Sunday, May 23, 2010

Timing is everything! - 22 May 2010

I'll preface this by saying that I was happy w/ my outing this Saturday morning at Pt. Mouillee. After all, Will and I found a 1st cycle Little Gull in Cell 3 between 9 - 9:30 am. I'll follow up by saying that I'm a bit sick that we (Will Weber and I) missed some wonderful birds because we decided to cut the day short due to inclement weather...

I arrived at Mouillee Creek entrance at 6:00 am and dug the bike out of the back of the car. Riding slowly up the Middle Causeway I was greeted immediately by calls of Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroats, Willow Flycatcher, and Eastern Kingbird. Swamp Sparrows were trilling in the open grassy area of the Walpatich Unit.

The Lautenschager Unit was dead. First off, the large sink hole off the main trail to the large pond to the north of the Middle Causeway has been filled, but there were no birds to be found. A Sora was calling in the distance, as well as several Marsh Wrens. Great Egrets were nowhere to be found.

I walked the (new) muddy dike along the Long Pond Unit and found no birds, nor ducks. Adam Byrne later found a Cinnamon Teal in this same location about an hour later. Way to go, Adam!

I then scanned the junction of Vermet, Long Pond and Lead Units. A pair of Osprey were on the nesting platform, with one bird appearing to be incubating while the other bird perched on the edge of the platform. I couldn't see any leg bands. Forster's Terns were actively flying / feeding by the dozens out in the Vermet Unit, but I couldn't find any Black Terns. A flock of 20 Black-bellied Plovers flew overhead but continued south beyond the Lead Unit.

A short while later, Will joined up w/ me and we headed up the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit. Along the way we stopped and found 4 Ruddy Turnstones roosting in the burn area along the south shore of the Vermet. A pair of Common Moorhen were farther out in the water. But other than an pair of Sandhill Cranes the place was quiet.

We headed out to Cell 3 and found scattered shorebirds: mostly Dunlin, Semipalmated Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers feeding in the mud flats well away from the water's edge. Will found a Black-bellied Plover and a Sanderling, while I looked for White-rumped Sandpipers (with no luck).

Will then spotted what looked like a possible Little Gull roosting among much larger Herring Gulls and Caspian Terns. From our vantage point, however, we couldn't completely discount immature Bonaparte's Gull. This bird had a bold dark ulnar bar, ear patch, and a possible smudge spot on the cap (typical of 1st-cycle birds). But the dark, overcast skies made viewing difficult, so we decided we would work our way to the east dike to get a better look, but after stopping by the woods in Cell 1.

We scanned the Lead Unit looking for Yellow-headed Blackbirds and could not find any. No luck seeing American White Pelicans, either. The woods were active with Yellow Warblers, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Orioles, and Indigo Buntings.

Heading back toward Cell 3 from along the Lake Erie shoreline we arrived just as a flock of Dunlin took off from the shoreline. The Little Gull flew with them. The flock made a couple of quick circles around the shoreline, then headed due east over Lake Erie. Will and I were able to make out the bold 'M' along the outer wings, and even caught glimpses of the dark underwings. I fired off a couple dozen frames with the Nikon D300/Sigma 400mm but all images were blurry - it had started to rain and were dealing with fog/condensation.

We continued to scan the shoreline and found a Stilt Sandpiper feeding among the remaining Dunlin. Will made the comment that birds seemed to be moving, and this might be a migration day. But, with the rain now coming down fairly hard, we decided to head back toward the Middle Causeway.
Visibility was poor, and we had to stop several times to clean condensation off our glasses. We decide to make the loop along the west side of the Vermet Unit to the North Causeway and back along the west side of the Long Pond Unit, and saw nothing. We returned to our cars around 10:30 am and headed for dryer climes.
Brad Murphy and Adam Byrne would later send out this e-mail (along w/ the Cinnamon Teal post):

"Today, thanks to a timely phone call from Adam Byrne, I was able to get to Pte Mouillee SGA in time to see the Cinnamon Teal briefly before it disappeared for the day. After viewing the teal, we birded the rest of the State Game Area and turned up some excellent birds. Highlights are as follows:

Glossy Ibis (1 in the Vermet Unit was originally found by Craig Bateman)
Cattle Egret (at least 1 in the Northeast corner of the Lead Unit in the trees where the night-herons are nesting)
Eared Grebe (1 in the Vermet Unit along the southern edge)
Red-necked Phalarope (1 in the Northeast corner of the Vermet Unit by the Glossy Ibis)
Wilson's Phalarope (1 in the flooded fields in the Bloody Run Unit)
Whimbrel (200+ including a group of 88 in Cell 3)
White-rumped Sandpiper (1 in Cell 3)
Yellow-headed Blackbirds (at least 2 were heared in the Lead Unit but were never seen"

Unbelievable! Congrats guys! All of these birds must've come in w/ the rain, and had we stayed we could've possibly seen them. Oh, well, timing is everything...

1 comment:

Alex Lamoreaux said...

Thanks for letting me know...its pretty awesome! I will let my boss Fletcher know about the whimbrels. Also great find with the little gull!

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