Michigan, Tawas Point. May 2009

After a final early morning at Pt. Pelee we departed west and then north for Tawas Point.  Migrants were more numerous than at Pelee and we had an enjoyable evening walk. Stuart and Ian briefly saw a Gull-billed Tern, which would be a second state record and to my knowledge a first record for interior eastern North America.  I’ve added the sighting to the list on a provisional basis, pending review and acceptance of the Michigan records committee. When returning past the lighthouse, we ran into a local birder who alerted us to a rare possible longspur.  We refound it and to our surprise discovered that it was a female Linnet, a European species in which the northern populations are migratory.  The bird was unbanded and appeared in fresh plumage.  With only one Iceland record and no records from Greenland, or from elsewhere (to my knowledge) in North America, it would seem that it came out of a cage, but still one wonders.  Over the next few days we recorded many species at Tawas, including our only Orange-crowned Warbler, an immature female.  Other species in the area included Clay-colored Sparrow and a gorgeous male Golden-winged Warbler at the south side of Tuttle Marsh, which gave all of us a superb view.  Later we watched the eastern subspecies of Whip-poor-will, a male of which was perched on a log and singing full tilt.  At such close range, we were able to hear the guttural “uck” call between the whistled “whip-poor-will” phrases.  

After our last morning at Tawas Point we detoured south to chase a White-faced Ibis at Fish Point W.A.  We stopped west of Au Gres where we listened unsuccessfully for Sedge Wrens, but did see an exceptionally late immature Rough-legged Hawk.  I’ve never seen this species before in the “Lower 48”, but ironically we found another at Fish Point W.A.  At Fish Point we easily found the breeding plumaged adult White-faced Ibis, a casual species in the East.  Here with several Sandhill Cranes, was also a banded adult Whooping Crane.  This bird was apparently of the introduced population which breeds in Wisconsin and winters in Florida.  Also present were numerous singing Marsh Wrens.  Nearby at some ponds were a variety of ducks, which included Redhead, Lesser and Greater Scaup and a female Bufflehead.  That evening a few of us ventured out to an area southeast of Mio where we watched a displaying American Woodcock at close range and also saw two more Whip-poor-wills.  

On our final day we eventually connected with Kirtland’s Warbler and had good views of a singing male.  Later closer to Grayling we found a single Upland Sandpiper and a Vesper Sparrow, and at Hartwick Pines State Park we had good views of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a male Red-breasted Nuthatch and a lovely male Evening Grosbeak.  Later at the edge of Wigwam Bay we watched a large flock of Whimbrels fly by and also had fine views of singing Sedge Wrens, Sandra’s 500th bird.  We commemorated the occasion later by presenting her with one of Roger Ericksson’s gorgeous prints, which he donated to the group.  Sandra was a co-winner of the Tawas competition along with Vicki.  Our last stop was at Nayanquing Point W.A. where we had good views of numerous territorial male Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Here we also called in a Virginia Rail and also saw several American Bitterns, and a single calling Willow Flycatcher.  After a final dinner near Flint, an evening drive to Romulus and a final checklist session over wine, we concluded a very long day and a productive tour.  We ended up seeing virtually every species of the eastern Neotropical migrants missing only Swainson’s Warbler, which breeds as far north as east-central Kentucky and the always-difficult Connecticut Warbler.’

Sample from Michigan, Tawas Point. May 2009