Monday, August 27, 2012

Binge-Birding, Pt. 2 - 25 Aug 2012

With Robin gone up north this weekend I had made plans to spend the day in Ohio with the folks at Black Swamp Bird Observatory, who were sponsoring a Beginner Shorebird ID class.  Unfortunately, I had to clean out the paint/solvents/chemicals from Mom-in-Law's house and take them to Warren for disposal (Wayne County sponsored a Household Hazardous Waste pickup today).  There was no way I'd be able to beat it down to Sandusky, OH before 8:30 am, so I had to decline.  Luckily Sherrie Duris was leading a Toledo Naturalists outing at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge at 10 am, and graciously allowed me to tag along.

I was able to get the disposal taken care in Warren by 7:30 am, and was able to get to ONWR by 9:30 am.  An Eastern Phoebe greeted me at the gate (literally), but managed to stay on the passenger-side of the car, preventing any photo-opps.  Having a bit of time before the tour I walked around the boardwalk located next to the Visitor's Center and managed to pick up a pair of Indigo Buntings, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, an Eastern WoodPewee, and these beautiful Green Frogs that were scattered all over the small creek.  I digiscoped them from the boardwalk, about 20-30' away.

The group showed up, and we all piled into vehicles and headed into the refuge.  We stopped long enough to scope an immature Little Blue Heron (all white) among a group of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.  Size was all we had to tell it apart from the larger Great Egret and the smaller Snowy Egrets.

We arrived at the shorebird spot and immediately found the Whimbrel that was sighted yesterday by Sherrie and Ethan Kistler.  Today the bird was limping, badly.  It must've hurt its foot sometime in the last 24 hours.  It was sad to watch it hop around while foraging.

We managed to scope out 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, a Black-bellied Plover, 3-4 Baird's Sandpipers, and a pair of White-rumped Sandpipers among Pectoral Sandpipers, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpipers.  Scopes were required, so the only pics I took were of the Whimbrel.

We would head to the south (?) end of the refuge where we picked up Short-billed Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers.  Bonaparte's Gulls, Common Terns, Forter's Terns, and Ring-billed Gulls were roosting in shallow water among dozens of Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and 4 Snowy Egrets.

With temps in the mid 90's, we were sweltering.  The tour ended about 1 pm, but Rebecca Hinkley, our US Fish and Wildlife escort, took us to a nearby mudflat where we picked up a Red-necked Phalarope, and another Stilt Sandpiper.  Several more RN Phalaropes were seen yesterday, as was a Wilson's Phalarope that was not seen today.  With time running short, we called it a day.  Thanks, Sherrie, you were terrific (as always!).  And thank you, Rebecca and Ethan!  A great day.

Exhaused, I headed for home at about 3 pm.  I stayed long enough to feed the kitties, and head over to Mom's for dinner.  A half-hour nap, and a hearty meal had me thinking about quitting for the day, but I forced myself to head back to Pt. Mouillee.  Lyle Hamilton had reported 6 Red-necked Phalaropes, 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Baird's Sandpipers, Whimbrels and a Hudsonian Godwit in the Vermet Unit.  I figured I go see if any of those birds were still around.

This evening I parked at Robert's Road parking lot and rode into Pt. Mouillee SGA from the south end.  I spotted one Red-necked Phalarope on the far side of the Humphries Unit, but that was the only one for the night.  Cell 3 was activley being filled with more dredgings, so any hopes of it being drained for shorebirds was all-but dashed.

I continued on along the Banana Unit, passing the Middle Causeway and continuing along the east shore of the Vermet Unit.  I spotted a Peregrine Falcon soaring up over the dike ahead of me and drifting momentarily in the stiff east wind.  I was able to capture a few flight shots and verify that the bird was the same one I digiscoped last weekend!  Note the magenta band on the right leg!

I spent the next 20 minutes watching the bird head out over Cell 4 and attack / strafe everything in its path: Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Mallard, Black Ducks, Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, and whatever else was on the shoreline dike of Cell 4.  The winds were providing great lift for the falcon, that rose upward, then stooped like a bullet toward its next victim.  Unfortunately she never returned to my direction, and continued on south over the Humphries Unit.

I then ran into Scott and Steve Timmers (from Kalamazoo), who were also looking for the godwit w/o success. The brothers were directed to look in the SW corner of the Vermet Unit, and that I'd catch up with them on the other side.  I saw nothing along the north shore, and only a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs along the east shoreline.  Patrick Jakel was returning from the SW corner with nothing to report, either.  We chatted a bit, then caught up w/ Scott and Steve.  I managed  a few quick flight shots of a female Northern Harrier as she floated over the cattails in the Long Pond Unit.

We returned to the SW corner and looked (unsuccessfully) for the Hudsonian Godwit.  We did manage to pick out a half-dozen Stilt Sandpipers among the Lesser Yellowlegs, but it was not easy.  The winds must've pushed most of the shorebirds to newer destinations.

I would head home and call it an end to the weekend (?).

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