Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sharp-tailed Grouse - 11 Dec 2017

A target bird for this UP trip was Sharp-tailed Grouse. I was hoping to 1) see them and 2) get close enough to photograph them. I managed to do both.

Overnight low was 8F in Sault Ste. Marie. I had breakfast at Frank's and headed back to the Ramada to gear up and check out. I was hoping to drive bird the Soo, then drive to Whitefish Point. However, a winter weather advisory was in effect for area so I promised Robin I'd head back south, instead. But not before looking for some grouse along Nicolet Rd. and stopping by the Dunbar Forest area.

I hit the road at first light and drove Riverside to Nicolet. A pair of Bald Eagles were perched atop the  Visitor Center at the locks. Nicolet Rd. was void of bird life. I drove all the way to the end, then looped around to Riverside Drive.

At 18 Mile Rd. I found four Sharp-tailed Grouse atop bushes out in a field. I took a few digiscoped images from the road, then continued on.

Riverside Drive to the Dunbar Forest yielded a few Northern Ravens, Common Crows, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees and a single Red-breasted Nuthatch. The feeders in the Dunbar forest were all but empty, so I headed back to Riverside and continued south.

At 20 Mile Rd. I spotted 4 more grouse alongside the road. One bird flew into the trees and perched close enough for some photos from the road. I grabbed the scope to digiscope it but a passing truck flushed the birds to the fields behind the trees.

I was running low on gas, so I drove back to 15 Mile Rd. and headed over to M-129. I found a flock of 10 birds in the trees next to a field, and a few more foraging in someone's front yard. I got some nice photos from inside the car, but also got tons of horribly-out-of-focus images from convection currents messing up the autofocus of the camera.

From there I took M-129 south back to Co. 48 and headed back to Rudyard for a quick pass down Centerline Rd. As I drove Co. 48 a Bald Eagle was perched in a spruce next to the road and provided some nice pics from the car. Just a bit farther a single Rough-legged Hawk (light phase) flew across the field and would be the only raptor of the trip.

I drove up Hantz Rd to 19 Mile Rd and managed to pick up a flock of 15 Common Redpolls.

The Snowy Owl was back on a pole just south of 19 Mile Rd. I stopped long enough to get a couple digiscoped images before my fingers froze, then continued on south. Only 4 Snow Buntings were seen in the fields, which was a far cry from yesterday's flock.

As I drove back along Centerline Rd. I looked for the Snowy Owl to get one last look before heading home. As I approached its pole I saw it take off and fly back south across the fields. I could not get out of the car in time to get any pics, so I just watched it sail overhead and disappear over the barns. With snow falling hard it was time to head back across the Bridge.

I'll have to plan a new trip to Whitefish Point...

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