Wastewater Birding

December15, 2018

Today’s weather forecast called for sunny skies and temperatures in the forties– so Mel and I both ‘threw’ our cameras into the car and headed north about 120 miles to the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment Facility in search of birds. (http://muskegoncountywastewatertreatment.com/)

Last year around this time (December 3rd), we had seen northern shovelers, ruddy ducks, long-tailed ducks and a snowy owl on the wastewater grounds!! It was a veritable bird bonanza!   Our hope was to find the same kinds of birds this year.  When we arrived, though, Mel and I were surprised to find that all of the ponds, where the birds had been swimming around in last year, were frozen!! I don’t know why we were surprised, it certainly had been cold enough the last few weeks– but we still had ‘open water’ on our minds! The only birds we saw were Canadian geese –hundreds of them standing all over the ice honking and pooping. If there were other water birds among them, they would have been impossible to see.  A few gulls, mallards and gadwalls flew overhead occasionally, but those were the only water birds we saw—no shovelers, no ruddy ducks, no long tails, and absolutely no snowy owls.

Hundreds of Canadian Geese honking and pooping on the ice!

It was disappointing, at first, to have come this far and not find the birds we had hoped for, but… we salvaged our adventure by checking out the facility’s nature trail for songbirds and woodpeckers. Luckily, several birds were willing to accommodate us. There were chickadees, nuthatches,  sparrows, juncos, downies and red bellies, as well as one big surprise—a brown creeper! I’d never even heard of a brown creeper before, so I was pretty darned excited to find that one!  Fortunately, I had gotten a good enough picture of it so that I could identify it later, but it was not good enough to post (too fuzzy given all the twigs and brush that stood between us)—so I borrowed one from the Internet in order to show what they look like.

Brown Creeper (picture from the Internet)

Even though we didn’t find the birds that we had originally hoped for, Mel and I still enjoyed this beautiful sunny day walking outdoors and capturing some of nature’s wonders in pictures and taking them home to enjoy later.

When we didn’t see any birds, we took pictures of each other!

Ice on the pond (Mel Church)
Black capped chickadee

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