Monday, November 23, 2009

A Rarity on Lake Michigan

Since a very rare bird had been seen for the past week in Berrien County, Michigan, Eric and I decided to make the three and a half hour drive to look for the bird. We got up at 4:30am and were out the door heading towards Lake Michigan. We arrived at Tiscornia Park at 8:20am and met up with Roger Hedge, another birder from central Indiana, and quickly headed out to the end of the pier. When we were about halfway to the end, we stopped to scan through a group of gulls and Eric promptly picked out a Little Gull amongst the flock. This was a lifer for both Eric and I.

Looking back towards the beach.

As we got out to the end of the pier, there was already a large group of birders gathered there scanning for the rare bird. Our friend Alison, a birder from Berrien County, was there and had not seen the bird yet that morning but told us that it had not been seen until 12:30pm the day before. As we stood on the pier and scanned the lake, a Little Gull approached very closely and allowed me to get the following picture.

Little Gull

A little while later, a birder yelled out JAEGER! The juvenile Parasitic Jaeger flew about 20 feet over our heads giving everyone present amazing looks. While we continued to wait for the rarity to show up, we enjoyed watching a Red-necked Grebe only 20-50 yards offshore. We were told that this was a very good bird in Berrien County.

Birders scanning the Lake from the end of the North Pier

Finally after about three hours, our patience paid off. The Ancient Murrelet appeared from the north and started feeding about 150 yards off shore where the river water and lake water merged together. It was diving frequently and spent more time underwater feeding than on the surface. As we watched, it moved in to about 75 yards and delighted the 40 or 50 birders that were present. It slowly moved back to the north and then disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. It was a lifer for many of the birders that were present, including Eric. I had seen this amazing bird during my cruise to Alaska this past May, and it was even more impressive here than it was in Alaska!

Ancient Murrelet

We left the pier around noon and birded around the county with Alison and three young birders from the Chicago area. We hit many spots and had many awesome birds, with the best being an adult male Long-tailed Duck and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was an amazing day with lots of great birds. We will definitely be back to bird in Berrien County again!


Nate said...

Wow! Ancient Murrelet in Michigan. Now that's a seriously twitch-worthy bird.

Kelly said...

Wow! Congrats on the Ancient Murrelet. I read about this bird on the Birding in Cincinnati site, then I see it on your site! You must have been so excited.

Unknown said...

Awesome you got to go up there. Berrien is great place to bird. You should consider doing the SW MI Team Birdathon up there the 3rd Sat in May.