Sunday, August 26, 2012

Binge-Birding, Pt 1 - 24 Aug 2012

I took the opportunity this weekend to do some binge-birding. With Robin out of town 'till Sunday I birded until I fell down.  Friday morning, Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning.  Caesar Milan says that a dog needs "rules, boundaries, and limitations" and I now think I understand what he means.  I was a bit out of control. I was happy when the wife got home...

The weekend promised to be hot, with clear skies, high humidity, and temps to reach mid 90's. I decided to get a few hours in first thing Friday morning, so I arrived at Pt. Mouillee SGA just after 6 am.  Target birds were Red-necked Phalaropes and Yellow-headed Blackbirds reported earlier this week by Andrew Sturgess.  The morning would prove to be real slow.

I looped the Vermet Unit clockwise starting from the North Causeway.  No shorebirds were seen along the Huron River shoreline, and none were seen in the NW or NE corners of the unit.  The east shoreline of the Vermet produced a few Spotted Sandpipers, and a pair of Green Herons.  From the dike I was able to digiscope the herons using the self-timer (the sun hadn't hit the water yet).

I had hoped to possibly see a Whimbrel or two in the SE corner, but the fields produced no visible birds of any sort.  With the sun now rising out of the east, the SW corner was severely backlit.

I decided to walk the path out into the marsh toward the duck trap, and where the Canada Geese and Great Egrets normally congregate.  Along the way I flushed a half-dozen Wilson's Snipe from the emergent grasses to my left.  A few Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs were foraging nearby, but they tended to scatter to the alarm calls of the ever-noisy Killdeer.

I reached the duck trap and found a dead Redhead Duck inside.  It must've wandered into the trap during the night (lured by piles of corn), but was unable to get out. I'm guessing a mink or weasle got in  and tore it to shreds.  Sad...

A few shorebirds (mostly Killdeer and Semipalmated Sandpipers) were working the mudflats on the north side of the path, but not close enough to digiscope.  I waited 20 minutes or so hoping to see the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but they were a no-show. As I wandered back a very cooperative Lesser Yellowlegs posed for several minutes for some nice digiscoped portraits.


A Bald Eagle appeared over the dike, followed shortly by an Osprey.  I would only manage a few flight shots of the Osprey as it scanned the Humphries Unit for fish.

Needing to get into work, I headed out.  I stopped just long enough to get some distant captures of a female Northern Harrier as she cruised the Long Pond Unit to the west of my location.

After work I dropped Robin off in Dearborn and headed over to her Mom's house to load up some paint/chemicals for disposal tomorrow.  I was not overly enthused about heading back to Pt. Mouillee afterward, given the slow morning, but forced myself to grab the gear and head back.  It was hot and windy, but I decided to give it a go.

Parking at Siegler Rd. I rode straight to the SW corner of the Vermet Unit.  I walked back out onto the path into the marsh, and was delighted when a male Yellow-headed Blackbird flew in and landed about  50' away.  The bird foraged along the bottom of a wet puddle, and provided some decent digiscoping for a good 15 minutes.  I managed a couple of keepers.



I walked back out to the duck trap and found that it had been removed.  With no birds anywhere to be seen, I walked back to the corner to try to digiscope some Short-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers that were now foraging along the west shoreline.

Treading gingerly through the muddy shoreline, trying to avoid sinking to my knees, I positioned myself w/ the sun at my back and proceeded to digiscope a group of 4 Short-billed Dowitchers from about 80' away.


A pair of Stilt Sandpipers were also nearby, so I turned the scope on one individual that was feeding next to a Short-billed Dowitcher and Lesser Yellowlegs.  It was a good opportunity to get some size-comparison shots.





After they moved off I took a few pics of the remaining Lesser Yellowlegs.

I continued to move along the shoreline, waiting for the sun to get low enough to hit that "Golden Hour" point in the evening.  I caught up w/ the Stilt Sandpiper and a group of juvenile Short-billed Dowitchers (note their buffy-brown plain breasts).



A flock of peeps flew in and landed nearby on the mud.  Most were Semipalmated Sandpipers, plus one juvenile Least Sandpiper.  I scanned through the flock hoping to pick up a Baird's Sandpiper, but could not locate one.  One Semipalmated Sandpiper approached close enough for a digiscoped image.

As they moved off the Least Sandpiper remained behind, and regarded me with some curiosity, but not necessarily fear.  It continued to forage just 20' away and allowed me to get some wonderful closeup images.






I was about to call it a night and packed up the scope.  As I was heading out it was like someone turned on a switch.  Suddenly the marsh was bathed in a beautiful golden hue!  I had to remain to get more images.  I turned the scope on the dowitchers and Stilt Sandpiper once again.


I then spotted a Baird's Sandpiper on the mud next to the Semipalmated Sandpipers.  As I turned the scope on it a Northern Harrier appeared over the cattails and flushed everything in flight.  The semipalms returned, but the Baird's Sandpiper disappeared.  I stayed for another 15 minutes, watching waves of Blue-winged Teal and Mallard fly in and fill in the open waters.  It was getting dark, so I headed home.  Tomorrow would be a big day - chemical disposal, then a trip to Ohio and shorebirding at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

1 comment:

Debbie Miller @HooootOwl said...

What a weekend! Great photos and post!

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