The Detroit River Christmas Bird Count is held on January 1st of each year, and this year David Boon, Patrick Jakel and I joined Allen Chartier to cover Belle Isle as part of the count circle. With 4-8" of snow forecasted and temps to hover in the low teens, it was a cold way to start the year. We met at the Nature Center located at the north end of the island at 7 am and promptly headed into the woods nearby to search for owls. Initial playbacks of Saw-Whet were met with silence. After several rounds of Screech Owl calls we finally heard a response. Weak, but audible. The bird never came close enough to put a flashlight on it. Farther down the road we picked up a second caller, and possibly a third. Attempts to rouse a Great Horned Owl failed. Snow was falling steadily, and bone-chilling temps had me questioning whether I was over my head-cold enough to do this...
With dawn approaching we abandoned the woods and set out for the shoreline, looping the island to count waterfowl. Inland ponds were frozen, and much of the Detroit River was infested with ever-growing sheets of ice. Where the water was open we found huge rafts of Canvasback, Redhead, and Common Goldeneye with the occasional Ring-necked Duck and Common Merganser. I managed to find a female Long-tailed Duck among a string of Goldeneye. Blue Jays and European Starlings were about the only other birds active with the driving winds and snow now pelting us.
The guys would head out to walk the woods looking for a possible Saw-Whet Owl or Eastern Towhee, but I needed to head home before noon. My head was pounding and I still had shoveling to do, so it was time to wish everyone a Happy New Year and head for home. I stopped just long enough to grab a photo of poor Judge Williams freezing his arse on this cold January morning.
|Alpheus Starkey Williams Monument|