One small wetland, Three lifers!
Having received a rare bird email alert from eBird that told me that trumpeter swans and American bittern had been seen at a small wetland not too far from where I live, I decided to check that place out.
First, I “scouted” the area on Google Earth so that I would have some idea of what the area was like, that helped a lot. It also helped that I just happened to bump into the person who verifies the rare bird reports for eBird here in Kent County, Michigan this morning, and he gave me more info about the place.
After doing my daily walk around home, I ate lunch, then set out for the wetland. When I arrived, it was rather cloudy with a pretty stiff wind out of the northwest. I had barely gotten started down the path when I began spooking birds that I should have gotten photos of. But, since this was my first time at this spot, I wasn’t sure what I would find or where. I tried to go slow and cautiously, but I wasn’t able to sneak up on anything, the birds were spotting me and either running…
…or flying away from me long before I could get a good shot.
I was a bit disappointed, as I could tell that the trumpeter swans had left the pond, I didn’t think that I would ever be able to spot the bittern in the marsh, and overall, things were not going well.
As I approached the far end of the pond, there was a stand of willows and alders there, along what turned out to be a small creek that drains the pond. I could see small songbirds flitting about in the brush, so I put the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to work at what it does an excellent job of, catching small birds trying to hide from me.
I was in my element, surrounded by plentiful birds in thick brush, spotting the birds and shooting quickly before they could escape the Beast. To make things better, the sun came out, and eventually, I grew arm weary chasing the small birds with the Beast.
I spotted a very large bird of prey across the pond, and got this one bad photo of it.
I watched it land, and from the way that it worked its way back into the thickest brush as red-winged blackbirds swarmed it, I think that it was probably an owl of some type, but I could be wrong. Hawks don’t usually hide, that’s something that owls do. I kept an eye out for whatever it was, but never saw it again.
My arms needed a break, so I sat down on the rocks that had been placed along the creek to keep the creek flowing where it is supposed to flow, but my break didn’t last long. The birds just wouldn’t leave me alone.
It turned out to be a great day, well, except for the wind. But, the sun was out, I was surrounded by birds carrying on, some singing, some just calling, and the Beast was performing well. I spotted a bird that I didn’t think that I had ever gotten photos, sure enough, it was a northern waterthrush! My first lifer of the day.
So, how good is the Beast as a birding lens? This good!
The Sigma lens may not be as sharp as my new 300 mm prime lens, but the auto-focus of the Sigma is much quicker, and it seems to hone in on birds even when they are partially hidden, whereas the new lens will focus on the brush rather than the birds.
I have no idea how long I played around in that small area of brush, but I shot many more photos than what you are seeing here, and I decided that it was getting late, and I should start back.
As I had been photographing the small birds, I saw a sandhill crane spiral in and land in the marsh across the pond from me. I looked for the crane, but was having no luck spotting it in the reeds. A red-winged blackbird came to my rescue, and began to attack the crane, which is how I spotted it.
I am happy to report that both birds survived, I felt sorry for the crane, it was just looking for food, but in the blackbird’s territory.
Anyway, I continued on my way, watching to blackbirds to see if they would alert me to any other birds, but it was a muskrat that drew my attention to my second lifer of the day, a sora.
I got a few so-so shots of flying birds.
I had about given up on seeing the bittern, I was trying to use my camera as a spotting scope from time to time, but that doesn’t work very well. I rounded a curve in the path, and came eye to eye with one of the bitterns perched in one of the willow bushes on the edge of the marsh. I froze, it took flight.
It flew across the pond, to where I had been before. I took a step or two in that direction, then decided that I wouldn’t go after the bittern, even though I wasn’t sure how good the photos that I shot were. If I pressed the bittern, it may have left the area for good, and I didn’t want that. So, I turned back around, and just then, a second bittern let out a croak, and took off from very near where the first had been.
So, after a lackluster start, the day turned out to be a very good one! Three lifers in a wetland that was less than 80 acres in size makes for an excellent day in my book.
I have one more photo, of the field next to the wetland area.
All in all, a very good day after a slow start.
An update, I went back again today, and got yet another lifer, so that makes four from that small wetlands in just two days. But, you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out what it was. 😉
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!