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.
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 Coot, Redhead, 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.