Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shorebirds at Point Mouillee Michigan

I made my first of many trips to come to Point Mouillee, Michigan at the end of August with two good photographer friends of mine.  Point Mouillee hosts a wide variety and number of shorebirds that use the area as a stopover point to feed and rest on their migration journey from various parts in the Northern Hemisphere to parts of South America, Cell #3 being the primary target for photographers and bird watchers alike.  To reach Cell #3 a 3-4 mile bike ride is needed from the parking lot that takes you through at times tons of biting insects.   Shooting conditions will get you muddy and wet all the while swatting away pesky mosquitoes and biting flies both in the water and the surrounding dike of Cell #3.  A bug mask that I bought for the trip came in handy during the bike ride and at times while photographing in the muck.  But it is all well worth it to get those eye level shots and nice gradient blurred background s that can be had there due to the surrounding environment.  Below is a photo that I took of Cell #3 with my 17-40mm that shows the area in which we were photographing.    If you look closely you can see some of the shorebirds along the water’s edge that we were photographing.    

Our trip had us arriving just before sunrise on Saturday.  Once we unloaded our gear and loaded up our bikes we were off to make the long bike ride.  Once we settled on a spot to focus our photography at (sand spit on the east side of Cell #3) we spotted and photographed a very rare visitor to this area of the country, a Hudsonian Godwit.  This extremely rare visitor, in its winter plumage was with us for both days were at Point Mouillee, giving us many different views /poses of shorebird.  The Hudsonian we found to be very cooperative and unafraid of us.   

We were also able to photograph a Red Knot, Adult and Juvenile Semipalmated Plovers, Short-Billied Dowitchers, Least and Greater Yellowlegs.   

We saw a group of Phalaropes as well but were unable to photograph them as they were concentrated towards the middle of Cell #3.  We decided to stay there all day Saturday eating our sandwiches that we had brought along with us.  During the afternoon I focused on some in flight shots of the numerous Caspian Terns in the area that were fishing in Cell #3. 

  Luckily we had blue skies during the duration of the time that was spent on some in flight shots of this beautiful Tern.    Saturday evening brought clouds and some spotty showers to the area as well as some increased winds out of the north.  Earlier in the day they were out of the east and we were protected from them by the surrounding dike.  This all combining to make less then par shooting conditions as the wind was really working against us in capturing these shorebirds with the reflections in the water.   We left the area and headed to a local hotel and to grab a bite to eat for the night and to recharge the batteries for another day of shooting.
After a well needed meal and a good night’s rest Sunday morning had us arriving from our local hotel at 5:30am with sunrise at 6:54am.  Wind was again an issue that morning as the wind speed had picked up over night, though we did have great morning light.  The Hudsonian Godwit was with us again and offered us more great shots and allowed me to capture my first wing stretch pose of any shorebirds.    We ended up packing up around 9:30am and headed back to the parking lot after a successful but exhausting weekend of shorebird shooting.  I look forward to a return visit to the area next year for more shorebird shooting.  In my experience I would put Point Mouillee, Michigan at the top of the list along with Conneaut, Ohio for shorebird photography.