Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pt. Mouillee SGA - 17 May 2009

After raining Friday and Saturday morning the skies cleared, but high winds remained. It was not until late Sunday afternoon that the winds died enough to tempt a ride at Pt. Mouillee. Phil Chu and Will Weber had reported Plegadis sp. ibis on Saturday, so I was hoping to get down there to possibly relocate the birds.

I parked at Mouillee Creek and rode up the Middle Causeway toward the Lautenschager and Walpatich Units. At the pumphouse I remembered to look for the Yellow-headed Blackbird that I saw earlier in the week. No sooner than I thought this did I nearly run over the bird on the side of the road. For a moment we stared at each other while I slowly reached for the camera (holstered in the bike), but he then flushed just as I was about to blast away. He didn't fly far, and gave me a few pics from about 50 ft. away. Just before leaving a Turkey Vulture floated by and provided a nice flight shot or two. Farther up the road a gray (male) Northern Harrier was being harassed by a Red-winged Blackbird and steadily drifted off toward the Lead Unit.

My intent for the trip was not to go much farther than the Long Pond Unit. As I headed toward the unit I heard several Marsh Wrens, and came upon a pair of Blue-winged Teal that cooperated long enough for a few digiscoped images. When I arrived at the LPU I was greeted by immense numbers of Dunlin flying and roosting. I tried to digiscope the birds from about 100 ft. away, but winds made things difficult. I settled for a few long-distance shots with the D300 and Sigma 400. As large groups of birds flushed and flew away I grabbed several flight shots, trying to capture them as they banked. I was able to get images of their backs, as well as their fronts. As I scanned the ~1500 birds I found a lone Willet tucked near the middle of the unit behind a clump of grass. Despite the shorebird numbers I could only find a single Semipalmated Sandpiper .

I continued on to check out the west side of the Vermet Unit. As I reached the SW corner I spotted another pair of Blue-winged Teal and a single Short-billed Dowitcher roosting near shore on the sand spit. A half-dozen Dunlin were with them. Atop a steel post an Eastern Kingbird was perched and allowed me to digiscope it from about 30 feet away. As I digiscoped the griseus dowitcher several large flocks of Dunlin flew past me close enough that I felt their wind and heard their wing beats! Overhead several Purple Martins were circling, so I grabbed a few shots as they passed nearby.

With the winds picking up I decided against continuing on toward Cell 3, so I opted to scan the Vermet Unit. I failed to find any ibis, but did count 6 Yellow-headed Blackbirds out in the cattails where the Black Terns normally nest (they were absent as well). Forsters Terns were about, as well as a few Caspian Terns. Some of the Forster's Terns were actively feeding nearby so I took some time to capture some flight shots.

Returning to the car I again ran into the Yellow-headed Blackbird from before. The bird was playing hide-and-seek with me, though, so photographing the bird was a real chore. While I scanned the bird through the scope a Least Bittern flew through my field of view. I quickly ran after it and watched as it landed across the creek in the phragmites. I tried to digiscope it from about 80 feet away, and only managed one keeper. With the sun setting the bird looked gorgeous as it was illuminated by the golden sunlight. After a few minutes it flew down into the phragmites and disappeared. With that I headed back to the car and headed home.


Anonymous said...

Your photos are amazing. I grew up in Okemos and never knew the Michigan birding that I missed. Thankfully, you have brought it to me. Your birding day around Pt. Mouillee certainly was fruitful. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Jeff Schultz said...

Nice shots here, Jerry!!!

Dale Forbes said...

Hi Jerry, that yellowheaded blackbird is wonderfully highlighted in the dull reeds (nice composition too). I would really like to see one myself, the whole family looks remarkably like the African widowbirds/weavers/bishops.

the next installment of "digiscoping today" is up and running and it would be great to have a contribution from you!

happy birding

Kevin said...

Jerry Nice migrant Shorebird captures along with your documenting.

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