Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011-07-27 Robert Long Nature Park, Oakland Co., MI

Note to self:
I just gotta stop worrying about trying to finish my previous blogs - like by adding photos or more words for completeness - and just start recording memories again. It is so easy to "get wrapped around the axle"! Yes, my blogs are neither complete nor perfect, but I did "put it out there", and for me at least, I do have the pics to go along with the blog as part of my "life book". My words remind ME of a part of my life. I read my former words, and treasure the fact I wrote them - there and then!   I doubt I could ever replay or record tham again now. I think a really important thing for me is to record my life and memories as I go. Yes, eventually, I really want to make an illustrated  book by just printing off my blog. That would be really great. (Anyone know how to do this???)

Besides being selfish, self-promoting and self-documenting by blogging, I also post things to try to give back in a very small way to the community of wonderful birders and naturalists who have supported me along the way and provide input on species IDs and just generally some encouragement,  and also the many who also share the blogs of their lives appreciating nature. I really DO feel part of a larger concerned community!

I post things to share with my family.  I also consider those who are not so fortunate as Judy and I currently are and who might be unable to "get out" as often as we attempt.  I always hope my "rambles" give them a "space" where their memories can fly as free as my words and trigger memories of similar times in their own lives! I am writing my memories now so that I can "replay them later" when I am less fortunate in my physical abilitiies to "get out"...

The pics do not change, but I know that my memories DO change over time, so it is best to get out something now, and if the universe allows me enough time and space, I can always fill in the pics later. Smiling, I see from some of my previous blogs I have usually subscribed to this philosophy, but recently I felt an incapacitating need for completeness before I proceeded with my blogging . Silly - obviously nothing happened. Hey, y'all - if you got something to say, do it now! I'll listen and appreciate!

Anyway, here is today's "story" - a "ramble" - written today, and I hope a turn-around for my blogging Gestalt. As you might suspect, many of the pics will come later or perhaps not at all...

2011-07-27 Robert Long Nature Park

Judy and I had a great day at Robert Long! Maybe it was not "fantastic" in the sense of new lifer birds, but we saw over two dozen species of birds, got some decent exercise, had a good picnic and shot a couple target birds that had recently been reported on the se Michigan birder's listserv. Yes, great!

As we arrived we saw three young people with binocs and cameras out on the mudflat. As they passed us I asked what they saw - "sandpipers". "What kind?" "Yellowlegs and peeps, but they flew off". Yes, I guess so - birds often do not care to share their mudflats with humans... (There is a reason my pics are often not so good - I choose not to approach too closely lest the objects of my photographic pursuits and avian desires fly away ...)

We hung around the shelter and watched the mudflat for awhile, but the sandpipers did not return. Mostly we were waiting while the youngsters walked the other trails. One was wearing a white shirt - ah, yes a "white flag"! We are so sensitive to this after reading the article in the excellent book "Good Birders Do Not Wear White".

Hey! I am not "getting down" on the kids! They were enthusiastic, and sharing, and everything I would hope I was "back then". I was not a birder, but I certainly shared my fishing info! There are just a few subtleties they will learn. I am always energized to see anyone from the next generation in the field and involved with nature.  I know for sure they got some great shots of a Great Egret that posed for all of us by the entrance! I do not think I ever had any pics that good as a kid! Cool!

Great Egret looking at a fake "marmot"

Great Egret takes off.  Geez!!  I got a good one here!
So after a short break, off we went. The "middle dike" did not produce the expected abundance of butterflies and dragons (timing I suspect, the plants are "ripe"), or really many interesting birds at all.

Instead of heading left at the next turn, we went to the covered bridge where a man and his kids were fishing. It was obvious they enjoyed seeing birds as well as fishing. They especially liked the Great Egrets. And he asked if we had seen the white hawk-like bird that had passed by about 5 minutes ago. "What was that?" Actually, I had seen the bird in a quick glimpse,  but was not in a place to put any optics on it or even study the behavior. I suggested possibly an Osprey. After Judy shot pics of the kids' fish (bluegill and perch - both released) the kids caught while we were there, we proceeded. We saw one one Barn Swallow left in the nests under the bridge and listened to the  multiple "helper birds" complaining as they tried to help out. (ref Julie Craves article on helper birds ...) The family of human fishers was oblivious.No doubt I would have been as well since in that situation my goal today would have been to produce miniscule fish to cement my relationship with my kids forever. Cool about "helper birds" - they know the swallow kid is there and they will persist!

I had hoped for a Red-headed Woodpecker. No such luck. Actually we did not see any woodpeckers at all today- odd with all the standing dead timber. In the swamp north of the bridge, we got some decent pics of a Tiger Swallowtail and a couple of dragons, and a pic of an Eastern Wood-Peewee. I heard a Common Yellowthroat and possibly a Marsh Wren (gotta hear the CDs again ...)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Then back thru the bridge, down the path, turn right and  ... "off to grandma's house" we went. Well, not really - but that's the directions I provide...

There were many swallows flying just above the green surface. I think: OK, I'll try it again. It is a constant challenge to me to try to shoot one of these fast-moving creatures - hey, digital "film" is cheap - "delete, delete, delete"! I got a couple of reasonable pics of a swallow with a bug in its mouth! (Thanks again Janet Hug for teaching me about my camera! - cool trick) Maybe not the best quality, but if I am swirling around like a man possessed, it is sure nice to have something to show for it!

Tree Swallow with d'fly
Really I cannot fathom how any dragonflies can ever survive to maturity! Last year I was going to shoot a fancy d'fly when a female Red-winged Blackbird plucked it mid-air before me.. And now I see swallows like d'flies as well. Easy pickings! Geez! Why eat mosquitoes when these d'fly guys give far more protein for the effort and they have a larger profile? It's no wonder it is hard to shoot the "other flappy things" when their mere survival depends on constant movement! I suspect they would be far better off by just alighting and posing nearby for my pics than by staying in the air with maurading birdies on the loose ... Maybe evolution will give generational benefits to  those that pose for  "Dr. Bob"?

Judy spied a Great Blue Heron just as I was observing and shooting my first sandpiper of the day. "It has a white head". "Leave me alone, I came for sandpipers" (but I did look long enough to see the head was in the sun and body was in the shade).  I had fixated on a Spotted Sandpiper - no spots, but I learned previously from mentor Mike Mencotti that the spotted guy - esp. juveniles - have a distinct white wedge into the shoulder.

Near where the metal bench used to be, we met a nice young woman with an instrument that looked like it was used for core samples and a handful of very enlarged satellite images of the area. I was curious. Sue Tepatti (works for GWE) was performing surveys for the township. She appeared very interested in hearing about the use and history of the park - particularly as it might relate to water management - and she was also very knowledgeable about invasive species at Robert Long. The township seems to be aware. It is SO encouraging that Commerce Twp. continues to recognize the importance of this unique area in Oakland County, Michigan! It was also obvious Sue loves her work. I think they have the right person and consulting firm on the job. I offered to serve as a contact should she need any help from the birding community (No, I am not the expert, but I know who they are for Robert Long). We exchanged contact info.

In the "back bay", the Double-crested Cormorants were in the usual place. One was drying its wings.

Now Judy and I were feeling the heat and humidity. Both were extremely low today compared with what we have been experiencing, but what else could we expect while walking in "water world" but enhanced levels of each? Anyway, time for lunch (Thanks Judy), so we retired to the shelter and set up the spotting scope. After a much needed drink after dehydration (Dr. Pepper), I scanned the mudflats and saw an object of desire - Semi-Palmated Sandpiper. Whew! My eBird Oakland County records for the year now show 101 species! It's the first year I have ever broken 100 species for a county. I say "not bad for a home boy". (Think cheap "staycation")

After Judy's nice lunch, I was hopeful that we might sit awhile and await a Yellowlegs or Least Sandpiper to appear on the flats. It was not to be. Just at the time I finished my lunch, a heavy-set woman with a folding chair walked out onto the mudflats. (Previously, she and her husband had been eating lunch across from us on the path towards the road). She turned around and glared at me - like "why are you watching me with the telescope"?  (Well I wasn't - she adequately filled the frame of my normal glasses ...)  Then she walked back, collected her husband, and together they walked onto, across and around the remaining mudflat and set up their chairs on the mudflat and commenced afternoon sunning to read their paper and book. Oh well ... at least they were "out in nature" ... I folded the scope and we left. Oddly the "semi-palms" had adjusted, and moved a bit, but were still there. At 6 inches high, it was hard even for us to spot them ("specks are moving"), and Oakland County offers few Sandpiper Buffets, so I suspect anyone who wants record this species will find success even with someone singing (sic) ...

In summary, of the "cool birds" today, we got Spotted and Semi-Palmated Sandpipers. We were disappointed not to see a Red-headed Woodpecker (anyone see one there this year ?). We shot many pics - some of them quite good for us. We had a great "adventure" fairly close to home! Robert Long is a wonderful resource. It is so great it is protected!

Species list from eBird follows. For us amateurs it was really a very decent total (30 species) for the day.

 Robert H. Long Park, Oakland, US-MI
Jul 27, 2011 10:15 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments: 78-84 degrees; sunny; fairly low humidity

29 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan 6
Wood Duck 1
Mallard X
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 6
Killdeer 30
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 3
Ring-billed Gull 50
Mourning Dove 6
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Tree Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 20
Black-capped Chickadee 2
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Song Sparrow 2
sparrow sp. 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 10