Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011-08-13 Pte. Mouillee, Monroe County, MI

2011-08-13 Pte. Mouillee, Monroe County, MI

Judy and I went on our second ever (formal) birding field trip with the very active Oakland County Audubon Society. This was a very special very event where the society was allowed to drive onto the dikes at Point Mouillee State Game Area. It happens once per year. You can gather from my previous blogs that Judy and I had tried on a few occasions to venture out there and - to date - had only been reasonable successful once. I'll tell you - driving sure beats hoofing it!

The number of cars was limited so we met at the Sigler Road parking lot and squeezed into four cars to drive the dikes.

A few notes:

I think this is the first time I had ever set my alarm to get up and go birding (maybe that is the reason I miss so many field trips?) - but, it sures beats an alarm telling me to go to work! Interestingly, seeing recent several posts from my Facebook birding friends showed me that I was not alone in both setting the alarm and also in not getting a very good sleep due to concern about missing the 8:00 am start and also the the anticipation of the day before me.

A truly impressive bunch of birders attended this event. Some were good birding friends we had met previously, several were heroes and correspondents - some of whom we had not met, and many were just fine birders I knew by reputation. It was a true joy to see so many sympatico "relatives" all assembled for one purpose! I'll sprinkle some pics in this blog.

Here is a map of Pte. Mouillee I put together from three maps referenced on Bruce Bowman's website (click the embedded link to go there - scroll down to “Southeast Michigan (not Washtenaw County) - Pte. Mouillee”). Having a map is essential. You need one to communicate. You need one to know where you are. And especially when on foot, you need to know how far you went and far far you need to go to get back to the parking lot. It is always really easy to keep going to reach the spot where someone told you birds were located, but you gotta remember your legs and body will double the effort!

Accolades really go to Allen Chartier who first published the main map in his great book (click to go there ...) published by the American Birding Association. References on the map to "sites mentioned in text" refer to comments in his book. Allen tries to keep the book current.

The day started great as an eagle flew over at our first stop when all cars had passed the gate and we waited fot the gate to be locked again.

Our basic route was: 

Sigler Road. Pause by gate. Stop at nw corner of Nelson Unit. Stop midway down the road between Nelson Unit and Long Pond to look for possible Ibis (none). Stop at corner of Bloody Run and Lautenschlager Units (fantastic flock of distant Geat Egrets - maybe 150? - and many shorebirds below). Along Middle Causeway - stopping in the middle to rescue a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe(!). Stop at ne corner of Cell 3 and Humphries (Lead) Units. Then back around Cell 4 and 5 and North Causeway to Sigler Road. (Hey, I think I remembered it - any corrections y'all?)

BCNH flies off into the oblivion of a dead camera ...

A major downside to the day happened to me at the Lautenschlager Unit. This was possibly my best ever opportunity to shoot many shorebirds up close. Shortly after we entered, I was shooting a night heron flying by and my Canon XSI totally died! There! Why there and now? On our first really internal visit to this special place? My last pic was interesting - it looks like a heron flying into an eclipse!

Fortunately Judy had our 12x Kodak as her camera. She inherited it when she gave me the Canon as an anniversary gift in 2008.  My wonderful wife passed it over to me and told me to "go for it". Such love!

Since that time, I have gone thru all the stages of loss of the Canon  - including anger, disappointment, realization, etc. But shortly reality and reflection again allowed me to regain my senses. I took a survey from my date/pic numbered files and realized I had actually shot about 90,000 photos with that camera. Really amazing! And - really amazing - I have had time to reflect. Can you just imagine some dinky magical thing inside a "black box" firing off 90,000 times at speeds around 1/1000th of a second and still working? Whew! 

Just why did it have to do it then - there?

My great birder wife!

Anyway, "everything happens for a purpose". Not that I really needed anything to tell me how much Judy does for me. But, I have been wanting Judy to get more experienced with the new binocs I got her a month or so ago, and now, without a camera around her neck, she faced a great opportunity. And since I was already experienced with her camera, I could record some of our wonderful memories.

I might have missed some bird pics, but the opportunity led me to get many shots of the assembled birders I might have otherwise overlooked. Yes, we all want to see birds, but the pics I really treasure are those of the birding community in which I am honored to be a member. Birds are "my friends". I relish and cherish the opportunities they give me to voyeuristically view and photograph them "doing things", but I know the times that matter most are those when people (humans, birders, heroes, friends ...) have shared a mutual experience with me.

This blog will feature photos more of the human component (the birders) than the birds. "Things happen for a reason"! Yes, that is what we usually tend to remember anyway - far longer than a "life bird"! Well at least for me - I only have about 150 "life birds" so another one is always just a trip away - wherever I go - even locally. Birding friends can never be anticipated. Yes it was a great day!
One of the highlights of the day was meeting Jerry Jourdan in the field (at Cell 3)! I read so many of his blogs on Pte. Mouillee, and sure enough - there he was! I was SO honored when Jerry came over and asked what birds I had seen! Fortunately, he is not "camera shy" and allowed Judy to take a great pic of me with one of my true "heroes"!!
Fantastic bird photographer Jerry Jourdan and his "student"

I managed to get a few shots of Jerry digiscoping. After I stayed an appropriate distance away, Jerry walked back to the group and shared a great lesson on his digiscoping equipment. It actually looks easy enough for me to try it - albeit without his better optical equipment ...

Jerry Jourdan digiscoping at Cell 3, Pte. Mouillee

Master photographer Jerry Jourdan shows how he conquersdistances at Pte. Mouillee. It looks so easy.

Judy and master birder Joe Faggan

Another highlight was actually spending time with Joe Faggan! We met Joe locally (Robert Long Nature Park, Stoney Creek Metro Park...), on many occasions before  -but he was "birding" and Judy and I are a "couple", and neither Joe or us wanted to intrude on the other. It was so nice to have him "cornered". Ah what stories we can hear from this life-long birder!

It was especially fun to be in the car driven by buddy Ed (OAS field trip coordinator this year) and with Cathy Carroll, Janet Hug, and two people we just met: Ed's friend Craig and Alice.  

Janet also poses with a "hero" - Jerry Jourdan!

Ed Lewandowski and Mike McCullough (field trip leader)



Yes it was a great day!

(Stay tuned - more to come!)

2011-08-11 Wetzel SRA

2011-08-11 Wetzel SRA

OK, even after writing in the last post that I needed to record my memories as I get them, I am again behind on my blog. I wanted to post a blog on our recent rrip to Pte Mouillee, and see that I missed a few trips. Some are OK to miss, but I am trying to keep up with a few special places - like Wetzel SRA in Macomb County. I think few people are recording memories there.

Judy and I saw that Thursday, Aug 11, would be a much cooler day than usual this time of year, and I immediately thought of Wetzel. It is so exposed and so normally very humid we avoid it in summer - bugs aside.

After walking around a bit, we realized that indeed we had never been there in August! All of the sedges were now flowering and drooping over the path. All of the other vegetation was intensely lush as well. It was a very different place from spring!

From a view of photographing birds, it was not so good. We spent a lot of time saying  "there he goes ... I mean went". No birdies sitting atop plants and singing and advertising their need for mates. Plenty of places within mid-level of the plants to feed. Whoosh - gone!

Yet fascinating! It is so good to see annual changes in the places we frequent. On the other hand, even on a "cool" day in August (73 to 80 degrees), after a walk around the main lake (making a circle from the southern parking lot) we were dripping and relished the air-conditioning of the car.

Notably, we saw no "shore birds" as we had hoped - the water was too high and the normal exposed island flats were minimal. We saw no bobolinks - did they leave after breeding, or just are making like all the other birdies by staying in the midst of the brush?

We did not have our "hearing" birding companions. Yes  - we heard several birds, but Judy and I are severely "audiornith" - impared (if you need a hyphen in the unusual word, put it wherever you want - I just made up the word)!  I just "gotta get my ears on" for summer birding!!!

It WAS possibly the kindest and best August day to venture there. Temps were reasonable, mosquitoes minimal, and we collected no ticks. Oddly, we did not see as many b'flies and d'flies as we might have suspetcted given the large diversity of flowering plants, but we shot a few.

And, no, I have not worked on the pics yet. We have been busy with family events as well as birding so I am way behind.

Here is the sadly irrepresentative species list.

Canada Goose 2
Mute Swan 6
Mallard 6
Pied-billed Grebe 3
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 12
Green Heron 2
Cedar Waxwing X
Common Yellowthroat X
Song Sparrow X
sparrow sp. X
Northern Cardinal X
American Goldfinch X