Red-necked Phalarope! - 19 May 2013

I went back to Pt. Mouillee this morning to look for the Wilson's Phalarope that Will Weber and I found yesterday.  I was also hoping to see the Whimbrels that Patrick Jakel had seen in Cell 4.

I found a Great-crested Flycatcher in the trees next to the Walpatich Unit. The Lautenschlager Unit held significantly fewer Dunlin than yesterday.  I scoped the far shore of the unit and failed to refind the phalarope or any of the Black-bellied Plovers.  The highlight of this location was watching a pair of Sandhill Cranes getting attacked from a very aggressive Red-winged Blackbird trying to defend its (nearby) nest.  I also managed to capture a Blue-winged Teal in flight as it circled around me after flushing from the creek channel nearby. 

From there I headed straight to Cell 3 to look for shorebirds.   No Whimbrels in Cell 4, but as I scoped the Dunlin in Cell 3 I spotted a gorgeous female Red-necked Phalarope foraging just a few feet from the mudline about 200' away.  With the sun behind the bird I was in no position I was in postion to get any decent digiscoped images, so I hiked down the side of the dike and headed toward the middle of the cell.  The mud was sufficiently dry to support my weight so I worked my way toward the bird so that I could get within 100' or so for better digiscoping w/ the sun behind me. 

The bird was actively feeding in the water and in the air, taking short flight bursts to grab an insect or two before settling back in the water.  Three hundred shots later I was happy to report a few keepers.  Even with the 18mm f/1.8 lens on the Nikon V1 I was hard-pressed to get fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the fast-moving bird.  Sufficiently satisfied with the phalarope I took a few photos of the preening Dunlin, a pair of Short-billed Dowitchers, and an Osprey perched on the yellow pole in the middle of Cell 3.

Least Sandpiper

I headed back toward the dike and found Rodney Laura waiting for me.  We chatted and found a juvenile Yellow-headed Blackbird along the dike as we biked toward the sand spit in the SW corner of Cell 3.  We both managed to get a few photos before it flew back toward the Middle Causeway.

We met up with Chris McCreedy who was visiting Michigan from Point Reyes, CA.  The spit was quiet with only a few more Dunlin and a couple of Forster's and Common Terns.  We chatted a bit before I left them to head back to the car.

The Vermet Unit was unproductive, so I headed back to the Mouillee Creek parking lot and home. I stopped just long enough to finally get a photo of flyover Black-bellied Plovers.


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