For the third year in a row, I started the New Year by birding Heritage park with Mike Mencotti and two other birders. The birding was rather slow at first and the rain didn't help. That all changed, however, when we headed down the scout trail. Ever since Mike found a Long-eared Owl in the pines along this trail last February, I have always been checking for owls in the pines along this trail. As we walked into the pines we noticed some whitewash on the ground! A check of the branches above revealed nothing, however. After checking most of the trees, everybody else began to move back toward the trail but I decided to walk a little further and check the one pine further back. I was thrilled to see a Long-eared Owl looking back at me!
This was the first time I found a perched owl without directions from someone else. A little further down the trail I noticed a kinglet in the bushes. I assumed it would be a Golden-crowned Kinglet since Ruby-crowned Kinglets are extremely rare in the winter in Michigan. The face and wings looked plainer than a Golden-crowned, however, and Mike and I agreed it was a Ruby-crowned. Mike played a Ruby-crowned Kinglet song on his ipod and it popped out of the bushes and spent a minute or so looking at us.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler was a nice bird as well.
After lunch, I drove over to Walled lake to see the Surf Scoter. After a few minutes, I saw it with a group of Goldeneye.
There were also 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 2 Gadwall, a Black Duck, 8 Tundra Swans, 3 Hooded, and 4 Common Mergansers. On the way home I noticed a female Kestrel near M-5 and 13 Mile, which brought my total to 41 species for the day. Apparently this is a new Big Day record for Oakland in January.
I finished off 2011 with this Barred Owl (year bird #313) at Stony Creek yesterday. It was my ninth owl of the year.