Saturday, August 4, 2012

American Avocet! - 31 Jul 2012

A hot, dry(?) free evening prompted me to grab the bike and head out to the marsh.  I parked at Siegler Rd. and biked along the North Causeway of Pt. Mouillee SGA.  Heavy cloudcover was off to the west, and I saw a few sprinkles as pulled into the parking lot, otherwise the skies were mostly clear to the N, S and E.

As I rode I began to question my decision, as large, heavy drops were following me.  As I looked back along the Long Pond I could see the rain hitting the water, so I braced myself for a soaking.  I parked at the NW corner of the Vermet Unit and quietly watched the Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Great Egrets, and (5) Sandhill Cranes as the heavy rain hit.  I got soaked, but it felt good with the heat.  Luckily I had some napkins to dry the camera equipment.

With the rain passed, I took the opportunity to photograph the Sandhill Cranes that quietly preening just  100' away.  Two dozen Great Egrets nearby were also drying off.

The Pectoral Sandpipers were foraging just far enough away to discourage any digiscoping attempts, so I decided to wait for the sun to reappear.  I continued on toward the Middle Causeway.  A brief ray of sunlight hit this Lesser Yellowlegs next to shore, so I quickly grabbed an image or two.

As I reached the Middle Causeway the sun began to reappear, which emphasized the storm clouds now off to the east and over Lake Erie.  Two separate shower fronts were really neat to see, so I grabbed this panorama.

Last week's burn in the NE corner of the Humphries Unit is already starting to regenerate. Unfortunately it appears to be phragmite shoots.  Still, it look impressive how much new, open space has been created in this area.  The dark clouds in the east make it look even more impressive.

I rode to the water's edge along the west side of Cell 3 and found six Lesser Yellowlegs on the mudflats.  As I scanned to the east shoreline I found an American Avocet near the east shoreline.  Curiously, the large flock of mostly Ring-billed Gulls and Caspian Terns suddenly flushed and headed out over water, taking the bird with it. Unable to relocate it, I continued on around the south side of Cell 3 to the Lake Erie shoreline.  Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and dozens of Tree and Bank Swallows were enjoying the late-afternoon midge hatch.

As I reached the mudflats along the east shore of Cell 3 I spotted a pair of Short-billed Dowitchers among a group of Semipalmated Sandpipers.  The dowitchers were feeding frenetically, which made digiscoping difficult in the now-cloudy skies.  I had better luck w/ the semipalms, which tended to stay near shore, and at least pause for a moment to allow some images to be captured.

I then spotted the avocet preening about 150' away.  I managed to capture some nice moments as the bird posed in the late evening with the sun setting at its back.  It then flew off toward the main mudflat and begin feeding again.

I took the opportunity to turn my scope on a Wilson's Phalarope that was reported earlier today by Andrew Sturgess.  The bird was also moving quite a bit, but I managed a couple of captures.

With the sun starting to disappear I took a few last pics of the American Avocet, then headed back down the Middle Causeway.  I was surprised to see this Common Goldeneye (left) still around (a winter holdover). A large group of Short-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers (some already in basic plumage) were foraging toward the middle of the Vermet Unit, along with dozens of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs.

Several Pectoral Sandpipers were now foraging along the west shoreline of the Vermet Unit, and provided some nice images from about 60' away.  Time to head home...

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