Joanie Gentry of Sawyer photographed an adult bald eagle on Dec. 29, perched in a tree in Bangor Township. The bird was in the vicinity of both Van Auken and Rush Lakes. Both offer fish and waterfowl, favorite foods of the bald eagle.
Gentry's bald eagle sighting was one of three eagles tallied that day on the Coloma Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by Sarett Nature Center. The Coloma Christmas Bird Count has been conducted every year since 1972, and serves as a record of local bird populations over the decades. The Coloma census is one of four Christmas Counts annually conducted largely or entirely within Berrien County.
An American kestrel was photographed on Jan. 5 along Linco Road in Lincoln Township by Scott Glenn of Stevensville. The kestrel is also known as the sparrow hawk and is found year-round in Southwest Michigan, although it is easier to locate during the winter months, when kestrels from the north overwinter in our area.
Kestrels have become quite uncommon as a nesting species in Southwest Michigan due to reduction of grassland over the last part of the 20th century.
Brad Anderson photographed a lesser scaup on Jan. 7 at New Buffalo harbor. Female lesser scaups look very different than males, having brownish bodies with a distinct white patch near the bill.
Most lesser scaups only migrate through Southwest Michigan twice per year: during spring when scaup are northbound toward nesting areas in Canada, and again in fall when they pass south for the winter months. A relatively small percent of the population can be found locally during the winter months. Summer records are rare, usually representing non-breeding individuals or lingering migrants.
Anderson also found a pair of mute swans at North Lake in Grand Mere State Park on Jan. 7. The mild winter has prevented the need for these two swans to find open water elsewhere. Should the Grand Mere lakes freeze later this winter, the may move to the open water of St. Joseph River, or perhaps other inland lakes such as Christiana Lake in Cass County, where hundreds of swans congregate during protracted, severe winter weather.
A male pileated woodpecker has been visiting the suet feeder of David Allen of Bridgman, who photographed the bird on Jan. 6.
Male pileated woodpeckers can be identified by their red "mustaches", lacking on the female. Males also have a red forehead, while females have a black forehead. Both have red crests. The species is present year-round and does not migrate.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.