Monday, April 23, 2018
When I gave mom a pair of bluebird boxes for her birthday (March 14) I found out that Louie had been making bird houses as a new hobby. I asked him to make me a Screech Owl box, and the next day he dropped off this beauty.
I went to Lowes and picked out (2) ½" galvanized steel stove pipe in 6' sections and bought a ½" coupler to connect the two. I then added a flange at the top to connect the pipe to the box. Unfortunately, after a day of strong winds I realized that ½" steel pipe was too flimsy. The box was bending in the wind.
So, I went back a bought a 10' section of 1" stove pipe, added a 1' section with a 1" coupler, and tried again. This time the pole was secure and stable in the wind. I pounded a 1.25" pipe in to the ground (12" piece) that I used as a sleeve for the 10' section, and shimmed the bottom to level.
Just 2 weeks later I came home from lunch with Terry and Glenn and found this cute little gray-morph Screech Owl sleeping in the box!
Sunday, April 15, 2018
A major winter storm is hitting the Midwest today, with Nebraska getting blizzards and high winds blasting Wisconsin. North of us is expecting snow, while we in the SE portion of Michigan is forecasted to get lots of rain and falling temperatures. This evening, though, the skies are calm and it is still mild (57F), so I decided to take a ride out and check the Moo.
I arrived a Mouillee Creek entrance at 5 pm and rode out along the Middle Causeway toward the Banana Unit. Water levels were already high in the SGA due to heavy rains earlier in the week. As such, shorebirds were all but absent; I did see one flock of 6 Lesser Yellowlegs fly into the Vermet Unit from the Humphries Unit.
Of the waterfowl variety Blue-winged Teal were the bird of the day. Dozens were scattering before me while small rafts of American Coot also held ducks like Ring-necked, Northern Shoveler, Wigeon, Redhead, and Gadwall. Mute Swans were concentrated in the Vermet Unit and the first Canada Geese babies were swimming behind their parents. Tree Swallows finally appeared over the water, as well.
Cell 4 held the first of many Horned Grebes that I would see this evening. Common and Red-breasted Mergansers were still around, as well as Greater and Lesser Scaup, and a dozen Bufflehead.
I rode down to the south side of Cell 3 to see if any Snowy Owls were still around. I was actually happy NOT to see any. I believe they've finally flown back north. I would see more Horned Grebes along the shore of Lake Erie, which was chopping as the winds started picking up.
Even the birds are doing it now...
With snow forecasted this evening and cold weather expected for the next week, I decided to make an evening ride out at Pt. Mouillee to look for shorebirds. Skies were clear (but clouding up fast), and winds were calm (but picking up fast).
At 5 pm I started out from the Mouillee Creek parking lot and quickly saw how flooded the creeks and units were. I could expect to see no shorebirds... Waterfowl numbers were light in the Lautenschlager and Bloody Run Units, and the Humphries Unit was hosting only a few dozen American Coot. My only highlight was watching a Great Blue Heron go after a Great Egret out in the field adjacent to the Bad Creek Unit.
Winds were picking up and coming out of the south-southwest, which was somewhat foreboding, since I'd be riding into the teeth of it coming back. Sure enough, as I reached the Banana Unit and headed south I was riding into the teeth of a cold 25 mph wind. A few Canvasback, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, and Redhead were swimming in Cell 4 while a couple of Herring Gulls soared overhead.
I managed to get within 50' of the bird and digiscope the crap out of the bird for 20 minutes. I alternated between stills, 4K video, and Slow-motion video captures. The bird dozed between head rotations, and occasionally scanned in alarm as passing Canada Geese and Mute Swans flew overhead.
As I rode out past Cell 5 I spotted a second Snowy Owl roosting on a log inside the dried pond just across from the NE portion of the Vermet Unit. I decided not to stop, and continued on toward the North Causeway and back to the car.
A WARNING for anyone heading down Haggerman Rd. and the Antennae Farm: the road is deeply rutted and has huge mud holes. I had to drive as fast as possible through it the entire length of the road in order to keep from getting stuck. Through mud-covered windows I did not see any birds of note.
Skies were clear again this morning, and chilly, with a bit more wind than last week. I grabbed the bike and headed to Point Mouillee, but this time parked at Siegler Rd. That way, I could ride out to the Banana Unit and (hopefully) keep the sun behind me as I worked my way south and west across the SGA. The ground was dry and riding was not too difficult.
I continued on around Cell 5 toward the lake and decided to see what the east side of the SGA would bring. A good chop was on Lake Erie, so there wasn't much in the way of waterfowl. The Huron River mouth held a good number of Greater and Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Shoveler, and Ruddy Ducks. The first of six Horned Grebes were spotted in the northeast corner of Cell 5, while dozens of scaup retreated before me.
I have a preset on my Sony a6300 that allows more accurate autofocusing when I'm digiscoping using the camera's autofocus feature. This involves setting Contrast and Saturation to high settings so that the camera can more accurately center-focus (see my digiscoping article for more details). When I took this video it came out really Saturated, but did a wonderful job keeping sharp focus while the bird looked around in the blowing wind. I reduced the Saturation in Photoshop before rendering the video, so it came out very nice.
As I reached the NE corner of Cell 5 and began to scope that owl, Bruce Szczechowksi approached from the North Causeway and we spent a few minutes chatting. He would end his day with 10 Snowy Owls, while I would only see 6. Only...
Determined not to flush it again I made sure to stay back and digiscope it from a safe distance. I was able to get close enough to see the blood on its face. I'm presuming a fresh meal, but wonder if it had an encounter with another owl?
I knew that riding past it would flush the bird again, so I continued on along the shoreline to the south end of Cell 2 before heading back west toward the Humphries Unit. Sure enough, the wind greeted me as I reached east side of the Humphries, and the wind was strong enough put a decent ripple on the waters. I spent some time scoping the numerous scaup, redhead, American Wigeon and Gadwall, but could not locate an Eurasian Wigeon. I would then muscle my way on the bike toward the Middle Causeway and head west toward the junction of Vermet, Long Pond and Humphries Units.
With clears skies and temps expected to reach almost 50F it was time to grab the bike and make a trip to Pointe Mouillee SGA. I hadn't been there since January, so I was a bit anxious to check on the Snowy Owls that still reside there. As of last week as many as 7 birds had been seen. Waterfowl have returned, as well, so there'd be plenty to look for, including recently-reported Eurasian Wigeon and Snow Goose.
I continued onto the North Causeway where I ran into angry-photo guy. I tried asking him how his day was going, but he ignored me and kept walking. Ouch. I quietly wished him a better day.
We arrived in port at about 6:30 am. It was still dark outside, so Robin and I headed off to breakfast up on Deck 11. We would not need to be ready to leave the ship until 9:30 am, so I had a bit of time to check the port.
For the next 2 hours several thousand Inca Terns streamed past our balcony just 100 yds away. They headed toward the back of the ship for parts unknown. Until I decided to take a walk.
Next stop: Cusco, Chile.