Saturday, August 20, 2011

Of Egrets and Trickling Shorebirds - 13 Aug 2011

Its beginning to look alot like the end of summer.  The birds are beginning to amass, and shorebirds are finally starting to arrive.  Too slow for my liking, but starting nonetheless...

I parked at Mouillee Creek this morning and rode up to the Lautenschager Unit where I noticed quite a few Great Egrets milling in very shallow water.  The large pond was drying up, and dozens upon dozens of stately white birds were crowded along the entire length.  I grabbed the Coolpix P6000 and fired off several frames so that I could generate a panorama of the birds.  Once generated, I went through a counted 310 Great Egrets (I had originally estimated 400 from cluster-counting...).  I found a few Greater Yellowlegs foraging among dozens of Killdeer, and a few Pectoral Sandpipers, but missed seeing the Wilson's Snipe that were later reported by the Oakland Audubon Society folks (they were here on tour).  I did see a juvenile Snowy Egret among the Great Egrets (it was significantly smaller with a black bill and yellow-striped black legs).

I continued along the Middle Causeway, pausing to shoot a fly-by Green Heron, and headed toward the Banana Unit.  Water levels appeared to be high in the Long Pond Unit, so I felt my chances for seeing the White-faced Ibis were slim to none.

Upon arriving at Cell 3 I ran into Tom Gass and Tom Schlack, who were both scoping shorebirds.  There weren't as many as I had hoped, but it was nice to see a few dozen Semipalmated Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers (both adults and fresh juveniles) foraging all over the mudflats. 

As we scanned the near pond (where dredgings were pumped) we found 3 Sanderlings working the mudflats.  Light levels were low, so digiscoping was not the best.  Tom and I then headed along the dike separating Cell 3 and the Humphries Unit and scoped the south end. A few Short-billed Dowitchers were found toward the middle of the mudflats, but nothing unusual.

We then headed over to the east shoreline, where we had good looks at Lesser Yellowlegs, and worn adults and fresh juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers.  I spent some time digiscoping the birds near shore, while Tom photographed them w/ his 100-400mm Canon.

Perhaps the highlight of the area was this Ruddy Turnstone at the edge of the small mudspit along the east shore.  It was a bit of a distance away, but I managed some nice captures by digiscoping.

Heading back to the NW corner, we ran into the Oakland Audubon Society tour, led by Don Burlett.  I was great talking w/ him, Jim Fowler, Janet Hug, Bob and Judy Setzer, and others.  We chatted a while, and passed along news of the day, then watched as 5 Short-billed Dowitchers (juveniles) flew in close enough to digiscope.  They didn't stay, so I took off toward the North Causeway.

My ride was relatively uneventful, so I only stopped long enough to photograph some very worn Viceroy Butterflies.  They, and a few Common Buckeyes were the only other butterflies seen (if you don't count the myriad of Sulphurs and Whites everywhere else...).

I met up w/ Tom again, and we looked for the ibises again in the Long Pond Unit, but failed to find anything.  Recent rains really pushed the vegetation skyward, so visibility was relatively poor.  I headed back to the car and got home by noon.  Hopefully the shorebirds will show up enmass before the week is out.


Anna said...

I love panoramas with birds in them, awesome! Also I love when a single different species "hides" among another species, like your snowy egret..

Vince Cavalieri said...

Hey Jerry,

Great blog and post. Just wanted to point out that your great butterfly photo is actually a Viceroy!

Good Birding

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