Little Blue Heron(s) - 22 Jul 2011

I decided to get in a little birding before work this Friday morning, so I grabbed the gear and headed to Pt. Mouillee to look for the ibis pair and Little Blue Heron.  Imagine my surprise to find TWO Little Blue Herons along the Middle Causeway just east of the pumphouse in the Humphries Unit!

Both birds were roosting atop dead trees near one of the egret roosts at the extreme west end of the unit.  Both birds showed adult plumage with reddish necks and heads.  I had to make sure I was seeing bluish bills before I could confirm them as LBHE.  I have a tendency to see Reddish Egrets in these types of plumages... Digiscoping was difficult, being that it was only 0630 hrs. and they were about 150-200 yds away.

I then continued on towards the Banana Unit and Cell 3, but stopped long enough to scope the Osprey tower in the Humphries Unit.  Two adults were present along with 2 juvenile birds preparing to fledge.  Both juvies, with their spotted wings and slight golden casts, were testing their wings, flapping and lifting inches off the surface of their nest.  I took a few long-distance shots and a couple of short videos in the morning sun.

As I finished with them I noticed a female Common Yellowthroat chattering away in the grass behind me.  I was able to get the camera on her for a few snapshots, and then the digiscoping equipment for a few more.  A male was nearby but less visible.

I then continued on to Cell 3 where the dredge-pumping continues.  The cell is filling with water/mud, and hopefully for just a little while longer.  There was little activity except for a surprising American Avocet resting about half-way out on the mud flat.  I digiscoped it from the west dike before walking around to the north end for a few more shots from a long distance.  Sittling low in the water/mud I was at first worried that it might be bogged down, but suddenly it flapped its wings and headed off toward the south.  It then banked and headed directly at me before passing over Cell 4 and then east toward Lake Erie. I could not relocate it.

Turning the scope to the west I spotted a group of Cattle Egrets and Snowy Egrets in the rookery several hundred yards from the east dike.  I noticed 2 juvenile Snowy Egrets with black legs, yellow feet, and yellow stripes along the legs.  One adult was sitting nearby with all-black legs and yellow feet.  The Cattle Egrets appeared to consist of 3 juveniles and 2 adults, but I couldn't be sure.  One juvenile bird showed a very gray-colored bill (not black) while the others appeared to have yellow bills.  They appeared more scruffy looking than the 2 nearby adults, so I had the impression of young birds.  A conversation w/ Walt Pawlowski a few hours later make me question my observations since he reported that Michigan has only 1 or 2 records of breeding Cattle Egrets. 

As I was leaving an Eastern Kingbird hovered overhead and landed on a snag in the SW corner of Cell 4.  I spent a few minutes getting full-framed digiscoped images from about 25' away.  It was neat to watch it puff its feathers and screech its electric-arc call.

I headed along the Banana Unit toward the North Causeway where several large concentrations of Purple Martins were roosting in the dead trees.  Almost 150 birds were crowded in the tree tops.

A short distance later an immature Bald Eagle was roosting in the trees.  I was able to get close enough for a digiscoped image before it took off.  Holy cow was this bird chewed up!  I was surprised that it could fly with all of the feathers that were missing.  Molting must really be a chore for these normally-magnificent birds.

As it flew by I noticed a pair of Common Moorhens near the east shoreline of the Vermet Unit.  I spent a few minutes digiscoping them (and a family of Wood Ducks) before continuing on.

Halloween Pennants (dragonflies) continue to dominate the ode-fauna, with Widow SkimmersGreen Darners, and a few saddlebags buzzing by on occasion.  Deer flies were pesky this morning, biting me on the hands and wrists as I rode the bike.  A few Monarch Butterflies were appearing, as well.

The North Causeway brought me to the dike separating Vermet and Long Pond Units.  As I walked the bike and scanned the Long Pond for the White-faced Ibis, I spotted one close to the east shoreline.  Before I could get the scope out it flushed and flew to the west.  Too bad, 'cause the morning sun was illuminating its irridescence beautifully!  A fly-by American Bittern was a nice consolation.  It landed in the cattails a good distance away.

I was surprised to see a family of Hooded Mergansers leave the shoreline and swim by.  A pretty female with a half-dozen chicks swam slowly by and allowed a few pics w/ the D300.

Spotted Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs were foraging along the shoreline across from the small channel.  I spent  a few minutes digiscoping them before I noticed the two Plegadis sp. ibis foraging nearby.  Unfortunately, as I turned my scope in their direction, they flushed and flew back to the west and landed 100 yds. away.

Another female Common Yellowthroat was feeding in the thistles nearby, so I spent a few minutes digiscoping her, and trying to call in a Marsh Wren that was singing nearby.  An Eastern Pondhawk lighted nearby, so I turned the camera on its pretty green body.

Just as I was beginning to pack up, I noticed that the ibises had returned and were foraging just across the channel from me.  This gave me a good opportunity to document the White-faced Ibis and its (presumed) hybrid Glossy X White-faced partner.

For the next half-hour I attempted to capture images of both birds for comparison.  The adult White-faced Ibis was still pretty distinctive, with its bright red eyes, pink wash to the face, and white feathering along the forehead.

The suspected intermediate/hybrid ibis showed a significantly darker eye with red visible in the irises.  The loral skin on the face was pink-washed (unlike the blue-gray of a Glossy Ibis).  No white feathering was apparent on the forehead, however.  Note some light speckling on the head and neck of this bird (moreso than on the other bird).

I also took a short digiscoped video showing both birds foraging just 100' away...

Satisfied w/ my efforts I continued on back toward the car. One Little Blue Heron was still roosting in the same tree as earlier, so I spent a few more minutes trying to get some more digiscoped images. Moisture in the air prevented any clean captures, however, so I headed to the car.

I then drove down Port Sunlight road toward Estral Beach where another Osprey nest was active next to the road. I parked about 100 yds. away and digiscoped an adult and juvenile bird panting away in the morning sun. They looked a bit stressed so I didn't dare approach or stay more than a few minutes. I continued on, looking for the Cattle Egrets that Walt had reported earlier in the week, but didn't find any. Haagerman Rd. was also quiet (no Bobolink or Dickcissels seen/heard).


Regency said…
Thank you for sharing your photos, Jerry, that was almost as good as being there! Suzanne Phillips Manchester
Anonymous said…
Love your pics, Jerry. Especially that green dragonfly - gorgeous. I'm so glad to learn of Pt Mouillee too. Will definitely be making a birding trip down there this fall.

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