Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter losing its grip - 15 Feb 2009

Blue ice says it all! This morning at Pt. Mouillee I found several patches of near-thawed ice in the Vermet and Long Pond Units. And that means that spring can't be far off!

I drove down to Pt. Moo HQ this morning at about 8:30 am and immediately heard a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds singing their "konk-la-reee" from somewhere within the phragmites. First ones this year! The Huron River was open and filled with numerous Mute Swans, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and several American Coot.

Driving over to Siegler Rd. I grabbed the scope, binoculars and cameras and headed out along the North Causeway. The rising sun was trying to break through the heavy eastern cloud cover but would have to wait for little bit longer. Luckily skies to the west were clearing so I had hope for a nice morning.

Mute Swans lined the river along the North Causeway. A few Ring-billed Gulls were swimming with them, and a single immature Great Black-backed Gull was among them. Several small flocks of Canada Geese flew in from Lake Erie, including this bunch that passed nearby. As I walked several small flocks of Horned Larks flew overhead to the north. And out over the Vermet Unit a Northern Harrier floated off to the south.

As I reached Cell 5 several large rafts of Canvasback were floating along the lakeshore. A pair of Bald Eagles flew by, but were too far away to photograph. The Vermet Unit was largely bare except for a small patch of partially-opened water that held several Mute Swans and Canada Geese. A pair of Gadwall were with them, but flew away as I approached. To my left the wooded marsh along the lakeshore, just south of Cell 5 hosted several singing Redwings.

Cell 4 was still frozen. Several ice fisherman were out in the middle of the ice, and a female deer fed along the dike separating the unit from Lake Erie. Heading down the Middle Causeway I heard several more Red-winged Blackbirds in the phragmites lining the Lead Unit.

As I reached the southwest corner of the Vermet Unit I noticed a large flock of Gadwall resting near some open water. As I approached several birds flew off, but some remained long enough for me to digiscope them from a distance. Of the 100 or so birds that roosted most flew off, but some remained even as I passed by. As they flew off a single bird circled back and allowed me to capture a few flight shots in the now-clear skies.

I stopped momentarily to grab a photo of the thawing Long Pond Unit. And just moments later a pair of Tundra Swans flew overhead from the west. Back out on the Huron River I spotted a pair of Bald Eagle wrestling in the air, and as I approached the North Causeway saw another 3 immature eagles resting on the ice. I would see a total of 8 Bald Eagles this morning.

As I returned to the car several more flocks of Horned Larks passed overhead, each time alerting me with their 'pseed-ip" flight calls. After this 7-mile hike I was ready to head home.

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