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Michigan, May 2002

Part 17: Tawas Point State Park

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

What a glorious day the next morning!!  The sun came out, and it actually got up into the 70s!  But even better were the birds: when I pulled into Tawas Point State Park, the air was just alive with birdsong!  One of the first things to hit my ears was a new trip bird: a Tennessee Warbler!  They hadn't opened the gate to the point yet, so I parked in the lot next to the entrance station, where not only another new trip bird but a state bird as well went whizzing overhead, then landed in a distant tree: and Orchard Oriole!




It was just as well that the gate was closed, because it forced me to walk the bike path down to the point, and that was a magical experience!  Hundreds of Cedar Waxwings let me walk right up to them, and both Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos came in close as well.  Some Eastern Kingbirds displayed at each other, and lots of Yellow Warblers sang in the deciduous trees, occasionally coming out for a look.  Interestingly, one of the most encountered warblers here was the old familiar Wilson's from back home!  At one point a brilliant Baltimore Oriole was sitting in a well leafed-out tree, and when I got my bins on him, there were four brilliant colors in one bin view: said bird (orange), a Scarlet Tanager (red), an Indigo Bunting (blue), and a Goldfinch (yellow)!  Wow!  Other goodies seen or heard along this road included Yellow-throated Vireo, Catbird, Brown Thrasher, and Phoebe.


L-R:  Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Brown Thrasher, and female Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Left and center:  Cedar Waxwings (the red pigment on the wings is waxy, hence the name)    Right:  Displaying Eastern Kingbird


Another Eastern Kingbird and two Scarlet Tanagers

Circling back around towards the campground produced a Willow Flycatcher, and in the campground itself an Alder was singing, as well as a Mourning and Blackburnian Warbler.  I ran into a lady who had been following spring migration all the way from Texas with her tape recorder (and her husband with his camera), and she told me that Jon Dunn's Little Gull was probably a "one day wonder": it was in with a flock of Bonies and hadn't been seen since.  Oh, well.  Watched a skirmish between a couple of Black Squirrels fighting over a nest hole (with squirrel #3 already in it), and a Green Heron fled from a Redwing over the little pond.


Bike path heading towards the Point at left, and looking the other way, towards the campground, at right


L-R:  Wilson's Warbler, shy Alder Flycatcher, and Mom Robin on nest


Local black morph of the Eastern Gray Squirrel (look close for Mom in the nest!)             


American Goldfinch and campsites for the birds!

Once I got back to the car the gate was open, so I drove down as far as I could, because the recorder-lady had warned me that I'd better take my scope down to the point if I wanted to see anything!  So off I went, playing leap-frog with a biologist who was tracking the progress of the park's Piping Plover nests (and were it not for him, I never would have seen Mama on the nest, protected by a mesh cage on the beach!)  He even had me guard his gear while he went over to check the eggs; his main concern right now is a family of foxes who may get the chicks once they're hatched, and he's trying to figure out a way to get the foxes to go away on their own without them having to be physically removed.  He also told me about other goodies seen around the park, such as a Western Kingbird, several Summer Tanagers, and a Harris' Sparrow, but I couldn't kick up any of them; I did spot one of the Red Knots he told me about, though!


This photo was taken through a biologist's scope; look hard for Mama Piping Plover  on the nest, covered by a mesh cage! At right, said biologist shooting the eggs with his digital camera; the Piping Plover is an endangered species that needs careful monitoring.



   The marsh at the Point

But there were lots of other "regular" goodies to keep me busy: a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers (yes, for real this time) worked a telephone pole while Red-bellieds flopped around in a nearby tree.  One tree was just full of Bobolinks singing away, and a little pishing brought out Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Wood Pewees, Redstarts, a Field Sparrow, and more Wilson's.  Lots more Orchard Orioles showed up, too, including a young male.  I ran into the recorder-lady again, who seemed doubtful about my Mourning Warbler, but I assured her that I knew my vocalizations--except when a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is making like a Red-headed Woodpecker...☺  Once finally out to the point, there wasn't much activity besides gulls, Caspian Terns, cormorants, Dunlin, and a handful of Common Mergansers; there were a few tiny peeps, but I couldn't tell what they were.  On the other side of the spit were Semipalmated Plovers and a family of Canada Geese, plus a pair of Common Terns, the male fishing for "gifts" and then promptly giving them to his waiting mate!


L-R:  Tree full of Bobolinks, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Field Sparrow


Yellow Warblers


L-R:  Female American Redstart, Wilson's Warbler, much more scarce back east than in San Diego, and Gray Catbird making his getaway...


Trail to the Point with Blue-gray Gnatcatchers


L-R:  Baltimore Oriole, young Orchard Oriole (evidently unusual here), Bobolink, Blue Jay, and young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

My feet were really shot after that, so I sat at the bird feeders for awhile, enjoying the Blue Jays and the young Rose-breasted Grosbeak checking things out, then literally had to take a nap before heading out. Decided to check out Tuttle Marsh, which was just north of Tawas off highway 55. Once on the dirt road I started stopping, where here it was open grassland; I was hoping for good sparrows, but just picked up Savannahs, Meadowlarks, and more Bobolinks displaying. More stopping in the wooded areas added the common woodland birds for the day list.

The first accessible trail in the area is through grassland, so I eagerly hiked that (my feet had recovered somewhat), but just picked up Vesper Sparrow, lots of nesting Tree Swallows, and a single Bluebird claiming one of the houses. Yet another Black-billed Cuckoo flew into a distant tree (at least I could discern no hint of rufous).


Two views of the grasslands; Tree Swallows nest here and use goose down in their nests!

About a mile later was an area where you could walk up on the dike and view the bog, where lots of Canada Geese (including one with a green neck band) were hanging out. Nothing else out of the ordinary; picked up Mallard and Blue-winged Teal along the road, and a flock of Black Terns batted down the dike. Both Soras and Sedge Wrens called unseen from the marsh as well.


American Copper


Canada Goose mob in the marsh


Tree Swallow cleaning house with views of the marsh


   Didn't have time to explore anything else, so headed on in to Bay City for the night.

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