Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Snowy Owls! - 28 Dec 2014

I grabbed the bike and headed to Pt. Mouillee SGA for the first time since the end of August when the  game area was closed to hunting for the fall. I was anticipating this outing for two reasons: first, I was breaking in a new bike, a Cannondale Mountain bike that I received for my 30-yr. Anniversary at BASF, and two, I've not been birding since the Monroe CBC, and before that, early November.

Temps were cool (20's) and skies were dark and overcast. I was surprised to see so many cars in the parking lot at Mouillee Creek, and would later learn that this was day-two of an extended duck hunting season. I would pass many a duck hunter as I rode the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit.

I spotted a Snowy Owl perched on a signpost in the Bloody Run Unit at the junction with the Long Pond Unit. It was 'my' first Snowy Owl of this 'irruption' year (2nd in a row) and was happy that I was no longer the only one in Michigan who hadn't seen one to this point in time.  I was able to approach the beautiful white bird, which showed only very light spotting.

I spent some time digiscoping the bird from a distance of about 150' and was able to videotape her for several minutes while she scanned her surroundings. It showed no evidence of alarm while I digiscoped, and was even able to walk past her(?) with the bike without flushing her. Success!

As I scoped this bird I could see three more birds perched on consecutive signposts along the Middle Causeway. I then spotted 3 more birds on the dike separating Long Pond and Bloody Run Units. Another two birds were on the dike separating Long Pond and Vermet Units. 8 Snowy Owls!

The second Snowy Owl I approached was a juvenile (heavily barred) and posed nicely for several images before flying a short distance to the dike behind me.

As I headed toward the Banana Unit I saw Adam Byrne and Scott Terry, who had seen 4 more Snowies near Cell 1 (Roberts Rd) and the North Causeway. This suggests that as many as 12 birds may be here! The Rockwood CBC counted 6 birds yesterday.

I looped Cell 3 and rode along the Lake Erie shoreline, stopping  long enough to see a Great Horned Owl fly along the NE shoreline and perching for several minutes along the shoreline.  I would loop Cell 1 but not see any more owls.  I decided to then ride along Roberts Rd. back to the Mouillee Creek entrance and back to the car.

A quick drive down Haggerman Road yielded only a single American Kestrel.

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