|juv male Snowy Owl. © Nick Assenmacher|
Last Saturday (14 Dec) was supposed to be the traditional count date for the Monroe, MI CBC, but waterfowl hunting season would not end until the 15th, so it was felt that the 21st would be a better date for the CBC. In hindsight it looked like a great decision given the fact that high winds and almost 8 inches of snow fell on the 14th, and made for a miserable start to the 114th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count Season. However, a week later, we would encounter almost 2" of rainfall during a dark, overcast, rainy day that would test the mettle of birder and photographer alike.
Everything changed Friday when a massive storm front moved through the central and southern US bringing high winds and heavy rains. Here in SE Michigan we were in for a day of overcast skies and constant drizzle with temperatures in the 40's. By Saturday the drizzle would turn into a steady rainfall that would not quit until midday Sunday. I decided to forego any owling (as did everyone else in our count circle) and just concentrate on birding during the (low) light hours of the day.
When we drove to the Raisin River side of the plant we encountered flocks of American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Pat spotted a Winter Wren while I (almost) photographed a Swamp Sparrow. Don counted a half-dozen Hooded Mergansers in the river while more eagles and herons lined the shoreline.
With Lake Erie frozen for a quarter mile out from shore there was relatively little action. We used spotting scopes to scan open water a few Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Goldeneye and Common Mergansers, and the occasional Bufflehead. The resident deer population was keeping Tim alert as he drove; they were everywhere! We attempted to photograph roosting Bald Eagles but they seemed to sense our intentions and take off almost immediately as soon as we got close enough.
A Pied-billed Grebe was a nice surprise when we finally reached the mouth of the warm-water discharge. More eagles, gulls and deer surprised us, as well. It was nice to finally spot some Tundra Swans (a family of two adults and two juveniles).
Everyone gathered at the Michigan Bar and Grill at 5 pm to tally results and share stories. Of course, the top story was the Snowy Owl find in Area 8! Nick Assenmacher managed to get some nice photos of the owl atop the power lines next to road, and in the field after successfully catching a mouse!
|White-winged Scoters. © Mark Wloch|
Additional photos from the day's activities can be found at Mark Wloch's blogsite.