Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Of Winds and Wagtail! - 23 Apr 2011

Overnight rains brought heavy fog and mist to Central Lake.  Didn't matter, though.  Neither of us could sleep, so we packed up the car and headed for home at 5 am.  By the time we had reached Pontiac the skies were clearing and it looked like it was going to be a good day.

Jan Morrow called me a little after 9 am and reported 16 Horned Grebes on Lake Erie outside her home.  I was a bit disappointed since I knew I wouldn't be able to get down there to look for them.  I was planning to go to Pt. Mouillee to look for the White Wagtail (again...).

We had gotten home by lunch time, so I grabbed the bike and the new lens and headed down to Roberts Rd.  Mark Wloch had found Cattle Egrets earlier in the day near the entrance, but I was unable to relocate the birds by the time I arrived. 

Though skies were clear the winds were howling this afternoon.  At the Roberts Rd. entrance I found (4) Horned Grebes swimming near shore.  They moved off before I could set up the scope to digiscope them, but it was a nice start.  A flock of Mute Swans flew toward me as I reached the end of the dike. This provided an opportunity to try the new Nikon 300/2.8 VRII lens on flight shots.   I snapped away as they passed, but found that I could only take 1 or 2 pics at a time (?).  Why wasn't the camera shooting 8 fps?

I took the east side of Cell 3 and ran into the Gyllenhalls from Illinois.  They were up looking for the Wagtail, so we searched the mudflats together.  Stiff southerly winds (20-30 mph) were forcing Forster's and Caspian Terns to fly low over the waters of Lake Erie, and they tended to hug the shoreline.  I tried again to take some flight shots, but again, the camera was only firing 1 or 2 frames at a time.

I did manage to capture a nice sequence of a Caspian Tern diving for a Gizzard Shad and fly off w/ it in its mouth.

We scoped the east side of Cell 3 for the White Wagtail, but came up empty.  After 20 minutes or so we heard the distinct 'pipit' sound, looked up, and saw the bird flying over Cell 3.  I took some long-distance flight shots, hoping to capture a record of the bird, but again the camera was firing erratically. I checked the menu and found that the camera was on focus-lock (it would only fire when the subject was in focus).  Grrr!

The Wagtail disappeared to the north and was not relocated.

I spent some time along the east shoreline of Lake Erie getting buffeted by the winds, then decided to check the dike along Cell 4. A few Bonaparte's Gulls were swimming out on the lake, including this juvenile bird that was close enough to digiscope.

I reached the end of the dike and found small rafts of Red-breasted Mergansers, a single Canvasback drake, several Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and (16) Horned Grebes swimming out in Lake Erie.  I tried to digiscope them, but they were diving every few seconds, and I was too slow to track them through the scope.

I then got the call from home that Asia had caught and brought a mouse into the house.  So, I had to grab the bike and ride 4 miles into the teeth of the wind to get back to the car.  I stopped long enough to scope another Horned Grebe in the Humphries Unit, and to talk to Cathy Carroll, Darrin O'Brien and Julie Craves, who were just heading out to look for the Wagtail.  We chatted a moment before I headed home to kill me a kitten....

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