LBDO, Bufflehead and SEOW - 25 Mar 2021


Forecasts called for rain and falling temperatures the next few days, so I took the opportunity to bird Pt. Mouillee this evening when temps were still in the 60's. Clouds were moving in so light was overcast and diffuse. I'd take it as an advantage when I wanted to do some digiscoping of shorebirds (after all I'd realized that I haven't digiscoped any shorebirds in spring for over 4 years).

The plan would be to ride the Middle Causeway to the pump house and head south into the Bad Creek Unit to look for shorebirds. I had to pause that plan when I found a pair of Bufflehead swimming surprisingly close to shore in the Walpatich Unit. I grabbed the scope and spent some time digiscoping a courting pair that were being followed by two other drakes. I took a lot of images since this was probably the closest I'd ever been to the normally-skittish ducks.










With diffuse light it was difficult to capture the iridescence in the male bird's head, but I'd be able to pull some of it out in post. Eventually, they drifted off to deeper water so I moved on.

The Bad Creek Unit was flooded, but there was a wealth of ducks: Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup and Green-winged Teal. I even spotted my first Blue-winged Teal of the season. No shorebirds. 

I returned to the Middle Causeway and spent some time scoping the mudflats in the Humphries Unit (just east of the pump house) for shorebirds. I managed to only see several Killdeer before I spotted the first of 8 Lesser Yellowlegs farther out in the shallow water. Among them was a single Long-billed Dowitcher. Yay!

Despite the distance of 150' or so I made sure to digiscope as much as I could to document the molting bird with its chevroned flanks. Typically the dowitchers seen in March/April in the Great Lakes Region are almost always Long-billed Dowitcher, but I did some referencing just to make sure.







https://www.mbwbirds.com/dowitchers.html
https://www.illinoisbirds.org/dowitcher-identification-in-illinois/

I then found another 11 Pectoral Sandpipers even farther beyond huddled together in a small section of mudflat. They were too far away to consider digiscoping so I just enjoyed scoping them. 

I continued on along the Middle Causeway with the intent of circling the Long Pond Unit. I got as far as the Vermet Unit and started heading north along the dike separating the two units when I spotted a large raptor flying back south along the phragmites. Short-eared Owl!


With the rain drops starting to fall I decided I was better off turning back and following the Short-eared Owl to see if I could get some better pics. After all, it had just landed on the Middle Causeway a few hundred yards away.

Getting close enough to possibly digiscope the bird would not happen. It kept taking off and flying along the Humphries Unit as I approached (mostly because the Canada Geese were not happy w/ my approach). I would settle for fly-by pics as it circled back along the Long Pond Unit before heading east toward the Banana Unit.








As I rode back toward the car I found 4 Bufflehead in the canal to my right, and they did not flush at my approach. I spent the next 30 minutes or so just sitting on the edge of the path and digiscoped them from a distance as short as 50'. These may be the same 4 birds I saw just an hour or so on my way in.











That was a pleasurable couple of hours!




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