Attacked in Bad Creek - 27 Aug 2022
This is the final weekend before Hunting Season starts so I wanted to get one last bike ride in at Pt. Mouillee SGA. Parking at Mouillee Creek I rode the Middle Causeway toward the Pumphouse and decided to head south along the Bad Creek Trail. The Sun was shining this early Saturday morning so I took the opportunity to photograph a Spotted Sandpiper as it enjoyed the golden rays.
I normally ride south just past the low cobble stretch and turn around at the top of the small hill but after scoping the Humphries Unit I made the decision to continue riding south down to the South Causeway at the foot of Roberts Road. Its hard to believe that in my 40 years of birding this place I've never explored this stretch of the State Game Area. Although birds were a bit scarce the ride was lovely.
As expected the early morning hours put most of the Humphries Unit into severe backlighting conditions so photography is not easy. Neither is the shorebirding.I continued along the trail that hugs the Humphries Unit shoreline and finally got into a location where both lighting and shorebirding was good. Lesser Yellowlegs dominated the scene but a number of Pectoral Sandpipers were close enough for some digiscoping.
As I digiscoped the Pecs I felt a loud "Whoosh" over my shoulder, and the marsh erupted in front of me. I looked up just in time to see a Peregrine Falcon pass over my shoulder and dive-bomb the shorebird flock in front of me. I immediately reached for the 600/4 lens and Sony a1 but couldn't get it out of my holster. When I finally did my worst nightmare came true; I was too close to focus on the Peregrine as it dodged and darted just 20 feet away.
No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the bird in my field of view. Also, the lens would not focus unless the bird was in the field of view. So all I could do was watch as it sprinted after a poor Pectoral Sandpiper that did its very best to avoid the talons of death. At one point the falcon pulled up, shot straight up, then went into a stoop and hurtled toward the hapless Pec. The sandpiper crashed into the water just barely avoiding capture while the falcon swiped and veered off in the opposite direction.
The chase continued back over my shoulder and into the Sun, then the Peregrine gave up on the little Pec and circled back toward me. By now I was far enough away to get the bird in my view and focus locked on. Though I missed the action I at least got to grab some frames as it passed by in beautiful light!
As the Peregrine Falcon passed by me it turned its attention toward a Double-crested Cormorant and proceeded to harass it as both birds headed east toward Lake Erie. The cormorant was not happy and barely avoided being a meal.
With the marsh now void of all bird life I continued on toward the South Causeway and stopped long enough to say hi to Brian Beauchene. I then headed out the South Causeway toward the Banana and looped around to the east side of Cell 1. I stopped just long enough to grab a quick pic of a Red Admiral Butterfly (thanks Don Sherwood).
Just south of the causeway I came upon a small number of Bonaparte's Gulls roosting along the rocks in perfect lighting. The juvenile birds were posing on the rocks and seemed content to allow me to grab a few quick pics with the 600/4 before continuing along the Lake Erie shoreline.
The beach across from Cell 3 held only a half-dozen Killdeer, so I continued on to the north end of Cell 3. Ducks were absent in Cell 4, which may have been due to the six juvenile Bald Eagles roosting on the dirt pile next to cell. Though I missed the opportunity to photograph them an adult passed by close enough for a pic or two.
With no shorebirds in the NE corner of the Humphries Unit I continued along the Middle Causeway to the Long Pond Unit. The south end of the Long Pond was quiet, as well, except for a single Semipalmated Plover that required some long-distance digiscoping.
While digiscoping the plover I started hearing chatter behind me in the phragmites. One chatter turned into a second and before long a pair of Marsh Wrens were squabbling just a few feet away. Though focusing was a challenge with the tiny birds ducking in and out of view I managed to grab a few photos when they popped into view!
By now the morning was late and my knees were aching, so I packed up and headed back to the car. Just a few minutes later a pair of Red Knots would be reported back along the Bad Creek Unit. I was too tired to give chase.
I'll be back in December once the place opens up to birders again. Till then it is time to concentrate on warblers and hawks!