Monday, May 20, 2013

Dunlin and Turnstones Galore! - 18 May 2013

Earlier this week American Avocets, White-faced Ibis, and Piping Plovers were reported at Pt. Mouillee SGA in SE Michigan.  This would be my first trip in over a month to the place, so I was anxious to see if any of the these birds would still be around. I parked at Mouillee Creek and headed out the Middle Causeway.  The morning chorus at 6 am included Warbling Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, American Robin, Swamp Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird and Northern Cardinal. 

As I rode the new dike built along the south side of the Lautenschlager Unit I spotted large flocks of shorebirds.  Dunlin!  Though the light was a bit low the birds were swirling and landing in flocks of hundreds just a few feet away.  I caught a few of the flocks in flight as they flew by, and spent some time digiscoping the birds from just 30' away.  I estimated at least 1000 birds in the Lautenschlager Unit alone.  Hundreds more would be scattered in the rest of the cells and Banana Unit of the SGA.

I took the Nelson/Bloody Run Unit dike north to the North Causeway, then headed toward the Vermet Unit.  I spotted a pair of Ruddy Turnstones along the shoreline and spent some time photographing and digiscoping them.

I headed back toward the Middle Causeway along the dike separating the Vermet (east) and Long Pond (west) Units.  More Dunlin, including Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper.

From the Middle Causeway I headed to the Banana Unit and Cell 3 where I found Will Weber scoping the Humphries Unit.  Will had seen the Sandhill Cranes in the Lautenschlager Unit and an American White Pelican in the Vermet Unit.  We scope the Humphries Unit and found 8 - 9 Yellow-headed Blackbirds among the cattails along the far (west) shore of the unit.  Forster's Terns were actively feeding and were the dominant tern in the area, but we did hear a few Common Terns behind us in Cell 3.  Black Terns were a no-show today.  The egret colony in the middle of the Humphries Unit was quite active, but no Cattle Egrets were observed.

Behind us in Cell 3 the muddy shoreline was littered with Dunlin, a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones (3-4) and a Short-billed Dowitcher or two.  Will had spotted several Sanderlings in the small sandspit in the SW corner of Cell 3.  No Piping Plovers, avocets or ibises, though.

We rode back toward the Vermet Unit to look for the pelican, but could not find it.  A nice consolation prize was presented in the form of a Snowy Egret!  We looked for Whimbrels, but did not see any (Pat Jakel would report 4 of them in Cell 4 a bit later in the day, along w/ the American White Pelican).

A flock of six Black-bellied Plovers flew past us in the NE corner of the Vermet Unit, but I was too slow w/ the camera.  I managed one shot as they passed right over our heads.  I would be presented with two more opportunities to photograph fly-by flocks of these plovers, but one time my camera was stuck in my Cotton Carrier vest, and the next time the camera was inadvertently switched to LiveView Mode (?).  I would then spend the rest of the day (and all day Sunday) taking bracketed exposures (-1, 0 +1) without knowing it.

As we rode west along the North Causeway we came across another 8 Ruddy Turnstones along the Huron River shoreline, and I spent more time digisoping a beautiful male and several handsome females foraging the shoreline.  Note the buff-coloration on the head and throat area of the female, while the males was in stunning all-white head and chest.

We made another stop at the Lautenschlager Unit and found 12 Black-bellied Plovers along the far shoreline.  As we scoped the shoreline looking for shorebirds other than Dunlin, Will spotted a beautiful female Wilson's Phalarope feeding next the shoreline and a pair of Sandhill Cranes.  I could only manage a very long distant image of the phalarope and plovers through the scope. While I fiddled w/ the camera I took a few pics of flyby Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile) and a family of Canada Geese.

With noon fast approaching we decided to head back to the cars.  I would make a quick swing down Haagerman Rd and pick up Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows and several Bobolink.

1 comment:

Debbie Miller @HooootOwl said...

Wow what a morning! Really beautiful captures and sightings!

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