After a half-hour I got out and played a Screech Owl call, to no avail. A White-tail Deer crashing through the trees nearby nearly stopped my heart, though. After waiting a few more minutes I tried again, this time succeeding in bringing a very quiet tremolo into audio range just on the other side of the fence. Try as I might, I couldn't bring the tiny visitor into sight, but had to settle for a nice few minute conversation w/ it. With the rains starting again I decided to head off for breakfast. I'd be meeting Allen Chartier, Will Weber, Mary Trombley and Patrick Jakel at the J.R. Whiting Power Plant for the morning count.
By 7 am the skies were clearing, and the rains appeared to be moving out. Temps were already at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with 60 degrees expected by day's end. We headed to the Lake Erie shoreline at the foot of Erie Rd. in southern Monroe Co. and waited for enough light to begin scanning the lake. By the time we had enough light the ducks were already moving.
Back on the shoreline we spotted the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls. An adult w/ three immature birds. I grabbed a video, knowing that we'd need documentation of the immature birds. Two birds looked like 2nd winter birds (uniform dark backs w/ white tails and black terminal bands), while 1 looked to be a first winter bird (lighter brown w/ speckled tail, all-dark bill and black terminal band on tail). The adult bird (3rd winter or later) was darker gray than the Ring-billed Gulls w/ clean yellow bill, white tail, and darkish smudge around the eyes.
Returning to the lake we walked south along the shoreline for about a half-mile, then turned back. Large rafts of Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead were far off the distance, and that was about it. We couldn't stir any sparrows out of the phragmites, so we headed back to the Lady of the Lake Woods. I headed north to the Monroe Power Plant, while the rest of the gang stayed to bird the plant grounds and Erie Marsh.
|1st winter Great Black-backed Gulls|
Over at the fly-ash ponds we would pick up Red-tailed Hawks, flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls, and herds of White-tailed Deer. Matt had indicated that Short-eared Owls were spotted several times during fall surveys, so we walked the planted grasslands looking to flush some owls. Don managed to scare up a pair of Ring-necked Pheasants, but we would dip on the owls. We did find an antler from a 10-pt. buck, and an owl pellets (assumed to be from a SEO), and I managed to find a muskrat skull w/ front teeth still intact!
We would end our day w/ little more than 25 spp. Other areas fared better, but reported few total birds. The annual blackbird migration failed to develop, so those numbers would be missed. Overall we did finish w/ 75 spp., but no reportable sightings. Birds tended to be concentrated in different parts of the count circle. All of the ducks were found in Area 2, all of the Horned Larks were found in Area 8, Robins in Area 2, Eastern Bluebirds in Area 8, cormorants in Area 6, and so on. Still, we all had great fun, and had stories to tell.