Home for a Hot Second
Because I always like to give myself the worst possible travel schedule to minimize relaxation time, I had less than a week to spend at home in Leelanau County before leaving once more to move to Washington DC and start graduate school. Lots of that was spent packing my things and visiting people, but (of course) I was able to squeeze in some time outside as well.
One of the things I missed from the US while living in the Philippines was the easy accessibility of relatively intact natural habitats, especially habitats not filled with plastic waste and being roamed by children with slingshots looking for target practice. In the case of home in Michigan, this meant just walking out my door and visiting the woods outside my house, or walking along the Leelanau Trail towards the wastewater treatment plant (be still my beating heart!).
|Great Crested Flycatcher|
|Awkward teenage American Robin|
|Awkward teenage Common Grackle|
Bug diversity is something I've increasingly come to appreciate in the US- cool insects in Philippine cities can be few and far between, maybe because of all the pesticides they insist on putting everywhere. Or maybe it's just the insects in Michigan making the most of the northern summer before they all die of cold.
|Alfalfa Webworm Moth|
|Eastern Band-winged Hoverfly|
I happened to be in Leelanau on a Sunday, which meant that I was able to join the local group of birders on their weekly birding outing. This time the destination was Otter Creek, a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the northern part of Benzie County (i.e. a good excuse to light up another area on my eBird map). We started at the shore of Lake Michigan, where we saw.... absolutely nothing, except for a distant Herring Gull. Walking along the creek was much more interesting, where we ran into a large mixed flock of small birds, including lots of Red-eyed Vireos, Black-and-white Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warblers, American Redstarts, Pine Warblers, and a lone Cape May Warbler, which was apparently a rarity for that area and that time of year. A little further down the path we found a Brown Creeper, which was a lifer for me.
|The birdless shore of Lake Michigan|
The coolest thing we saw was on the way back, when we ran into a family of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (one of my all-time favorite species names) drilling their characteristic patchwork of in a patch of birch trees, while a Ruby-throated Hummingbird followed them around to drink sap from the holes. The sapsuckers weren't terribly happy about that, and kept trying to chase the hummingbird away, but hummingbirds are way faster and more agile, so the hummingbird stuck around and bothered them. Always fun to see inter-species interactions like that!
|Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker|
As we neared the end, I kept trying to leave to join my family for breakfast but cool things kept popping up- a pair of my lifer Common Nighthawks flying far above us, a flock of Turkey Vultures perched in a tree, and a Viceroy Butterfly resting on someone's car. Finally I had to go (especially as my camera was out of battery), though of course the rest of them saw a flock of Horned Grebes, which would have been a lifer for me, after I left.
|Viceroy, aka fake Monarch Butterfly|
The next day I took a short walk in the woods and happened across another mixed flock of birds, including an unusually tame White-breasted Nuthatch and a Pine Warbler devouring a Daddy Longlegs.
|Not a great picture, but I love this Red-bellied Woodpecker's hilarious pose as it slurps a bug out of the tree|
On my final day, my parents and I took a walk at Leelanau State Park in the northern part of the county, which was beautiful but didn't bring much in the way of birds except for a single Nashville Warbler and a family of Empidonax flycatchers that gave me amazing views, but never called, meaning that it was impossible to tell if they were Alder Flycatchers or Willow Flycatchers- somehow New World Flycatchers manage to be even worse than Old World Warblers.
|Alder or Willow Flycatcher? The world will never know...|
After that, it was a short flight to Washington DC, and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. But that's for the next blog post...