Agassiz Association. Wilson Ornithological Chapter.

The Wilson bulletin (Volume 26, 1914) online

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Abel — A Winter Rorin Roost 171

From this time observations were made only on the North-
east quadrant, and there seemed to be a very rapid decrease
in numbers. Since a complete census was not attempted
later it will probably be best not to give any incomplete fig-
ures. Suffice it to say that the observations were made every
three or four days until the middle of October. After Sept.
27 there were only scattered individuals; and on Oct. 16 none
flew in from any direction.

It seems to be a regular habit of Robins to roost in im-
mense flocks in their winter homes in the south, and there
are numerous published accounts of the wanton slaughter of
them under such circumstances. But if it is their habit to
roost thus at the close of their breeding in the north, before
the fall migration, it does not seem to be very generally rec-

Mr. Wm. Brewster publishel nearly twenty-five years ago,^
a most admirable account of several " Summer Robin Roosts "
near Cambridge. His observations on the behavior of the
birds were so complete that little can now be said in addition.
The present paper must be largely in the nature of a confirm-

Our observations agree in that the flight was not equal in
all directions, and that various other species of birds, in
small num.bers, often became associated with the Robins in
the roost.

Mr. Brewster also discusses the matter of the composition
of the roost as to the sex, and gives some reasons for think-
ing that the summer roosts are made up of the males and
young of the first broods of the yea-r. Fisher - also expresses
his belief that the fall roosts of the Barn and Bank swallows
consisted of males. I have been unable to make any positive
observations on this point ; but, in as far as the lighter color
of the breast is indicative of sex, I should incline to tbe opin-
ion that the roost under my observation contained a fair pro-
portion of females.

The manner of flight to the roost seems to be distinctive in
^Tbe Auk, 7, 1S90, pp. 360-373.
= The Observer, 7, 1896, pp. 382-384.

172 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

some birds. Dr. Jones ^ found that the Crackles formed in
rather definite and compact hosts, even remaining together
while feeding during the day. It is not this way with the
Robins. Their flight is more like a continuous stream, now
broad enough to fill a considerable segment of the horizon,
now narrowed to a single individual ; sometimes even ceasing

As would be supposed the birds flew close to the ground
on dark cloudy days and much higher on clear sunlight

The birds seemed guided in flying by the conditions of
light and if the darkness came earlier the flight was corres-
pondingly early. The height of the flight lowered as dark-
ness came on so that at dusk the Robins were skimming along
close to the ground swerving from side to side in avoiding
the numerous obstacles. When flying high the birds main-
tained about the same level until directly over the roost then
darting down with set wings to the topmost branches where
they hesitated a minute or two before diving down into the
depths of the foliage. The first arrivals seemingly realizing
that they were early occasionally went off to the nearby alfalfa
and corn fields to feed, returning about dusk to roost. Then
for a few minutes a squabble usually took place as they se-
lected and fought over their roosting places.

Soon only a few individuals were heard as they uttered
their plaintive calls ; but in a short time this also died away
and no sign remained to tell of the large number of birds so

Further notes were made on the habits and behavior, but
these details have already been fully described in Mr. Brews-
ter's paper, which the reader will find to be a most entertain-
ing account.

Sioux City, lozva

MVils. Bull., 0, 1897, pp. 39-56.

CoMi'TON — The Birds of Douglas Lake Region 173


The Biological Station of the University of Michigan is lo-
cated on Douglas Lake in the western part of Cheyboygan
County, Michigan, in a district almost equidistant from the
Straits of Mackinac, and the Great Lakes, Huron and Michi-
gan. The data upon which this paper is based were gath-
ered by the writer while in residence at the Station during
the summers of 1913 and 1914. The session at the Station
like that of the university of which it is a part covers a period
of eight weeks beginning the last of June. The weather
conditions, then, are those of midsummer in the region of the
upper Great Lakes.

The region about Douglas Lake has a remarkable geologi-
cal history, most of it at one time or another during the Gla-
cial Epoch having been moraines, outwash aprons, lake beach,
lake bottom, lake dune, or two or more of these different de-
posits, an outwash apron at one time furnishing the materials
to build a lake beach, and it a little later in turn the sand for
a dune.^ The soil is sandy ; much of it has little in it besides
well worn grains of quartz ; in some places especially on the
higher levels where least washing by wave action has taken
place there is much gravel and a little clay and loam. So
far as permanent human settlements are concerned most of
the region is still wilderness, the barren sand having little at-
traction for even the most land-hungry. Conditions of life
for man and beast and bird are decidedly primitive.

A generation or less ago the land was heavily forested with
white and red pine, hemlock, spruce, hard maple, beech, birch,
white cedar, balsam, tamarack, swamp maple and black ash,
but now little of the original growth remains. In only one
place within a radius of three miles of the Station can the
primeval conifer-hardwood forest be seen untouched by forest
fire or the ax of the lumberman. This oasis is Fairy Island in
Douglas Lake, an exception to the rule because of its isolated

^ Summary, of Surface Geology of Micliigau. Alfred C. Lane,

174 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

position. Two tracts of cut-over hardwoods lie within a
mile of the Station, a typical cedar bog two miles distant on
the north shore of Burt Lake, and all about and between are
the sand hills and plains covered with aspens.

The cut-over hardwoods are a vast brush-heap laid and
ready for the match. Tree-tops in varying stages of dissolu-
tion cover the ground lying as the lumberman left them when
he withdrew ; the few trees that he failed to cut down, the
saplings and second growth that have since sprung up, pro-
ject above but scarcely conceal the debris. So numerous
are the fallen trunks and so dense the foliage of the shrubby
growth that one may sometimes walk for rods upon them
without so much as a glimpse of the earth beneath him. Un-
der this leafy jungle where the midsummer sunlight seldom
falls is a thick layer of humus and wood in all stages of de-
cay inhabited by hordes of lowly creatures, ants, worms,
snails, beetles, and larvae of many insects. Here in July and
August are plenty of berries, especially of the red-berried eld-
er and the red raspberry fruiting wherever they can find a
place to grow. It would be difficult to find conditions of food
and shelter more acceptable to the forest avifauna than are
afforded by these cut-over hardwoods.

The large bog on Burt Lake to which reference has been
made may well serve as a type of the bogs of the region as
there are a number of smaller ones partly filled with vegeta-
tion and sand washed down from the adjacent higher land.
This bog, known locally as Reese's Bog, has evidently been
formed by dune or wave action that resulted in the cutting
off of a large shallow arm of the lake ; the quiet bay thus
formed became filled with vegetation, each generation of
plants at its death laying the foundation on which the next
was to grow. Underfoot now is a water-soaked carpet of
Sphagnum and other mosses, sundews, orchids, and other wa-
ter-loving plants into which the foot sinks to shoe-top ; over-
head the trees meet in a tangk of twigs, white cedars, bal-
sams, spruces, and larch, with here and there a swamp maple,
a white birch or a black ash. The competition for sunlight

CoMPTON — The Birds of Douglas Lake Region 175

is very keen ; most all of the survivors are dead in their low-
er limbs and are soon adorned for the funeral by a vigorous
colony of lichens, both of the crustaceous and filamentous
kinds. Only in a few places in the old logging roads does
the sunshine fall without obstruction even at noon ; in such
favored places there is a vigorous growth of vegetation of
many species, more than two hundred having been officially
identified by the botanists of the Station. Numerous minute
pools of water in the moss, and several brooks flowing a few
inches below the surface tell us that water is never very far
away, and suggest that perhaps Burt Lake has never quite
given up the struggle for this part of his ancient domain.

The aspens are the pioneers of the drier lands. They en-
ter upon the scene early, tam'e the sand down a little and hold
it in their possession till the more dominant types appear,
fighting always a losing fight in which it is foreordained that
they go under unless some outside force interrupts the order-
ly march of events and starts the plant succession back near
the beginning. The outside force that has intervened in this
instance is the forest fire which has swept away practically
all of the splendid mixed pine and hardwood forest that once
covered these sandy stretches. Fire after fire has swept
through this aspen territory till now in a few localities it is
nearly as bare of vegetation, other than mosses and lichens,
as it was the day the sullen waters of the glacial lake re-
treated from it for the last time. Among the aspens grow the
white birch, red oak, pine, and a number of berry-bearing
plants such as the blackberry, huckleberry, two kinds of blue-
berries, the pin cherry and the wintergreen.

The habitats discussed in this paper are the three that have
been described at some length in the foregoing pages.

The tent which the writer lived in during the period men-
tioned was located on the beach of Douglas Lake ; obviously
the opportunities for observation were best in this habitat ;
furthermore the lake was rimmed by a growth of pines that
stood just where the beach and the aspens meet. There was
very little marsh or swamp in the region ; if we use the term

176 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

swamp, for instance to designate a tract of wet land grown up
with reeds and coarse grasses, cattails, etc., but without any-
conspicuous woody shrubs cw trees as is the case with the bog.

These habitats are of interest only in their relation to the
birds living in them. Some species show decided preferences
for one plant association : the golden-crowned kinglet found
only in the cedar bog, the junco only in the aspens ; others like
the hermit thrush were more generally distributed, being
found in the bog, hardwoods, and aspens alike., At the end
of June there is quite a large bird population in the asp'ens,
but by the middle of August it is very much reduced both in
numbers of individuals and of species observed. A half day's
jaunt in the aspens the forenoon of July 8 gave me a list of 23
species ; two days before a similar trip in the hardwoods gave
41 species. On August 7 the number seen on a sunny fore-
noon's trip was 6 species ; the next forenoon in the hardwoods
my list was 46 species.

In the list which follows will be found the English names
of the species, the habitat preference of each species, the fre-
quency, the abundance, and nesting data where any were
gathered. Frequency and abundance as here used need a
word of explanation. The former term refers to the com-
parative frequency with which the species, not the individual,
was seen; in this connection I have used three degrees as fol-
lows : r or rare=rseen from 1 to 4 times ; c or common=seen
from 5 to 20 times; a or abundant=seen more than 20 times.
Abundance, on the other hand, applies to the total numbers
of individuals of the dififerent species seen during a given
period ; in this case the period covers from June 30 to August
7, stopping before the fall migration gets any headway to dis-
turb our study of midsummer birds. (1) under abundance
means that this species stands highest in number of individual
birds seen, 227 in our study ; at the other end of the scale of
abundance (47) means that only 1 bird of this species was
identified. With this explanation it will not be difficult to
interpret the data :

CoMPTON — The Birds of Douglas Lake Region 177

Name of Bird Nests or Young Abundance

Bluebird (38

Robin, younsj: (17

Hermit thrnsli, 9 nests ( 9

Olive-baeked tlirush, 1 nest (41

Wood tlirush (47

Wilson thrush (40

Blue-,trra,v ^niatcatcher (40

Golden-crowned kinglet (39

Chickadee, young (-1

Iie(14)reasted nuthatch (40

White-breasted nuthatch (22

Brown creeper (47

Winter wren (23

House wren, 1 nest (30

Brown thrasher, 1 nest and young (20

Catbird (42

Redstart, 2 nests (14

Canadian warbler, nest ? (43

Maryland Yellow-throat, nest ? (32'

Mourning warl)ler, nest ? (40

Ovenbird. 1 nest (11

Pine warbler, nest ? (34

Black-thr green warbler, young (29

Blackburnian warbler, 1 nest and y (44

Black-throated blue warbler (40

Blackpoll warbler, young (40

Tennessee warbler (40

Chestnut-sided warbler, 3 nests (21

Myrtle warbler (40

Yellow warl)ler (40

Nashville warbler (40

Black-and-white warbler, nest ?...(34

Blue-headed vireo (45

Yellow-throated vireo (40

Red-eyed vireo, 1 nest and young.. ( 5
Cedar Waxwing. 1 nest and young. ( 1

Tree swallow, young (28

Barn swallow, young (45

Puriile martin (40

Bank swallow (44

Cliff swallow, young (32

Scarlet tanager, 1 nest (30

Indigo bunting, 1 nest (23

Rose-breasted grosbeak (44

Towhee, 4 nests ( 4

Goldfinch, nest ? ( 7

Purple finch (39

Junco, 1 nest (15

Song sparrow, 2 nests and young.. ( 2

Swamp sparrow (40

Field sparrow (47

Chipping sparrow, 2 nests and young (1.3

White-throated sparrow, young (18

Lincoln's sparrow, young (45



. .0

. .a
. .a
. .r

.cultivated areas

.all habitats

.all hal)itats

. r . . bog
. r. .hardwoods
. r . . bog
. c . . bog

.c. .all habitats
.r. .bog
.a.. bog and hardwoods

. .c. .hardwoods and bog
..('..cultivated areas
. .c. .hardwoods and aspens
. .c. .hardwoods and aspens
. .a. .hardwoods and aspens
. .r. .hardwoods and aspens
. .c. .hardwoods and beach
. .r. .hardwoods and beach
. .0. .hardwoods and aspens
..c. beach (pines)
. . c . . hardwoods and bog
. .r. .hardwoods and bog




. .r. .beach (pines)
. .r. .cultivated areas

. hardwood

. hardwood and bog



.hwd, bog and aspens

.all habitats

.beach and open water

.cultivated area

.cultivated area

.beach and open water

.cultivated area

. hardwoods

.hardwoods and aspens

. hardwoods

.all habitats
. .a. .all habitats
. .c. .beach
. .a. .aspens

..a.. beach and hardwoods
. .r. .beach
. .r. .hardwoods
. .a. .hardwoods and aspens
. .a. .hardwoods and bog
. .r. .hardwoods



. .c.


The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

Name of Bird Nests or Young

Savanna sparrow

Vesper sparrow. 4 nests and young.

English sparrow, young

Bronzed grackle


Red-winged blaclibird, young

Cowbird, young

Bobolink, young

Crow, young

Blue jay

Prairie horned lark, young

Least flycatcher

Acadian flycatcher

Olive-sided flycatcher

Wood pewee, 1 nest

Phoebe, 2 nests

Crested flycatcher

Kingbird, young

Hummingbird, 1 nest

Chimney swift


Whippoorwill, 2 nests

Northern flicker, 1 nest

Red-headed woodpecker, 1 nest & y

Yellow-bellied sapsucker, young

Downy woodpecker, young

Hairy woodpecker

Belted kingfisher

Black-billed cuckoo

Screech owl

Barred owl

Short-eared owl


Marsh hawk

Cooper's hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Broad-winged hawk

Sparrow hawk

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, young

Bald eagle

Mourning dove

Ruffed grouse, young


Kildeer, young

Spotted sandpiper, 1 nest and y...

Solitary sandpiper

Virginia rail. 1 nest

Great blue heron

Blue-winsed teal

Wood du( k

Red-ln-easted merganser, young


Buffle-head duck

Abundance Frequency Habitat

45) . .r. .aspens
. . a . . aspens
. .c. .cultivated areas
. .r. .beach

. .r. .cultivated areas
. .c. .beach
. .c. .all habitats
. . r . . cult i vated a reas
. .a. .all habitats
. . c . . bog

. .r. .cultivated areas
. .r. .hardwoods
. .r. .hardwoods

. .r. .hardwoods

. .a. .hardwoods and aspens

. .c. .cultivated areas

. . r . . hardwoods

. .a. .all habitats

. .c. .all habitats

. .a. .all habitats

. .a. .all habitats

. .a. .aspens

. .a. .all habitats

. .c. .hardwoods

. .a. .hardwoods

. .a. .all habitats

. .c. .hardwoods

. . a . . beach

. .r. .hardwoods



. hardwoods

.beach and open water





.hardwoods and aspens

• bog

. beach

.beach and aspens

.hardwoods and aspens

.cultivated areas

. .a. .beach
. .r. .beach

..r.. beach and swamp
. .c. .beach

. . r . . beach and open water
..r.. beach and open water
..c. beach and open water
. .r. .beach and open water
..c.beacli and open water

. .r
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .c
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .r
. .a
. .r
. .0

CoMPTON — The Birds of Douglas Lake Regiox 179

Name of Bird Nests or Young Abundance Frequency Habitat

Common tern (-t(!) . .r. .l)e;ifli and open water

Caspian tern C.VA) . .c. .l)eaeh and open water

Pied-billed sreiie (47) . .r. .beaoli and open water

Loon, younij; (28) . .e. .beach and open water

Only such nests as were found actually occupied by the
birds are recorded as " nests," the accompanying numeral in-
dicating the number belonging to that particular species. The
word " young " is used to indicate that young of the species
were observed outside of the parental nest. "Nest?" is used
to designate a probable nest, probability being based on see-
ing the parent bird with a larva in its beak, at the same time
showing great concern over the approach of the writer.

12 of the species on the list show a decided preference for
the society of man, for his houses, barns, cultivated lands and
the like. With the 11 native birds this preference is doubt-
less acquired recently in a biological sense, the other, the
English sparrow has doubtless had this preference for a long
period of time even as biologists reckon it. They are the
bluebird, house wren, ^-ellow warbler, barn swallow, purple
martin, clifif swallow, meadowlark, bobolink, prairie horned
lark, phoebe, and quail ; these all rank low in the scale of
abundance, the house wren (30) being most abundant, the
average for the 11 about 41.

The habitats most characteristic of the wilderness are the
bog and the aspens, of our list 6 belong to the former and 5
to the latter ; it w^ill be noted that together they equal the
number of native speci'cs showing a preference for human
society. The vesper sparrow has an abundance of (8) and
the whippoorwill (12), but the others rank much like the
birds of the preceding paragraph.

35 species show-ed no decided preference of any kind, but
were quite generally distributed thruout the territory. To
this group belong the cedar waxwing (1), song sparrow (2),
crow (3), and towhee (4). Of the chewink or towdiee Bar-
rows says : " It is far from common about Little Traverse in
Emmett County." ^ It is only two miles to the Emmett-
^Michigan Bird Life, W. B. Barrows, 1912, page 526.

180 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

Cheyboygan county-line from the Station and only twenty to
the Little Traverse Bay at Bay View.

Of the 25 listed as belonging- to the " beach " or to " the
beach and open water " only 14 will probably be called water
birds. Of these the spotted sandpiper has an abundancs of
(6) and the red-breasted merganser (17), while the others
rank rather low, from (28) to the lowest of all (47). Pos-
sibly Douglas Lake is too small to compete successfully with
the larger lakes, Burt, Mullet, Huron and Michigan, none
of which is more than 20 miles away, for the favor of the
gulls and terns, and possessed of too little swamp to com-
pete with Indian and Crooked Rivers for the favor of the
coots and bitterns. Two trips were made to these rivers and
on each of them large numbers of swamp birds were seen,
but they are too far from the Station to be visited regularly ;
for this reason the records are unavailable for our purpose.



A hill wooded with gray birches and evergreens slopes
down to a peat bog. Just above the swale grows the painted
trillium that carries at its snowy heart the symbol of the
Trinity in royal purple. One morning as I plucked a hand-
ful of these dainty blooms, I flushed a brooding Herm'.t from
her eggs. A small fir shaded the nest. The three green-
blue eggs made a charming bit of color against the dull
orange lining of pine needles.

Twelve days later I visited the nest again. The woods
were now sweet with linnea and three fascinating little
Thrushes, about seven days old, welcomed me with a wide
expanse of golden throat. The young birds had beautiful,
large eyes ; the natal down was conspicuous at the close of
the quill stage; and the tips of the olive and buffy feathers
were just beginning to show beyond the quill casings.

I was anxious to try an experiment with tame Thrushes,

Stanwood — A Hermit Thrush Study 181

Tame Hermit Thrushes,
photo by cordelia j. stanwood

183 . The Wilson Bulletin — No. 89

so I carried the little birds home. The journey to my home
did not disturb them in the least. They ate bountifully of
bread and milk from a little gold-lined, silver spoon, took a
few drops of water- and slept the greater part of the day with
their heads straight in front of them.

After the first day, I varied their diet with earthworms,
ants' eggs, steak, wild pears, strawberries, a spider, or a
fly occasionally, and a grasshopper when I was able to find it.

Until the morning of the fourth day the Hermits remained
as distinctly inside the small nest as if an invisible wall sep-
arated them from all else. They grew rapidly, ate well,
preened vigorously, scratched their ears with their toes, and
although the nest was quite deep, voided all excrement with-
oiit it, sometimes standing on the edge of the nest to do so.

In the middle of the morning of the fourth day, they slow-
ly and cautiously stole forth from the nest, one at a time,
just as they do in the wild woods. From that moment they
insisted on flying and perching and refused to snuggle down

During the eleven days that followed, I carried the birds
to the woods for part of each day, or the entire day and let
them run wild. At night I took them in and they perched at
dark in the balsam boughs that I placed for them over a' door.
At' first I remained near them all the time that they were in
the woods, and fed them as they came for food. Later I
put them out early in the morning, and went and fed them
as often as once in two hours.

The first afternoon in the woods, I saw one Hermit take a
sunbath with his feathers all flufifed out, one pick up a small
brown caterpillar, and another several mouthfuls of earth.

The moment that I put the Thrushes down near a shallow
pool below the spring, and rippled the water with my hand,
the birds entered the pool, drank, and splashed the water all
over themselves. These irresistible, immature birds, going
to the water so slowly, cautiously, and surely, and bathing
after the exact patterns handed down to them made an awe-
some as well as a pretty picture.

Stanwood — A Hermit Thrush Study 183

Between feeding times when the birds were not seeking

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