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 Jackson Audubon Society

 The Audubon Society of Jackson County, Michigan

  • Monday, September 18, 2023 11:30 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    Haehnle Sanctuary Crane Count 09/18/2023
    by Don Henise

    (Steve Jerant)

    The first official Monday night crane count of the fall was held this evening at the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. As expected this early in the season, few Sandhill Cranes were counted roosting in the sanctuary marsh. We counted a total of 26 cranes with only 8 of them settling down to roost for the night. A total of 44 bird species were observed throughout the evening.

    The highlight of the evening was an Olive-sided Flycatcher which worked its way around several of the dead snags below the observation hill on the edge of the marsh. It was showing off it aerobatic abilities as it flew many flycatching sorties - not to outdone by a by-plane which flew overhead entertaining the counters with it’s dives and climbs and rollovers.

    (Olive-sided Flycatcher Don Henise)

    (Eastern Phoebe Don Henise)

    Counters: Ross Green, Steve Jerant, Robyn Henise, Don Henise

    Compiler: Don Henise

    Total crane count was 8

    Species count:  44

    View eBird checklist at

  • Tuesday, September 12, 2023 5:30 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    We took a tour of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology this morning.  This is our second trip to the facility.  Longtime curator Janet Hinshaw retired a few years ago, so we were lead by a relatively new member of the staff, Collection Manager, Brett W. Benz, Ph.D.

    The first stop was to the lab where birds are prepared for the collection.  They are either stored as skins of reduced down to bones.  To produce a skin the bird is stripped of all internal organs, muscles, and bones. Only the feathers and legs/feet are left.  Multiple tissue samples or entire organs are saves and preserved. Depending on the species/study the contents of the stomach may be saved.

    During the intake birds are preserved before preparation in normal kitchen  refrigerator/freezers.  The tissue samples are saved in deep liquid nitrogen freezers which are able to keep the tissue well preserved for hundreds of years.  

    The facility is a working lab so we passed through some other labs as well as a documents area where there are catalog books going back to the 19th Century.  The bulk of the collection was from the late 19th and into the 20th Century.  The collection information is in a database that can be accessed by other learning and research institutions.

    In addition to the big freezers, this facility also has a very small CT imaging machine.  The scanner allows for specimens to be scanned in 3D  and provides imaging of skeletal systems and internal organs.  Bones can then be measured and added to image databases to provide sample bone structures for different taxa.  This will be able to aid bone identification without resorting to boxes of physical bone collection on the premise.

    The bird collection is the 5th largest in the nation and has about 98% of the world's species.  It includes skins (of course), bones, eggs, nests, juveniles, and tissue & stomach contents samples.  The room with the skins shares its space with mammals and insect collections.  

    Bret provided us with some views of some unique birds and we also ordered ahead for some birds to view and compare.  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a bit bigger than the Pileated of our Michigan woods. However, they not that closely related, but we did see the Ivory-billed's cousin the Imperial Woodpecker.  He unfortunately shares a berth in the "Extinct Taxa" drawer.

    We got to get a close look at the Coopers and Sharp-shinned cousins up close and the size range between species and sex was very apparent.  He added a Northern Goshawk to show the really cast range of these accipiters.

    Others birds of interest were the Empidonax group, shrikes, hummingbirds, and a Kiwi.

    Partial Trip List:
    Carolina parakeet
    Pileated Woodpecker
    Ivory-billed Woodpecker
    Empidonax sp.
    Imperial Woodpecker
    Common Loon
    Great-horned Owl
    Northern Shrike
    Ruby-throated hummingbird
    Gian Hummingbird

    NO eBird list was submitted, as these were all dead, it would have set off several rare bird alarms for Ann Arbor, and my eBird account would have been suspended.  But we did get a Double-crested cormorant flying over the parking lot on the way home.

  • Tuesday, August 29, 2023 8:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    We had a “seasonally” warm morning for a walk to The Nature Conservancy Grand River Fen Preserve.   This 453-acre property is located in southern Jackson County at the headwaters of the Grand River.  JAS has not had a trip to this preserve but several of our members have been recommending it. Habitat includes restored prairie, forest, mixed wetland, and prairie fen. 

    I don’t think we hit this property at its best for birding, but the summer wildflowers were in brilliant bloom.  The grassland birds were just not there at this time of year, not even a Blue Bird was seen.  A few warblers did get our notice as well as the usual suspects for a reasonable species count of 30 for the morning.

    A highlight for me was being at the headwaters of this great Michigan waterway and a reminder that all parts of our waters need to be cared for.

    We’ll return next year for another view of this property.

    See our trip eBird list for details.

  • Saturday, August 19, 2023 7:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    After last year's trip to point Moo, I was hoping for a much better show for 2023.  Ross's scouting report from his mission on Friday left me feeling this may not be the turnaround year.  Eleven of us made the trip downriver and  drove the dikes for some shorebirds.  

    (Steve Jerant)

    We were not disappointed.  It was the best trip we had in many years. There was a good bit of activity out on the dike and we got a Ruddy Turnstone at the first good look at some shorebird habitat.

    Ruddy Turnstone (Don Henise)

    We saw several groups of Common Gallinule in various parts of the property.  The little ones are so darn cute, I just have to share all of Don's pics.

    Common Gallinule  (Don Henise)

    Common Gallinule  (Don Henise)

    Common Gallinule  (Don Henise)

    One of the most productive spots of the day was behind where the dredger was working. It was a bit noisy, and the terrain was, well, a bit uneven. 

    (Steve Jerant)

    But the birds we saw included Wilson's Phalarope, Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Sandpiper.

    Semipalmated Plover (Don Henise)

    While taking a stop on the dike for another good mudflat area, we were treated to a flyover by a Red Knot.

    The final area was a short walk on the end of the 'banana' where we got some songbirds and another flyover of a Wilson's Snipe.  And our last shorebird views of the day included Pectoral Sandpiper and Dunlin

    Pectoral Sandpiper (Don Henise)

    Dunlin (Don Henise)

    Our final species count was 63:  including 8 swan & duck, 4 raptors, 4 heron species, 5 gull & tern, and 15 shorebirds. We observed 9 American White Pelicans and nearly 200 Double-crested Cormorant.  See the Complete trip eBird checklist  for details.

    Marshland & Cooling Towers (Steve Jerant)

  • Tuesday, August 08, 2023 5:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    Six members of Jackson Audubon drove into Gratiot County Tuesday for an August tour of the Maple River SGA.  This was the first trip JAS sponsored for this area.  Water levels in the units were low and there was only one area on our journey that had any water that might provide some shorebird viewing.  But between low water and high grass, we saw no shorebirds in that area.  The grasslands were a bit kinder to us, yielding Field Sparrow, Indig Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Horned Lark and Sedge Wren.

    (Steve Jerant)

    We recorded 33 species for the morning.  A  eBird trip report is available at

    We lunched at Ryan's Roadhouse in St. Johns on the way down south.  Great choice!  Food and service was wonderful.

  • Tuesday, June 20, 2023 8:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    For our second grassland tour of the summer JAS visited the Watkins Lake SP and Preserve.  There was plenty of room on the wide trails for the 15 birders who went on the walk.  While a bit warm, we did have a light breeze to keep it comfortable.  The first half of the morning we walked the very upland grasslands on the western State Park side of the property.  We all heard, but only a few of us actually saw, Henslow's Sparrows.  Fortunately, the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark were not so shy. 

    Moving to the east we walked to the Washtenaw County park section of the trails.  This is a lovely part of the park with open views to wetlands to the north and grasslands to the south.  It leads into a wooded area that leads to a high meadow with a great view of the surrounding countryside.

    (Steve Jerant)

    We spent a good bit of time trying to get a view of a Yellow-breasted Chat.  He definitely was not going to cooperate and only 1 or 2 folks got a brief flash of a view.

    (Brenda Wineman) 

    Even though that little guy wasn't cooperating (perhaps he's still a bit upset about getting kicked out of the warbler family) we had a wonderful tour on a bright summer day.

    Species count was 37, see the eBird Trip report  for details.

  • Tuesday, June 06, 2023 8:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    We enjoyed a mild and breezy morning visiting the MDNR grassland, marsh, and forests off of Reithmiller Rd.  Tuesday.  Seven JAS members joined to search for some grassland species and were not disappointed.  The main target bird, Henslow's Sparrow, was there right out of the gate, literally.  We heard it shortly after going through the open green gate to the access road & trail.

    (Henslow's Sparrow-Don Henise)

    Working our way along the grassland trail we found some Grasshopper Sparrows as well.  And there were Lupines!

    (Grasshopper Sparrow-Don Henise)

    The great thing about this location is that it offers mature grasslands then wetland, then forest.  So when we tour, depending on how our search goes, we have choices of multiple habitats to work.

    (Grassland-Steve Jerant)

    (Marsh/Wet Meadow-Steve Jerant)

    (Woodland Friends-Steve Jerant)

    In the marshy area we were able to hear, but not see, a Sora.  Other finds included Green Heron, Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, and Swamp Sparrow. 

    (Willow Flycatcher-Don Henise)

    There are some massive old trees here among the large grasslands, and of course the picture does not give it justice, but we have to try.

    (White Oak-Steve Jerant)

    (Brenda Wineman)

    Don & Robyn were along, so we did not just see those 2-legged flyers, but got some of the 6-legged variety as well.

    (Silver-bordered Fritillary-Don Henise)

    We came in at 39 species but our little friend above can make 40 for the day.  See the trip eBird list for the complete species tally.

    Our next tour is another MDNR property on the Washtenaw/Jackson border at Watkins Lake SP on June 20.

  • Tuesday, May 23, 2023 10:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    Well, we finally got a beautiful day for a tour this year - it only took 5 months.  Thirteen members and friends came out to Dahlem this morning for a "Big Sit."  After harried and sometimes rushed trips that many of us take in the spring to big, crowded hotspots it was nice to just sit and relax and see what comes to us.

    We got 33 species and were able to get some good pics even with the morning sun coming in with a clear sky.

    (Ruby-throated Hummingbird:  Don Henise)

    (Common Yellowthroat:  Don Henise)

    A Blue-winged Warbler hung out for a good part of the morning singing and perching quite still for us.

    (Blue-winged Warbler:  Don Henise)

    Don had heard a Hooded Warbler before the group arrived, but we waited too long (my fault) to return to the area as he had moved on by then.  But he recovered and was able to wrangle a little guy called a Common Baskettail for us to view up close.

    (Common Baskettail:  Picture & hand model: Don Henise)

    eBird checklist

  • Wednesday, May 03, 2023 12:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    The JAS trip down to Magee Marsh and surrounds was a bit earlier this year than normal-I won't do that again.  Seven JAS members took the trip across the border to Ohio for a visit to the Magee Marsh,  Metzger Marsh, and Howard Marsh locations.  It was cold, and windy, and we had a bit of rain. What we did not have unfortunately, was warblers.  

    (Sidney Fitzpatrick)

    While our count was very low, we did have lots of room on the Magee Marsh boardwalk, no trouble finding parking, and no waiting at the porta-Johns.  We stayed dry the whole day and had lots of wildfowl on our list.  Highlights included a Eastern Screech Owl and four Black-necked Stilts, a lifer for some of our group as well as a new spotting of this bird in the Midwest for most of the rest of us.

    (Sidney Fitzpatrick)

    A combined species list of the 65 species we observed is available as an eBird Trip Report .

  • Sunday, April 30, 2023 12:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

    Eight JAS members and guests joined Michigan Nature Association steward Stewart Goldman for a tour of the Trillium fields of southwest Michigan.  We've not been to these properties since before the Covid pandemic so we were excited to return.  The weather looked like it might not cooperate but we had just a bit a drizzle.  And who wants that nasty full sunshine thing when you're trying to take pictures of spring flowers?

    After a fortifying breakfast at Mr. Wahoo's in Dowagiac, we met Stewart at Dowagiac Woods.  This is MNA's largest and one of it's oldest properties.  It is near the Dowagiac River and is quite wet, especially in the spring.  The Woods have never been developed and the diversity and quantity of spring ephemerals shows it very clearly.

    Plant list:

    Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

    Common Violet (purple & yellow) (Viola sp.)

    Trout Lilly (Erythronium americanum)

    Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

    Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

    False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa)

    Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullatia)

    Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)

    Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

    Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

    May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum)

    Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum)

    Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictrodes)

    Bloodroot (Sanguinatia canadensis)

    Large -Flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

    Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia)

    Broadleaf Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)

    Baneberry (Actaea sp.)

    False Rue Anemone (Isopyrum biternatum)

    Purple Cress (Cardemine Douglassii)

    Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus septentrionalis)

    Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna)

    Trillium Ravine

    After the Woods, we drive over to Berrien county to visit the Trillium Ravine.  This smaller property is also rich in spring ephemerals and, well, Trilliums.   In many parts of the short walk your entire view is Trilliums.  While predominately the  Large-flowered Trillium, there were also Toadshade and Prairie Trilliums.  I even got a picture of a trio of Trillium.

    Plant list:

    Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum)

    Trillium Toadshade (Trillium sessile)

    Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)

    Celedine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

    The spring ephemerals were the priority and it's really hard to see birds when you are looking at all that beauty on the ground. But we are Audubon, so the eBird trip list was dutifully posted.

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