Friday, May 30, 2008

Whimbrels @ Pt. Mouillee - 29 May 2008

Having just returned from Florida (Disney) I grabbed the bike and headed down to Pt. Mouillee this afternoon. Skies were mostly clear when I left the house, but quickly became somewhat overcast with only partial sunlight by the time I got there. Parking at Siegler Road I headed along the North Causeway toward the Long Pond Unit. A pair of Canada Geese gave me the chance to use the camera and long lens for the first time in a week. I liked the way they were posing on a floating stump near shore. It was a bit breezy, and shorebirds were mostly absent from the Long Pond Unit. I scoped a few Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers far out along the west shore, but otherwise saw little else. I was a bit surprised at how many Common Terns were flying by since Forster's Terns are mostly abundant here.

I headed toward the Middle Causeway along the dike separating the Vermet from Long Pond Units. Again, the only shorebirds visible were Dunlin and Semipalms, with an occasional Least or Spotted Sandpiper in the mix. At the junction of the Middle Causeway I spotted several pairs of Common Moorhen, and managed a few nice digiscoped images of this one running across the duckweeds.

Out in the Lead Unit I counted six Black Terns flying low over the water, but none close enough to photograph. The Osprey pair were still on the platform and one was actively flying over the Vermet Unit. Both Forster's and Common Terns were actively feeding and roosting in the Lead Unit.
As I reached the tower near the Banana Unit I found the carcass of the dark-phased Rough-legged Hawk that I had seen earlier in the month. What a shame...

I headed over to Cell 3 and scoped several dozen Semipalmated Sandpipers and Dunlin feeding among the dozens of Forster's and Caspian Terns. Farther out on the mudflats I spotted (3) Whimbrel that were still lingering in the area! What luck, I thought I was going to miss them again this year. I slowly approached them across the dried mudflats and garbage (grrr) and managed several nice digiscoped images before they moved farther out and into the water among several Caspian Terns. I spent the better part of an hour just scoping them and several close-by Semipalms and Dunlin. The terns that were roosting on the flats paid little attention to me and surprisingly did not flush on my approach. A pair of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal were also nice surprises.

The Whimbrel were quite vocal and moved quite a bit from shore to water and back. They did not spook even when the shorebirds flushed several times as gulls passed overhead a bit too close for their comfort. I managed a fairly good video of them from a distance:

Returning along the Middle Causeway I headed down toward the Bloody Run and Long Pond Units, and managed to see several more flocks of Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding much closer to me. The skies began clearing, and the waning sunlight provided some opportunities for digiscoping both the Dunlin and the Semipalms. After several minutes of photographing some particularly colorful birds I managed a shot of a foraging Semipalmated Plover. Black-bellied Plovers were being heard out in the plowed fields, but I couldn't see any. Heading back to the car I spotted several larger flocks of Dunlin, but it was getting to dark to see if any unusual birds were with them, so I opted to ride on.

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