Friday, March 23, 2012

80º in March??? - 21 Mar 2012

Its officially the hottest day in March, in Michigan, ever.  So what do you do?  Go birding, of course. 

This afternoon the skies were clear, winds were relatively mild, and 80ºF, so I grabbed the bike and headed down to Pt. Mouillee for a ride, and hopefully some digiscoping opportunities.  Arriving at the Mouillee Creek entrance at 5:30 pm I rode the Middle Causeway looking for birds.

Until I reached the Walpatich Unit the only birds seen were a handfull of Song Sparrows flitting across the trail, and the ever-present Red-winged Blackbirds that were staking out territories wherever a visible perch presented itself.  This singing male was giving a half-hearted rendition of its "Konk-la-reee" song, not really putting the effort into puffing himself up and displaying his epaulets.

A pair of Lesser Scaup were swimming in the Walpatich Unit and provided a couple of long-distance digiscoped images from 300' away.  True to their nature the ducks in these parts will scatter the moment someone approaches from a 1/4 mile away... I could only watch as these two swam purposely to join the dozen other scaup at the farthest end of the marsh.  Tree Swallows were active by the dozens foraging along the water's surface.

A dozen Green-winged Teal and a pair of Northern Shovelers were lounging near the west edge of the Bloody Run Unit.  Most of the teal took flight before I could even get off the bike, but a couple pair remained long enough for another long-distance shot or two.  The shovelers also stuck around, but only for a few minutes.  I looked, but found no Wilson's Snipe in the shallow mudflats next to the corn fields.

Just before reaching the Banana Unit I heard the loud "Tu-Tu-Tu" of a Greater Yellowlegs, and then found a pair of birds along the south edge of the Vermet Unit.  With the sun at my back it provided a perfect opportunity to digiscoping these first shorebirds of the year.

One bird appeared to be in breeding plumage, while the second bird looked to be an adult non-breeder.

A bit farther along I re-found the single Lesser Yellowlegs that I saw on Saturday, and this time I was able to get some images before the Killdeer scattered everyone around them.

I rode over to Cell 3 where I found a flock of mostly Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.  Among them were a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls and a single Bonaparte's Gull (still in basic plumage).  As I returned toward the Middle Causeway, however, I spotted over 200 Bonaparte's Gulls feeding at the mouth of the Banana Unit where it opens between Cells 4 and 5.  They were moving quickly south, but keeping low over the water like a flock of storm petrels.  Neat!

As the sun was beginning to set I scoped a large raft of ducks out in the Vermet Unit.  Of the 200 or so ducks most were American Coot.  However, there were a good 2 dozen American Wigeon, and another dozen Gadwall, Redhead, and Ring-necked Ducks among them.  Though I searched I could not find the Eurasian Wigeon reported earlier by Walt Pawlowski.

I returned to the car and took a quick drive down Haagerman Rd. where I spotted several Horned Larks and heard several Eastern Meadowlarks singing in the fenced-in antennae farm.  I decided then that tomorrow evening might be a good time to head to Oakwoods Metropark and try to digiscope the meadowlarks that had already returned there...

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