Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yellow-headed Blackbird! - 21 May 2011

Robin and I left Boone, NC yesterday at noon, and drove for home.  We got in just before Midnight, and headed straight to bed.  I knew it was supposed to be nice this morning, so I wanted to get out to Pt. Mouillee before the clouds and rain returned.

I started out at Siegler Rd. and headed along the North Causeway to the dike separating the Nelson and Long Pond Units.  Water levels were high in both units, with a nice new crop of cattails appearing to grow along the west side of the LPU. The only highlight was a foraging Solitary Sandpiper in the ditch to my right. 

I spent a few minutes at the junction of Long Pond, Vermet and Humphries Units photographing Forster's Terns, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Great Egrets that were flying about.  I scanned the Vermet Unit but failed to relocate any Plegadis Ibis that have not been reported, yet...

As I started up the Middle Causeway I noticed a rather large blackbird sitting among the gulls roosting on the trail.  When I put the scope on it I saw that it was a Yellow-headed Blackbird.  It foraged along the trail for a few moments, then flew over to the edge of the Humphries Unit.

I managed to get within 20' of it and get a few digiscoped images before it was flushed by a Killdeer and flew off toward the middle of the unit.  As I scoped the Osprey pair on their nesting platform I counted at least 6 more Yellow-headed Blackbird males perched on cattail stalks in the middle of the unit.

I then headed toward the Banana Unit and Cell 3 to look for shorebirds.  Along the way I spotted 5 Dunlin foraging in a puddle along the edge of the Vermet Unit and stopped to take a few digiscoped images from about 30'.  A cooperative Common Yellowthroat stayed put long enough to be digiscoped from about 40'.

Cell 3 was active with a few dozen gulls, Caspian Terns, Forster's Terns, and a flock of ~600 Dunlin.  As I scoped the Dunlin I was able to pick out a single Semipalmated Sandpiper among the dozen or so Least Sandpipers that tended to forage in dryer mudflats.  A single Black-bellied Plover was the only other shorebird found.  I scanned the Humphries Unit but could not turn up any American White Pelicans or Cattle Egrets.  A small colony of Black-crowned Night Herons were roosting in the middle of the unit, while dozens of Forster's Terns swirled near their nesting colonies.

The sand pile along the south shoreline of Cell 4 has a Bank Swallow colony.  Luckily the pilings along the shoreline help protect it from erosion.  Hopefully it'll continue to grow!

Riding along the east shoreline of the Vermet Unit I spotted a pair of Indigo Bunting males displaying in the phragmites and trees lining the shoreline.  I digiscoped this cooperative bird from about 100'.

An Eastern Kingbird was a bit closer, and made a nice digiscoping subject from about 60'.

My visit here would end with a digiscoped image of a Black-crowned Night Heron roosting on one of the many muskrat dens in the Vermet Unit.  There appeared to be an unusually high number of these birds here this morning (3 dozen at least).

Before heading home I took a swing down Hagermann Rd. opposite the quarry, and was pleased to see several dozen displaying Bobolink males in the green fields to the north.  I managed a couple flight shots of the males, and spotted several females on the opposite side of the road.


A singing Savannah Sparrow stayed put while I snapped away from inside the car.

Several Horned Larks were still displaying (flight) and foraging on the ground.  No Dickcissels were heard or seen (yet), but I did hear a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks from inside the fenced towers.

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