Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heat Wave - Day 1 - 17 Jul 2011

The Midwest is currently experiencing an oppressive heat wave, with temps reaching 100ºF in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas.  Here, the temps are supposed to hit the upper 90's today, so it was time to hit the Moo before it got too uncomfortable.

I rode the Middle Causeway to the Walpatich Unit, where I found a Swamp Sparrow trilling across the canal and atop some sedges.  Though severely backlit by the morning sun, I managed a single keeper digiscoped image.  I would later find him in the same spot, but still fail to get any real keeper images.  It was nice to see one of these elusive birds for a change.

I then rode the dike separating the Lautenschager and Bloody Run Units all the way north until it hooked up w/ the trail that splits Nelson and Long Pond Units.  I'd not ridden this trail in many years, so it was nice to turn up a Least Sandpiper, several Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, and an immature Bald Eagle.

The North Causeway brought me alongside the Long Pond Unit, where at least a half-dozen Marsh Wrens were actively calling from the cattails.  Several Black-crowned Night Herons were flying out of the cattails, as well.  Near the east end of the unit I spotted a dozen or so Great Egrets roosting in a tree.  A Green Heron was with them, as well, so I hiked through the field to see if I could digiscope it.

Unfortunately the Green Heron flew off, but a pair of immature Black-crowned Night Herons took its place.  I was able to get some nice portrait shots of one juvie.  I liked his straddling poses! One of the Great Egrets managed to remain perched atop the dead tree while its mates took off in all directions.

I then hooked up w/ Alex (sorry, I've forgotten your last name) from Macomb Twp., who was out looking for the pair of Plegadis sp. ibis.  We scoped the east end of the Long Pond Unit for some time, but failed to see an ibis or the Little Blue Heron.  We did turn up a flock of Green-winged Teal, Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Killdeer in the short wet grasses across the channel. A fly-by Forster's Tern (non-breeding adult) provided a quick photo opp.

We were then joined by Scott Jennex and Mary Trembley.  Scott picked a Pectoral Sandpiper out of the crowd of shorebirds about a 100 yds. away.  An American Bittern made a fly-by across the channel, and Mary spotted a Least Bittern a few minutes later.

Just as Alex left the two ibis flushed from the tall grass and landed approximately 150 yds. away.  I attempted to digiscope them, but couldn't get a still image to save my life.  I did manage a short video capture at full magnification (~180X). Mary retrieved Alex so that he could at least see the two ibis.

One adult bird still appears to be a pure White-faced Ibis, but is no longer showing much white feathering on the pinkish lores. Its eyes are still bright red. The other bird shows a slight tinge of red in its eyes, but are significantly darker. It showed almost no white on the lores, and could be easily mistaken for a Glossy Ibis at this point. I believe, though, that it is a probable hybrid...

I left Scott and Mary, and headed toward Cell 3 of the Banana Unit. Dredgings are still being pumped, and water levels are now high in the Cell. A small mud spit was hosting ~125 Common and Forster's Terns. I made a rough count and came up the following numbers:

15 Juvenile Forster's Terns (golden brown plumage w/ dark eye patches)
10 Juvenile Common Terns (dark carpal bar and a touch of tan feathering)
30 Non-breeding adult Common Terns (white foreheads, black bills, carpal bars)
20 Non-breeding adult Forster's Terns (black bills, dark eyepatches, no carpals)
30 Breeding adult Forster's Terns (black caps, orange bills w/ black tips)
25 Breeding adult Common Terns (black caps, blood-red bills w/ black tips)

Here's a juvenile Common Tern.  Despite having its head tucked away, notice the dark carpal bar and touch of tan feathering that help to ID this bird.  Once its head is in view, the orange bill suggests Forster's Tern, but will darken to red before long.

A nice surprise was finding 4 Black Terns in adult / transitional plumage.
Heat and moisture and distance combined to make digiscoping difficult.

I scanned the east shoreline of Cell 3 for shorebirds and pelicans, but came up w/ only a handfull of Ring-billed Gulls and a few dabbling ducks.

I decided to head back to the car and make for home.

1 comment:

Silly Putty said...

Jerry- good stuff! I was there on Saturday and got a slightly closer up video of the ibises which can be seen on my Flickr photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/27846187@N07/

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