Sunday, January 3, 2010

Now We're Talkin'

So after a quick breakfast on Wednesday morning, we shot over to visit the Power Plant. Unfortunately, for us the warm water and cold dry air created a huge bank of fog. Visibility was less than one-tenth of a mile. Ultimately, that meant that we were unable to check most of the river. There could have a been a state record bird sitting out there and we would not have seen it! For our efforts, we secured a Common Goldeneye. Yippee.

Off to the fields!

Back and forth. Back and forth. Endlessly. Checking trees. Checking fence posts. Barns, too. If a bird could sit there, we checked it. One stop was very productive. The Dunbar Forest Experimental Station, at the mouth of the Charlotte River (at left) bagged two good winter birds: Bohemian Waxwing and Pine Grosbeak (below). The waxwings were a life bird for some people in the car. The Grosbeaks put on a extraordinary show. I was literally 15 feet away while they munched on berries. Not a care in the world!

Back and forth, we continued. Up this road. Over a road. Down the next one. A Raven here. Another Rough-legged Hawk there. Ho-hum, another Shrike. Off in the distance? The top of that tree? Ooooh, that needs another good look. Yup, a Northern Hawk Owl! While it was not a new bird for anybody, it is ALWAYS worth checking out. At one point, it was perched on a post a few feet away from the car. Unfortunately, no pics were taken. By the time I got the camera ready, it was off zippin' around the fields again. When it did land, it was too far for any real photo.

It was at this point, by the way, that the course of Michigan bird records changed. While checking out the owl, a truck with Kentucky plates came onto the scene. Don, Robbie, and Travis where doing some winter birding, as well. Appearing to be the only two teams in the world birding the Soo, I asked if he was interested in exchanging phone numbers. If anybody found anything extra-juicy, the other team could get there. Cool idea, huh? Earth-shattering in less than 24 hours.....

They mentioned multiple Snowy Owls in Rudyard. We did not see any the day before. They mentioned Gray Jays at the Bog. We didn't get any, right? Ahhhh, but we had Shrikes out the wazoo and they had not seen one yet. So, like witnesses spilling their guts in a traffic report, we spilled everything. Intersections. Numbers. Times. Anything that could help the other team find what they were looking for....

With daylight slipping (the gray overcast clouds didn't help), a return trip was made to Rudyard. Two Snowy Owls were found with in minutes.

But, now it was decision time. Three options. Head back to the Soo for the night and re-run the route tomorrow. Or, head back to the Soo for the night and then go to the Bog at first light (one hour away) for the Gray Jays and then come back to the Soo. Or, head back to Paradise for the night, do the bog at dawn, and then return to the Soo area for the remainder of the day. Only one work plan really made sense. There is a cool song by Green Day. By 7pm, the title fit the situation - "Welcome to Paradise."

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