Birds and wildlife in Manistee

Local birder talks fall migration, hummingbird feeders

By BRIAN ALLEN
Special to the News Advocate

This is an initial column on birds and wildlife in Manistee. I’ll be writing about seasonal changes, questions on bird migration, bird feeding and wildlife watching throughout Manistee County and neighboring Benzie and Mason counties.

I’ve been watching birds and doing bird research for over 40 years and am currently the reviewer for Northwest Michigan for the international bird observation data base eBird. I hope to hear from you and include wildlife sightings from our area in the coming reports.

Up until the end of November, fall migration has been a little dull with no concentrations of migrating songbirds or even recently ducks or geese. We might blame the pleasant weather as storms and cold fronts were few and didn’t seem to bring the waves of birds along the shore

A rare northern goose, a brant, was found on Nov. 21 on First Street Beach in Manistee. Many birders from around the state traveled to Manistee to see the bird, which came from Nunavat, Canada, according to the band on its leg. (Linda Scribner/Courtesy photo)

A rare northern goose, a brant, was found on Nov. 21 on First Street Beach in Manistee. Many birders from around the state traveled to Manistee to see the bird, which came from Nunavat, Canada, according to the band on its leg. (Linda Scribner/Courtesy photo)

of Lake Michigan this fall.

Unlike a couple of years ago we had no lingering hummingbirds such as the Costa’s Hummingbird in Onekama that was a first ever record for Michigan and even made the national news as it lingered into late November.

Leaving hummingbird feeders up in the fall past early September often is a cause of concern and debate for homeowners. Will this keep the birds too late and expose them to risk of bad weather?

The consensus from experts is that it is OK to keep hummingbird feeders up if you have the interest in seeing what may show up and are fine with continued maintenance. Our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will leave due to the change in day-length and will not stay if the feeder is still out. Some stragglers may benefit as they make their way south by encountering a feeder still up and it may make the difference in their survival if the weather changes before they can make their break.

I recommend keeping the feeders up until mid or late November. Mason, Benzie, Wexford and Lake counties have all had late rare Rufous Hummingbirds in the fall and we expect one in Manistee one of these years. Having the feeders out helps these wandering western birds survive and make it to their winter quarters in the southern U.S.

Unlike recent falls there have been fewer Sandhill Cranes at the Arcadia Marsh, and this most likely is due to higher water levels which seem to suit the ducks and coots just fine. More of the big crane flocks had been seen in October in the fields south of Manistee east of U.S. 31 near Freeman Road.

Lake shore watchers turned up the always sought for and rare Purple Sandpipers first at the south pier in Ludington on Nov. 3 (Dave Dister

Bird watchers found the rare Purple Sandpipers first on Nov. 3 at the south pier in Ludington and then around mid-November at the First Street pier in Manistee. (Steven Joyner/Courtesy photo)

Bird watchers found the rare Purple Sandpipers first on Nov. 3 at the south pier in Ludington and then around mid-November at the First Street pier in Manistee. (Steven Joyner/Courtesy photo)

and others) and then up to three were at the First Street pier in Manistee from Nov. 16 until Nov. 18 (B. Allen, Linda Scribner and others).

The star rare bird of the fall was found on Nov. 21 at First Street Beach, a first documented county record of a rare northern goose, a Brant. Gerri Erickson from Traverse City found this and many birders from around Michigan made to trip to Manistee to add this bird to their Michigan lists. The Brant had a band and the number gave information that it came from Nunavat, Canada, at the very top of Hudson Bay near Baffin Island. There had been some reports of Brant by hunters in the area but this is the first photographic proof.

We are looking forward to more migrants this fall as the weather has been so mild.

Join us for our annual Manistee Audubon Christmas bird count today. During your count you can observe feeders at home or do a field count with birders hiking the winter landscape and checking the streams, rivers and lakes for our wintering birds.

Brian Allen has been watching birds and doing bird research for over 40 years. Readers can contact him at manisteebirder@gmail.com for more information or to send questions that could be answered in a column.

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