Beautiful Birds of Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula RELATED READING AND PHOTOS

This webpage is for persons who have read the book and have it in hand, which is necessary for understanding.  I include many images and explanations related to the book, on a page by page basis (where possible).  I oftentimes provide photographic proof of what is covered in the book, and/or further educate on subject matter.  It was my wife’s good idea (Giuliana).  I took every photo in the EUP, unless otherwise stated.  And I cropped most images more than I usually would, for illustrative purposes.  I hope you will find this interesting.

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Front inside jacket – photo of Broad-winged hawk looking into nest

Below is a photo of the Northern Flicker nest, with the adult female about to feed the last young bird which had not fledged (left the nest) yet.

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In the last few days before a nestling fledges the adults feed it often, fattening it up.  Then they starve it and call it from a good distance from the nest, so it will leave.  During this period the nestling will poke further out of the nest and beg incessantly (see photo below).  This was an invitation for the opportunistic Broad-winged Hawk, but the nestling escaped down the hole, which is typically 12-16 inches deep.  So even if the hawk reached down with a claw it would have been useless.

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Page 12

Below are photos of another fox sparrow on the ground.  In the first photo the bird angles is head downward, looking with one eye for potential food, while keeping the other eye on me.  In the next photo it is scratching the ground after jumping forward.

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Page 15

Below is an example of the understory of a colorful spring hardwood forest in the EUP.

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Page 16

Voles are the main prey for a Rough-legged hawk when it visits the EUP, but mice, shrews, and moles are on the menu as well.  The individual below captured a mole.  Interestingly, falconers do not try to train Rough-legged hawks because they do not go after anything but small rodents, but it seems these hawks could serve a purpose on large open estates with a small rodent problem. There is evidence of the practice of falconry in China and Mongolia more than 3000 years ago.  Through the ages the birds were always trained with the intent they would provide food for their masters – game birds (grouse especially), rabbits, squirrels, etc.  A Rough-legged hawk is a large bird, but does not have feet big enough to take prey bigger than a small rodent, so it was never considered for falconry.

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Page 18

Below is a photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Note the faint red crown, which is usually concealed.

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Below is a photo of another Kinglet making that distinctive clicking noise.  It happens very fast so I do not know if the sound is made by the wings or vocally.  That is something I will try to discover.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglets can expose their crown during courtship or when agitated (for example, by an owl).

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Page 19

The Golden-winged warbler hybridizes with the Blue-winged warbler (below – adult male).

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I found a territorial adult male Brewster’s warbler (below) in the EUP this spring (2016). I believe this was the first finding of this bird in the Upper Peninsula.  A Brewster’s warbler is the most common hybrid of the Golden-winged/Blue-winged hybrid complex. It may have been an isolated individual that migrated too far north, beyond its normal range. But I will do an extensive search in appropriate habitat in the EUP next spring to see if I can find more Brewster’s or any Blue-Winged warblers.

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Below is a Lawrence’s warbler, the rarest hybrid of the complex.  Two Brewster’s warblers must breed to produce this hybrid (not photographed in the EUP, I photographed this individual near Port Huron).  I do not expect to find one in the EUP, but with the hybridization zone for these two species constantly moving northward I do not rule out the possibility.

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Below is an example of a Blue-winged warbler with a golden wing (not photographed in the EUP; I photographed this individual in the Jordan River valley, near East Jordan, Michigan).

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Page 20

Here I am including a few more warblers which have changed to non-breeding plumage. The period between August 15 and September 15 is the peak of warbler migration throughout the Upper Peninsula, a time when many thousands of warblers (of 27 different species) from more northerly breeding areas migrate south and pile up along the north shore of Lake Huron in the EUP.  Below is a Blackburnian warbler (compare to front cover of book).  Note that this individual is still molting (replacing old, worn feathers with new ones), so its looks scruffy.

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Here is a Cape May warbler (compare to page 62 and 93)

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Magnolia warbler (compare to page 87).

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Canada warbler (compare to page 39).

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Common Yellowthroat (compare to page 15).

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Orange-crowned warbler (not pictured in book) – nests in far northern Ontario.

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The next two photos demonstrate the possible confusion in identifying non-breeding plumage warblers (known as “confusing fall warblers” in Peterson’s A Field Guide To Warblers of North America).  The first photo is a Black-poll warbler, the second a Bay-breasted warbler. They look very similar.  Imagine looking at one through binoculars when you get a brief look, which is usually the case with these small constantly moving birds.  During September in Michigan the most reliable distinction between these two birds is feet color.  The Black-poll has yellowish feet and the Bay-breasted has black feet.  Luckily these photos clearly show their feet.

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Page 21

“Boho’s”, as they are known by some birders, swallow the crab apples whole, even when they are frozen.

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Page 22

This is a photo taken a few moments before the photo in the book. During the final seconds of the drumming performance he beats his wings against his chest very rapidly.  Then he raises and fans his tail, as shown in the book.

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In the fall males return to their drumming logs to reaffirm their territories, but do not drum as often as in the spring.  This photo was taken in a different forest in the EUP,  when maples and maple saplings lost most of their colorful leaves in mid-October.

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Page 23

This Osprey captured a Perch in the waters near Hill Island in the EUP, and brought it to a nest inland.

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Page 24

Here the male is feeding a nestling.  A big spider he brought escaped for a moment, but he quickly grabbed it and fed it to the nestling after this photo was taken.

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Before the photo below was taken the female (poking through the nest) was inside the nest doing repair/maintenance work.  I could see her twisting around inside.  Something caused her to jump through the wall of the nest, as if a nestling poked her in the bottom. That was funny. But then the male immediately came to feed her (pictured), as if she was a begging nestling. That was hilarious. She spent the next 15 minutes repairing the hole, without a problem.

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Below a nestling is minutes away from fledging, stretching its wings.

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This photo was taken just after this nestling took its first flight to the branch.  It was starved by the adults for a long time (hours) as they called from afar, telling it to leave.

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But immediately after landing it was rewarded by the adult male.

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When fledgling warblers (and other small songbirds) leave the nest they are very vulnerable to predators.  The parents will risk their lives to protect them, and constantly teach them to stay and remain hidden in areas of dense vegetation.  One of the main threats along the north Huron shoreline is a Merlin, a songbird (eating) specialist.  The adult male Merlin below captured a nestling (not from the nest above), which it brought to feed its nestlings.  I took the photo along the northern Lake Huron shore, near its nest  in a tall spruce.

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Page 26

Below is a photo taken just before the one in the book, when the third otter struggled to climb on the ice flow. Before that the other two otters were slipping off, but the extra weight in the right spot allowed all of them to stay on.

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All three left the ice flow and two of them found another ice flow.

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But soon it became time to leave that flow.

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Page 30

Here the adult female brings a large flying insect to the nest (not sure what it is). Kestrels eat mostly insects – dragonflies, grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, etc.

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Below is a photo of a nestling (which looks very similar to the adult female, from this view) during the period which the parents starve it and call it from afar to leave the nest.  “I’m hungry.  This isn’t fair.  I could just punch you.”

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Eventually it knew it had to leave. Here it stretches its wings a few minutes before leaving.

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Page 31

After diving in the snow the owl flew to a nearby perch and revealed the prize, a red-backed vole.

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Here is another owl with a small young vole (possibly a meadow vole).  This photo was taken in late November.

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Initially I found this owl standing on the slightly crusted snow looking intently at the ground a few feet to the front.  It jumped and pounced to crash through the crust, but came up empty.

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Page 32

Here is the reason this was such a favored perch.

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Page 33

Below is the same bird as pictured.  It flew about 150 yards through the charred forest, directly to its nest hole, which was only 4 feet off the ground.  I had noted the general location and found the nest after a half hour search.  Weeks later I came back with a temporary blind to photograph, when the young would be close enough to fledging that the parents would feed them often, fattening them up.  I had to estimate the beginning of their nesting cycle to figure that out.  Luckily I was right.

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Nesting birds were easy to find all over the burn.  Black-backed woodpeckers can be fairly tame, even around the nest, so finding their nest is much less difficult than for most birds. Below is a nest with very little charred bark removed, and an adult female with food at the entrance. When the Black-backed woodpecker nests in this burn fledged Eastern Bluebirds were waiting, and fighting over the cavities. They are dependent on woodpeckers or suitable natural cavities for nest sites.

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Page 39

When I set up a water drip I use little rocks and create a depression where small songbirds have a little puddle.  How did I get the idea?  During an extended rainless period this bird, a male Black-throated green warbler, who has nested very close to my home for years, showed me one day – when I let the hose run on the driveway.  (I had my camera and lens combo in my car a few feet away so I grabbed it.) He was followed by a parade of local resident male and female warblers (Amercian Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped warbler, Yellow warbler, Black and white warbler), who bathed in the same depression.

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Page 41

One time this bird saw a vole on the crusted snow surface a long distance out in the prairie, and flew after it.  As I watched with my binoculars I observed the vole bounding fast, and at the peak of a bound the owl calmly and effortlessly grabbed it with its talons.  I witnessed a master at work.  Then it turned to come back.  I ran with my equipment through two feet of snow to get into position, guessing it would return to the same perch.  It would fly low and rise up to the 20 foot high perch, so I positioned myself well before the perch, along the owl’s line of direction to the perch, with the sun at my back.  I was lucky to capture a good image with its wings up so the meadow vole could be seen in its talons.

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Page 43

Here is an immature Northern Goshawk flying close over my head – also at Whitefish Point.  It has the menacing look of a formidable top predator, with no fear.  Rightfully so. There are accounts of this species killing turkeys, but grouse are their main prey – in the EUP, Ruffed grouse, Spruce grouse, and Sharp-tailed grouse.

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Page 48

Here the male captured a vole, which make up the greatest part of its diet when voles are abundant.

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Below a female carried a nestling bird with large feet, possibly a rail.

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The same female was adept at capturing gardener snakes.

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Here she probably had captured a Red-winged Blackbird nestling.  I have often seen Red-winged Blackbirds chasing a Northern Harrier a very long distance through a marsh.

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Page 49

Immediately after the photo in the book was taken he captured a spider.

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Page 51

During late April you can find Broad-winged hawks perched while hunting along various roads in the EUP.  They are also often found more easily in the mornings in mid-May right after south winds bring hoards of warblers to the EUP.  A perched hawk will stay mesmerized by the tremendous morning activity of the warblers – lots of fighting warblers. Note the variation in appearance between the following three Broad-winged hawks.  This is typical for buteos.  Buteo is a genus of medium to fairly large, wide-ranging raptors, with a robust body and broad wings.  Other breeding buteos in the EUP (other than Broad Winged hawks) are Red-tailed hawks and Red-shouldered hawks.

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Page 53

Below are three other adult males from the area.

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Page 54

Here the adult male brings insects to his sap wells. Soon after he rubbed them in the sap and flew to his nest.

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Weeks later one of his offspring returned to his sap wells on a different branch of the same tree, but the wells did not yield as much.

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Page 55

A Woodcock during the arrival of the snowstorm.

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After the snow accumulated some birds searched for food in low wet spots on unshaded southern facing forest edges.

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Some stayed a little higher, where sun had warmed the soil days before, and they found earthworms close to the surface under the snow.

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A few days after the storm the snow had melted, and a few birds still fed in the same areas.  This one barely hung on to the tip of the earthworm.

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Page 56

Ice melt pools along marsh edges can be a good area to find a feeding American bittern.  The amphibians in these pools are just awakening from their winter slumber and are very cold, so they are slow moving easy prey.  Sometimes an individual bird will remain much more unwary than normal while the feast lasts.

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In EUP marshes male birds are also more visible (usually in early April for only a few days) in the early morning, because they are interested in finding their previous female partner or another one.

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This male found a female (or she found him) and he performed a display with neck feathers out and otherwise invisible white shoulder patches protruding.  He did this in a very open area, about 20 yards away from the marsh at a forest edge.  She was just out of the frame.

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Page 60

Males will also pair up with females at this time. The slightly smaller female is on the left.

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When the male came up with this fish after a dive the female chased him, as if he might give it to her.  He didn’t.  He just swam away.  Maybe they were a couple for many years and recently had an argument.

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Page 62

The Blackburnian warbler is not a spruce budworm specialist, but it has increased its numbers substantially in the EUP (during the current spruce budworm outbreak, 2008-2016). This adult male has a good sized spruce budworm in its beak.

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The Tennessee warbler is a spruce budworm specialist which has increased its numbers dramatically in response to the infestation.  This adult captured a nice budworm.

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But this species feeds upon other larva worms as well.  I don’t know which type this individual captured here.

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Even though it is a spruce budworm specialist the Cape May warbler eats a variety of other insects.  This adult male has an inch worm.

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And this one captured a moth and ate it soon after, with a little trouble – the moth put up a good fight.

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This non-breeding plumage Magnolia warbler has a spider.

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The non-breeding plumage Black-throated green warbler below is hovering to catch a spider or something caught in the spider’s web to the upper left.  Our deck railings are full of spider webs in the spring and stationary warblers often feed on them while gripping a railing, but never hovering to access the webs.

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In a year with a colder summer than normal a mayfly hatch occurred in early August – an unusual occurrence. This non-breeding plumage Blackburnian warbler was among a group of warblers feeding on the bounty.

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Black-throated blue warblers nest in mature hardwood or mixed forests in the EUP.  In the mixed forests they take advantage of the balsam firs, which can have many larval worms.  This male was successful.

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Northern Waterthrushes breed in flooded forests in the EUP. They often feed on submerged insects which are encased (the insect is inside).  This bird captured an encased insect. This species is very specialized in its habitat requirements and utilizes a unique method of feeding as compared to other warblers in the EUP.

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The male Yellow-rumped warbler below captured a moth.

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The Nashville warbler sometimes feeds by hanging upside down.  It is one of the early arriving warblers (arriving in early May in the EUP). The tag alder has just started to develop leaves, and the larva worms are not very big at that time.

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By June larger insects are abundant.  This male Black-throated green warbler had no problem finding an abundance of larger insects within 40 yards of its nest, which was just a few yards from our home.

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Page 63

The name “ermine” refers to a Long-tailed weasel in its white fur. In the summer it is brown above and white (or creamy white) below, and it changes in the fall to all white with a black-tipped tail. Here is a photo of the same ermine a few days later (late November), when the ground is often snow covered in the EUP.  The ermine is well camouflaged, which helps it hide from its natural predators in the EUP, which include Great Horned and Barred owl, Northern Goshawk, and red fox.

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Page 65

Here is another female which caught a vole at roadside on a remote back road (with no traffic) of the EUP.  I saw her go down, land and stop in a roadside ditch so I puled my van into position and stopped with the window down, hoping she would fly out of the ditch with captured prey.  I was unsuccessful at capturing an image as she flew from the ground, as I handheld my camera and lens, but was lucky to refocus and capture an image as she flew overhead into a wind that slowed her.

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Page 66

Here the same male bird brought a good sized meal (a fish bigger than a typical minnow) to its nest.

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Page 69

Most times the Long-tailed ducks are way out in the channel.  On a calm morning this scene is much more possible than anything with this species much closer.

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More courtship, but the other males didn’t give up easily.

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The female even attacked the other males vying for her attention when they got too close.

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She had made her decision, tolerating this behavior from her partner – with a small complaint.

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Page 77

When the nestling grew big enough the adults would not perch at the nest hole to feed it.  They might have gotten their eyes pecked out because the nestling became so aggressive, with a voracious appetite. So the adults approached and fed it from the side. Here is a hilarious example of that aggressiveness.  The nestling latched on to a shred of attached bark and tugged for a while while his father patiently waited to feed him (via regurgitation).

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Pages 78-79

Sometimes the adult female would leave her brood in the open section while she flew to feed on a Lake Huron Bay not far away (less than 60 yards).

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Page 81

More photos from Whitefish Point of hawks illuminated by the sun’s reflection from snow.  Here is a Red-tailed hawk.

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Stunning female Northern Harrier.

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And a Rough-legged hawk.

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Page 83

Here a Merlin rises to a tall perch (20 feet up) after approaching a group of songbirds while she was flying only a few feet off of the ground.  Her attack was unsuccessful.  This was an incredibly difficult image to capture, as the Merlin was going very fast, then decelerated as it curved sharply upward.  My wife (Giuliana) did it, handheld with a 300mm lens.

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Page 85

Here a male White-winged Crossbill has a cone in its claw. It plucked it off the tree so it could position it easily to extract seeds.  When a large flock of White-winged Crossbills finds a spruce with a bounty as pictured many of them will feed like this, and they get very choosy (spoiled).  If they don’t like the first seed extracted from a plucked cone they discard the entire cone.  On a calm day the sound of the cones hitting the ground or snow (from a flock feeding like this) is distinctive, somewhat like someone typing.

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Here is a female. She has an extracted seed in her bill

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Here a male and female feed together.  Males seem to tolerate females feeding closer to them, as compared to males, whom they fight briefly.  White-winged Crossbills often feed from a hanging position, as pictured.

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Page 88

Here a male Bufflehead blows bubbles while raising his wings slightly.

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Another common behavior is the male’s “emphasized flap-up” (my wording).  He will flap his wings very rapidly while standing up on the water, and the last flap will come to a brief pause while he juts his chest out, similar to the way he juts his chests out in the skiing stop.

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Page 89

Below are examples of plumage variety of Rough-legged hawks photographed in the EUP. The first photo is a light-phased bird hover hunting into a slight wind.  It was stationary in position, with its wings flapping.  I captured an image on the up stoke of a flap.  They are the largest bird in North America to hover hunt, with a wingspan around 4.5 feet.

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A striking individual below, nicknamed “fancy pants”……….my nickname 🙂

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Page 90

Here a male Hooded Merganser is taking off on a creek, with plenty of space to run and gradually lift off.  This species takes off like its shot out of a cannon (a Bufflehead is even faster), so fast reaction is necessary.  He also gave the telltale signal of raising his head about 1/2 second before exploding forward. I knew he would take a line right along the water so I followed his trajectory appropriately.  This example and the one in the book are good examples of how studying and knowing the behavior of a subject in different conditions can help a wildlife photographer’s chance of success.

 

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Page 91

The two photos below were taken a few seconds before the photo in the book.  The fox kits did their best to awaken mom.  They like to play.  Sure.  But they were also hungry.  And dependent on mom’s hunting prowess.  So they were providing motivation as well.

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Page 94

Another sunrise scene on the north shore of Lake Huron, with balls of hoarfrost settled into an interesting pattern.

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Page 95

A few days later the chick had grown a lot.

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Page 97

Here the mink breaks through the thin ice with a forceful push.

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It came out of the water with a little fish.

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Page 98

A running Sanderling on the shoreline at Whitefish Point during May.

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On the same day a Least Sandpiper caught a small fly on the dry sand beach.

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Page 102

Here is another group of migrating Goldeneye ducks, with six males in courtship poses – all directed at one female at the far right.

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Page 103

Another male at work.

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This male came back often to this tree, which was located not far from the private drive through the peninsula where we live.  Cars passed him once in a while and he took the pose pictured, as if hiding.  I stopped to photograph him one day as he “hid”.  A few years later a windstorm broke the tree at the base – right where his work took place.

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Page 104

This is another female Black-throated blue warbler, but with a more olive colored back.  Most adult female warblers are similar, but much more subdued in pattern and coloration compared to breeding males of the same species.  But the adult female Black-throated blue warbler is much different than the male.  Compare to the male on page 46.

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Adult female Blackburnian warbler.  Compare to male on book cover.

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Adult female Cape May warbler. Compare to male on page 93.

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Adult female Chestnut-sided warbler.  Compare to male on page 72.

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Adult female American Redstart. Compare to male in photo further below.

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Adult male American Redstart.

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Adult female Black-throated Green warbler.  Compare to male further below.

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Adult male Black-throated Green warbler.

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Adult female Pine warbler.  Compare to male further below.

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Adult male Pine warbler.

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Adult female Yellow-rumped warbler.  Compare to male further below.  She had deer hair in her beak.  Many species of adult female warblers in the EUP utilize deer hair to line their nests.  In May and June I have often witnessed adult females near my home gather nesting material and fly to the same location of a tree repeatedly – for species  that build nests in trees.  They will often return to the same general patch of forest floor to gather material with a single-minded efficiency that is impressive.  They are much more unwary at this time than other times.

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Adult male Yellow-rumped warbler.

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Adult female Palm warbler.  Compare to male further below.

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Adult male Palm warbler.  This (below) is the most common subspecies of Palm warbler found in the EUP.  It is found in small Jack pine plains, in the same habitat where Kirtland warblers can be found. There is another subspecies which is much rarer in the EUP.  An adult male is pictured further below. In the EUP, it prefers a habitat of open bog with stunted black spruces.

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Adult male Palm warbler of bog/black spruce habitat.  Notice how its yellow coloration extends throughout the chest and belly.  And it has rust/brown barring near the shoulder, which is not present it the other subspecies.

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Page 106

Here are those egg shells.

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Page 107

Below are a variety of Sharp-shinned hawks  (photos from Whitefish Point). Note the diversity in eye color as well as overall color and pattern.  Eye color changes in many raptor species as they age.  Sharp-shinned hawks have bright yellow eyes as juveniles that turn red as they age.  In the fifth and sixth photos below note the orange eye color – on the way to turning red from yellow.

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Page 112

On this page in the book I talk about midges.  Below is a sunset photo from the shore of McKay Bay in the EUP.  Midges were popping up to the surface over a very large area.  Look closely.  You can see their reflections as they stand on the water.

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