Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fly away! - 29 Mar 2008

The title says it all. This morning I birded the dikes, starting from the Roberts Road parking lot. Ducks were heavy in the Lead Unit, and as is customary this time of year, extremely spooky! How spooky? Its impossible to get with 100 yds of the birds before one, then all, "Flee". Having rode the bike for the first time this year (and now having issues sitting comfortably....) the dikes were frozen and easy to ride at first. However, with ducks flushing everywhere, it was difficult to find photographic subjects. Either the rising sun was in the wrong position or the ducks were too far away! Bufflehead were a-plenty near shore, and males were busily chasing each other and the females. Pied-billed Grebes were also calling and courting. They tended to be less spooky than the Redheads, Ring-necks, American Coot, Gadwall and Lesser Scaup, which were in the majority. A few American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal were among the flocks. Muskrat were everywhere, quietly feeding and swimming near the shoreline.
As I rode northward along the dike, I was steadily (and unintentionally) pushing the ducks northward. As I reached the southwest corner of Cell 3 I spotted a pair of Bald Eagles roosting in the trees. Before I could get the digiscoping camera setup the adult flew off to the east. After a few snapshots with the D300 the immature took off directly at me. As it flew overhead I took a dozen or shots up close. Magnificent bird!
Heading westward along the Middle Causeway I spotted another Bald Eagle soaring overhead. I captured this (composite) sequence as it drifted by. Red-winged Blackbirds were also in abundance and happily flying and displaying. An Osprey was roosting on the nest platform in the middle of the Lead Unit. For Jim Kortge, the bird did not appear to have any bands on its legs, but I could've missed one. Across the dike in the Vermet Unit Northern Shovelers, American Wigeon, and more Coots were common, and easily flushed. Several small flocks of Green-winged Teal were flying back and forth in the middle of the Unit. A Marsh Wren was singing in the phragmites nearby.
Heading north along the west side of the Vermet Unit I flushed one, then a second, Northern Harrier from the the ditches ahead of me. I must've flushed six total birds, and each time I was unable to get a photo of the birds. This was the best I could do. A small raft of Ruddy Ducks were floating in the river along the North Causeway.
By the time I got to Cell 5, the ground had thawed sufficiently to make biking difficult. Heading back southward I attempted a few digiscoped shots of Lesser Scaup, but lighting was again bad. An Eastern Phoebe was working its way north along the Lead Unit, and I managed a few shots of it before it flew off and disappeared.
On a sad note, Cell 3 appears to be filling up with Garbage - bottles, cans, plastic. It appears our shorebird habitat is going to be an eyesore this year. I don't know if the garbage is part of the dredge spoils being dumped, or whether its from inconsiderate bastards, but its sad to look at. And cleaning it up will be next to impossible since the ground is so soft already that walking out there will be hazardous.
As I reached the car I could hear the first Chorus Frogs chirping out in the marsh. Loading up the bike and my sore arse I headed home.

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