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Michigan, May 2002

Part 3: West Lake Nature Preserve

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

Met up with Ken and Cassandra Middleton the next morning to bird West Lake Nature Preserve (we met at Derk's for breakfast first, though: the 5:00 call time got cancelled due to too high of a water level for Yellow Rails, so we could start at a more sane hour). Actually, Cassandra joined us for breakfast but opted out of the morning jaunt around the park, so Ken and I hiked a nice loop trail that took us through boggy hardwood forest, and then ultimately onto an overlook at West Lake itself. In the parking area picked up both Chipping and Field Sparrows. The weather was still rather cold and overcast, and while lots of birds were still singing it was the same crew as before: Redwings, Cardinals, Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Great Crested Flycatcher, and the lot. A singing Red-eyed Vireo was new for the trip, and enjoyed a cute little titmouse on the ground in front of us. A Turkey Vulture was sitting on a dead snag low in the woods along with a crow; we wondered if they had found something and were waiting for an opportune time to pounce on it. A Solitary Sandpiper showed off nicely in one of the bogs as well.

            

Trail and lake at West Lake Preserve (with Solitary Sandpiper at left)

There were several "plastic-walks" (as opposed to boardwalks) through the bogs, but because of the high water level most of these were closed (they looked dry, but the minute you stepped on them, they sunk beneath the water!); the one to the overlook was open, however, and we had several goodies along this trail, including lots of Yellow Warblers, Swamp and Song Sparrows, a singing Northern Waterthrush, and the real treat: a tail-wagging Palm Warbler! Ken saw a couple of Butterbutts chasing each other, but I missed those. At the overlook, the lake was pretty choppy, but there was a flock of Mute Swans in the distance.

               

Ken Middleton on the "plastic-walks", with American Goldfinch at right

         

All the rain made some of the trails impassable (like the Bog Trail on right)

Headed over to another trail on the opposite side of the main road, where there was more freshwater marsh habitat. We couldn't walk out onto the plastic-walk at all here, so we just played rail tapes from the side of the marsh; a Sora was out walking around even before we started, but the Virginia Rail took a little longer to respond.  After that Ken called Cassandra to see if she had found out anything about the Western Tanager that was hanging around north of Kalamazoo, so she agreed to meet us at the south end of where we were and join us for that. Unfortunately we didn't get very far before it started to rain, so we headed back to the car (we did find a dead Deer Mouse, and Ken took that opportunity to explain to me how it differs from White-footed...).

           

L-R:  Rail Marsh, American Robin, and entrance to the south end of the marsh

It was still sprinkling by the time we reached the house in Parchment, where we ran into another Birdchatter: Sue Wright from Detroit! She had been there some time and had not seen the bird, so after awhile we gave up as well, went to the mall for lunch and pointers about my next stop, then all kissed goodbye and went our separate ways (before we melted in the rain). I swung by the Kalamazoo Nature Center on my way to Allegan, but they charged $4.50 to get in, and since it was still raining I knew I wouldn't be hiking the trails, so I just pulled over and listened for five, where I picked up Yellow-throated Vireo for the day. Made it to Allegan quickly, and tried to check out the State Game Area a little, but it was still just too rainy, so checked into the gorgeous B&B early (picking up Meadowlark for the day), had a great talk with Ruth (the owner, a dedicated Christian along with her family), and had a great meal at the Grill House down the road where you grill your own meat!

   

Ruth’s B&B (Castle in the Country) near Allegan


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