By early November, eastern bluebirds have left northern Michigan until spring. The majority of eastern bluebirds overwinter in the southeastern U.S., north to our area.
Brad Anderson of Bridgman recently took some images of a male eastern bluebird at Warren Dunes. The male eastern bluebird sports a rust-colored chest and bright blue back. The female’s colors are much duller.
During the warm months, eastern bluebirds eat primarily insects and worms. They switch to berries and fruit during the cold months. Recently I saw a flock of eastern bluebirds in Royalton Township feasting on berries of the poke weed plant, which are poisonous to humans.
Dick Schinkel of Oronoko Township flushed a ruffed grouse on his property last week, which is one of only two reports of the species I am aware of in Berrien County in 2019. Another ruffed grouse was reported earlier this year on March 12, seen at Chikaming Township Park by Don White of Union Pier.
The ruffed grouse is a game bird species in the same family as turkeys, quail and pheasants, found in many northern states and Canada. It was once found throughout the Great Lakes region, and is still common in northern Michigan, but has nearly disappeared from the south half due to habitat loss.
Ruffed grouse prefer young forest habitats, areas that were fields and are reverting back into forests. Aspen and birch are both important trees in the lives of ruffed grouse, but are generally not found in numbers needed to sustain the needs of ruffed grouse in the south half of the Lower Peninsula.
Madeline Johnston of Berrien Township has had a female ruby-throated hummingbird visiting her feeder since November 1, present through at least November 6.
Photos of the bird were sent to Allen Chartier of Inskter, director of Great Lakes Hummernet, an organization studying hummingbird migration in our region.
Chartier says that in addition to the hummingbird at Johnston’s feeder, there are currently ruby-throated hummingbirds in Jackson and Monroe Counties.
Finally, Brad Anderson took a photo of a golden-crowned kinglet at Warren Dunes State Park recently. The kinglet is about the size of the black-capped chickadee and generally nests to our north, although I have seen it during the breeding season locally among thick stands of evergreen trees, where they prefer to nest.
Both the golden-crowned kinglet and its close relative the ruby-crowned kinglet pass through Southwest Michigan in good numbers every spring and fall.
The ruby-crowned kinglet passes through in the fall during September and October and the golden-crowned kinglet during October and November. However, a residual amount of golden-crowned kinglets remain here during winter.
They don’t visit feeders, but can be found among mixed flocks of chickadees, tufted titmice and white-breasted nuthatches in wooded areas on cold winter days. Ravines and wooded river bottoms, especially among tangles of green brier vines, are good places to find the species in the dead of winter.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at email@example.com.