When I heard from our local birding email list that Blue Grosbeaks, a large bird similar in size to the Northern Cardinal, had been found near Lake Erie in southeast Michigan, I was on a quest.
I had to find it!
It took me three tries over two weekends, 100 degree plus Farenheit temperatures, and torrential rains, but I finally saw both male and female Blue Grosbeaks earlier this morning at the Antenna Farm in Monroe County.
For me, a life bird (first time seen) at number 274.
Last week, I saw the female bird multiple times, but didn’t get more than a fleeting glimpse of the male bird.
Thankfully, with lower temperatures this morning (and less forecast of rain), it was relatively easy to find both birds today.
Finding the Blue Grosbeak
What makes the Blue Grosbeak such a rare bird to see in Michigan?
It usually breeds further south. I mean the northernmost territory for the bird is at least four hours south by vehicle. The Blue Grosbeak is typically seen in southern states across the United States.
Over the past few years, the Blue Grosbeak has expanded their breeding territory northward from the southern states.
Thanks to three pairs of eyes searching the fields and tree lines, within 15 minutes, we spotted the female Blue Grosbeak flying back and forth from the tree line to the overgrown fields.
Where was the male bird?
We didn’t hear either bird sing, so we were scanning likely spots on bare tree limbs and tops of low-growing shrubs, favorite places other birders had already found the birds.
There he is! my husband said after about 20 minutes of searching.
He pointed us to the edge of the overgrown field, a couple hundred feet away where we could make out a blue bird with copper-colored wingbars among the stubby branches of the green-leaved shrubs.
I quickly aimed my camera toward the bird and took several shots, grateful the sun was behind me.
Within seconds, the male Blue Grosbeak flew off to the treeline and disappeared in the dark green leaves and shadows of the maple trees.
If you’re wondering what an Antenna Farm is, I was too.
In the middle of farmland, off a dirt road, is a fenced off area with multiple communication antennas reaching high into the sky. As if the antenna grew out of the ground.
As you might expect, the Antenna Farm has multiple signs warning of trespassing. We stayed on the side of the dirt road, peering in the fields, along the fenceline, and trees with our binoculars to search for the birds.