Small pleasures of summer are here
“It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most; it’s making a big deal out of the little ones.”— Jean Webster
The first week of June and summer has truly established itself with all that is expected of it — heat, a tree canopy full of big green leaves, a thunderstorm or so (do need more rain though) and now more spring babies. All the small pleasures of summer have quickly taken the Upper Peninsula from the uncertain grip of winter to summer with all its tiny details and the smiles they bring. Canada geese young are already turning gangly and gray, not their bright yellow fuzz anymore, but other young have also appeared. Seven new trumpeter swan cygnets were seen on a pond in Baraga County May 29 and young sandhill crane “colts” were seen hopping across a small island on the Dead River in Marquette above the lake at Tourist Park.
Spring bird migration is all but done — just a few stragglers still headed north. On the breakwall in Marquette’s Lower Harbor a trio of ruddy turnstones and a dunlin were seen on June 1 taking advantages of a continuing hatch or midges — small mosquito-like flies that don’t bite, hovering over the concrete hoping to mate. As the waterbird count https://dunkadoo.org/explore/whitefish-point-bird-observatory/waterbirds-spring-2021 at Whitefish Point wound down there was still of smattering of shorebirds on the move, with killdeer, whimbrel, ruddy turnstones, red knots, least sandpipers piping, semipalmated and black-bellied plovers, all reported May 31. 18 black-bellied plovers were the top number counted. A few common terns, Bonaparte’s gulls, red-throated and common loons and three species of warblers were some of the other highlights from the point as May ended.
Up on the dunes at Whitefish Point the hawk counter had a relatively quiet final day with a couple of interesting species counts. There were 118 broad-winged hawks overhead, enroute to Canada. They are among the last of the hawks making their way from Central and South America to reach Lake Superior. The other higher count for the day was 300 blue jays. Large numbers have been working through the U.P. the past two weeks, so this will likely be among the last to migrate through, the rest staying to nest.
Summer warblers are settling in for the nesting season. There are several areas in Marquette county were warbler diversity is really good. On the Peshekee Grade on the west end of the county, seventeen species were observed on June 1. Among the highlights were 35 black-throated green warblers, 38 American redstarts, a blackburnian and four black-throated blue warblers. In the Cyr Swamp south of Gwinn westward to Kate’s Grade crossing Co. Rd. 438, a great diversity of warblers also can be found. Ironically both areas are also home to black-backed woodpeckers and occasionally Canada jays and boreal chickadees. A golden-winged warbler was also found in Alger County this past week at the MDNR area at the south end of the Cleveland Cliffs Basin east of Limestone.
Recently at on Kate’s Grade 19 species of warblers were seen and heard. Highlights there included crazy numbers in a search over 5 ? hours over 8 miles: 35 ovenbirds, 17 mourning warblers, 22 American redstarts, 40 common yellowthroats, 32 chestnut-sided warblers and 57 Nashville warblers. Other highlights were eight rose-breasted grosbeaks, 15 eastern wood-peewees and two wood thrushes. This is a quiet area between Bryan Creek and the Escanaba River with a mix of uplands, some boreal areas and some wet areas. With little development, this is a great wildlife area.
This is a great time for finding warblers. Early in the morning most males are singing on territory before beginning to forage for mates and young. Northern waterthrushes were seen carrying food back to the nest, so it seems some warblers have hatched early clutches.
Another great sighting this past week was a red-headed woodpecker along the border between Sands and Chocolay townships.
Several were seen at Peninsula Point in Delta County in mid-May, and that is a common occurrence for them during spring migration, but they are really not seen during the summer months in the U.P. any more.
They once nested northward to the city of Marquette but pairs are now rarely seen north of the Wisconsin border.
These beautiful black and white woodpeckers have solid red heads and are one of only four woodpeckers in the U.S. that store insects and seeds in bark crevices and other places to eat later. They are cavity nesters and prefer more open areas where they can forage in dead trees, on the ground and even catch insects on the wing.
While their range extends across most of the eastern U.S. their population had declined considerably due to habit changes and the introduction of European starlings. Starlings are also cavity nesters, but are unable to excavate their own nests so they are willing to take over new woodpecker nests when the owners leave to forage. Even more complexed is the relationship between forest trees and red-headed woodpeckers. The decline of American chestnut and American elms due to diseases, opened up some forests and creating dead branches to nest. The decline of the American beech, with their nuts an imported food for the woodpeckers, has also contributed to the declining population of the birds.
With lots of morning songs, the emergence of some new young birds, new summer flowers popping up every day and the rich aromas of lilac and freshly cut grass, there is much to make a deal about every day!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Scot Stewart is a teacher at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette and a freelance photographer.