Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Mixed Bag

The month of March is always intriguing here in Michigan. There's always bursts of spring weather followed by returning cold and snow. Freeze, thaw. Rinse and repeat. Following a winter of record snowfall and record breaking cold, its going to take time for the winter weather to finally loosen its grip. Most of the snow on the ground melted two weeks ago following a strike of fifty degree days, but was then followed by a winter storm which dropped 7-10 inches of heavy wet snow across much of the state. The remaining snow and cold has kept a lot of arctic bird species here longer than expected.

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), Washtenaw County, MI
Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus), Isabella & Midland Counties, MI
Though the winter weather continues to linger, there have been some glimmers of hope that warmth will soon be on its way. Chris Boguslawski and I decided to try and get out on the evening of March 21st in hopes of seeing some early bird salamanders in the mid 30 degree rain. We arrived to snow covered woods and mostly frozen vernal pools and felt a little discouraged. But as we were moving around the edge of the pool, my headlamp caught this blue-spotted thing in the leaf litter near a mammal burrow. It was a pleasant surprise and the only salamander we saw the entire night.

Unisexual Hybrid Salamander (Ambystoma ssp.), Washtenaw County, MI
It's an encouraging sign that spring is on its way, even though it will probably be a week or two until the salamanders begin to emerge at full strength. It also means that the arctic birds will soon be on their way back to the tundra. Sad to see the snowies go, but glad to see the sallies emerge.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lifer Red-necked Grebe

I've recently began to compile a life list for birds, much like I have one for herps. Today I got a a lifer Red-necked Grebe. This bird breeds in the Arctic and winters along the coasts of the lower 48. Occasionally they show up during migration in Michigan. Pretty cool little bird!

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena), Dixboro Dam, Washtenaw County, MI