Friday, March 14, 2008

Short-eared Owls - 13 Mar 2008

Sunny and mid 40's this afternoon meant a trip down to Pt. Mouillee. Arriving at HQ I found the river and lake open and free of ice. Relatively few birds were about, but a look across the river to the north causeway found many geese, gulls and ducks holding tight against the banks. I drove over to Siegler Rd. and found dozens of Ring-billed Gulls in the field just west of the parking lot. Grabbing the scope and cameras I took a walk along the muddy north causeway, stopping along the way to grab a few pics of the gulls/geese in the river.

Canada Geese were quite plentiful and constantly flying in and out of the SGA. I practiced my flight shots and found many willing subjects. This pair flew in perfect synchronicity for several frames, so I created this composite image.

I headed along the dike between the Long Pond and Vermet Unit toward the Middle Causeway. The inland ponds were mostly frozen, but patches of open water were appearing and quickly filling with Gadwall, Redhead, Canvasback, Mallard, Black Duck, and American Coots. A pair of Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon were also seen, along with a single Hooded Merganser. Red-winged Blackbirds were staking territory along the dike and out on the ice wherever they could find a significant perch.

As I scoped the ducks I spotted a movement out on the ice in the Bloody Run Unit and found a Short-eared Owl taking flight. A few moments later it was joined by a 2nd bird and together they began to hunt the dike along the Middle Causeway and BRU. In no time a pair of Northern Harriers appeared and soon all four birds were flying together with the owls taking turns harassing the hawks. As I watched the show through the scope three more SEO's appeared in the Vermet Unit and began chasing a nice male Harrier that also appeared. At one point I was watching (5) SEO's and (5) NH's through the scope. Unfortunately none of the birds ever wandered my way, so I was content to leave the camera holstered. I did try a couple of distance shots for posterity and even tried a few through the scope.

At approximately 7pm a ruckus sounded behind me from the river and soon the sky was alive with all of the RBG's and Canada Geese that were roosting there. The geese flew inland, and the gulls scattered. A few minutes later several large flocks of Tundra Swans flew in from the west, so I took the opportunity to get a few fly-by shots. With the sun setting at about 7:30pm I began to head back to the car where I was greeted along the way by the first Tree Swallows (2) of the year, several Horned Larks, and a pair of flyover Killdeer.

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