Monday, May 28, 2012

Whimbrels. Should've Been Here Yesterday! - 26 May 2012

 For the nth time again, I managed to miss the great Whimbrel migration.  For the nth time I had to settle on reading the exploits of others who had great days seeing literally hundreds of Whimbrels while I was at work or just too busy to get out.

Between 22 May and 29 May of each year Whimbrels have been documented migrating through Michigan and other nearby locales by the hundreds.  The kicker is that it tends to be a one-day wonder, meaning that they arrive on a single day (here in MI) and are gone (completely) by the next.

On 22 May Jim Van Allen was a Pt. Mouillee and found 168 Whimbrels (and 95 Black-bellied Plovers)  in Cell 3 and the Vermet Unit.  On the same day 635 Whimbrel were counted by Wayne Renaud at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto. 

The next day David Boon went to Pt. Mouillee and found no Whimbrels. On the 24th of May another 482 Whimbrel would be counted in Toronto, followed by another 769 on the 25th.  Surprisingly, Allen Chartier would find 235 Whimbrel (and 181 Ruddy Turnstones) on the 25th at Pt. Mouillee.  Today (26th) I went to Pt. Mouillee and found no Whimbrels, and only 3 Ruddy Turnstones. Missed again. Incredibly though, Wayne Renaud and the folks at Colonel Samuel Smith Park would count a whopping 2264 Whimbrels.

Though I would find no Whimbrels today, it wasn't a complete disappointment.  The morning didn't start that great though, as a singing Yellow Warbler was close enough to digiscope, but I realized that my Nikon V1 battery was in the charger at home.  By the time I put my backup battery in, the bird was gone.

I did manage get some nice digiscoped images of a singing Common Yellowthroat.  This male was one of two that were tussling and chasing each other over territory. 

I wasted little time getting to the Vermet Unit and Cell 3 to look for the Whimbrels, but I would miss them.  One Black-bellied Plover was on the mud flats in Cell 3 but flew just as I was about to digiscope it from 100 yds. away.  The only other shorebirds were a couple dozen Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers

I rode around to east side of Cell 3 just as the rains came, and got soaked.  The birds didn't mind, so I spent a few minutes digiscoping the Dunlin and Semipalms that were foraging in the shallows just below the dike. I then noticed three Short-billed Dowitchers farther toward the middle of the unit.

I continued on to the Vermet Unit where I found the three remaining Ruddy Turnstones. A flock of Forster's Terns were on the rocks in Cell 4, so I took a few digiscoped images of them.  Another half-dozen Bonaparte's Gulls were nearby, mostly juveniles molting in adult plumage.

I stopped at the NE corner of the Vermet to digiscope a pair of Spotted Sandpipers foraging among the rocks.  These images look almost prehistoric...

With no other birds of note I headed back to the car and drove down to Haggerman Rd.  There I found numerous Savannah Sparrows and Horned Larks foraging in the fields on either side of the road.  Along the fence surrounding the radio towers I found a half-dozen male Bobolink singing and displaying.  Unfortunately there were on the other side of the fence, so any digiscoping had to be performed through the fence.

With the skies starting to open up I headed back to the car and headed for home.

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