Monday, March 10, 2008

Celebrating Flight! - 10 Mar 2008

Today was a very good BIF (bird-in-flight) day! With cloudy skies and flurries forecasted all afternoon, I took the chance and drove down to Lake Erie Metropark and Pt. Mouillee to look for photo opportunities. Despite forecasts the skies were clear, and as I arrived at LEMP, remained sunny all afternoon. My first stop was the Long-eared Owl roost, where I saw only a pair of grazing White-tailed Deer. Someone had thrown out several handfulls of flat-bread and bird seed in the snow, so after a few minutes I was treated to a visit by several Black-capped Chickadees, White-throated Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, and Northern Cardinals. Firing dozens of shots I managed a few clean photos of White-throats and Black-capped Chickadees (2) that stayed put long enough for me to focus. But most were way too quick for me keep up with, and I got lots of pics of bare branches. This chickadee was the rare exception! (I cloned out a small branch in front of the forewing).

Taking a short walk up the trail a pair of Downy Woodpeckers appeared above me and I managed a few pics as they hopped and chased each other from tree to tree. This one took off at the right moment and I was able to capture it's white-spotted full wing-spread!

I then drove over to the south end of the park and found the lake ice-free and only a few ducks (mostly Mallard). One patch of ice hosted a Great Black-backed Gull feeding on a dead shad, and I attempted a few flight pics from the car as it circled a few times and landed in the water. I thought maybe that I'd seen a Common Loon off in the distance, but could not relocate it (probably a Common Merganser).

As I left the park I saw (3) Red-tailed Hawks soaring and chasing each other just over the tops of the trees. Unfortunately I couldn't get out of the car fast enough to get any decent photos, and had to settle for watching them through the binoculars.

From LEMP I headed south toward Pt. Mouillee and turned down Campau Rd. and found a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles roosting and chattering in several trees. Just past the canal one of the Red-tailed Hawks from the metropark soared close enough that I was able to grab several pics (2). Down at the boat launch a few patches of open water in the ice hosted dozens of American Coot, Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, and Common Mergansers. I took several digiscoped images of a pair of scaup and a few coots, but lighting was poor. A pair of Song Sparrows flew from the pines next to the launch and literally ran circles around me on the snow. Farther out toward the mouth of the river dozens of Mute and Tundra Swans rested on the ice. An immature Bald Eagle was soaring over a dead fish on the ice, while another (8) Bald Eagles were roosting in a dead tree along the Lake Erie shoreline.

Driving over to the Flack Rock Landfill I spotted a Northern Harrier floating low over the hilltop. As I pulled over to watch it continued to drift toward me and soon I was firing away at it as it soared overhead and continued on south. No sooner had it passed that a Red-tailed Hawk appeared and soared directly over the car. I ran out of film (memory?) just as a second RTH joined it. Unable to find it in time I had to settle for watching them fly into a nearby snag. Finding another memory card I took several images of the roosting bird and then managed several flight shots as it took off (2) (3).

From there I drove over to Crosswinds Marsh but found nothing but clouds and few Ring-billed Gulls. A quick pass through Oakwoods Metropark yielded nothing! While driving home I received a call from Anne Smith that a pair of Pine Warblers were seen on Grosse Ile near the Bayview Yacht Club. What a good day!

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