Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ottawa NWR Shorebirding! - 09 Oct 2011

A Sunday morning Auto Tour was announced late last week after news spread that a shorebirding bonanza was being witnessed at Ottawa NWR in NW Ohio.  Kenn Kaufman had reported that the MS5 Unit of the NWR was hosting dozens of Hudsonian Godwits, American Golden Plovers, and American White Pelicans, among other goodies.  As such, I couldn't resist the opportunity to get some late season shorebirding and (hopefully) digiscoping in before the weather turns really cold. 

I arrived at Ottawa NWR shortly before 9 am and realized that I had forgotten my map of the place.  Unsure of where I would need to go to get to MS5 I decided to just follow the route and look for cars.  Luckily the route took us right to the SE corner of MS4, so it was a short and easy walk for folks to reach the birds.  I had my bike w/ me, so I unloaded it and rode out to the S end of MS5.

Almost immediately I was greeted by small flocks of Dunlin, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.  The sun was rising in the clear eastern skies, and temperatures were already reaching the mid 70's without a hint of wind, perfect digiscoping weather.  A juvenile Hudsonian Godwit was foraging near shore, so it was just a matter of quietly walking past it so the sun would be at my back.  I was able to set up and photograph the obliging bird just 40' away.

A number of Dunlin were foraging on the nearby mudflats, including several with bright rosy breasts!  The nearby mist nets indicated that these were freshly-marked birds, but one couldn't help wondering if we were witnessing a new species: Rose-breasted Sandpipers!

Farther out in the unit were dozens of American Golden Plovers and fewer Black-bellied Plovers, and several Stilt Sandpipers.  These birds would have to move a bit closer before I'd attempt to digiscope them, so I turned my attention to a pair of Long-billed Dowitchers (juveniles) that were feeding near three more godwits. A pair of Short-billed Dowitchers (?) were quietly resting a few feet away among the dying leaves of American Lotus. 

After spending a few more minutes digiscoping the Hudsonian Godwits the birds suddenly flushed and moved out to more distant mudflats.  This provided an opportunity to scan the far shore for a single Marbled Godwit that was here earlier (I would miss it).  With no other birds to really look at I hopped on the bike and rode around to the east side of the unit.

Another Hudsonian Godwit was foraging near shore, so I couldn't resist a chance to do some more digiscoping. I emptied one card on this bird, then turned my attention to a Trumpeter Swan that was preening farther out in the open water. 

I spent some time digiscoping the Trumpeter Swan, which I so rarely see in SE Michigan.

Three American White Pelicans were quietly swimming behind a group of Ringbilled Gulls, Forster's Terns and Common Terns.  The small peninsula that hosted the terns also held a half dozen American Golden Plovers and a few more godwits. 

A Snowy Egret made a bried fly-by and headed toward the corner of the unit to join a single Spotted Sandpiper.  I started to head back to the corner when I stopped to photograph this juvenile Bald Eagle that flew overhead and soared briefly before disappearing over a row of thickets holding a flock of White-throated Sparrows and a few Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warblers

I ran into Tom Schlack and chatted w/ him for a bit.  This lovely Bronze Copper butterfly posed briefly in the grass at my feet and provided some nice photos before flying off.

We headed back to the large group of birders along the south shore, where we found Sherrie Duris and friend Dan Irizarry.  After catching up with them it was time go after plovers.  The flocks of mostly goldens took to the air, and I spent some time photographing them in flight w/ the D300s and 300/2.8 VRII.  They're easy to pick up in flight with their golden-brown tails while slightly larger Black-bellied Plovers can be spotted by their black arm pits and white tails.  I was able to spot a Red-necked Phalarope in one of my images!

The plovers dipped and swirled several times before settling down in an area close enough to digiscope.  I don't get many opportunities to photograph these birds at Pt. Mouillee, so it was a treat to digiscope both American Golden Plovers and Black-bellied Plovers in basic plumage. 

The Red-necked Phalarope made a brief appearance behind a patch of emergent plants, but disappeared before I could get over to it.  A Wilson's Phalarope was spotted earlier, but was not relocated.  I spoke w/ one photographer who had seen a pair of Glossy Ibis near the observation tower, but I decided not to look for it.  With the birds moving off to deeper water and temps now reaching 80f I decided to pack up and head out.  I stopped long enough for a brief chat with Allen and Nancy Chartier who had just arrived.

As I drove out I spotted a small flock of Trumpeter Swans flying in and chasing away the roosting gull population in the NW corner of MS5.  My only other sighting would be of a Belted Kingfisher on an overhead wire with a fresh-caught bluegill.

A huge shout-out to the good folks at Ottawa NWR for opening up the refuge to those of us who can't get enough of shorebirding!  Many thanks!

1 comment:

JRandSue said...

Stunning images,fantastic digiscoping captures.