Monday, July 27, 2009

The Birding Life - Travels throughout the land - Part 5

I wanted to show Nikki some of my old haunts in the eastern U.P. Places that I had worked or spent a lot of time. Besides general relaxation (and a few days of respite from my family for Nikki) we also wanted to see some of the cool boreal birds, butterflies and plants! We camped for a couple of nights in Grand Marais, in far eastern Alger County. This is one of my favorite places in the U.P. Its right on Lake Superior and almost always quite cool even in the middle of summer, while we were there it didn't much rise above 60 even though in the interior of the U.P. it was pushing 90. For a birder one of the cool things about Grand Marais are the few pairs of endangered Great Lakes Piping Plovers. Below Nikki can be seen by a sign warning beach goers not to disturb the birds!

We saw a pair who had a nest right on the main Grand Marais beach. Don't worry I have a 15x zoom on my camera so we didn't approach any closer than about 50 feet from the birds.

The Great Lakes population of the Endangered Piping Plover numbers around 50 pairs, though at one time it had actually fallen to something like 18. So they are a bit of a conservation success story at this point.
After enjoying some great fresh caught Lake Superior Whitefish (and some delicious locally crafted beer) at the Lake Superior Brewing Company (aka the Dune Saloon) Nikki and I enjoyed a beautiful Lake Superior sunset.

The next morning we woke at 3:45 am for some good old boreal birding! We drove out to an area of many bogs north of Trout Lake in Chippewa County. We were hoping for Connecticut Warbler and perhaps a cool mammal or two (like a moose). We didn't get CONW or moose, but we did get MANY MANY mosquitos. Below Nikki protects herself from the skeeters as best she can as she plays warblers songs for me.

The habitat in this area is awesome however, and there were tons of other warbler species like Magnolias, Nashvilles, and Chestnut-sideds. You never know what you might find in this area, for the second time I actually heard a Kirtland's Warbler in this strange boggy habitat. In 2005 me and some of the other Redstart crew saw a Kirtlands only a few miles from this spot as well. In addition there was apparently a Yellow Rail reported from this area this year.

I did get a few pictures of cool warblers here as well, below we see a Blackburnian Warbler, they were quite common in the area, like they are in much of the U.P.

Somewhat rarer in the U.P. and more restricted to the eastern half is the Black-throated Blue Warbler, one of my favorite birds. We had quite a few of these guys in the mature beech/sugar maple forests that occured in upland areas between the bogs.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Olive-sided Flycatcher
In addition to the birds we were hoping for some new boreal butterflies. One of my most wanted for the trip was the below Jutta Artic. A species restricted to Tamarack/Black Spruce bogs, primarily in Canada.
We also saw many beautiful Milbert's Tortoiseshells

One species we saw repeatedly in boggy or other wetlands areas was the Harris's Checkerspot, I really liked the underwing pattern in this species.

After our morning in the bogs, I took Nikki to Whitefish Bay, were we looked across at our Canadian neighbors to the north.

And stopped briefly at the Point Iroquois lighthouse. This is near the place where the Chippewa Indians stopped the expanse of the Iroquois confederacy in a bloody battle.

I stopped by some of Beth's old sites northwest of Raco in Chippewa County.

Where I found this beautiful little American Copper perched on some reindeer moss.

One of my favorite of Beth's sites was site number 12 seen below.

Where I found this Red-backed Salamander below.

After our eastern U.P trip we continued on to Seney NWR where we saw this baby turkey vulture. But that is for the next blogpost!

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