Monday, May 11, 2009

Yellow-headed Blackbird! - 06 May 2009

Having arrived at Pt. Mouillee just a few minutes after noon I was still basking in the orange glow of the Blackburnian fest of this morning. I unloaded the bike at Mouillee Creek and headed up the Middle Causeway to see if anything interesting might show up.

Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warblers sang from the trees over the parking lot. Just inside the gate I picked up the calls of Common Yellowthroat and Swamp Sparrow. At the Walpatich Unit water levels were about 18" lower than normal, resulting in exposed mudflats and shorebird habitat. I counted 75 Great Egrets among the several hundred Dunlin that lined the edges of the cattail stubble. A pair of Lesser Yellowlegs were feeding along the near shoreline just a few feet away from me, but were too obscured to digiscope.

I continued on just past the Lautenschager Unit when I heard the blaring honk note of a Yellow-headed Blackbird emanating from the phragmites on the other side of Mouillee Creek.

I quickly pulled out the iBirdPod and played the song of the YHBB, which resulted in a stunning male bird popping up atop the phragmites and belting out its song. After a few continuing honk notes it abruptly flew from its perch directly toward me. It landed in the phragmites on this side of the creek just 20 feet and displayed for several minutes out in the open. I fired off a couple dozen images from the D300 before grabbing the scope and Coolpix P5100. As the bird swayed atop the stalks I did my best to digiscope it in the low-light of the overcast afternoon.

After a few minutes it flew down onto the road ahead of me and began feeding in the grass. A few dozen pics later it flew back across the creek to the dense cover of the phragmites. I continued to scope it until it dropped down out of site.

At the SW corner of the Long Pond Unit I found exceptional shorebird habitat and at least 1500 Dunlin actively feeding and roosting in the shallow ponds. I spent several minutes scanning the flocks for something unusual, but found nothing. It was too dark to digiscope, but I did manage a flight shot of one of the large flocks that took off, circled, and returned to its roosting spot.

I continued on to the SW corner of the Vermet Unit, where I found a pair of Willet calling and displaying along the sand spit occupied by Caspian and Forster's Terns. A pair of Osprey were roosting atop the tower in the Lead Unit and were presumed to be nesting.

Meanwhile, some rat bastard had dug a trench across the causeway ahead of me and had unloaded a pile of gravel. They didn't bother filling in the trench, so I had to hike down the ditch and carry the bike and camera w/ me. I headed up to Cell 3 where I found only a handfull of Caspian Terns and Forster's Terns. The Piping Plover that reported a day earlier was not relocated.
The east side of the Vermet Unit was completely devoid of waterfowl except for a single Mallard. The woods along Cell 5 were initially quiet, but I then found a Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a surprising Lincoln's Sparrow! I couldn't move the camera fast enough, though, and it flew from its perch before I could photograph it.

The North Causeway was uneventful except for the road below my tires. Some other rat bastard had bulldozed the road, so now I was riding on beach sand.

I returned to the Middle Causeway to head back to the car and refound the Yellow-headed Blackbird roosting in the phragmites next to the road. I stopped to take a digiscoped video of the bird as it fed on the ground, then took several more images as it perched in the phragmites. I watched it until it flew back out of sight, then headed back to the car.
I had originally thought that only the 1st and last digiscoped images came out in focus. After reviewing images more closely I was able to salvage several more frames in Photoshop. Whew.


Kevin said...

Good going Jerry and great video also !we get YHBB in the fall and it is mostly imm and Females.


Carol said...

Love the video of the Yellow headed blackbird.

Melon said...

Jerry...heard a YHBB this afternoon on Harsens Island. Following the sound, was able to see a beautiful male in my yard for quite a while, and he actually flew into the tree right above me. Got out the binoculars & camera, but was unable to get a picture. Have never heard or seen this bird here in the 55 years I hae been here!

I'm posting about it in my blog today at I'm wondering how rare a sighting this was.

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