Monday, June 18, 2012

Marbled Godwit! - 16 Jun 2012

Today's outing to Pt. Mouillee was extra special, as my buddy Tim Haigh was in town from London, England.  Together we unloaded bikes, binocs and scopes and headed out along the Middle Causeway in search of birds.

We spent a few minutes listening to Swamp Sparrows trilling across the canal in the Walpatich Unit, and managed to call one in.  The bird flew across the canal and buzzed us, before returning to the security of a large Willow tree next to the cattail marsh.  Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers were also calling, but refused to make appearances for us.

A Red-winged Blackbird was perched nearby and provided an opportunity for us to do some digiscoping from about 30' away.  Tim did well, despite having to use the smaller Nikon ED50 scope, 20-60X eyepiece, and the trusty old Nikon Coolpix P6000 'without' an adaptor.  Its tough work digiscoping hand-held w/ this outfit, so kudos to Mr. Haigh for this capture!

A Willow Flycatcher was perched atop a willow tree, so ID'ing this Empidonax flycatcher was easy....:).  Actually, hearing its "Fitz-bew" call made the ID easy.

Just around the corner from our current location, we spent a few minutes near the pump house admiring the American Lotus patch in Mouillee Creek, and had nice looks at a Belted Kingfisher about 120' away.  The little ED50 scope did not do too bad a job at capturing the kingfisher, but chromatic aberration was apparent at the longer distance.  The Zeiss 85T*Fl really shines here, producing little-to-no CA from the same distance.  Of course, having a stable adaptor helps quite a bit, as well...

Zeiss 85T*Fl, 45X W eyepiece, Nikon V1

Nikon ED50, 20-60X eyepiece, Nikon Coolpix P6000
A Black-crowned Night Heron was perched on the boat in the middle of the creek, so I spent a minute or two digiscoping it from about 100'.

Flyover Great Egrets and Green Herons distracted us as we rode on to the Lautenschlager Unit.  Upon arriving at the large pond we met up with Mike and Doris Dee, two well-known and wonderful local freelance photographers.  Check out their stunning images on Flickr! 

While talking with them Mike showed me images of a Marbled Godwit he and Doris photographed this morning. The bird had flown toward the Vermet Unit, so we settled our scopes on the half-dozen Killdeer, a Blue-winged Teal, and a pair of Black-bellied Plovers in non-breeding plumage.  A Greater Yellowlegs flew by, but I was too slow to get any decent pics in flight. A drake Green-winged Teal was also a surprise.

Tim and I then headed along the dike separating the Bloody Run and Long Pond Units toward the North Causeway.  We spotted a Mink running across the dike, and heard the first of several Marsh Wrens.

An Eastern Meadowlark was a surprise find along the North Causeway, fluttering ahead of us as we rode toward the Vermet Unit.  A family of Wood Ducks (mom w/ 6 hatchlings) were swimming in the Long Pond to our right while several small flocks of Mute Swans whistled by the Vermet Unit.

As we approached a large group of 12 Great Egrets in the SE corner of the Vermet Unit I spotted the Marbled Godwit.  We managed to get our binoculars on the bird before it flew off to the west.  We spent a few minutes scoping the Bald Eagle nest (w/ 2 adults) in the Vermet Unit, and a lone adult Osprey nearby.  Cell 4 held a pair of Lesser Scaup and a Bufflehead, as well as a dozen or so Redhead Ducks.

Our next stop was the Lake Erie shoreline along the east side of Cell 3, where we scoped about 500 Bonaparte's Gulls (mostly juveniles molting into adult plumage), 4 Black Terns, a dozen Caspian Terns, and another dozen Forster's Terns.  I spent a few minutes looking for a Little Gull, but dipped.
Shorebirds were absent except for a pair of Killdeer.

Returning to the Middle Causeway we spent a few minutes digiscoping the Ospreys atop their nesting platform in the middle of Humphries Unit.  It was again a chance to compare the two scopes and camera setups.  Again, Tim captured some nice images despite being stuck w/ the smaller scope and older camera.

We then headed back along the Middle Causeway toward the Lautenschlager Unit to look for the Marbled Godwit.  I walked along ahead of Tim, and found the godwit foraging along the north side of the large pond.  I approached the bird slowly, remembering Mike's description of the unusually spooky bird.  As the clouds rolled in I digiscoped the godwit from about 150' away, then managed to get within 100' of the bird.  Three Black-bellied Plovers were foraging alongside the bird, which was constantly in motion.  The late morning light and heat shimmer made digiscoping tough, but I managed a couple of keepers. Tim was able to get a couple captures from about 200' away, and even got a couple pics of me looking like I almost knew what I was doing...

While digiscoping the Marbled Godwit I heard the whistling of a Whimbrel!  Looking up I saw the bird fly overhead and continue west past the unit for parts unknown.  I was hoping that it would circle around, but it kept going.  After chatting with Mike and Doris a bit more Tim and I rode back to the car and headed off to meet the girls for lunch.  Thanks for the company, Tim!  It was great seeing you.

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