I woke at 3:30 am to ~¼" snow on the ground. Pat Rydziewski arrived a little after 4 am and the two of us headed down to Sterling State Park to look for owls before sunrise. As we sat in the boat launch parking lot, just a short walk from the woods surrounding the burn, a Great Horned Owl sat silhouetted against the dark skies and white smoke from the Monroe Power Plant! We barely got binoculars on it before it flew off. Jack and Janet Volker and Dan Schwab would find two more owls here later on.
John Flora arrived a few minutes later, and the three of us walked into the woods to look for Screech Owls. After a few minutes of playing calls from the iPhone a Screech Owl responded from a distance. I would serenade it for several minutes and try to get the flashlight on it, but it would never appear. We would walk back to the car, warm up, and try again a second time 30 minutes later. Again we were able to call one in, but could not see it to photograph.
We then drove to Denny's Restaurant for breakfast and wait for the sunrise, and ran into Dan. We would end up eating breakfast with Dan, Jack and Janet. It was great listening to Jack tell us about their recent trip to Ethiopia!
We pulled into the small turnoff just before the plant to check the discharge canal of the MPP. John spotted an immature Black-crowned Night Heron, the first night heron seen here in almost 10 years! We would also see 3 Great Egrets along the shore, but couldn't photograph them through the grape vines.
A group of 10 Green-winged Teal were found in the new mudflats formed from a recent DTE project to purify effluent from the fly-ash outfall. These would be the first Green-winged Teal counted at the Monroe Power Plant since counts were started over 40 years ago! The project seems to be paying off in more ways than one.
At 3:30 pm we called it a day and returned to our cars. Pat and I would warm up at McDonald's before heading to dinner at Michigan Bar and Grill.
|new dikes at Erie Gun Club|
Area 3 (Kathy and Dennis Rohmeyer) highlights included the most Horned Larks (85) for the count.
Area 6 (Volkers, Schwab) would produce 200 Hooded Mergansers, 3 Great Horned Owls and 3 Screech Owls, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. The only Hairy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers would be seen here.
A flock of 12 Snow Buntings was the highlight for Area 8 team of Lucy and Gary Pentz, and Marjorie Achinger.
Overall, duck numbers produced the bulk of the count, with almost 11,000 Lesser Scaup in Luna Pier producing a spectacular morning flight. Gull numbers were down, and the annual blackbird migration into the marshes failed to materialize at dusk. A somewhat 'odd' count year with winds pushing passerines out of sight. Erie Marsh / Gun Club is still closed, and construction there has reduced trees and cover for many birds. Time will tell how that affects future counts. The Consumers Energy J.R. Whiting Plant is scheduled to be decommissioned this April, so the property and nearby surroundings may adversely affect our counting abilities for next year (I have a call into the plant for status).
Many thanks to the counters and property owners who gave us permission to bird the count circle again this year. See you next year, when the 47th Monroe Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday, December 18th, 2016!