Foul weather boosts waterfowl sightings

Becky Vargo • Apr 21, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Increased numbers of migrating birds make for easier sightings, but the waterfowl will soon continue their journey north.

Ottawa County naturalist Curtis Dykstra said the cold weather pattern and strong winds earlier this month caused migrating birds to postpone their journey north, resulting in more of an increase in numbers rather than a lot of unusual sightings.

A recent bird sighting that stood out was a banded whooping crane viewed in the area of 129th Avenue south of Leonard Street in Crockery Township. That was a few days ago, Dykstra said.

Reports of white pelicans in the area have also caught people’s attention. Dykstra said he hasn’t seen the birds, but knew they were sighted on the Grand River near Boom Road and 152nd Avenue a couple of days ago.

“They’re kind of an unusual migrant around here, but have been showing up with regularity the last few years,” he said. “We typically see them more to the west.”

Dykstra led a bird walk Wednesday morning at Crockery Creek Park and said participants spotted 44 species of birds.

“It was a lot of what we expected, just lots more of them than usual,” he said.

And the birds are a little “dazed and confused,” Dykstra noted. “They need a thaw. They need the insects moving.”

Birds sighted on Wednesday’s hike included a lot of fox sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, four yellow-bellied sapsuckers, winter wrens, bluebirds and a ruby-crowned kinglet. Migrating waterfowl viewed included ring-necked ducks, blue and green-winged teal, and some loons.

A great egret was sighted on Harbor Island and a variety of other waterfowl in colorful breeding plumage have been making local photographers happy.

By this weekend, things are going to change a lot, Dykstra said. With a southerly wind, the waterfowl will leave and a new group of birds will head into the area.

Dykstra leads bird walks at 8 a.m. every Wednesday through the end of May. The next scheduled outing is April 25 at Grand River Park. On April 28, birders will meet at the Weaver House at Pine Bend Park.

Beginner bird walks are set for May 5 at Hemlock Crossing and May 20 at Grand Ravines North.

Find more information at the Ottawa County Parks website: www.miottawa.org/Parks.

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