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County Parks Tour (part 1)

With the advent of real spring weather comes a decline in average birding success rates. What I mean by that, of course, is that gray, rainy days and thickly leaved trees make it hard to see the birds, and almost impossible to get pictures. On the other hand, though, hiking itself is more enjoyable in a greener environment, and the wild flowers are really starting to spring open everywhere.

Last year we made a goal for ourselves to hike every single county park and preserve in Washtenaw over the course of the summer. It's a big undertaking, with over thirty sites to visit, and with so many travel plans last year we never quite reached that goal. So this year we're going to try again. We've got a map and a checklist and we're methodically crossing them off, one park at a time. If we can visit at least two parks a week, we should be good to go, and we're off to a good start.

At each park we make a record of the date, time, and duration of the visit, and the weather conditions; we note the size of the park, and describe its basic terrain and type of ecosystem or habitat; finally, we make note of all the species we see there (that we can positively identify). This week we visited two parks in the Northeast corner of the county. The day of our visit was cold and dark, but at least it was dry, and we had a good time. We spotted a variety of birds, including a turkey that was trying to hide in the grass, and identified evidence of a variety of nocturnal or crepuscular mammals. We also added wildflowers and trees to our species lists.

Tom A. Freeman Preserve

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female

Eastern Wood-pewee

Wild Turkey, female

Indigo Bunting

Raymond F. Goodrich Preserve

House Wren

Gray Catbird

We also made a foray into a new township preserve in our area. The trails are not yet well developed, but it's a beautiful hidden spot with lots of wet areas and islands to explore. The best part of the hike, aside from the fact that we got to do it as a whole family, was our encounter with a Wood Thrush. I've wanted to see one for as long as I can remember. They have a beautiful, almost haunting call that sounds a little like water, and it echoes through the woods even while the vocalist remains well hidden, usually on the forest floor. On this hike, though, we could hear that he was close. To verify that I had identified the call right, I got out my phone and played it on my Audubon app. Not only was it the right call, but our friend in the woods answered. We had a short conversation after that, with him getting a little closer every time I played his tune and he'd answered. Finally he hopped out of the woods and onto a branch. He only stayed long enough to figure out he'd been duped and shoot me a disapproving glance, but that was just enough time for me to get the good look we'd been waiting for, and for me to snap a quick (and thus blurry) photo to share.

Wood Thrush

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