March 25th Waterbird Count Summary

Weather-

The temperature this morning at McGulpin Point upon arrival was hovering near -5.6 C warming to -1.8 C by mid afternoon. The winds picked up around 9:30AM but it was still pleasant on the point compared to the Hawk Count site today, gusting to only 6-11kph out of the north. The barometer held steady throughout the count. No cloud cover and excellent visibility over 16 kilometers. The wave action on the lake wasn’t too bad with the waves at or near 1ft. It should be noted however that to the west of McGulpin Point the blue ice has really grown in elevation at roughly 6-10ft. This wall of blue ice has no doubt caused me to miss some low flying waterbirds ( which is primarily what I am seeing now) out to the west. As far as ice in the straits goes, it is diminishing rapidly. Throughout the day large rafts of ice were seen blowing through the straits. The shore ice is becoming quite dangerous in my opinion as several times during the count I could hear it creaking and groaning as if it could give way at any moment.

I have enjoyed watching birds like this Common Merganser float by on rafts of ice

Waterbird Notes-

Upon arrival and before I even officially began the count there were many Common Merganser making use of the open water near the edge of the shore ice just east of McGulpin Point. I am impressed with the Common Mergansers ability to begin their day so early, something we both have in common. The high count for the day was 33 individuals with males greatly out numbering the females. Later in the morning their were several communal courtship displays and a call I have never heard the merganser make. This involved a fanning of their tails and what look liked a kicking of water into the air as well as males escorting one another away from the hens. These merganser seemed to be flying to the west, only to come back hourly and increasing in numbers. Eventually near noon they returned with 6 male Common Goldeneye. Only 3 Red- breasted Merganser were detected today. Ring- billed Gull and Herring Gull were both detected close to the point and it is apparent as the ice continues to move out of the straits and more shore is exposed the greater their scouting and loafing is on the south side of the straits.

Non-waterbird Notes-

Just after dawn what I believe to be a resident juvenile Bald Eagle was seen flying from the NW side of the bridge and along it to the south side of the straits. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the large eagle commuting alongside the commuters on the bridge. Each had its own business to attend to. The resident adult Bald Eagle was noted fishing to the west of the point. American Crow were seen in small flocks of 7 to 24 moving north and south across the straits. One crow perched on a mound of shore ice in front of the point and was quite vocal. Later in the morning a crow was vocalizing in the same way and was soon joined by 3 other crows. I am not sure what was going on but lots of displacement activity ensued and it appeared that at least 2 of the crows were attempting to chase the other two off of the shore ice. Behind the gazebo the usual forest birds were detected.

Freighters –

A ship, the CSL Niagara returned eastbound today from Milwaukee having offloaded its salt. At first, looking out over the horizon past St. Helena Island I thought it was a very large iceberg. As it neared I recognized the boat from Friday.

Visitors-

Steve Baker came by with a hopper and suet feeder he expertly installed next to the gazebo. He is under the impression that we may be able to do a fair amount of business down here in the export of black oil sunflower seed. I will keep everyone posted on the comings and goings of the newly installed feeders as I look forward to the new “bird TV” channel he has installed. Steve heeded the chain control restrictions on the road down and had some nifty spike traction devices. With that being said a visitor took a really hard tumble that I could hear all the way over at the gazebo so that is two incidents I have observed with myself being one of the early victims. Please use extreme caution on this steep icy descent if you choose to come down and I will keep all updated as to how the melt is progressing.

As I was getting ready to call the count for the day I had 4 visitors stop by. Judy and Bryan from Saginaw City and Midland respectively and Kent and Toni from Traverse City and Lake. I was able to share with them a little of the purpose and reason why Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch came about and the purpose of counting waterbirds and raptors during migration. Toni had been to Whitefish Point and was enjoying the Snowy Owls this winter.

Total observer hours – 5.25

Next Day Forecast-

Tomorrow looks to be downright tropical with a high of 43 and mostly sunny skies. Southeast wind 10 – 15 mph.

Canada Goose – 16
goose sp. – 12
Common Goldeneye – 10
Common Merganser – 46
Red- breasted Merganser – 3
merganser sp. – 1
duck sp. – 28
Ring- billed Gull – 4
Herring Gull – 4
gull sp. – 86

Bald Eagle – 2 ( 1 adult 1 immature)
American Crow – 54
Common Raven – 1
Black- capped Chickadee – 4
American Robin – 1
Common Redpoll – 10
Pine Siskin – 3

The Common Merganser returned towards the end of the day with Common Goldeneye