Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lake Erie Birding - 04 Oct 2008

I drove down to the Whiting Power Plant at the foot of Erie Rd. in southern Monroe Co. this morning. Clear skies and cool temps (38ºF) were on the menu so jacket and gloves (no ties) were required. Parking near the gate I was a bit unnerved to see three large piles of shattered window glass on the ground; a sad reminder that criminals have been busy this year.

Heading into the woods just north of the lot I heard the familiar 'tseets' of White-throated Sparrows and was greeted by several individuals in the early morning light. Overhead a first fall female Magnolia Warbler provided good looks with the binoculars. Nearby a Carolina Wren hissed at me through the phragmites, and appeared briefly when I hissed back (the nerve...).

Walking out to the beach the sunrise illuminated a flock of Double-crested Cormorants out on a cluster of rocks while a Kingfisher chattered away farther up the beach. The first Golden-crowned Kinglets appeared while I walked back south toward the power plant, but were too far in the shadows to photograph.

As I approached the outfall of the power plant a large flock of 100+ Bonaparte's Gulls were swarming and feeding on a school of minnows. A few Ring-billed Gulls were among them, and harrassed them for their fish, however, no other gull species were present. Out in the lake no ducks, cormorants or mergansers were visible. The place was pretty quiet, and I was obviously early for the winter bird populations.

As I approached the outfall and the gulls, a Gray Catbird appeared in the thickets to my right, and I managed a few digiscoped images from about 40 feet away before it continued on.

The Bonaparte's Gulls were busy feeding, and paying me no attention, so I took a number of flight shots from as close as 20 feet away. Unfortunately a passing dump truck scattered all the birds, and I was left to continue walking south along the beach.

The beach was littered with millions of zebra mussel shells, and a surprising number of Corbicula and heel-splitter clams. No shorebirds could be seen. I did happen upon a small flock of warblers that included several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a single Red-eyed Vireo. Seeing a number of duck hunters heading this way I decided that my chances of seeing anything ahead of me was low, so I turned around and headed back to the car.

Driving north I drove by the Lotus patch off E. Dunbar Rd. and photographed several hundred European Starlings massing along the fence of the DTE fly-ash on-site. They really are pretty birds when you stop to look at their iridescence. Heading farther north I stopped long enough to capture this Great Egret landing on a dead snag across the road.

I then made a quick pass through Pt. Mouillee (Roberts Rd) and saw a Cooper's Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk, but nothing else. Driving down Campau Rd. I ran into Patricia Gamburd and caught up on her morning. A first-fall female Yellow-rumped Warbler appeared in the trees overhead and I managed a quick shot through the roof of the Escape before she flew off.

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