Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Red-necked Phalarope! - 03 Jun 2012

A windy morning here in SE Michigan could not keep me from getting one last bird trip in before the end of my short vacation.  I was hoping to get a chance to refind either the Laughing Gull or Little Gull, so I got an early start and headed out to Pt. Mouillee.

I rode the bike along the Middle Causeway from Mouillee Creek entrance and didn't stop until I reached the Banana Unit.  Winds were blowing from the south, so the ride eastward wasn't too bad.  I reached Cell 3 and found the large group of gulls/terns in the middle of the mudflats, but failed to find either Laughing or Little Gull.  I did find a juvenile Horned Lark fly across my view as I scoped the Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, Caspian Terns and Forster's Terns.

There were only a few Semipalmated Sandpipers near the west shoreline of Cell 3 while the majority of shorebirds were closer to the east side.  I decided to ride around the south side of the cell and approach the east dike from that direction.  As I reached the south end I spotted three American White Pelicans quietly preening in the shallow waters.  I took the opportunity to digiscope the birds from about 150' away.

The mudspit along the east shore of Cell 3 had a nice little cluster of peeps, including several Sanderlings and White-rumped Sandpipers.  I spotted at least three White-rumps among the flock of mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers and took the opportunity to digiscope them from about 50' away.  I was finally getting the chance to digiscope some White-rumps in breeding plumage with good light and distance for a change.

It was amusing to see the peeps squabble among the froth, with the smaller Semipalms having no problem chasing the larger White-rumps away.  The real bully of the group, however, was the non-breeding Sanderling that kept going after anyone near it.

While this scene was occurring I was also watching another 15 or so Sanderlings moving up and down the Lake Erie shoreline to my right.  Three Ruddy Turnstones were also foraging along the beach.

Dan Elliott arrived and we chatted a bit.  He continued on toward the northeast corner of Cell 3 to look for the gulls, as well.  He later returned with news of a Red-necked Phalarope near the poles that were planted in the NE corner. We headed back to the area where it was foraging among a large flock of mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers.

After getting a few pics from a safe location, I took the chance to move around to the north side of the flock with the hopes of getting some images w/ the sun at my back.  The birds paid no attention to me, and I was able to set up the scope and digiscope them from 40 - 60' away.

For the next hour or so I emptied two 8 Gig cards digiscoping the stunningly beautiful female Red-necked Phalarope foraging among the other shorebirds.  I even took a short video. Spielberg was proud:

It was also a nice opportunity to get more pics of the White-rumped Sandpipers among the Semipalmated Sandpipers.

I then headed back toward the Middle Causeway where I found a Whimbrel roosting next to the west shoreline of Cell 4.  Rodney Laura was coming from the other direction, so we stopped and photographed  the very-accomodating Whimbrel from only 50' away.  Too bad the bird was side-lit.  Still, I got some nice keepers with both camera setups.

I then headed back to the car, battling the strong winds the entire time.  The weight of all those photos in my camera didn't help, either...

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