Twenty seven people came out on an a beautiful New Year’s Day morning to Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh to search for winter birds as part of our First Day Walk. This new annual tradition which we started taking part in last year happens around the country at State and National Park gets people kicking off their year right enjoying exercise and nature on our beautiful public lands. Of course, as an Audubon chapter taking part in this, our walk is decidedly bird themed, and as Button Bay State Park’s eBird Hotspot shows, this is a great place to find them.

While the group gathered, we spotted two Bald Eagles cruising over the bay. We also had a flock of Horned Larks flying across the road from the access which disappeared into the grass. We got to see them again later, though, when a male Norther Harrier cruised over them.

Walking through the campsites we found several flocks of Black-capped Chickadees, and a big group of House Sparrows buried in a bush. In the bay south of Ship Island we found a flock of Canada Goose, Mallards and an unusually large group of American Black Ducks. Further out in the lake we saw two Common Loons fully in their non-breeding plumage and a group of four diminutive Horned Grebes diving for food as a group.

Back on the trails we all got a good look at a cooperative White-breasted Nuthatch. Also spotted was a Hairy Woodpecker and a Group of American Robins feeding in red cedar trees. We made our way to another overlook of the bay where we got a good look at a mixed flock of Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye. We also had appearances by Great-black-backed, Herring and Ring-billed gulls from there.

We then made our way to the the point opposite Button Island which we found very windy and the rocks ice-covered so we decided not to venture out on them. The smart birds were all in the sheltered bay anyway.

On our way back we found a Red-eyed Viero nest left over from last summer. The rest of the way back was marked by familiar characters we had already seen until we reached the gate where we found a beautiful male Eastern Bluebird perched on a wire across the road from us.


– Ron Payne