Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Finally, some rain! - 28 Jul 2012

After having gone weeks without rain a number of thunderstorms rolled through the area yesterday afternoon and evening.  I woke this morning to light rain rain and heavy clouds, but forecasts called for clear skies by 7 am.  I took the bike down to Pt. Mouillee and parked at Siegler Rd.  Charles Owens was there, and was waiting for a number of Lenawee County birders to arrive.  We chatted a few minutes before I took off down the North Causeway to do some scouting.

Willow Flycatcher
I saw Patrick Jakel out on the North Causeway just east of the dike separating Long Pond and Bloody Run Units, but decided to head south on the dike to check out the Lautenschlager Unit.  The DNR has closed the Mouillee Creek entrance while they develop shorebird habitat, so I was curious to see what was going on.  I rode along the dike at the south end of the Nelson Unit, and around the west side of the Lautenschlager Unit.  The dike connects the Middle Causeway right at Mouillee Creek entrance. A Willow Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, and Field Sparrow were the only birds encountered in this area.

I found a few swaths being cut into the Lautenschlager Unit and some heavy equipment, but no evidence of construction along the Middle Causeway.  I rode out to the pump house and found the Walpatich Unit devoid of water.  The American Lotus were in full bloom in Mouillee Creek at this location. 

Greater Yellowlegs
Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons greeted me along the north end of the Humphries Unit.  I scanned the dozens of birds but found no evidence of White-faced or White Ibis, Snowy or Cattle Egret.  Surprisingly there were a number of shorebirds along the south end of the Long Pond Unit.  Pectoral Sandpipers, immature Least Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpipers were foraging just feet away.  Unfortunately it was still heavily overcast, so digiscoping was a disappointment.

Least Sandpiper (top and bottom)
I caught up w/ Patrick in the SW corner of the Vermet Unit and learned that the White Ibis had not been seen (yet).  I continued on along the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit, stopping in the NE corner of the Humphries to scan the fresh-burnt ground for birds.  One can finally see out into open water from the Middle Causeway, and it is amazing how much real estate was buried in phragmites! Savannah Sparrows were moving in small flocks of 6 - 10 birds, while juvenile Horned Larks and European Starlings foraged among the burnt stubble. I was surprised to see numbers of Pectoral Sanpipers working the burnt ground, as well.

I arrived at Cell 3 and found Mary Trembley scanning the burnt area of the Humphries Unit.  A 'possible' Ruff was seen - dark, chickenlike bird w/ heavy scallops on the back flushed before she could get a good look at it. We spent some time scouring the expanse, but failed to relocate it.

We then rode over to the east shore of Cell 3 and found small flocks of Lesser Yellowlegs, 13-16 Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Sandpipers.  A Coyote was running across the middle of the cell, and paused long enough for a quick photo.

Bonaparte's Gull
We flushed a hooded gull, and hoped that it might be a Little or Franklin's or Laughing Gull, but it appeared to be a Bonaparte's Gull

It was now after 9 am. A Great Blue Heron made a pass directly overhead, so I took the opportunity to get some great pics from below.

Caspian Terns were roosting on the small mudspit along the east shoreline, so I spent some time digiscoping them as the sun finally began to appear.

Flocks of Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpipers and Sanderlings flew in feed in the middle of Cell 3, but quickly flew off before I could get any digiscoping.   We therefore returned to the NW corner of Cell 3 to look for the Ruff again.  While scanning the burn we were joined by Pat and Will Weber.  They continued on to the east side of Cell 3 while we continued looking for the Ruff (no luck).  A few minutes later we were greeted by Cherise Charron, who came all the way from Ontario to look for the White Ibis.

The three of us then walked back to the Middle Causeway where the ibis had been spotted.  We managed to get the scope on the ibis for several minutes before it suddenly flushed and took off for the south end of the Humphries Unit.  We then met up w/ Charles Owens, Greg Perez, and Johanna Mae Lentz, all part of the Lenawee Co. Group. 

While chatting w/ them the Cattle Egret suddenly flushed and circled overhead for several passes before settling down in the Vermet Unit next to the Middle Causeway.  I thought I had heard a Willet calling, but failed to find it.

With Charles, Greg and Johanna heading off toward Cell 3 Mary and I headed back toward the North Causeway.  We stopped long enough to see some Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Stilt Sandpipers along the west shoreline of the Vermet Unit.  I then headed back to the car, while Mary headed back around the Vermet.  Will and Patrick were at the parking lot where I learned that they had seen a Whimbrel in the SE corner of the Vermet Unit.

A great morning birding w/ great people!

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