Sunday, November 20, 2005

Muskegon Wastewater - a unique experience

Yesterday afternoon (11/19/05), Caleb picked me up and we headed over to the Muskegon Wastewater Facility - a place I'd heard a lot about - but had never been to. On the way over we stopped at the Coopersville Sewage Treatment area. A very large flock of gulls were present, but they were all facing us so it was very hard for us to determine mantle shade or see the primaries on them. As far as we could tell there weren't any unusual gulls present, but we could have easily missed some. Several Mute Swans were present and a Brown Creeper flew over us as we scoped the ponds. Maybe a 1/2 mile down the road we stopped to check more gulls that were roosting in a farm field in between foraging at the adjacent dump. Again, no unusual gulls were noted, but three Lapland Longspurs flew over us.
The roads on the way to Muskegon Wastewater yielded a couple of American Kestrels. These fields along this road are apparently a prime area for snowy owls during the winter, but we didn't note any that day.
Upon entering Muskegon Wastewaters road/dike system - I was amazed by how large an area the water covered. We immedietaly began tallying the waterfowl that was flushing from the rocks along the shore. As we proceeded we saw a very large flock of white long-necked waterfowl on the far side of the pond. As we neared them we realized they were Tundra Swans! I counted 325 Tundra Swans (31 of which were juveniles) as well as 9 white Snow Geese (7 juveniles) that were associating with the larger white swans. A flock of Snow Buntings flushed from the dike and we tallied about 30 of them as they moved down the dike. Black Ducks were noticibly present - many in very large flock of straight black ducks or with some Gadwall mixed in. I'd never seen as many black ducks as I did there. A Peregrine Falcon buzzed down the dike and was the likely explanation for the dead Green-winged Teal I'd seen farther down the dike. A quick scan of the aerators revealed nothing but melting ice and frozen mud, but as we drove along the edge several American Pipits flushed and by the end of the day we'd noted 8 American Pipits there (a fairly large number considering thee lateness of the date). The drive down the opposite side of the very large pond netted us 5 Rough-legged Hawks (2 dark, 3 light) including a bird that was holding a stationary position in the wind so well that, from a distance, we thought the bird might be perched on a wire! We pulled up right next to it (<50 feet from the bird) and watched it for a minute and I told Caleb that a bird that cooperative could be digiscoped. So he got out of the car, got his scopee set up and just as he was putting his camera up to the scope, the bird moved off and down the road... Isn't that how it always goes! We continued on by checking some mixed woodlots and open fields. In these areas we found a late Turkey Vulture, another dark Rough-legged Hawk, and a young Sharp-shinned Hawk harassing robins and starlings. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was also present with a flock of Chickadees.
Here are the waterfowl numbers from Muskegon:

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