Headed out to Huron Pier in hopes of relocating the Eared Grebe reported yesterday by Dave Clark. Out at the lighthouse, I was confronted by scalding cold and savage winds – the type that make picking out a darker, pointier-headed grebe from the rest next to impossible. There were 12 Horned Grebes in a tight bunch at the end of the pier – all with their heads tucked, spending most of their time out of sight in the troughs of three-foot waves. It’s very possible the Eared was amongst these but as my scope covered, then froze over, with sea spray, I turned my attention elsewhere.
“Hey, that stick out on the ice is shaped like a Red-necked Grebe.” I put my bins on it for kicks, and sure enough, there was a Red-necked Grebe, hunkered down on the ice of the frozen impoundment.
Grebes and loons are notorious for mistaking wet parking lots and roadways for open water, and crash-landing in places they can’t fly out of. That definitely seemed to be the case with this bird, as soon it began taxiing across the icy runway on NBA-sized feet in a futile attempt to get airborne. This happened several more times as I watched. The good news for this guy is there are plenty of dead fish for him to eat on the ice, if he so chooses.
Also present at Huron were a third-cycle “Kumlien’s” Iceland Gull and an adult Glaucous Gull.
I headed back west, canvassing unknown backroads in search of goose flocks, mostly. No luck in that department, but a light-phase Rough-legged Hawk was found along Frailey Rd. in Vermilion – about a mile south of SR-6, just south of the railroad tracks.
A stop along the Black River in Lorain netted a Great Black-backed x Herring Gull (third-cycle). This massive gull with slate-grey mantle definitely had a good dose of GBBG badass-ness. I watched it for several minutes bully every much-smaller Herring Gull on its floating ice island.
Last stop, Avon Lake Power Plant. I was greeted by a male Greater Scaup sitting in the parking lot. It definitely is a bit of a downer to watch so many of the birds we know and love suffering this winter.
The ice moved in greatly since last night. I took a quick jaunt to the end of the pier, where there were six White-winged Scoters in close, but no grebes. A good number of ducks and a few more scoters were further east, with an adult Iceland Gull in their mix. At this point, I decided to let the galeforce northeast wind push me back to the car.