Monday, April 30, 2012

WPBO Spring Fling - 27-28 Apr 2012

Robin and I headed north to Paradise, MI for the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory's annual Spring Fling Festival.  Up early, we were on the road by 5:15 am Friday and would arrive at Saunder's Sunrise Cabins at just about 1 pm.  With bright, sunny skies we had gorgeous views of Whitefish Bay from our (red) cabin. The sunrise at left would greet us from our cabin on Saturday morning...

First order of business was a drive to the point to check out the action.  There were a few cars in the parking lot, but not the huge numbers I was expecting.  I grabbed the scope and camera and headed down to the water's edge.  No sooner had I gotten out of the car did I spot a Glaucous Gull soaring over the sand dune. I took off after the bird, and was able to grab a few flight shots as it battled the wind coming in from offshore.

Winds were extremely gusty as I walked the shoreline toward the point.  At my feet were hundreds of carcasses of Red Admiral Butterflies and white moths of unknown identity.  Ring-billed Gulls (mostly second-cycle) were plentiful on the water and in the air, and only a single Killdeer braved the winds near the point.

As I reached the point I took notice of another Glaucous Gull bathing just beyond the point.  Too windy to digiscope stills, I took a short video before trying to move closer.  Between the wind, overhead sun, and heat shimmer, conditions were such that only poor images could be obtained.  So, I had to settle for a few record images.

As I was leaving I met Beth Olson and her friend Diane (?), both from Marquette.  They were here for the festival, as well.  Returning to the parking lot I decided to get a panorama of the dunes behind me.

A short nap later, we then headed to Taquamenon Falls and the Pub/Brewery to have dinner with Board Members from Whitefish Point Bird Observatory.  Mike and Susan Kielb greeted us, along with Jerry Ziarno, Bill Scharf, Tony Janisch, Rosann Kovalcik, Jon Stasenvich, Colleen Vogler, Bob Pettit, and Andy Parsons.  Keynote guest Richard Crossley was there, as well. I'm missing someone else...Oh, yeah! Mary Wise (sorry, Mary!).

After dinner I dropped Robin off at the cabin and headed up to the point, where Mike was leading an owling tour at the raptor tower.  First, I stopped in the Gift Shop and met Nova Mackentley and Betty Maxson.  We chatted a bit until Nova headed out to check nets.  I saw Mary and Richard and chatted with them awhile before Mary and I headed to the tower. We were late, as the night flight of Long-eared Owls had passed.  Apparently folks also got a good sighting of a rare (for the area) Great Horned Owl. Before heading home, Mary, Rosann, Jon and I stopped by Mike and Susan's home just up the road for a quick glass of wine.

Saturday morning came too quickly, but at least the winds died a bit.  It was clear, cold (35ºF), and a gorgeous morning to be at the point.  No sooner did I get out of the car that I was greeted by 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks soaring overhead.  I then walked out to the point, where I managed to get the scope on small groups of Red-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Horned Grebes.  The Red-necked Grebes were a challenge, as Diane (?) from East Lansing could attest to (we had quite the time trying to keep the bird in the scope long enough for her to see it).  A flyover Common Loon and a horizon Red-throated Loon would be the only other highlight.  That is, until Mary called us over to look at a scruffy Long-tailed Duck that was keeping company with a pair of mergansers and Red-necked Grebes.

Walking back toward the registration tent I was distracted by a pair of Northern Flickers that provided some digiscoping opportunities from 120'.  I caught up with Diane just as we came across a pair of singing Purple Finches (females).  We had gorgeous looks through the scope, and I took a dozen or two digiscoped images from about 40' away.

The feeders were active with White-throated Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers, Common Grackles, Purple Finches, European Starlings, and Brown-headed Cowbirds.  I would later miss a Boreal Chickadee that showed up nearby in the woods.

I headed back to the cabin to grab my gear for the two workshops I'd be giving at the school.  Both workshops (Budget Bird Photography) went well, and turnout was quite good.  For those of you who attended, here's a link to the slides.

With the workshops over we had time for a short nap.  While driving back to the cabin, Robin spotted a beautiful Red Fox along side the road.  I had my head up in the trees, so I missed it completely.  But the fox remained long enough for us turn around and head back to its location.  It ran as soon as I slowed the car, so all I could do was get some FIF's (fox-in-flight).

We then headed to the township hall for the evening banquet.  With 200 people crammed into the banquet hall I got to overhear all of the great bird sightings I missed due to my workshop committments: Golden Eagles, Boreal Chickadees, Spruce Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, and Red Crossbills, just to name a few.  A late afternoon hawk flight included a dozen or two Broad-winged Hawks.  My only consolation was seeing a Merlin that flew by the window as we ate dinner.

Richard Crossley, author of the newly-published "ID Guide to Eastern Birds", gave an entertaining keynote address that included some of his wonderful photography, and stories from his past.  We also heard stories of his inspirations that led to creation of the revolutionary guide ("not a field guide"), as well as hints into his future projects.

By evening's end I was too exhausted to head back to the point, so Robin and I went back to the cabin to relax and pack for the trip home.

Special mention needs to be made to recognize the efforts of those folks who made the festival such a success: the people who provided food and hospitality for the banquet, to Tony Janisch (Director of WPBO) and his staff for such a great job w/ the Bird Observatory, the tour guides and speakers, and especially to Mary Wise for organizing such a wonderfully successful Spring Fling.  As I said earlier, "Mary, you were Brilliant!".

1 comment:

Mary W. said...

Thanks Jerry! It was me you missed in the friday night dinner - ha! Love you FIF. It was a great workshop!

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