As usual, I parked at the Mouillee Creek entrance and headed up the Middle Causeway on the bike. As I passed the rows of phragmites on either side of me, just west of the Walpatich Unit, the skies darkened as hundreds of swallows erupted from their roosting places. With the early morning sun still rising, I took a few minutes to digiscope what were presumed to be just adult and juvenile Tree Swallows. Several birds were perched nicely atop seed stalks and cooperated nicely for some digiscoped images. Dozens more were congregating on the trail ahead of me and offered a few pics with the D300. It wasn't until I met up with Will Weber a bit later that I realized that I was also observing numerous Bank Swallows mixed with the Tree Swallows . It was Will that commented about the numbers of Bank Swallows he had seen, that I realized that I better go back and review my images. Sure enough, my presumed juvenile Tree Swallows were showing a distinctive necklace that made them Bank Swallows! Wow, how easily I missed them. A few Barn Swallows were also found in the mix.
At the junction of Long Pond, Vermet and Lead Units Will pointed out 4 Snowy Egrets in the ditch to my left. No sooner did I get my scope on them that a juvenile Peregrine Falcon bulleted in and attacked them. It made several swooping passes at the ducking birds before disappearing off to the north and east.
We headed up to Cell 3 of the Banana Unit, and scoped the expansive mudflats for shorebirds. Concentrating our efforts along the waterline, now in the middle of Cell 3, we totally overlooked the prize bird. It wasn't until Dave Boon arrived that we found an American Avocet feeding in the shallow mud about half the way in from the water's edge. While Dave and Will stayed on the dike I moved down to the weedy shore near a dirt pile, hoping to get a bit closer to the bird. For several minutes and dozens of frames I digiscoped the alternate-plumaged bird as it probed for insects and worms. It wasn't until the bird flew toward the waterline that I noticed a Sanderling feeding just a few feet away from me. I managed a couple pics of it before it was flushed by several Killdeer and flew off to parts unknown.
I then continued to the east dike of Cell 3 to try to get better looks at a group of shorebirds feeding in the area. Four Short-billed Dowitchers and a single Stilt Sandpiper were feeding close enough for a digiscoped image or two. The Avocet was farther out, preening. But soon it began to feed again, and started working its way in my direction. I took images of the bird, and was watching it through my scope when a flock of Semipalmated Sanpipers fly past my field of view. The Avocet and nearby Lesser Yellowlegs suddenly paused and flushed as an immature Bald Eagle flew and scattered the shorebirds. It landed briefly along the water's edge, but then continued flying to the south. I grabbed several flight shots as it flew off. With the Avocet gone, Will and I continued on while Dave headed back toward Roberts Road.
Will wanted to check out the Lead Unit, so we separated briefly while I headed north toward the Vermet. Along the way I flushed a Whimbrel from the rocky shoreline of Cell 4, and managed a couple of flight shots as it disappeared over the Vermet Unit. As I scoped several Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers and a Solitary Sandpiper, Will returned. He promptly spotted a pair of Marbled Godwits along the far west shore of the Vermet Unit a half-mile away. I spotted a third Godwit a short distance from the first two birds. Too far to consider digiscoping, I said my farewell and continued on alone.
A flock of Purple Martins were roosting in a dead tree along the east shore of the Vermet and provided several digiscoped images. I managed to capture a flight pic or two of Purple Martin as it flew along the dike beside me.
After passing Lyle Hamilton and Sean Bachman I continued back toward the car. The only birds of interest were a pair of Green Herons and a pair of Willow Flycatchers in the Walpatich Unit.
Someone notice me!!!!!