Sunday, August 19, 2012

Of Peregrines and Harriers - 18 Aug 2012

With overnite temps in the low 50's I was prompted to wear a jacket this morning on my bike ride at Pt. Mouillee SGA.  Skies were clear, and I was hoping that I'd get an opportunity to digiscope some good birds today.  I was not disappointed.

As I rode the North Causeway from Siegler Rd. this morning at 7 am I looked for the Whimbrel that Andrew Sturgess reported yesterday.  I did not see it.  I then looked for other shorebirds, like Wilson's Snipe, or Black-bellied Plovers.  I did not see them, either.  A single Lesser Yellowlegs was the only shorebird seen along the Huron River shoreline before I reached the west end of the Vermet Unit.

I walked the bike the entire stretch along the west edge of the Vermet Unit.  Great Egrets continued to be present in large numbers (20-30 in groups of 4-5).  I could hear Bobolinks 'plinking' in the Long Pond Unit to my right, while chattering Common Yellowthroats refused to show themselves.  A whinnying Sora somewhere in the Long Pond Unit was a mid-August surprise! A pair of Northern Harriers were also working the Long Pond Unit, and I spent several minutes watching them soar and dive-bomb each other as they cruised over the cattail marsh.  If only they'd come a bit closer...

I came across a half-dozen Stilt Sandpipers near the west shoreline of the Vermet.  Though the light was low and the birds backlit I managed a few decent captures as the birds foraged about 90' away.  Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers were nearby, as were a pair of Least Sandpipers and a single Semipalmated Plover.

The SW corner of the Vermet was grown over, so I turned my scope on dozens of Wood Ducks that were floating along the north end of the Humphries Unit.  Though they regarded me with suspicion, they did not flush as I quietly digiscoped them from 100-125' away.  A Great Blue Heron with a bad hair day was also content to enjoy the now-rising sun on its face.

drake Wood Duck and female Blue-winged Teal

I rode out to Cell 3 and did a loop around it to see if anything of interest might appear.  The cell continues to be under water, and one can only hope that it will be drained (once the dredgings have settled) so that shorebirds will be able to make use of it before September.  Numerous Black Saddlebags were flying around me, and this female landed close enough for me to digiscope from a minimum distance of 18'.

Riding the Banana Unit northward along the east side of the Vermet Unit yielded only a few shorebirds, including a single Baird's Sandpiper that was foraging among Least Sandpipers and a Pectoral Sandpiper.  Darn Killdeers tended to flush everything ahead of me as I walked the bike.

A (juvenile?) Northern Harrier flushed in front of me as I walked the bike, and flew on down the path ahead of me.  It landed on the trail about 150' away, so I carefully digiscoped the bird before it flew off over the Vermet Unit.

As I approached a large group of Great Egrets in the NE corner of the Vermet Unit I decided to scan a second larger group in the middle of the unit.  Having seen no Snowy or Cattle Egrets, I panned to the right, and found a small mudflat with (3) American Avocets foraging among a Great Blue Heron and several Caspian Terns.  The birds were losing their mating red coloration, but still looked stunning.

I spotted the Oakland Audubon car tour along the North Causeway, and decided to head over and alert them to the avocets.  As I passed a gentleman walking his dog, he mentioned that they were looking at a jaeger, or something that sounds like that.  It turned out that they were enjoying great looks at a Peregrine Falcon that just landed on a branch overlooking the Huron River.

I caught up with the OAS group, and talked briefly with Jim Fowler, Tex Wells, Ray Stocking, Bob and Judy Setzer, Joan Tisdale, and a few others, before trying to get some digiscoped images of the Peregrine.

As it perched, posed and preened I fired away from as close as 50'.  At one point it rose up, and exposed leg bands on it feet.  I managed to capture photos of the bands, and could make out the codes: Black "78" over Red "D" on the left leg, and a magenta/purple band on the right leg.  These leg bands ID'd her as a 2012 female juvie who was born on May 1 at the BP Plant in Whiting Lake County, Indiana; she was banded on May 21. Her father is Hughes, banded black/green E/09, from the Midwest Generation nest, Waukegan, Cook County, Illinois. Her mother is Nancy, banded black/green 5/*4, born in 2002 at the Midwest Generation nest, Waukegan, Cook County, Illinois.  Thanks to Mark Wloch and Steve Forstner for the link to the Midwest Peregrine Database.

Just as I was about to capture a video of the falcon, it left its perch and flew across the river toward a screaming Ring-billed Gull that was frantically trying to get away.  The falcon buzzed the gull, but continued on toward the islands near the Pt. Mouillee HQ.

Ray would later report seeing 5 American White Pelicans fly along the Lake Erie shoreline, so it appears to have been a good day for all.  I caught up w/ Andrew Sturgess in the Siegler Rd. parking lot, and he would later report seeing some American Golden Plovers flying over the marsh. My only other fly-overs were several Caspian Terns that passed close by as I walked.


Jonathan Renshaw said...

Hi Jerry, Thank you for having Mr. Hopkins forward your sitings of the Peregrine from Indiana. I am from Indianapolis and found this to be of great interest! What a top notch blog this is!!

Anonymous said...

Jerry, I was on that OAS field trip at Pte. Mouillee too -- I wish I'd been able to talk to you. Thanks for including the info you obtained about the young Peregrine -- it's fun to know those details about her! ~Kim

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