Saturday, August 9, 2014

Slo-Motion Friday - 08 Aug 2014

I took a vacation day and headed down to Pt. Mouillee to spend a more leisurely time playing with the digiscoping equipment and Nikon 1 V3.  I recently purchased a Jobu Jr. 3 Gimbal tripod head and was anxious to see how it would perform compared to my older Manfrotto 501HD video tripod head.
I will write a post in my Digiscoping Blog describing the setup and performance in a bit.

The sun was just coming up over the horizon and humidity was high this morning, so there was a distinct wetness in the air.  The American Lotus patch near the pump house didn't seem to mind - they are flourishing this year!  The opposite bank of Mouillee Creek was hosting a large colony of Bank Swallows that were roosting in the phragmites.  Overhead in the dead trees another colony of about 100 Purple Martins were starting to shake off the morning's dampness.  Four Osprey were in a tree overlooking the Bad Creek Unit and western edge of Humphries Unit.

I spooked a pair of Virginia Rails as I rode north along the dike separating Bloody Run and Long Pond Units. Marsh Wrens were calling in the cattail rich marsh, while young Wood Ducks were scattering at my approach.

As I approached the NW corner of the Vermet Unit from the North Causeway I spotted a large dark bird sitting on a dirt mound in the corner.  It took off and started flying south, and at first I thought it might be the Marbled Godwit reported last weekend. Wings were pointy and the flight didn't look quite right for Northern Harrier. It wasn't until it took a swipe at a passing Ring-billed Gull that I realized that it was a juvenile Peregrine Falcon.  As it passed over the south end of the Vermet Unit a second Peregrine joined it and the two tussled in the sky for several minutes before continuing south. Cool!

I headed in the same direction along the dike separating Vermet and Long Pond Units and then took the Middle Causeway east toward the Banana. From there I headed back north toward Cell 5 where I found a single Snowy Egret foraging next to the disappearing mud flat (high water).  After looping around Cell 5 I headed toward Cell 3 where I ran into Andrew Sturgess.

Shorebird numbers were low when I arrived, and while we chatted they disappeared altogether. With a low and hazy sun to the NE we turned our attention to fly-by Caspian Terns and American White Pelicans that were nicely contrasting w/ the dark, cloudy skies to the west. An Osprey flew overhead, as well, while off in the distance a huge flock of Double-crested Cormorants headed north over Lake Erie.

Since the morning tended be pretty slow with few shorebirds in Cell 3, I spent some time playing with the slow-motion video capabilities of the Nikon V3. Under the movie settings in the camera is a Slow Motion option. The camera takes 3 seconds of video  shot at 400 fps and plays back a 40 second clip at 30 fps.  The Jobu Jr. 3 allowed me to pan much easier w/ the Nikon V3 attached to the Zeiss 85T*Fl Diascope via the Digidapter™ so following the foraging shorebirds was a snap.  With little else to do I spent some time documenting the adult and juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs; the latter just starting to show up here in SE Michigan.

Note the crisp, white spots on the back of the juvenile bird.

Compare with the darker, worn and partially molting adults.

In slow motion one sees that the adults tend to sweep the water side-to-side more often, while the juvenile (in this case) did more probing and picking.

A juvenile Least Sandpiper appeared momentarily and I managed a digiscoped image. Note the bright white edging to the rufous and black feathers of this fresh-plumaged bird.  Very nice overall warm-brown coloration easily distinguishes it from the grayer Semipalmated Sandpipers.  The juvenile Semipalms have a more scalloped appearance and even show evidence of wing projection protruding just beyond the edge of the tail. But note the short, blunt bill, and buffy wash to throat area.

A pair of White-tailed Deer took a stroll out to the peninsula in the SW corner, so I took a panning 3-sec video as one deer ran back to shelter.


I really like the slow-motion video capture of the Nikon V3. I think it will be a great tool for documenting some of the rare birds that pass through this way.  Time to head home and make so final tweaks to the digiscoping rig.

Just before leaving a 1st-cycle Bonaparte's Gull flew by, offering nice looks at the bold streaks on the back.

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