Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pt. Mouillee SGA - 12 July 2009

I headed down to Pt. Mouillee early Sunday afternoon to follow up on recent reports from Tex Wells (White-faced Ibis, White Pelicans, Yellow-headed Blackbirds) and Charles Owens (Whimbrel, White Pelicans). It was warm, sunny, and only slightly breezy (here in Wyandotte). By the time I got there the winds were gusting and the birds were nowhere to be found.

I parked at the Mouillee Creek entrance and rode up the Middle Causeway. The Walpatich Unit was very low and almost filled with pond lilly. A single Great Blue Heron was feeding in the Lautenschager Unit across from the Bloody Run Unit. I biked along the dike west of the Bloody Run Unit and found a single Greater Yellowlegs feeding in the mudflats of the Nelson Unit - this by the way could be very good for fall shorebirds.

As I reached the North Causeway I found a single Whimbrel feeding along the shoreline of the Long Pond Unit. Lucky for me there was a break in the phragmites, so I carefully climbed down the side of the dike and attempted to digiscope the bird in the mudflat approximately 80 feet away. With the overhead sun slightly backlighting the bird photography was tough, but I fired away with both the Nikon D300 and the digiscoping equipment. I played with exposure compensation a bit since I had difficulty metering the bird against the gray/brown mud background. This is probably the worst background possible because of the amount of glare produced from all directions. Still, I did my best to capture the Whimbrel as it moved along the shoreline ahead of me, and was quite pleased at how well the digiscoping equipment performed. I managed several nice keeper images of the bird, and despite my wishes that I was photographing an Eskimo Curlew the dark cap and long, downcurved bill dashed that idea. Before moving on I found a Blanding's Turtle sitting in the middle of the dike and rescued it before being squashed by an oncoming Border Patrol vehicle.

I headed back south along the dike separating the Vermet and Long Pond Units. The NW corner of the Vermet produced distant views of numerous flocks of Yellowlegs (mostly Lesser), ducks, Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, but no White Pelicans. The Long Pond Unit was entirely dry and grassed over. Search as I might I failed to find any evidence of Pelican or Ibis.

A ride east along the Middle Causeway produced a long distance view of a Northern Harrier, and an immature Bald Eagle. The Banana Unit was relatively quiet, as well. Cell 3 held only a pair of Killdeer among the dozens of roosting Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Caspian Terns. A feeding Eastern Kingbird gobbled down a freshly-caught dragonfly just a few feet away.

With the warm winds now blowing in my face, I trudged back to the car along the Middle Causeway. I stopped along the way and found a single Black Tern feeding out in the Lead Unit, and captured a few flight shots of a Caspian Tern flying by from the Vermet Unit. With only the trill of a Swamp Sparrow and the nearby chatter from a Marsh Wren in the Lead Unit to distract me, I returned to the car and headed home for dinner.

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