Very Close Encounter - 08 Feb 2024


With clearing skies and temps forecasted to hit mid 50's today I decided to grab the bike and head down to Pte. Mouillee SGA. Parking at Siegler Rd. I headed out onto the North Causeway at 8:30 am. Inland ponds were frozen (but thawing) while the Huron River and Lake Erie were open. A partly-cloudy sky made the sunrise less painful to endure and somewhat enjoyable to see.

As I rode out past the Nelson Unit I started hearing the first of many Tundra Swans flying over in large "V's".  A short distance later a cacophony of Tundra Swans rose up with a massive flock that appeared to the south over the Humphries Unit. As many as 450 Tundra Swans were lifting up and scattering in all directions. Among them were hundreds of ducks and geese. 

Not to be outdone dozens of Mute Swans were also flying this morning. Many would end up in the Vermet Unit where a small patch of open water attracted hundreds of Tundra Swans (350), Canada Geese (250), Mallard (200+), a few Pintail, Gadwall and American Black Duck.

A large raft of Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Redhead and Canvasback were swimming in the Huron River to my left. They lifted off as I approached, and I managed to get a few pics of them in flight.

The mouth of Lake Erie was empty except for a few scattered Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye. Cell 5 was partially open and held a few dozen Mallard and Canada Geese.

As I reached the north end of Cell 4 (frozen) I could see a dozen Bald Eagles perched on the ice where it met open water at the opening to Lake Erie. A scattering of American Tree Sparrows could be heard chipping in the phragmites to my right. 

I reached the Vermet Unit where I counted the swans, geese and ducks before heading toward the Middle Causeway. Its highlight was a single Northern Harrier flushing from the causeway and flying out over the Vermet Unit.

As I rode west along the Middle Causeway I began to look for Short-eared Owls. To aid in my search I would make barking calls of the owls with the hopes of getting a response. Little did I know I'd get a response I wasn't expecting.

As I approached the SW corner of the Vermet Unit I was suddenly drawn to a brown mass racing south along the dike separating Long Pond and Vermet Units. When it hit the Middle Causeway it turned east and began to race toward me. Coyote

Suddenly I was confronted with a large canine racing in my direction. My only option was to raise the 600/4 lens and fire off frames w/ the Sony a1 as it approached. When it finally lifted its head the Coyote saw me. Pausing for a moment to consider its options the Coyote decided to continue in a full sprint past me without stopping to kill and eat me...

That is the closest I'll ever come to seeing these elusive animals. Gorgeous!

I continued riding along the Middle Causeway until I reached the dike separating Nelson and Long Pond Units. I turned north and rode the dike between the two frozen ponds. The highlight was seeing four Red-winged Blackbirds staging and singing in the Nelson Unit. A nice sign of spring!

I returned to the car and headed to the Antennae Farm where I failed to hear or see any birds. Home by 11 am. 

Pte. Mouillee SGA (permit required Sep 1-Dec 15), Monroe, Michigan, US
Feb 8, 2024 8:43 AM - 10:16 AM
Protocol: Traveling
7.053 mile(s)
21 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  346     Vermet on ice
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  136     On ice in Vermet and Humphries
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)  650     350 in Vermet on ice and 300 in SW corner of Humphries. Noisy! Flying overhead in skeins of 10-30 birds
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  1
Gadwall (Mareca strepera)  8
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  236     On ice and open water in Vermet
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)  1
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  10
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)  120
Redhead (Aythya americana)  80
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  450     On Huron River at mouth of Lake Erie
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  42
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  6
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  22
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  2
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  11
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  4
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)  6
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  12     4 singing in Nelson Unit

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (