Friday, June 7, 2013

White-rumps! - 06 Jun 2013

I took a ride down to Pt. Mouillee this evening to look for shorebirds.  Despite a cool, stiff wind, the biking wasn't too bad.

The Walpatich and Lautenschlager Units were quiet - only a few Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, and an occasional Dunlin.  Tree and Barn Swallows made occasional passes.  Canada Geese were hosting 'large' broods of goslings with up to 20 young birds following several adults.

The Middle Causeway was relatively quiet until I happened upon a stunning male Yellow-headed Blackbird next to the path.  I'd been scanning the huge flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds hoping to see a yellow head, but it was the white wing patches that alerted me! He was foraging in the tall weeds and flushed as soon as I could get off the bike.  I was too slow to get any flight pics.  I would see him again on my trip back to the car an hour later, but wouldn't see him until I almost ran him over...

As I arrived at Cell 3 I scanned the mudflats in the middle of the unit w/ the scope.  Just as I got the scope on it the Whimbrel flushed and took off for the Humphries Unit.  I could only get a few long-distance flight shots as it passed out of view.  The rest of the flats held only 3 Dunlin and a half-dozen Caspian Terns. Ducks were well-represented in the water: Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Mallard, Ruddy Duck and Blue-winged Teal.

I saw a small flock of peeps in the SW corner of the unit, so I rode over to scope them out.  They flushed as I arrived, so I took some flight shots as they circled around and settled back down.  When I got the scope on them I was surprised to see 12 White-rumped Sandpipers among the 6 Dunlin (including a single bird in basic plumage) and another 12 Semipalmated Sandpipers.

The mud was dried and cracked, with a thin organic film peeling like sunburnt skin. I hauled the scope out and digiscoped the birds from about 150' away. The White-rumped Sandpipers stood out among the Dunlin and smaller Semipalms by their long wing projections, red-based bills, and distinct, thin necklace.

I stayed until the flock flew off toward Lake Erie, but a single Dunlin stayed behind, following me as I walked back toward the dike. The little guy was either very precocious or an outcast.

With the sun starting to set, the clouds thickening, and the winds picking up I headed back to the car.

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