) and headed to Green Point Environmental Learning Center (also part of the refuge, but within a suburban setting), and what a terrific little place! They had a big group of pre-schoolers there at the time in the center, but I had the trails practically to myself, as I took the Songbird Trail (which was probably about a two mile loop). It had quit raining again, so I risked going without my jacket (it was really warming up), and it was just a delightful walk through the woods with Wood Thrushes, four kinds of woodpeckers, vireos, nuthatches, and Redstarts all singing away. The most unusual bird was an oriole who was obviously mostly Baltimore, but I wondered if he might have had some Bullock's blood in him, as he had a big white shoulder patch tinged with orange, and his voice sounded a bit more "western" than I think it should have! Back at the center a Phoebe posed for pictures, and the best news was that the mosquitoes weren't biting! One of the ladies chaperoning the kids was raving about the beehive on display inside the building, and she insisted that I go see it, so I went on in, expecting to see some kind of mounted dead nest, but it truly was an active beehive that they had behind glass! It was fascinating!


Eastern Phoebe along the Songbird Trail at the Green Point  Environmental Learning Center.  At right is the Woodland Trail at the north end of the refuge


Bullhead Creek and marsh along the Marsh Trail


Various habitats along the trail

My feet were complaining, but I still wanted to check out the Woodland Trail on the north side of the refuge, so I went back through town and over to Center, then south to the parking area. There are really three trails here of varying lengths (they all overlap), so I took the one mile Marsh Trail, and this also was a delightful little walk through the bogs and woodlands. Picked up a singing Brown Creeper and Black-throated Green in here, as well as several Redstarts who all seemed to be saying, "Please-send-me-E-mail!" (with the emphasis on the "E"...) I guess I must be going through withdrawal to come up with a pneumonic like that... Almost had a heart attack when I saw the trail go straight up this hill, only to discover you could go around it; I guess they have that there for the "extreme" bikers (and I did run into a couple on the way back); that must be the extent of any "mountain biking" they get to do around here! A Kingfisher was sitting on a snag at the Bullhead Creek bridge, but like I said, things definitely seem to be winding down. Would have been kinda fun to break 200; I only needed four more!

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