Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reeve @ Pt. Mouillee SGA - 02 Jun 2011

Clear skies and low winds meant playing hooky from work (for an hour or so...).  Especially after David Boon's report of Red-necked Phalaropes and Whimbrel at Pt. Mouillee yesterday, I felt the need to try and get some digiscoped images of a breeding female.  After all, the only times I've ever seen these birds were in late August when they've already transitioned into basic plumage.

I biked in from Mouillee Creek and headed straight for Cell 3 along the Middle Causeway.  Stopping along the south end of the Vermet Unit I looked for, but could not find, the Whimbrel reported yesterday. 

I headed straight for Cell 3 and stopped along the west side where the water meets the mudflats.  There, I found a small flock of Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers.  Almost immediately I found the pair of Red-necked Phalaropes (male and female).

I approached within 30 yds. of the birds and proceeded to digiscope them in the early morning light.  In order to avoid blown highlights I had to underexpose by 2 full f-stops (-2 exp. comp).  I managed a few capture of the pair of birds together before they split up forage 30 feet apart. 

A scan of the mudflats farther toward the middle of the Cell revealed several Ruddy Turnstones and a White-rumped Sandpiper.

A few minutes later the entire flock flushed and flew off toward the east dike of Cell 3.  It was about this time that Andy Dettling arrived after biking 2 hrs. from his home in Westland (?).  We chatted a bit and scanned the Humphries Unit, finding a Cattle Egret and numerous Black-crowned Night Herons, but no Snow Egret.

Several minutes later the flock of shorebirds returned, and we got wonderful looks at both phalaropes from 20 feet away.  Though the male was closer, lighting was bad from my angle, so I concentrated on the more colorful female.







As I digiscoped away at both birds, Andy scanned the rest of the mudflats for potential BIGBY birds (Big Green Birding Year). He called me over to his scope and showed a large shorebird along the east dike.  The overall brown coloration and slightly downcurved bill had us thinking either Ruff or King Rail.  But before we could make out any more traits the entire mudflat lifted off again.  This time it was a Peregrine Falcon strafing the mudflats looking for a meal.  It banked, and plucked a Semipalmated Sandpiper out of the water.  I grabbed the 300/2.8 and fired away, trying to capture a flight pic or two.

As the Peregrine disappeared over the Humphries Unit w/ prey in tow, we watched several large shorebird flocks whirl and bank over open water before settling down along the east shoreline.  We made the decision to ride over to east dike to relocate the unknown shorebird, and once there, watched as the entire flock decided to fly back across to the west side of Cell 3.

With the sun now at our backs, we could at least verify that our unknown shorebird was indeed a female Ruff (Reeve).  From 100 yds. away we could make out its buff-brown head, scalloped back, orange-red legs, and neck feathers that gave it a black-collar look.  I tried to take a video at full magnification but once again the winds played havoc w/ recording.  So we headed back over to the west dike of Cell 3.

We returned, only to watch the flock take off again and fly back across to the east side of Cell 3.  Frustrated, we decided to head back over to the east dike one last time.  Before doing so, we relocated the Reeve by itself near the dike in shallow water, so the odds improved that it wouldn't flush w/ the other shorebirds. 

We got there in time to get some long-distance digiscope captures and see the bird among its peers.  The brown neck and head was really attractive!  We were able to see its slightly-downcurved bill, as well.  Satisfied, I wished Andy the best of luck on his Big Green Year and headed off to work.

1 comment:

Michael said...

'Great find and account!

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