Friday, September 2, 2011

September shorebirding - 01 Sep 2011

Having just returned from 10 days in Ireland (posts coming soon) I was anxious to get down to Pt. Mouillee to check on the shorebirds. It was September 1, and also the start of goose season in MI.  I've not had much of an opinion about goose hunters until today when I had a near-miss encounter with a couple of hunters in a boat.

I had just passed the junction of Vermet/Long Pond/Humphries on bike, waving to the Border Patrol officer as he sat in his car on the dike.  An unusual amount of gunfire was occurring in the SGA this morning, although I hadn't seen any geese flying, suggested that a bit of overexuberance was occurring by those happy to be out shooting.  Two hunters in a boat fired at a goose flying over the Vermet, and dropped it (injured) into the water.  As the hapless bird flopped in the water they sped up in their boat to put it down.  Unfortunately (for me) I was in the area when they fired from the boat into the water, killing the bird.  The buckshot skimmed across the water and peppered the dike about 20 feet behind me, sending me into a loud rage!  They ignored me, collected their bird and sped off.  I photographed them and will be sending a note to the DNR...

I arrived at Cell 3 after no further incidents and proceeded to look for shorebirds.  Andrew Sturgess has been providing wonderfully-detailed reports almost daily from the area, so I wasn't surprised to see a very light population of shorebirds this morning.  I spotted a Baird's Sandpiper relatively close to the NW corner of the unit, and managed a couple of long-distance shots w/ the 300/2.8/TC14.  A pair of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers were harassing the bird, so it didn't stay long.

I scanned the middle of the mudflats, finding only a scattering of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, a Pectoral Sandpiper, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper (that flew off), and six Sanderlings.  With nothing else of interest, I headed toward the east shoreline.  Unfortunately, a bulldozer was clearing the dike along the east side of Cell 3 that made access precarious at-best.

Once it moved far enough to the south, I headed along the dike to the small mud spit about half-way down. There I found a dozen Stilt Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Slowly working my way down the side of the bank I walked out onto the spit and proceeded to digiscope the birds from 30 - 90' away. A better part of an hour produced the following images:

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover

Least Sandpiper


Stilt Sandpipers

Short-billed Dowitcher

Stilt Sandpipers

As I was leaving the area three American White Pelicans landed in the open water next to the mudflat.  I took a couple of long-distance shots w/ the 300/2.8 for record.

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