While the focus of this trip was not birding, I did have some opportunities to use my binocs and camera to check out the local birds. (The binocs also came in handy for a Detroit Tigers baseball game and a Jimmy Buffett/Jackson Browne concert, both at Comerica Park, only a few blocks from Cobo Center, the venue for Netroots Nation 2014.)
Ring-billed Gulls are, apparently, big fans of the Great Lake State - we saw them just about every where we went. They especially enjoyed hanging out at the beach, looking for any opportunity to snag a dropped potato chip or just wheeling through the sky for the heck of it. They also enjoy baseball games and concerts.
We spotted a Blue Jay taking advantage of the water fountains on display at a roadside fruit/plant nursery/souvenir place we stopped for some goodies. Cherry jam made with Michigan cherries, for one - yum. There are lots of Blue Jays in Michigan but they tend to be shy about getting too close to people so they are heard more than they are seen.
Kirtland's Warblers, the very rare and endangered warbler species, are found in stands of Jack Pines during their summer breeding season. Their summer range is limited to a fairly small region in the central part of the lower peninsula of Michigan (though there are some records of this species breeding in the UP and Wisconsin). Even more specifically, they are only found where the Jack Pines are under 20 feet tall! I researches ebird.org to find the location of the most recent records and there was a spot that was only about 20 minutes from my cousins' house. We spent ~1.5 hours tracking down the elusive little bird. We did hear at least two birds singing - they have a very distinctive sound - but did not see either of them. Ah, well. There's always next year.
I'm hoping to get a little help identifying this snake that was sitting on a stone fence in Boyne. It was no more than a foot long. It doesn't look like any of the snakes in my Audubon guide for North America. Could it be an exotic that someone released? Or a young snake that looks different than its mature form?
Looking forward - a few thoughts about birding opportunities at Netroots Nation 2014. I am planning to attend NN14 and I hope to meet up with at least a few Dawn Choristers there. I've been starting to think about the birding opportunities that may be available.
Mystery snakeJuvenile Eastern Milk Snake (h/t mikidee)
As with San Jose, there is an established Peregrine Falcon nest within walking distance of Cobo Center, on the (currently) abandoned Book Tower. I found this information on a Facebook page dedicated to the Peregrine Falcons of Southeast Michigan, which has a link to this video on youtube of the Peregrine Falcons defending their territory against human intruders.
Cobo Center is located on the Detroit River, with tree-lined walks nearby. If Peregrine Falcons are breeding nearby, there must be plenty of small birds around. I'm hoping that we'll be able to find more than House Sparrows and Starlings around. I haven't done very much research so far but there's almost a year to figure it out.
Kirtland's Warbler habitat is within a couple of hours drive of Detroit so making a trip to see them would be a fun thing to do on an extra day before or after the conference. My trip will likely be extended on one end or the other to see family.
On a non-birding note, one evening during NN14 I’m hoping to get a few folks together to go to the Cadieux Café for a little feather bowling and beers! If you’ve never heard of feather (OK – sort of birding related…) bowling, it’s a Belgian past time and the Cadieux Café is the only venue in the country where it's still played. Check it out.