Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bad Creek Unit - 06 Aug 2011

Another hot and sticky morning.  I was hoping to see shorebirds this morning in Cell 3 of Pt. Mouillee, so I got an early start and headed down to the Mouillee Creek entrance. 

At 7 am things were quiet, with only a distant Swamp Sparrow trilling in the Walpatich Unit.  A family of Wood Ducks greeted me as I passed the pump house and Lautenschlager Unit.  The sun was still rising, so I had to make use of ambient light to capture this hen with her chicks in tow.  Shooting through the phragmites added to the challenge of capturing this moment.




Continuing on, I made it to SE corner of the Vermet Unit before stopping again, this time to digiscope a very vocal Greater Yellowlegs still showing breeding plumage.  I was able to capture a brief video of its calling, before being interrupted by a passing Herring Gull.



I rode up to Cell 3, where I ran into Vic Dorer.  He had arrived a few minutes before, and was scanning the large expanse of mud flats.  Only a handful of Killdeer were there, and they were far off toward the middle of the cell.  So, we chatted a few minutes before parting ways.  Shorebirds will have to wait yet another week... I decided to head back to the pump house and check out the Bad Creek Unit for possible Cattle Egret rookeries.

I had been in conversation with Walt Pawlowski recently.  He was interested in finding out where the Cattle Egrets could be nesting at Pt. Mouillee.  With recent observations of young Cattle Egrets at the buffalo farm off Port Sunlight Rd., and my seeing several juveniles a few weeks back, the question arose whether a rookerie might be found somewhere along the Bad Creek Unit of Pt. Mouillee.  Confirmed sightings of juvenile Cattle Egrets would only be the 2nd or 3rd record in the State of Michigan! So, I offered to walk the dike south of the pumphouse at Mouillee Creek to see if habitat was suitable for Cattle Egrets to nest, thinking that the southern end of the SGA might turn up some birds.

The trees at the east end of the Mouillee Creek were chock full of Purple Martins.  Several hundred adult males, females and juvenile birds were clustered in several trees next to the American Lotus patch.  I took a few pics with the D300 and the digiscoping equipment before heading south along the dike.



The vegetation along the dike was growing thick, and biking was next to impossible, so I decided to walk the dike southward until it ran into Roberts Rd. at its end.  A Green Heron flew along the creek to my right and landed in the trees across the channel.  I stopped long enough to grab a quick digiscoped image or two.



A family of four Indigo Buntings were frolicking in the phragmites up ahead, and a male bird stayed around long enough for a few photos. 

Continuing along the trail I came across a nesting Red-tailed Hawk.   An Osprey flew overhead, as well.  To my left, the marsh gave way to large expanses of open grasslands and sparse cattail marsh.  I'd never been down this trail before, and this portion of the is just beautiful.  Had lighting not been so bad I'd have taken a few panoramic photos to justify the description.  Earlier this year a pair of Sandhill Cranes had given birth to a single chick in this part of the marsh.

As I walked I spotted the first Willow Flycatchers of the year.  They'd been missing from the Middle Causeway, so it was nice to see several birds in this portion of the SGA.  I was able to capture a few digiscoped images as one bird popped into the open from behind the phragmites.

I would soon run into several small flocks of Cedar Waxwings.  Their high-pitched calls were appropriate for a hot, humid morning.



Did I mention mosquitos?  I was covered w/ them, and w/o bug juice. Some of these blood-suckers must've been Easter Massassauga Mosquitos, 'cause they were huge, with large diamonds and stripes on their legs.  On a brighter note, the butterflies were fun to see, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, and a number of these tiny Chickweed Geomters (Haemotopis grataria).  Tiny orange Skippers were fluttering about, but I was unable to ID them to species.  White Commas and yellow Colias sp. Sulphurs were also quite numerous.  Several large Saddlebag dragonflies actually landed long enough for a pic or two.






After walking close to an hour southward, I finally reached Roberts Rd.  A small flock of birds nearby included Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, and House Wrens were impossible to photograph, so I turned around and headed back toward the pump house. Although the marsh was quite lovely, I found no locations were I though that Cattle Egrets could be nesting.  So it appears that the egret rookerie in the Humphries Unit (across from Cell 3) is the most likely location for the source of this year's Cattle Egret population.  I would later get confirmation from Adam Byrne that 3 nests were photographed from this location, and that young were produced last year, as well.

Finally reaching my bike, I was exhausted, soaked, and covered with welts.  I headed home for a shower and a nap.  I'll be back here this fall when warblers are migrating.  It should be a nice place to walk then!

1 comment:

dAwN said...

wonderful photos...I especially like the last lone Wood Duck photo.

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