Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Binge-Birding, Pt. 3 - 26 Aug 2012

I woke with a headache this morning, most likely the result of dehydration and lack of sleep.  After Church and breakfast w/ Mom and Chops I was looking forward to going home and taking a nap.  But after seeing the clear skies, and knowing that Robin wouldn't need me to pick her up for another 5 hours I decided to head back to Pt. Mouillee to look for the Hudsonian Godwit.

I parked at the entrance to Roberts Rd., just south of the Mouillee Creek entrance, and rode the bike toward the Middle Causeway.  Just inside the gate I spotted a Belted Kingfisher on an overhead power line, and spent a few minutes digiscoping it from 150' away.  The far shore of Mouillee Creek was active with several Lesser Yellowlegs and a single Solitary Sandpiper.

Solitary Sandpiper

I was curious to see how construction was going on along the Middle Causeway.  So far, only large roads and new dikes were being made in the Lautenschlager Unit.  Both Walpatich and Lautenschlager Units were bone-dry and grown over with vegetation. I rode around to the Pump House and found a pair of Eastern Phoebes working the barbed wire fence that circled the small building. In the large willow overhanging the American Lotus patch a Green Heron was enjoying the morning sun.

I rode to the junction of Vermet / Long Pond / and Humphries Units and saw the Washtenaw Audubon field trip back toward the middle of the Vermet Unit.  A quick scan of the shoreline yielded only a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, so I continued along the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit.  I stopped midway along the south shoreline of the Vermet Unit when I spotted a female Northern Harrier  working the cattails in the middle of the marsh.  The bird was flying my way, so I quickly hopped off the bike to get some flight shots.  The bird cruised slowly and then drifted toward the SW corner of the unit, where the Audubon group was now staked out.  Hopefully they saw the bird, as it appeared to float right over their cars.  I spent a few minutes digiscoping it in flight as it passed over into the Humphries Unit.

As I continued on toward the Banana Unit a pair of Whimbrels flushed from somewhere in the Vermet Unit and flew off to the east.  I could hear their distinct whistling as they flew off toward the sun.  As I followed them with my binoculars I spotted a pair of Peregrine Falcons flying toward the Vermet Unit from the south, tussling with each other as they soared and swooped over the open water.  They would eventually circle the Bald Eagle nest and the tree stand in the middle of the unit before landing in a far tree.

I circled the Vermet Unit in a counter-clockwise direction, looking in the SE corner for possible Whimbrel or Buff-breasted Sandpipers (unsuccessfully).  The east shoreline of the unit was equally unproductive, yielding only a few Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs.  Out in the middle of the Unit I scoped dozens of Great Egrets, flocks of Mallard and Blue-winged Teal, and the occasional American Coot or Common Gallinule. A flyover Great Blue Heron provided the only photo opps.

Lesser Yellowlegs

As I reached the NE corner I spotted a Black-bellied Plover hiding in the weeds along the shoreline.  I carefully grabbed the scope and approached it slowly, trying to get some digiscoped images as it slowy crept out into the open and began to forage.  I spent several minutes with the bird, trying to get closer without flushing it.

As it wandered back toward the taller grass I spotted a Whimbrel hiding in the short cover.  Awesome! Now if it would only come out of hiding and allow me to get some imaging.

I walked around to the north side of the corner and managed to get a couple of digiscoped images from between the culvert drain.  I then slowly walked down into the mudflat where I was able to get a few more images as it walked out to feed.

Without warning the Whimbrel and BB Plover flushed from their cover.  The Whimbrel flew directly at me, then over the dike behind me.  I watched as it then circled out over the Huron River and came back toward me.  I was able to get some killer flight shots as the bird passed in the bright morning sunlight.  It didn't land, but circled around once more and took off for Cell 5.  Just seconds later a Peregrine Falcon cruised by and headed toward Cell 5.  I believe that the Whimbrel reached cover safely before the falcon got there.  Still, it was a somewhat sobering reminder that flushing a bird can put it in extreme danger from predators.

I did not see the Hudsonian Godwit, but did run into Tom Gass at the NW corner of the unit.  We chatted a bit, then headed for the SW corner to continue looking for birds.  The lack of birds in the area was telling me that it was time to quit and get some sleep before driving to West Bloomfield to pick up the wife.  I said my goodbyes, and headed back to the car.

Great weekend of birding!  I'm so glad my honey is coming home.  I need someone to keep me in check...

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