What’s flying: June is at its best now: Flowers, birds and few mosquitoes
“In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.” — Aldo Leopold
It’s June. Can the real Upper Peninsula summer be far off? The gentle tease of spring has stretched all the way to June, making the migration watch one of the longest (and best) in recent memory. Temperatures have continued in the 50s and 60s, allowing leaves their ongoing creep toward summer size and easing wildflowers out at gradual rates. With the cool temperatures, the flowers have lingered, key to allowing lethargic pollinators extra time find and visit them. The cool temperatures have also permitted birders better looks at an amazing array of unusual birds continuing to pop up across the entire Peninsula over what appears to be, at least for some species a longer migration period.
At Whitefish Point a quartet of Eurasian tree sparrows and a white-winged dove were found near the Point’s gift shop at the WPBO feeders on May 30. As its name implies, the Eurasian tree sparrows are from Europe and Asia. The species was introduced into the St. Louis area in 1870, but has not spread very rapidly across the continent. The main area where they are well established is along the Mississippi River between Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. Reports of their occurrences have increased in the U.P. in recent years. The white-winged dove is well established in the southwestern U.S. and the southern tip of Florida, but is well known for wandering far afield, all the way to Maine and Alaska.
At Peninsula Point at the tip of the Stonington Peninsula, recent sightings including plenty of scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles and warblers, but a number of notable rarities were also seen. On May 29 a female summer tanager and a hooded warbler were found. Both are species seldom seen in the U.P. or even much of the Lower Peninsula or Wisconsin. Unlike the brilliant red male, the female is an olive yellow bird with a very large bill. The hooded warbler is mostly yellow breast and olive back, with a black “hood” of feathers over the top of its head and a black ring extending down around the neck. The hooded warbler’s summer range extends northward across western Illinois and the extreme southeast corner of the L.P. The tanager’s range is quite similar, filling in a solid block of the southeastern U.S. and parts of the southern U.S. all the way to California. An unusual olive-sided flycatcher was also seen there Monday.
Later in the day, a female painted bunting was seen at the Peninsula Point parking lot. While not quite as splashy as the multicolored male, the olive females are still remarkable finds. Their summer range includes a slender sliver of the southern U.S. Atlantic Coast and a block in the far south central states as far north as Oklahoma and a tiny bit of Missouri.
It has been a remarkable spring for northern mockingbirds across the Great Lakes states, including probably close to a half dozen reports in the U.P. Recent reports have come from several sites in Alger County, including Shelter Bay, Dollarville in Chippewa County.
Shorebird migration will continue at least a few more days. Dunlin and semipalmated sandpipers are still being seen in Horicon National Wildlife Refuge May 30, about 250 miles south of Marquette in Wisconsin. In Illinois, migration monitors watching nightly radar patterns are noting greatly decreasing movements of birds still heading north. Their assessment, noted on the ABA Birding News for Illinois under “Migration Reports” suggests remaining migrants still enroute north would include, “some shorebirds and flycatchers, plus your mourning or Connecticut warbler if very lucky.”
Two Connecticut warblers and a much rarer to the area blue-winged warbler were seen in Marquette at the Presque Isle Bog walk last week. Another blue-winged warbler was found at Peninsula Point. A Kentucky warbler was found in Munising a little more than a week ago. The blue-winged and Kentucky warblers summer ranges occur to the south, the Connecticut warbler does nest in the U.P. but is rare and more commonly found in boreal areas in Canada.
Recent shorebird sightings in the central U.P. the past week have included piping and semipalmated plovers at the mouth of the AuTrain River in Alger County, black-bellied plover and a spotted sandpiper at Manistique and a dunlin in the MooseWood parking lot at Presque Isle. Eight whimbrels were seen at Peninsula Point. Another impressive bird, a red-headed woodpecker, was also seen recently at two different locations. Two were seen at Peninsula Point May 27 and a single bird was seen in Skandia May 30.
Once the last of the migrants arrive or pass through the area, birders’ activities will shift to breeding activity of summer residents. Some birds, like robins, will be working on second clutches and be just as busy singing and maintaining their territories. Late arriving warblers and flycatchers will be just setting up their territories and nests and will be singing up a storm. When it finally does warm up the biggest change will be the arrival of all the friendly summer insects – so catch June now, at its best, with new flowers, singing birds and a few less blackflies and mosquitoes!