Farewell to the Mou - 29 Aug 2021
With Pt. Mouillee SGA closing to hunting from Sept 1 - Dec 15 this would be my last trip to look for shorebirds. I decided to get a pre-dawn start so I could be on the shore of Lake Erie when the S.un would rise. Besides, forecasts called for a hot and humid 90+F day.
As I rode the North Causeway in the dark I was swarmed with midges and mosquitos. There was no air movement to keep them off me, so I had to ride as fast as I could to keep them from settling. A Killdeer would be the first bird calling in the pre-dawn darkness.
As the soft glow of morning arrived over Lake Erie I reached the Banana Unit and continued along the north shoreline next to the vast expanse of phragmites to my right in Cell 5. No sooner did I arrived did I see the silhouettes of hundreds of swallows flooding out of the phragmites over the dike and out over the mouth of Lake Erie to my left. I couldn't help but stop and take in the sound of wingbeats; some just inches from my head as they poured over the dike in front of me (and behind). I decided to grab the digiscoping camera and take a video. I estimated ~10,000 swallows of Barn, Tree and Bank with numerous Purple Martins mixed in. It was still too dark to ID any of them. And, unfortunately, the light was too low to take any photos w/ the 200-600 mm lens and Sony a1.
Once things settled down a bit I continued on around Cell 5 and Lake Erie. Black-crowned Night Herons squawked as they flushed from the open pond in front of me. As I reached the north end of Cell 4 the light started increasing enough to see the birdlife nearby. In the NW corner of Cell 4 a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs squabbled and fought as they chased each other over the water from the floating vegetation in the corner of the Cell. The Sun was now over the horizon and glowing like a red ball; who says you can't point a camera at the Sun...
An Osprey was perched on a pole next to shore and slowly flew off upon my approach. To my right the Vermet Unit was surprisingly quiet; it was covered in emergent vegetation as far as I could see.
I continued on past the Middle Causeway and checked out the SW corner of Cell 4 where I flushed a dozen or so Semipalmated Sandpipers from another floating grass bed.
With Cell 3 being filled with dredgings I found a mix of Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and Semipalmated Sandpipers along the north end. Perhaps 2-dozen birds total.
Continuing along the east side of Cell 3 I found the water level pretty high with only pairs of Blue-winged Teal and Mallard visible through the thick growth lining the dike. Sadly, the SE corner of the unit was now flooded and devoid of shorebirds .
A bit farther along the south end of Cell 3 flocks of Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers rose out of the vegetation and swirled in the morning light.
I stopped along the west side of the Cell where a cut in the trees allowed a view of the open mudflats in the center; it was also flooded so no access was available.
I headed down the Middle Causeway and found a nice mix of Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers. The Sun was high enough to allow for some nice digiscoping opportunities.
As I began my ride back to the car I almost ran over a baby Common Snapping Turtle in the middle of the trail. I grabbed a couple of quick pics, then carried the little guy to an opening in the Humphries Unit and let him swim off safe from vehicle traffic.
The dike separating Long Pond from Vermet Unit yielded a female Northern Harrier, but pics were too distant for any keepers. I settled for a large flock of Great Egrets roosting in the Long Pond Unit.
Luckily, I found a group of Lesser Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers next to shore that included a Stilt Sandpiper, so it would be my last shorebird photographed for the season.
I'd stop long enough to get a few pics of the American Lotus growing along the Huron River shoreline next to the North Causeway.
I'd be back at the car by 9:30 am and already sweating. Bidding farewell to Pt. Mouillee until December I'd have to settle for reports of Baird's Sandpipers and Wilson's Phalarope a day later.