Death of a Bike - 07 Mar 2023

This evening's bike ride at Pt. Mouillee was almost a carbon copy of last week's: clear skies and relatively mild. However, it was bit breezier such that the Huron River and Lake Erie were choppy. Still, I had hoped to find something worthwhile to photograph. I could have lived with staying home...

The North Causeway was relatively sparse of ducks until I reached the Vermet Unit. A pair of presumed Greater Scaup were seen relatively close to shore, but the ID is not definitive; the male shows glossy green and purple while its head is peaked and round. The female shows a large white patch at base of bill that favors Greater Scaup.

Most of the scaup I photographed in flight, however, showed white only on the secondaries of the wings, which is good for Lesser Scaup.

Its possible to ID these scaup by examining the interior lining of their wing feathers. This fella shows white in the secondaries next to the body while the primaries near the wing tips are visibly darker.

Fly-by Canada Geese were much easier to ID.

Flocks of Ring-necked Ducks flew overhead as I continued on around Cell 5 of the Banana Unit toward Lake Erie. Note the lack of white in both the secondaries and primaries of the males, and the additional white stripe at base of bill in the males of these "scaup-like" ducks.

Even a few Redhead made passes.

American Wigeon and Gadwall can be troublesome in flight. Both show white bellies and dark chests and a two-toned green/gray head, so Gadwall can be easily mistaken for a wigeon. Its important to see where the white is on the wings: Gadwall have a small white patch on the speculum (or secondaries closest to the body) while American Wigeon show a broader white patch on the forewing (above the secondaries). A quick reference is found below:

In the image below this group of Gadwall are identified by the small white patch at the base of the wings. The male in the upper right appears to be an adult based on the chestnut-red patch at base of forewings while the male in lower left appears to be a juvenile as its shows only a small amount of black. Not bad for a flight shot a quarter-mile away...

As I rode around the back side of Cell 5 the lake (Erie) was void of ducks. A stiff wind was pushing waves in toward shore so only a few distant mergansers could be seen. As I road toward the the north end of Cell 4 I found a few Horned Grebes swimming in choppy waters out from the shore while a couple of small groups of Lesser Scaup (and a single Bufflehead male) were swimming next to shore. Lighting was harsh.

The water was a bit calmer in the northwest corner of Cell 4. A pair of Horned Grebes were close enough to get a few pics before they swam off to deeper water.

With the Sun low over the SW horizon I made the decision (again) to ride the Banana down to the trail between Cells 3 and 2, head east to the lakeshore, then ride back north along Cell 3 toward the Middle Causeway. As luck would have it, I got as far as the muddy portion of the trail between Cells 3 and 2 when the frame holding my chain derailer broke. I was left without the ability to pedal, and at the farthest location from the Siegler Rd parking lot I was looking at about 4-4.5 miles of walking. 


With temps now beginning to drop with the Sun setting I started back toward the Middle Causeway toward the Vermet / Long Pond dike and then to the North Causeway walking the bike and carrying the camera, scope, tripod and backpack. I stopped long enough to grab a quick photo of another Horned Grebe in the south end of Cell 4 and a Red-winged Blackbird along the Middle Causeway.

When I finally reached the Middle Causeway the Sun was dipping below the SW horizon and the Moon was rising over the NE horizon. I was shocked at how huge it looked rising above the Lake Erie horizon so I attempted to get some pics while holding the bike.

I was exhausted when I finally reached the car after dark. The bike would be beyond repair, so the plan moving forward is to repurpose Robin's Trek bike and try it (and its thin tires) on the dikes the next time I get out.

I should probably be grateful for the workout, as I'd be heading to South Carolina on Friday to visit Jack and Janet Volker. They would walk me more miles than I could count by the time I'd leave them 4 days later. Stay tuned....


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