A female dickcissel was photographed along Basswood Road in Three Oaks Township on Aug. 15 by Brad Anderson. What makes this noteworthy is that dickcissels are extremely difficult to locate in our area during August, as males stop singing during July after young have left the nest. Anderson says that in addition to the bird photographed, there were several additional dickcissels in the same field.
The dickcissel is a grassland songbird, about the size of a common house sparrow. They are found in varying numbers each summer in Michigan, which is at the northeastern edge of its summer range limit.
From late May until early July, dickcissels are observed in grassland habitats, where they nest on the ground in dense vegetation. Many dickcissel nests in hay fields are unsuccessful when the fields are mowed.
Fledglings appear in late June through early August. By Aug. 10, the birds often go unreported in the region as the journey south begins.
The dickcissel has on rare occasions been observed during the winter in Michigan, including at least once in Berrien County. As with reports from nearby states, the dickcissel has been found among flocks of house sparrows visiting feeders.
Anderson’s sighting on Aug. 15 is likely to be the last in Southwest Michigan until 2020.
A savannah sparrow was also photographed by Anderson near the old Forest Lawn Landfill site, off Basswood Road in Three Oaks Twp. Much of the old landfill site has reverted to grassland habitat.
Savannah sparrows are common from April through October among our fields and grasslands. They winter in the southeast U.S., and the bulk of the population departs Michigan by October. Michigan sightings from November through April are uncommon, most coming from the southern part of the state.
Bob and Pat Conrad of Lincoln Township have been visited by a doe and her two fawns, and the visit was preserved by Bob Conrad’s camera. The fawns will stay with their mother until next year.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at email@example.com.