Migration Underway - 04 Apr 2021

Today was one of those ideal mornings that a birder relishes; clear skies, mild temperatures, no wind, and dry trails. Pt. Mouillee offered all of this. And birds.

I parked at Mouillee Creek and immediately spotted several Bonaparte's Gulls foraging in the creek next to the parking lot. The Sun nicely illuminated the birds as they circled near the bridge, soared, and dove for small fish. I had to pull myself away from them as I could have spent the morning just photographing the gulls that were transitioning into their alternate plumage.

As I rode past the Walpatich and Bloody Run Units the Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were flushing by the dozen and flying into the rising Sun. It was difficult just to follow their silhouettes as the morning light was intense. I chose to ride past the pump house and check the mudflats of the Humphries Unit for shorebirds. A pair of Sandhill Cranes flew by with better lighting.

Pectoral Sandpipers have arrived. I counted 78 of the stocky, bibbed shorebirds. Among them danced a half-dozen Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Wilson Snipe and a single Long-billed Dowitcher. This bird appeared to be in less transition compared to the one I saw last week.

I then made my way northward to the North Causeway along the dike separating the Long Pond and Vermet Units. Small flocks of mainly Lesser Scaup greeted me as I reached the causeway but numbers are beginning to dwindle. Good numbers of these dabblers are hanging out in the Vermet Unit, so it was not unexpected to see the fewer numbers in the Huron River.

As I rode east toward the Banana Unit and Lake Erie I spotted pairs of Horned Grebes swimming out from the shoreline to deeper water. Most were deeply backlit, but a few swam around to better light. I would count 24 by the time I reached Cells 4 and 5 of the Banana Unit.

Riding into the Sun makes for a lot of eye strain, but the lack of wind was a nice consolation. I had to stop for a few minutes to adjust my vision, so I took the opportunity to point the camera at flocks of Lesser Scaup that zipped by the shoreline.

I spotted a migrating Common Loon toward the mouth of the Huron River, and had a closer one in Cell 5 as I rode back toward the west side of the Banana.

A handsome Horned Grebe was swimming quietly in the NW corner of Cell 5 near shore and allowed me some digiscoping opportunities. The bird, and a nearby Red-breasted Merganser were nicely illuminated by the morning Sun.

Lesser Scaup by the hundreds were scattered over the Vermet Unit. Dozens more were flying in an out of Cells 4 and 5 where active courtship squabbles were unfolding. I spent some time with this group of 6 males and 1 female; you get the sense which drake was trying to ward off fellow suitors...

As I returned to the Middle Causeway I looked for, but did not find, any Short-eared Owls or Northern Harriers. It is possible that they may have moved on? I suspect so as duck numbers start to dwindle and shorebird numbers pick up over the next few weeks. In the meantime I took one last pic of a Horned Grebe trying to take off on water, and then swung the camera 180 degrees to catch a small flock of American White Pelicans roosting in the Vermet Unit.


A simply lovely day!


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