Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Snow(y) Storm - 01 Apr 2014

The past two days have seen sunshine and temps in the 50's. The Tigers are at home playing baseball and Spring is here! But that hasn't stopped a late-season Snow(y)storm from hitting us.

I stopped at the Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club after work to check out their banquet hall for my upcoming Kenya/Birds Talk on April 13th, and then decided to run down to Pt. Mouillee to look for birds. Winds were gusting between 40 - 50 mph so I didn't expect much in the way of photos.
At the Pt. Mouillee HQ the Huron River was showing whitecaps, and only a few ducks could be seen bobbing between the waves. I managed to find a pair of American Coot hiding in the shallows next to the boat launch and grabbed a few pics from inside the car.

I then drove over to Roberts Rd. and made a quick pass before heading down Haggerman Rd. A Killdeer and Horned Lark provided some nice pics from inside the car, and I could only imagine that the birds thought they were out West w/ the driving winds.

On the way home I noticed a large flock of Tree Swallows and (now returning) Barn Swallows swarming the waters next to Riverside Park. So I pulled into the lot and decided to try my hand at photographing bullets.  With a bullet you can follow a trajectory and try to anticipate a photo, but w/ swallows its nothing but dipping / turning / swooping and missed shots. Of about 300 photos I managed a couple of keepers.

I returned home shortly before 5 pm and had dinner w/ Robin. We decided to go for a walk, so as I was putting my shoes back on I noticed an e-mail from Andrew Sturgess reporting 5 Snowy Owls in Cell 1 at Pt. Mouillee! Should I go back and look for them? I decided to go for our walk instead. By the time we returned to the house 30 minutes later I decided I HAD to go or I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I grabbed my cameras and bike and drove down to Roberts Rd. parking lot at 5:30 pm.

As I arrived at the parking lot the winds were blowing at a steady 50 mph pace. I didn't have to peddle the bike and was pushed from the parking lot to the east side of Cell 1 w/ just the wind at my back. The sun was in a perfect setting for nice photos, assuming that any birds were around, so I pushed on toward the middle of Cell 1 where the giant wood chip pile was located. No birds in sight. Anywhere. Was Andrew playing an April Fool's joke? I hoped not...

I left the bike on the trail and decided to hike into the wasteland that is Cell 1. The 5-acre woodlot has been reduced to scattered branches, stumps and wood shavings. Deer move through the area in the open, and scattered puddles are everywhere. I scanned the ground for any movement, knowing that any birds would be hunkered down to avoid the wind. Just as I was ready to give up I spotted a round, white stump that looked like a female Snowy Owl!

As I approached her to digiscope some photos I spotted a bright white male Snowy Owl hiding behind a stump about 45 feet away. He flew about 20 yds. and settled back down, giving me long-distance digiscoped shots. With the sun behind me and in the Golden-hour setting, I had brilliant views of both birds. Now, the only problem was how to navigate the puddles to get into better digiscoping position.
The female was sleepy and paid me little mind. I managed some nice portrait shots from about 100' away before heading back toward the bike.

The female was about equidistant from the male so I spent a few minutes digiscoping her before heading back to the bike.

As I moved around the numerous puddles the male bird suddenly took off from his perch and flew toward the dike and where my bike was located, so I followed him for a short while and took some long-distant digiscoped images from about 150' away. 

As I approached in his direction he took off again, this time flying out over the dike toward the lake and then circling back in my direction.  He landed on a large stump and stayed put for the next 15 minutes or so.  I took some long-distant digiscoped images before he decided to fly off back over the wood chip mountain and disappear.

I was happy with my digiscoping efforts despite the high winds. It would take some effort to get back to the car, but I was happy that I made the trek. Thank you, Mr. Sturgess!

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