Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dunlin by the Wind! - 18 Apr 2012

A clear, cool and breezy afternoon in SE MI prompted a bike ride at Pt. Mouillee.  I arrived at Mouillee Creek and road the Middle Causeway toward the Walpatich Unit.  I was surprised to see the water drawn way down, exposing large expanses of mud flats.

I found a half-dozen Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal resting on an exposed mud bank, but heat shimmer prevented any real decent digiscoping, even from 150' away.  Instead, I concentrated my efforts on a nearby Greater Yellowlegs that allowed me to approach within 50'.

After a pleasant chat with Andrew Sturgess I continued on toward the Bloody Run and Long Pond Units.  Winds were stiff and cold from the east, and biking suddenly became quite a chore.  Having to bundle up I worked my way toward the east side of the Long Pond Unit where I found four Forster's Terns foraging and courting in the canal to my left.  I spent a few minutes photographing the birds as they soared just a few feet away.

Whitecaps in the Vermet Unit prompted me to continue on toward the Banana Unit, but a flock of two dozen Dunlin were close enough for some digiscoping.  The birds were feeding frenetically along the south shore and proved to be a challenge to photograph.  I managed a few captures from 40' away.  While digiscoping the Dunlin a small flock of Lesser Yellowlegs few in and dropped down behind the cattails.  An American Bittern was loudly calling from the Humphries Unit and phragmites behind me.

When the birds finally flew off I headed to Cell 3 where I found a large flock of several hundred Dunlin foraging at water's edge with Bonaparte's Gulls, Herring Gulls, Caspian Terns, Common and Forster's Terns.  The large flock of Dunlin flushed several times while I scoped them from the west dike of Cell 3, so I spent some time photographing them in flight.  I never tire of watching them bank and swirl as a cohesive unit.

The Dunlin split into two large groups and headed off toward the Humphries Unit, so I turned my attention to the flock of Herring Gulls to see if any odd gulls might be present.  I found a dark-eyed (blue when examined at close range) Herring Gull that was suggestive of a Thayer's Gull, but several sources suggest that its mantle was too dark for a Thayer's Gull and that its appearance is too similar to a Herring Gull.  If it is a Herring Gull it would be the second bird in less than a year I've seen w/ blue eyes (the other being an individual in Ireland last August).

I then spent some time scoping the molting Bonaparte's Gulls to see if I could turn one into a Little Gull or a Franklin's Gull, but had no such luck.

With winds now gusting I decided to head back to the car.

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