Sunday, January 8, 2012

Snowy Owl @ Pt. Mouillee! - 07 Jan 2012

A visit to Pt. Mouillee on Jan 1 by Will Weber turned up some very exciting birds: a Snowy Owl in Cell 3, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Gyrfalcon!  The Gyrfalcon had flown south, but many were hoping that it might return to the area.  With moderate temperatures all week, and no snow on the ground, it seemed like a great opportunity to break out the bike for a ride.

Sunny skies and cold temps (31-39ºF) greeted the morning.  As I drove to Pt. Mouillee I was able to see flyover Great Blue Heron, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a flock of 50 Bonaparte's Gulls.  The large ponds across from Riverside Park held 500 Ring-billed Gulls.

I parked at Mouillee Creek and rode the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit and Cell 3.  Along the way I encountered American Tree Sparrows, and hundreds of Mute and Tundra Swans roosting in the Vermet Unit.  As I reached Cell 3 I ran into Scott Jennex, Mary Trombley and Todd Palgut.  Will Weber was also there, as he had gotten here before dawn.  Reports of Great Horned Owls, Northern Harriers and no Gyrfalcon were relayed.

As we chatted our attention was directed toward a small white blob in the middle of the Humphries Unit about 3/4 mile away.  It took all of us w/ scopes and several minutes of constant scanning to finally convince ourselves that it was indeed a Snowy Owl.  Unfortunately it was too far away to even consider digiscoping.  Cell 3 held a couple dozen Tundra Swans, 3 Greater Black-backed Gulls and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.  A Northern Harrier appeared over the Humphries Unit, and 3 Bald Eagles were flying near the Roberts Rd. entrance.  Three Snow Buntings also flew overhead.

Scott and Mary then headed back down the Middle Causeway while Will, Todd and I rode toward Cell 5 to check the lake for waterfowl.  At the east end of Cell 5 we found dozens of American Black Duck, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, more swans, Common Goldeneye, and Common and Red-breasted Mergansers.  As we approached the mouth of the Huron River (across from Pt. Moo HQ) we spotted a group of 8 Bald Eagles, and large rafts of American CootRedhead, Ruddy Ducks and Bufflehead

Will and I then headed back toward Cell 3 where I attempted to refind the Snowy Owl and rode on toward Roberts Rd.  I dipped on the Snowy Owl (but Mary and Scott would refind it from the Middle Causeway), but managed a pair of Horned Larks. I also found a 2nd year Greater Black-backed Gull in Cell 3.

Deciding to head back I started to ride down the Middle Causeway.  But by now the ground was soft enough, and the wind was gusting enough that I had to walk the bike the majority of the time.  I was shocked to see a Viriginia Rail flush frm the edge of the Humphries Unit and momentarily fly over the phragmites and disappear back into the marsh.  In the late morning sun I was able to see stubby wings, long, orange-red legs, and an orange-red bill. 

Just before reaching the parking lot I ran into Tom Gere.  As we walked and chatted a Bald Eagle soared overhead.

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