Monday, December 8, 2008

Uh Oh! - 07 Dec 2008

The fish always look smaller from the sky!!!! Ok, from the wing pattern, can you guess who this unfortunate soul is? If you thought Bonaparte's Gull you were correct.

It was clear and cold this Sunday morning, so I drove by Pt. Mouillee HQ to check out the waters. The river was nearly frozen with only small patches of open water. Hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls huddled on the ice to protect themselves from the buffeting winds. But more exciting were the dozens of Bonaparte's Gulls foraging in the open waters next to the boat ramp. I spent a half-hour or so photographing the fly-by gulls as they dove and fished for small shad and shiners in the early morning sun.

My day started out a bit earlier. I looked for a Great Horned Owl nest in Riverview, but only found a roosting Red-tailed Hawk in the nearby trees. Continuing south toward Monroe I drove down Campau Rd. to check the HQ at Pt. Moo. Attempting to scope the gulls on the ice was difficult since the 30 mph winds were making my eyes water to the point of near blindness. So I abandoned the scope for the camera and took advantage of the early morning Bonapartes' bonanza.

From there I drove south down to Roberts Rd. and parked in the lot at the foot of South Causeway. I met up with a muskrat trapper who was getting ready for trapping season. I was officially a day early for the SGA but no duck hunters were around so I decided to walk the dike around the Lake Erie shoreline to Cell 3. The wind was not letting up, but the phragmites did a decent job of shielding me from the direct gusts. The lake was icing over except for large patches of open water that hosted pairs of Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye. Off in the distance dozens of Tundra Swans whistled and flew from one body of water to the next. Overhead a pair of Bald Eagles soared and drifted southward looking for an easy meal. A third eagle was spotted far out on the horizon sitting on open ice.

My only companion for much of the walk was a lone Dark-eyed Junco that hopped from rock to rock and posed just long enough for a shot or two. I finally happened upon a small flock of Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, and American Tree Sparrows that took offense to my Screech Owl tremolo. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers joined the group as they flew within inches of my camera. The Tree Sparrows seemed content to feed on the phragmite seeds and dart out into the open long enough for a quick photo.

Cell 3 was frozen over with only a small gap of open water. Out in the middle of the ice were 1000-1500 Tundra Swans huddled against the wind. A dozen or two Canada Geese slept among them. The open water hosted six Common Mergansers that flushed when a Northern Harrier passed overhead. As I watched them fly off a flock of 50+ Snow Buntings flew across the ice and headed west toward the gravel pit.

With the camera batteries dead and the wind biting my face I headed back to the car slightly exhausted but feeling pretty good about my 2-hour hike. Heading home via Rheaume Rd. I spotted a pair of Red-tailed Hawks roosting in a tree alongside the road, but thought better of stopping for fear of flushing them. Instead, I headed home for lunch and a cozy nap w/ the kittens.

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