Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lake Erie "pelagic" Part II

The city of Cleveland recedes as we motor our way down the Cuyahoga River, headed for Ohio's version of an ocean.

In the last post, I touched on our wildly successful expedition out into the open waters of Lake Erie, one of the world's most dangerous water bodies. We were looking for birds.

Perhaps more ships have gone down in Erie than any other comparably-sized puddle on the globe. We didn't, but had we, the news would have been full of the story, weird as it would have been: "Bird-watchers lost at sea!" We did have a mishap not of our own doing, but it was along the lines of an inconvenience, and all worked out well as we got a great bird of it.

We were of course ecstatic to see several Black-crowned Night-Herons lollygagging in streamside shrubs as we trolled down the river. Here we have two dapper-looking adults, with a much less conspicuous immature bird on the left.

Before you castigate me for the quality of this photo, it should be known that: I was on a moving boat; it was dark; I was tossing life preservers to overboard birders while working a crossword puzzle; and trying to drink my coffee while operating the boat's sump pump, as I snapped the shot.

Ah, the open lake waters, home of the Lake Erie Monster, and giant Lake Sturgeon (maybe one and the same). The long low building in the foreground is the Cleveland Browns Stadium. That breakwall in the fore foreground hosted a perched Peregrine Falcon, and a moss-plucking Purple Sandpiper.


It didn't take long for my chums to begin casting the chum, popcorn in this case. So many cooked kernels were flying overboard that it looked like it was snowing, but look at the mob of gulls as a result. We didn't pull any goodies in, like Black-headed Gull, but this spewing of offal strategy (offal strategy?) often does produce rarer feathered garbageheads.

Ah! Another of my find the bigfoot in the forest photos, this time of a White-winged Scoter. A great Ohio bird, and numerically probably the least common of the scoters here. We spotted this one a long ways off, and our good captain managed to get much closer to the bird, allowing everyone good looks.

Our triumphant return to Cleveland and the mouth of the Cuyahoga River was heralded by scads of Double-crested Cormorants. You can see one of them waving its wings at me. "Jim, here! Over here! Me! Take MY picture!"

Tons of gulls were in the protected harbor, littering the breakwalls and loafing about on the sheltered waters. Nothing beyond the Big Three: Herring, Ring-billed and Bonaparte's gulls. We certainly scoured their ranks looking, and we had more time to do so than we had planned on.

The extra time was due to this rust-bucket of a bridge. There are several bridges in this photo, but it was the first one that was annoying. It's a railroad bridge. When not in service, it hangs high above the river just below the top of the arch; when a train comes, they lower it to the level of the tracks. Which is where it is in the photo.

Why? Because sometime after our departure, it was dropped and froze in place, utterly blocking all river traffic. So low to the water is the bridge that a coot would bump it's head trying to swim under. So, we went to Plan B and boated to the not too distant Edgewater Marina, where a cab was summoned and drivers taken back to the launching point to fetch vehicles.

Not a problem, though - lemonade was squeezed from lemons, as we got an absolutely wonderful bird as a result. Not only that, it posed like Sarah Palin in front of a crowd of paparazzi, giving all fantastic looks. I'll have pics and video of that gem next time around.

Here's the route we took, traced with the red line. It was only a four hour excursion, but action-packed and pleasing to all aboard.

Thanks again to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Bob Faber and Discovery Tours for putting the trip together, and our fearless leaders, Kenn Kaufman and John Pogacnik. Let's do it again!



Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

It was a great couple of trips. It was a good time to see some great birds and see some faces i haven't seen in awhile.

I was in Cleveland on Tuesday and the bridge was still in the down position. A couple of freighters were sitting in the harbor waiting to get in. Hopefully it gets repaired before the next trip. I'm not blaming you for it.

John Pogacnik

Dave Lewis said...

I am impressed with your multitasking abilities. I have a hard time just pointing the camera in the right direction...

Anonymous said...

Jim, love your blog! Here's a shot of the Purple Sandpiper we saw: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keeneone/4110489183/
Only if you like to play Where's Waldo!
Laura Keene

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