Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stellar day at Point Mouillee

I went to Point Mouillee this morning, this time hoofing it from Roberts Road to cell three of the banana. On the walk out I stopped to take a few photos.

From a distance I saw a large, black butterfly struggling to move across the gravel dike road.  When I got closer, I found this beautiful female Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) that was so fresh it was still wet. Originally, I called this a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) but was quickly corrected. 

This copulating pair of Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) butterflies flew awkwardly across the dike and were well-camouflaged when they landed on leaves to complete their business.

Another fresh butterfly, this male Black Swallowtail was fast flying and not cooperative for photos.  This was the best I could get.

When I finally reached cell three I found that the Jackson Audubon Society was having a field trip led  by Don and Robyn Henise.  Gary Siegrist, Don Chalfant, Tex Wells, Brad Murphy, Will Weber and a few others were also out this morning.  Jerry Jourdan had been there earlier.  My reason for going out this morning was to try for Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) posted earlier by Will Weber.  I immediately found one within close viewing range.

As the Jackson group was leaving, Don Chalfant told me about the close Baird's and Buff-breasted sandpipers at the other end of cell three. The others left and I walked toward where I could see Brad Murphy and Will Weber.  Brad called out that I was approaching the Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis).  There were three walking together and actively feeding along the dry ground.  

I crouched down and began taking photos - well over one hundred shots.  The photos here and a few others survived the delete key.  The bright sun and the pale color of the bare, dry soil conspired against me and created exposure challenges for my automatic camera.  Considering this, I was still very pleased with a number of the photos.

Brad said that earlier there had been four buffies and suggested that the fourth might still be out on the large mudflat.  

Preening Buff-breasted Sandpiper!  I think it has been two or three years since I last saw a Buff-breasted, but never as close and as easily and enjoyably viewed as these guys.  As Brad said, they are usually a speck far out in some sod field.

When the buffies wandered out of my camera range, I turned around and saw this Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) feeding right behind me.  This Baird's (above and below) associated with the buffies and I occasionally mistook it for the fourth buff-breasted. 

When the buffies were momentarily out of camera range, Will told me of two Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) in cell three on the Lake Erie side that had been close enough to photograph.  I walked further along the dike, with Lake Erie on my left, and found that the phalaropes were still present and relatively close enough for photos.  All of these shots are cropped way down.  Double-click on each photo to enlarge the image.

This single Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) was also near enough to try for photos.  Again, cropped down, but still clear. The bird's larger size, longer bill and overall paler appearance is apparent.

To take the phalarope photos I found a stump to sit on where I could conveniently hide behind some weeds.  To approach the stump I scared off the few birds that were feeding along the shoreline.  After a few moments, this Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), above and below, was the first to return.

Migrating Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies were seen everywhere all morning.  Stop - this is not a monarch, but rather a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) - I might add, a rather large one. Received many emails to correct me on this misidentification.  This one landed close to the phalarope spot and opened its wings.  I snapped the shot quickly, noting only its large size and never gave it another look. Correction made.  Both monarchs and viceroys were around in good numbers today.  

When I returned to the buff-breasted sandpipers, Brad was still there and said that the fourth buffy had rejoined the group of three.  I took a few more photos and then reluctantly had to leave.

But it was hard to leave quickly.  I kept being stopped by other interesting creatures along the dike.  This cooperative pair of bluets, male (top) and female, cannot be identified to species by my photos, but the most common is Familiar Bluet (Enaliagma civile).

A worn male Black Swallowtail was more cooperative for this open-wing photo.  On the other side of the dike from the swallowtail, a Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) family was all in a tizzy and I found out why when I looked just in time to see a mink scampering along the cement chunks that line the water's edge of the Humphries Unit (formerly called the Lead Unit) dike.  The wren family were right to sound the alarm.  In England the invasive American mink (Neovison vison) is responsible for the predation of many nesting birds there.  And how did American mink come to be in England?  American mink are in England and Europe thanks to the ill-conceived actions by animal rights groups who released the animals from farms where the mink were being raised for their fur.  Such rash actions, no matter how well-intentioned, have consequences - often dire.    

Further on, this juvenile Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) was nicely teed-up on a spent flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus).  For a moment the identification of the kingbird threw me - it didn't look quite like how I expect a juvenile Eastern to look.  

A couple of other nice finds closed out the day - Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) and Fiery Skipper (Hylephilia phyleus).  The Fiery Skipper was a first for me.  I also saw several of the large numbers of Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) that have been reported, but none more cooperative than the fresh buckeye I photographed a couple of weeks ago at Crosswinds Marsh.

I learned from Brad that the numbers of shorebirds (regardless of species) at Point Mouillee peaked one to two weeks ago.  However, he also commented that the diversity of species of shorebirds is peaking now.  With visits two weekends in a row, I may try for a third next weekend.  Point Moo has had a great shorebird season and I recommend getting out there if you are able.  I wouldn't be surprised if a Piping Plover is reported in the next week or two, and yesterday two King Rails were seen in their location near the Long Pond.  In a couple of weeks Point Moo will closed to birders when the hunting season opens.  Now is the time!     


Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, I especially like the butterflies. We went to the zoo last week and were in the butterfly house and they are so beautiful. Especially when one lands on you. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. Love, Aunt Doramae

Jerry Jourdan said...

Terrific photos, Cathy!