Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mink! - 21 Jul 2017

I've been trying to get to Pt Mouillee SGA the past few days to check out shorebird habitat before the big rains come this weekend. On Wednesday, it wasn't supposed to rain. So, when I drove down there, it poured. I waited out the rain in the car, promptly fell asleep, and woke up a half-hour later than I wanted. Thursday was windy and hot, but not rainy. I got home from work too late. So, tonight I decided to try again. It was hot, humid, but calm with no rain forecasted till after midnight.

I parked at Mouillee Creek and rode the Middle Causeway toward the pump house. The creek was swollen, and Walpatich Unit was high with water. I checked the flooded field south of the pump house but found it overgrown with small ponds covered in vegetation. No good.

I was too slow to catch Great Egrets flying over large  patches of Purple Loosestrife, which would've made for some nice images. I was also too slow for a Snowy Egret flushing from the SW corner of the Vermet Unit.

I rode the dike between Long Pond and Vermet Units to the North Causeway. I was going to double back, but decided to continue on toward the NE corner of Vermet. A Marsh Wren here and there was about the only highlight.

When I reached the east side of the Vermet Unit and started riding toward Cell 5 I spotted a lone Mink trotting along the path ahead of me. It was too far away for any real good photos, but sparked a nice memory of photographing the family of Mink a few years ago.

To my delight, a young Mink appeared on the dike and began trotting in my direction. I expected it to ditch the trail upon seeing me, but it was curious as to the clicking sound of the camera shutter, and the squeaking sound I was making. It kept coming closer until it was literally at my feet and I was forced to use the macro setting on the lens in order to focus.

When I popped my head out from behind the camera it did one of those "running in air for 2 seconds" before getting traction and darting into the brush. Too cute. I felt bad that it had a large swollen tick in its ear.

Just a bit up the way I spotted another Snowy Egret foraging along the near shoreline of the Vermet Unit. I put the scope on it and recorded some 4K video footage.

Mud is being pumped into Cell 5 where a large portion of phragmites had been. Its opening up another large cell that is now flooded, but may provide some shorebird habitat next month depending upon how much water continues to be pumped in.

I found a small Painted Turtle on the dike and far from any open water. So, I picked it up and rode out to the south end of Cell 4 and released it near shore. I was soon rewarded with another Mink appearing along the shore and coming to check me out. It was soaked!

The old construction site along the north end of Cell 3 and next to the dike between Cell 4 has a number of shallow mud ponds that is about the only shorebird habitat left in the entire SGA. I found a pair of Greater Yellowlegs and 8 Spotted Sandpipers. A single Least Sandpiper was also present.

As I approached the yellowlegs a large bird flushed about 100 yds away and flew into the trees. Great Horned Owl! I digiscoped a video of it from about 200 yds away.

Cell 3 is now a nursery for anything green. Shorebird habitat is gone and grassed over.

I rode back toward the Middle Causeway and flushed 4 Yellow-headed Blackbirds from the dike in front of me. They were juvenile males that quickly disappeared into a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds.

As I rode back along the Lautenschlager Unit I started hearing Dickcissels calling from the field. Four birds! I doubled back and was able to spot two of the birds, and even manage to get the scope on one.

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