Blog from Paul Cypher:
February 3, 2016
By this point, you have probably figured that winter has been, for the most part, a bust. With such mild temperatures, ice formation along the Detroit River shoreline has been minimal. With that, waterfowl are free to scatter across the far reaches of the lake. The traditional hotspot of Cove Point Picnic Area at Lake Erie Metropark has been decidedly dull. With ducks dodging the region, the Bald Eagle viewing has been light as well though at least a dozen are in the area.
That said, however, there are things to think about. Great Horned Owl are already sitting on eggs. Traditionally, they lay eggs sometime around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. If you are aware of any Red-tailed Hawk nests from last year, they might be worth checking as the owls don’t build their own nest; they use someone else’s nest from the previous year.
Also, in the immediate area of the tollbooth at the Park, a Northern Mockingbird has been hanging around. Traditionally found well to our south, this bird there since late December. Undoubtedly, the fruiting trees in the area have been an important factor. As mild as the winter has been, a bird has to eat!
November 21, 2015
As we settle in before the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the shoreline of the lower Detroit River at Lake Erie Metropark will really start to swell with waterfowl numbers. Canvasback should be arriving soon (if they have no already). Scaup have recorded by the Detroit River Hawkwatch for a number of weeks now. Tundra Swans will be present until spring.
On a bird-related note, a Harlequin Duck has been reported in Jackson County. They are usually found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts this time of year, but reports from the Great Lakes certainly occur.
October 22, 2015
The 2015 duck hunting season is well underway. Regulations don’t allow hunting in Lake Erie Metropark, so waterfowl move to the various inland marshes and waterways to avoid the hunters. That might be frustrating from the standpoint of the hunters but it’s probably a smart move if you’re a duck! Species noted inside the park include Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal and plenty of Mallards.
Traditionally, the Tundra Swan arrives in southeast Michigan from their arctic breeding grounds around Halloween. Watch for them in the coming days. They have black bills and can therefore be easily separated from the Mute Swan; their bill is orange.
September 26, 2015
On September 26th, the hawkwatchers at Lake Erie Metropark recorded a Black Vulture. This bird is normally found in the southeast United States but has been known to wander north. Unlike the resident and common Turkey Vulture, Black Vultures have large white patches near the tips of their wings and fly with their wings held flat. Their wingbeat is a frantic flap unlike their cousins with their smooth and powerful beats. While the bird is likely long gone already, those interested in seeing one should be on the lookout!
September 23, 2015
The immense and fabled Broad-winged Hawk at Lake Erie Metropark did not materialize. It appears that extended periods of south winds in the middle of the month may have altered migrant flight lines. Instead of appearing the skies over or near the park, they may have gone around us to the north. Perhaps folks in Oakland or Macomb County could shine some light on things. Further, early waterfowl are all in.
Early Goose season hunters may have noted the arrival of Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, and American Wigeon. You’ll have to exercise some patience as the late season birds are yet to arrive. After all, it’s not the late part of the season yet!
On a related note, a Ring-necked Pheasant was observed at Lake Erie Metropark on Monday, September 21 by the Marshlands Museum. The bird did not seem particularly weary. A released bird perhaps?
September 15, 2015
The Detroit River Hawkwatch at Lake Erie Metropark recorded over 15,000 Broad-winged Hawks in migration a few days ago!
How do they do it? Where are the birds going? What in the world is a Broad-winged Hawk? It sounds like you need to come to Lake Erie Metropark this weekend.
On September 19th and 20th, the Marshlands Museum at Lake Erie Metropark is the place to be. Live birds, guest speakers, games and crafts for kids are just some of the activities on the schedule. You don’t want to miss it! $2 per person (plus the entrance fee for the park). If all goes well, there will be migrants overhead, as well! Don’t forget about the VIP event on Friday night. $15 per ticket. More live birds and a silent auction, too! For details, contact the Marshlands Museum at 734-379-5020.
We hope to see you there and keep looking up!
September 1, 2015
The first of September in southeast Michigan signals the official start of the hawk migration season. Standardized counts conducted by the Detroit River Hawkwatch (via the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge) will be underway at the Boat Launch of Lake Erie. Literally thousands of birds of prey representing 16 species be recorded from September 1st through November 30th. For more details, be sure to check out their website: http://www.drhawkwatch.org/
Don’t forget about Hawkfest at the Marshlands Museum on September 19th and 20th!
August 25, 2015
The Monarch Butterfly is in royal trouble. Various studies have shown that multiple factors are in play. Milkweed, the sole food source for the caterpillar, is in decline. Forested mountains in central Mexico, the wintering habitat of the adult, is being logged at a tremendous pace. This two-fronted assault is taking a toll. Research has shown that the continental population has declined at a staggering rate: 80% over 20 years. Historic recording suggesting clouds of Monarchs crossing the Detroit River and western Lake Erie during the early autumn months. If the situation doesn’t change, those accounts may be just that: history. If you find yourself outside and you spy a Monarch butterfly flitting about, take a moment to soak it in…
August 15, 2015.
While late summer usually signals the end of bird song, one local resident apparently didn’t get that memo. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are still singing out in the woods near the Marshlands Museum at Lake Erie Metropark. Their ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-kow-kow-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp-kowlp can still be readily heard. Seeing the bird, on the other hand, is a bit tough. Despite being larger than a Robin, they manage to easily disappear in thick cover. You can learn more by visiting ;
August 10, 2015
As we enter the home stretch of another wonderful, but wet, Michigan summer, folks along the Lake Erie and Detroit River shores might consider keeping their eyes to the skies. With multiple nests of both Bald Eagles and Osprey in southeast Michigan fledging young, viewing opportunities for these species are quite common now. In fact, we could say they have doubled given that each nest has a male and female and often raise at least two young. Reports of multiple birds soaring together have been noted in and around Lake Erie Metropark in recent days. With hawk migration season set to begin shortly, viewing opportunities will only get better! Keep looking up!
For observers in and around Lake Erie Metropark and Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, it is worth noting that a group of about a dozen Black-bellied Whistling Ducks showed up in the early morning hours of July 21st, 2015. Tom Hince saw them in flight as they apparently flew into Lake Erie Metropark and settled in somewhere on the Golf Course. Attempts to find them later in the day were not successful. Interestingly, a group of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks was recorded frequenting a neighborhood retention pond in Taylor back in May. Knowing this species is normally found in Florida and coastal
Texas, it is pretty safe to say that it is the same group of birds. Apparently, they have been hanging out in southeast Michigan for at least a month! For those who are familiar with the waterfowl species found in the Great Lakes, this bird is strikingly different in appearance and likely can’t be mistaken for anything else. Larger than Mallards, the legs appear almost too long for the bird’s body. In addition, the colors include the namesake black belly, gray head, brown body and a hot-pink bill. In flight, a huge white stripe is obvious on the wings. You can find more on this bird by visiting http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-bellied_Whistling-Duck/id. If the birds are located, it would be great if you could contact the Marshlands Museum at Lake Erie Metropark by called 734-379-5020.
Driving through Lake Erie Metropark a few days ago, I had a brief encounter with one of the marsh’s common but seldom seen predators – the mink. Related to skunks, a mink is a weasel about two feet long with deep brown fur. A large male would be about two pounds. But don’t let their size fool you. Aggressive hunting skills and sharp teeth allow them to tackle prey as large as a duck. More typical foods include snakes, fish, frogs and the muskrat (their favorite morsel). Generally speaking, if it walks, crawls, swims, or flies and it is small enough to be grabbed and eaten, it is fair game. Unfortunately for wildlife viewers, the opportunity to see one is often fleeting. Most observations are brief, at best, as they bound across a trail or road. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one hunting the marsh edge. Using history as my guide, the individual I saw the other day will be my one observation for the year. If I see one annually, I consider myself lucky!
If you have spent any time along the shores of western Lake Erie in the last few days, you have probably seen thousands of insects covering almost everything. Mayflies, also known as fishflies, are known for a spectacular breeding cycle. Over a period of a few days, literally trillions of these harmless insects emerge from the waters as winged adults. Mating takes place in the following hours. They die shortly thereafter. While their little dead bodies leave quite a mess, it is important to note that they are what biologists call "enivironmental indicators." In short, when waters are polluted, they can't survive. I think it is safe to say that we would rather clean up a few million carcasses from our porches knowing that that is a sign of improved water quality.
It's June and that means turtle moms are pregnant! Despite spending the bulk of their lives in the water, they take a day to move on to dry land for egg-laying. During this time of year, it is not unusual for those of us living near lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks to see turtles crossing roads and parking lots. No, she is not confused. She is just taking a walk before she digs the nest. Keep in mind that all of this rain, while a problem for people, is great for turtles. Thier scent is washed away lessing the chances of a raccoon finding the nest and plundering it.