Monthly Archives: October 2017

Waterbird Count – 30 & 31 October

The last two days have been similar in terms of bird activity and weather, aside from the small snowstorm that hit late this afternoon as I was finishing up the count. Strong WNW winds persisted throughout the count both today and yesterday, bringing with them good numbers of ducks. Goldeneye and Buffleheads moved through the straits in good numbers today, and large mixed flocks of ducks were headed west yesterday far out over the water. Long-tails are still moving in good numbers, and yesterday brought more loons that I’ve had in a while now.


Though the Harlequin didn’t show up yesterday, it was back this morning. It spent much of the count loafing on the water right out from the beach, and as far as I know was still in the area when I left today at 4:15.


30 October
White-winged Scoter – 38
Scoter sp. – 5
Long-tailed Duck – 214
Common Merganser – 48
Red-breasted Merganser – 32
Merganser sp. – 80
Duck sp. – 654
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 6
Loon sp. – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 5
Other species:
Northern Harrier – 2
Bald Eagle – 2
American Crow – 56
Snow Bunting – 1
31 October
Mallard – 8
Aythya sp. – 25
Harlequin Duck – 1
White-winged Scoter – 13
Black Scoter – 1
Scoter sp. – 14
Long-tailed Duck – 20
Bufflehead – 85
Common Goldeneye – 45
Common Merganser – 30
Red-breasted Merganser – 19
Merganser sp. – 16
Duck sp. – 235
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 4
Herring Gull – 3
Other species:
Bald Eagle – 1
Common Raven – 1

Owl Update: Happy Halloween

The mix of rain and wind continue to persist here in St.Ignance in varying degrees each day. Therefore it is has not been great for owls but we have managed to catch some over the last few days. Since the 23rd we have banded 22 new Saw-Whets, 15 of these were banded on the 24th. And one was banded on the 26th. From the 26th to the 31st it has been slow but we still managed to bring in another 6. Frances and I have also started seeing small flocks of Snow buntings and Dark-eyed juncos which usually signals the onset of winter because these birds migrate down from their summering grounds in northern Canada and the arctic to lower warmer latitudes for the winter. Their arrival also is also a good indicator that the migration season is coming to a close … We still are hopeful to break 300 owl captures though before we are done.

Stay tuned for information on the diurnal raptor trapping that took place at the station along with some end of the season updates. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Season totals:

NSWO: 270



Total owls: 272

Record day at Pt. Labarbe for Rough-legs. 86 on October 29!


A great day for buteos. Greeted by a hard overnight frost, the Hawks were slow to get moving, but by 10:30 the Red-shouldered Hawks quickly kettled up and moved south with 10 in view overhead at one time. Just before noon the Red-tails and Rough-legs dominated the migration and the counters were busy scanning the skies for the next 4 hours. Sunshine ruled the day (clouds had been forecast ) and the raptors took advantage of thermals and rose to tremendous heights before heading south over the Straits. Most afternoon birds were not visible without binoculars which meant constant scanning and some sore necks.
The Rough-legs were the stars of the day with a total of 86 tallied, the highest fall total ever in Michigan, and included 13 stunning dark morph birds. Other highlights were 415 Red-tails, 31 Red-shouldered, 2 Golden Eagles, and a very cooperative Peregrine Falcon which perched nearby for 15 minutes.

Waterbird Count – 28 October

Hello everyone,

Sorry for the out-of-sequence post, but after filling in for Aspen on Saturday I decided to stick around and visit the owl banders.  Having not made it home until after midnight, I decided to wait to post until I could write it while actually awake.  The waterbird count on Saturday featured lots of birds, but nothing in comparison to Aspen’s Harlequin Duck from today!  My day mostly consisted of Long-tailed Ducks, Redheads, and White-winged Scoters.  The surprise though was the number of Northern Harriers that came south.  It was a big day for them with 11 spotted during the count.  The real excitement was that both a Great Black-backed Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were seen flying south during the count.  This is the first time I have spotted both species in the same day.  Here is a list of all birds counted for the day.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  35
goose sp. (Anser/Branta sp.)  11
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  5
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  9
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  3
Redhead (Aythya americana)  126
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)  2
Aythya sp. (Aythya sp.)  130
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)  115
Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)  4
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)  1175
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  3
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  12
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  8
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)  39
duck sp. (Anatinae sp.)  219
Common Loon (Gavia immer)  9
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)  21
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)  1
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  11
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  4
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)  11
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)  2
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  3
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)  6
Buteo sp. (Buteo sp.)  2
hawk sp. (Accipitridae sp. (hawk sp.))  4
Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)  117
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  3
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  4
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)  1
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)  1
gull sp. (Larinae sp.)  9
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  165
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  5
Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)  35
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  1
passerine sp. (Passeriformes sp.)  12

Waterbird Count – 27 & 29 October

Today (the 29th) was a busy day at McGulpin! The weather was finally clear throughout the count, with light NW winds and the first spattering of snow into the afternoon. Large flocks of ducks were moving on the horizon, and Red-breasted and Common Mergansers were loafing in rafts with Horned Grebes throughout the day. Long-tails were also active in good numbers, but the highlight of the day by far was the appearance of a Harlequin Duck (likely the same bird from St. Ignace last weekend) right off the beach. It looked like a young bird, and was foraging near the shore for about three hours in the morning before I lost track of it. I think it either took off or drifted around the west point of the beach, so perhaps it will be back tomorrow as well.

It was nice to have the Harlequin loafing so close to the beach for much of the morning.

I’ve added the numbers from the short count on the 27th to the bottom of this post as well – I cut it short due to poor visibility conditions.

Redhead – 20
Aythya sp. – 20
Harlequin Duck – 1
White-winged Scoter – 13
Scoter sp. – 8
Long-tailed Duck – 137
Common Merganser – 32
Red-breasted Merganser – 26
Merganser sp. – 2
Duck sp. – 1082
Common Loon – 1
Horned Grebe – 5
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 9
Ring-billed Gull – 5
Herring Gull – 1
Other species:
Turkey Vulture – 5
Bald Eagle –  2
American Crow – 8
Common Raven – 1
27 October (Rainy day with bad visibility, count cut short after the first 2 hours)
Aythya sp. – 130
Long-tailed Duck – 7
Common Merganser – 3
Duck sp. – 55
Double-crested Cormorant – 5
Ring-billed Gull – 7
Herring Gull – 1


Waterbird Count – 26 October

The wind and rain let up today for a calmer day, both in terms of weather and bird activity. Several flocks of ducks, including another Bufflehead, moved through, but with persisting scope issues most were too far out to pick out with just binoculars. Raptors seem like they haven’t had a chance to move in the winds of the last few days, so a small push came over in the nicer weather today. Several groups of Turkey Vultures, a RT Hawk, and a Red-shoulder (the first I’ve had at McGulpin this season) made it over.


Surf Scoter – 1

Surf/Black Scoter – 1

Long-tailed Duck – 24

Bufflehead – 1

Common Merganser – 9

duck sp. – 162

Common Loon – 2

Horned Grebe – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 8

Ring-billed Gull – 9

Herring Gull – 2


Other species:

Turkey Vulture – 14

Red-shouldered Hawk – 1

Red-tailed Hawk – 3

Waterbird Count – 25 October

Busy day at McGulpin today, with strong west winds and rain throughout. It was a big movement day for a lot of ducks, with the primary species being Red-breasted Mergansers. Buffleheads and Common Goldeneye were also moving in small numbers today, which was the first real push of either species that I’ve seen so far this season. A snow bunting also showed up on the beach – another sign of winter finally approaching.

The constant rain of the last few days hasn’t been kind to my elderly scope, fogging the inner lenses, so most of the identification was done using binoculars only. Hoping that some TLC will take care of the issue and get it back up and functional before too long!

Canada Goose – 6
Aythya sp. – 153
Surf Scoter – 3
White-winged Scoter – 61
Surf/Black Scoter – 1
Scoter Sp. – 10
Long-tailed Duck – 77
Bufflehead – 17
Common Goldeneye – 8
Common Merganser – 24
Red-breasted Merganser – 258
Merganser sp. – 226
Duck sp. – 949
Common Loon – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 9
Ring-billed Gull – 4
Herring Gull – 1

Other species:
Bald Eagle – 3
American Crow – 3
Snow Bunting – 1

Hawk Count – Oct. 26

After a couple of days of windy rainy weather today seemed like it should be a good day for migration. Ed Pike, Steve Baker, Bruce Seeger, and Jack and Bev Kirby counted raptors migrating south across the Straits. It was partly cloudy at the start (10 am) and about 40 degrees with light winds from the east, becoming mostly cloudy after noon with the winds staying mostly light from the east till about 3:30. I expected to see some Sharpies moving right away and did not. The first raptor to fly south was a Red-tail. It appears the Sharpies may be about done heading south with only 2 seen today. With the east winds the Raptors were moving south along the west side of Point LaBarbe. After noon there was a good push of raptors mostly just visible to the west and very high. A few Red-shouldered and Rough-legged Hawks were seen and some Turkey Vultures. Between 12 and 3:30 many Red-tailed Hawks headed south. Very few were right over head; most were to the west with some kettles of 50 to 60 birds building and then heading south with more quickly filling in. It was a busy afternoon made easier with all the helpers keeping an eye on birds moving in and moving south. Big thanks to the helpers.
Totals are below:
Turkey Vulture 85
Golden Eagle 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 5
Red-shouldered hawk 5
Red-tailed hawk 684
Rough-legged Hawk 2

Common Loon 1

Waterbird Count – 24 October

Another day of rain today at the count, with a spattering foggy drizzle that kept the visibility at under a mile throughout the day. The visibility eventually got so limited in the afternoon that I finished off the count an hour early for the day, unable to see more than a quarter mile or so out. Based on what was visible within the limits of the fog, it seems as though there was a good amount of movement throughout the straits. Several scoters, long-tails, and Mergansers were moving, along with several moderately sized flocks of ducks in the fog. Today’s highlight was a Trumpeter Swan that followed shortly in the wake of a group of Mute Swans to loaf on the waves a hundred yards out from the beach.

Mute Swan – 4
Trumpeter Swan – 1
Aythya sp. – 8
Surf Scoter – 1
White-winged Scoter – 4
Surf/Black Scoter – 9
Scoter sp. – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 12
Common Merganser – 6
Red-breasted Merganser – 5
Merganser sp. – 9
Duck sp. – 72
Red-throated Loon – 1
Horned Grebe – 3
Double-crested Cormorant – 37
Ring-billed Gull – 2
Herring Gull – 3

Other species:
Bald Eagle – 1

Owl update: Flood zone

The wind and the rain finally (hopefully) subsided here in St.Ignance. After being cooped up in the trailer for three days Frances and I have emerged  like bears awakening from hibernation. The weather looks like it should continue to clear and allow us to band tonight! We are eager to get back to work and catch more . Stay tuned…