Yesterday, while Hurricane Ike hammered the Texas Gulf Coast, the Midwest got soaked with 1 - 6 inches of rain. Here in Wyandotte we got 3" of rain. Other locations north and west got up to 5" of rain. This afternoon Ike is supposed to bring a couple more inches of rain to us, but for now the skies are partly clear and its warm!
Driving past Mouillee Creek I noticed that no cars were in the parking lot. So I stopped and took the bike up the Middle Causeway. I couldn't help feel that I was experiencing March birding in September. It was warm, humid, windy, and the ground was extremely soft. Looking out over the marsh I saw and heard nothing while fighting both strong winds and soft mud. But reaching the Lead and Long Pond Units I began seeing fly-by Lesser Yellowlegs and a few Killdeer. As I reached the junction of Long Pond, Lead and Vermet Units I scoped a group of 6 Long-billed Dowitchers in basic plumage among another 4 - 6 Lesser Yellowlegs.
A pair of sleepy dowitchers provided a nice digiscoping opportunity, so I obliged.
Looking back toward the SE corner of the Long Pond Unit I found 4 Black-bellied Plovers in basic plumage feeding in the now-flooded field. As I digiscoped a single bird I spotted a pair of American Pipits farther out in the field, and managed a few pics of one bird before everyone flew off to the west.
As I road east toward the Banana Unit I flushed a half-dozen Savannah Sparrows from the path ahead of me, but was unable to photograph them due to the severe backlighting. So I settled for scoping them to make sure nothing unusual was among them. Two dozen Great Egrets and a handfull of Caspian Terns were roosting in the Vermet Unit. A single Pied-billed Grebe swam near shore.
Reaching Cell 3 I spotted dozens of Green- and Blue-winged Teal roosting in the NW corner. They flushed as I arrived, leaving a half-dozen Lesser Yellowlegs. As I walked down the bank toward the shoreline, I was amazed at how much exposed shoreline existed. Despite all the rain yesterday Cell 3 looked exactly as dry as it did 2 weeks ago. Semipalmated Sandpipers fed nearby, along with several Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, 3 Baird's Sandpipers, 2 Sanderlings, and a juvenile Ruddy Turnstone. As I scoped farther out into the mudflats I spotted a pair of juvenile Red Knots and several White-rumped Sandpipers (although I find them extremely difficult to discern from the other peeps). I spent a few minutes trying to digiscope a Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Satisfied that I wasn't missing anything unusual, I decided to head over to the east shoreline and scope the cell from the dike.
From the east dike I saw 4 Stilt Sandpipers in basic plumage. Another 6 juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers feed closer in, along with a pair of basic plumaged Dunlin, and another White-rumped Sandpiper. Farther inland another Ruddy Turnstone was seen.
Returning on the bike I rode into a flock a Buff-breasted Sandpipers that must've just flown in and landed next to the dirt piles in the SE corner of Cell 3. The birds flushed and flew just a short distance to the banks behind the sand piles. I approached slowly and managed to capture several shots as the BBSP's poked their heads out of the grass, and even flashed their wings a few times. At once the flock took to the air, and managed to count 12 individuals as they flew back and forth between Cells 3 and 4. I managed to capture a few flight shots before they headed out toward Cell 3, where they were joined by 3 additional birds. As they flew along the waterline I captured a couple long distance shots before the birds disappeared to the south. Wow!
Riding back down the Middle Causeway I saw a Northern Harrier (female) cruising the dike ahead of me, along with the Savannah Sparrows that I had seen earlier. Just before I reached the car I stopped twice to photograph a pair of baby Water Snakes that were sunning themselves in the road. I picked them up and moved them to the safety of the grass. I returned to the car just as the rains from Ike approached.