Friday's storms brought clear skies but extremely windy conditions Saturday afternoon. So when Sunday morning arrived with mostly calm skies I ventured out to Pt. Mouillee. Parking at Mouillee Creek I entered past the gate and heard the distinct "fitz-bew" of a Willow Flycatcher. A bit farther along I heard several Swamp Sparrows singing their wet trilling song. As I rode up to the Lautenshager Unit the winds began to build up again, and soon was blowing at 5 - 15 mph. The pond held many Great Egrets, a pair of Wood Ducks, and a scattering of Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers. An adult Bald Eagle flew by in the distance heading east toward the lake. A fly-by Great Egret and Great Blue Heron in the early morning sunlight made for some nice pics.
As I was leaving I ran into Todd Palgut and the two of us headed toward Long Pond Unit. Riding the dike between the Long Pond and Nelson Units we spotted a group of noisy Semipalmated Sandpipers and Dunlin, and found a single White-rumped Sandpiper among them. The WR required a bit of work as the extreme backlighting made it difficult for us to verify it from a possible Pectoral Sandpiper. After good looks at the bird we continued on, spotting a pair of male Blue-winged Teal in the canal to our left. I managed a few digiscoped images of the pair, and had hoped to get some flight pics, but the aperture ring on my lens slipped out of place and all I saw was the dreaded "FEE" error as they flew off. A pair of Bobolink flew overhead and got my attention with their bouncy, squeaky, jumbled song. A gorgeous male Northern Shoveler was farther behind us in the canal and offered nice views from distance.
We then spotted two very cooperative Black-crowned Night Herons (adult and immature) through the phragmites, but couldn't find a hole large enough to digiscope the birds. They flew off and out of sight after a few minutes.
We ran into Pat Gamburd and a gentleman named Dave (sorry, didn't get the last name) along the dike between Vermet and Long Pond Units and chatted a few minutes. Pat then joined me and Todd as we headed up the Middle Causeway toward Cell 3. We stopped just long enough to observe some Black Terns far out in the Vermet Unit, and to digiscope a severely-backlit Common Moorhen just before the Vermet Unit gets obscured by the phragmites in the SE corner. The Osprey pair continues to nest on the platform in the Lead Unit, and we scoped them for a few minutes.
Cell 3 was quiet save for a handfull of gulls and four Lesser Scaup. No Whimbrels were to be seen. Returning along the Middle Causeway we battled the winds, which were now in the 20+ mph range. The good thing about the wind was that it slowed the flight of 8 Black Terns that were flying/feeding along the extreme south shore of the Vermet Unit. This gave me opportunity to get some long-sought flight shots. For the next 15 minutes or so I must've shot 500 frames trying to capture the extremely difficult-to-autofocus, dark birds that blended in well with the dark water. I finally had to switch to manual focus and hope to keep up the constantly-moving birds. I managed several sharp sequences, so I generated several composite images showing a single bird in various poses. The birds tended to work the shoreline toward the west side of the unit, then fly back to the east side and begin anew. Too bad they weren't on the Lead Unit side where they wouldn't have been so back-lit.
As we returned to the cars (Pat headed off toward Siegler Rd) I heard a Sedge Wren near the Walpatich Unit.
Somewhere along the way Pat lost her purple Nikon Coolpix S210 digital camera that she's been using to digiscope. If anyone should come across the camera (it'll be in the area marked red on the map) please let me know so that I can make arrangements to return it to her.
Epilogue: 03 June 2008 - Thanks to Mary Trombley for notifying me that a nice couple found Pat's camera and left a note on the gate at Siegler Rd. Pat contacted them and learned that they had found her camera. Still some nice people in the world!
Till next time!