Monthly Archives: August 2018

Hawk Count and More Monarchs-August 30th

Raptors:  Raptors were quite high to start the day and remained so throughout the rest of the day.  It was another nice day though, with 100 raptors recorded.  Today was dominated by three species: Turkey Vulture (21), Sharp-shinned Hawk (22), and Broad-winged Hawk (40).

Northern Harrier

Non-raptors:  The focus was on the Monarchs lifting off today, so non-raptors didn’t receive too much attention, apart from what was flying over the hawk watch site.  Despite this, a lot of passerines were clearly streaming overhead and working the woods throughout the tip.  The best of the bunch was a Carolina Wren.  The wren started off singing in the southeast corner of the tip before (surprisingly) being recorded singing and subsequently flying around the cedars at the hawk count site.  There’s definitely some kind of dispersal of Carolina Wrens in the last 10 days of August in Michigan, as I’ve had 2 or 3 together at Whitefish Point several years ago, the one at Point LaBarbe today, and 2 were found at Tawas Point last year.  All are very rare at each of these sites, and all were seen the last 10 days of August.  The next best bird was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Steve had at the southeast corner of the tip.  Eight Common Loons and 3 Least Sandpipers were the nicest waterbirds of the day.  Two Philadelphia Vireos were the first detected this season, as was a lone Brown Thrasher.  At least 11 warbler species were present, but surely more diversity and numbers were present.  Three Yellow Warblers is a decent total, as it’s starting to get late for them.  The best of the birds streaming overhead, mostly to the east, involved: Bobolink-1, Red-winged Blackbird-194, Purple Finch-51, Pine Siskin-22, and American Goldfinch-47.

Poor, backlit photo of the Carolina Wren (audio recordings also taken)

Philadelphia Vireo

Monarchs: The morning started off with very light winds and virtually all of the roosting Monarchs took off south during this time (between 8 and 9).  It was a very nice show to see, and they departed in small groups rather than all at once.  The best departure was when around 250 Monarchs all left the cedars together.

Compared to yesterday, the Monarch show was much slower between 10 and 2, but things really picked up between 2 and 4, with 3-4 being the best hour yet again, this time with over 1,000 Monarchs streaming in that hour alone!  Wind direction greatly impacts them, as today they were all streaming to the west, and we had east to east-northeast winds for most of the 2nd half of the day.  Subsequent searches by others until at least 6:00 for them starting roost were unsuccessful.  Hourly totals are broken down below with a daily total of 1,786 Monarchs!!!

10-11: 96 Monarchs

11-12: 49 Monarchs

12-1: 42 Monarchs

1-2: 72 Monarchs

2-3: 429 Monarchs

3-4: 1,021 Monarchs

4-5: 77 Monarchs

Monarchs before lift-off

Monarchs before lift-off

Monarchs before lift-off

Monarchs before lift-off

Best of the next 5 days:  It looks like we’re in for a slower period for raptors.  Only Friday doesn’t have a chance of rain over the next 5 days and most/all days have no northerly component to the wind.  Monday’s forecast is frequently changing, sometimes being forecast with light northerly winds and no rain during the afternoon.  If that’s the case, than Monday will be the best day.

Waterbird count 8/29/2018 & 8/30/2018

Yesterday morning was rainy with quickly decreasing visibility, later the rain stopped, but it remained cloudy all day.  I went out to count in the first and last few hours of daylight, but apparently the best time yesterday was the middle of the day.

Migrants counted yesterday were…

Red-breasted Merganser – 3

Common Loon – 4

Double-crested Cormorant – 47

Bald Eagle – 3 (plus 1 resident, all adults)

Ring- billed Gull – 78

Herring Gull – 7

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 1

Monarch Butterfly – Only 1.  I guess those huge numbers found across the strait missed my duration and immediate area.

Yesterday’s complete lists…

Today’s migrants included…

Common Merganser – 1

Red-breasted Merganser – 2

Common Loon – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 113

Great Blue Heron – 1

Turkey Vulture – 4

Bald Eagle – 7 total seen (1 resident adult,1 migrating adult, & 5 migrating 1st year)

Ring-billed Gull – 64

Herring Gull – 6

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 2

Barn Swallow – 1

Monarch Butterfly – 17

Here is today’s complete list…

Hawk Count and Tons of Monarchs-August 29th

Once again rain started off the day and much longer than the forecast called for.  In fact, much of the forecasts for today were mostly wrong.  The rain showers lasted until 11:00, the winds were light, mostly with a westerly component to them, and there was a fog in the morning.  Despite the differences in what the weather actually was, it was way better than I anticipated in every category except warbler numbers.

Raptors: Raptors were strong right out of the gate after the rain/drizzle stopped and remained strong until around 2:30.  Diversity was also the best of the season with 12 species recorded, 10 of which were migrants.  Broad-winged Hawks were the biggest surprise of the day, with 65 recorded.  Most of these gained altitude and flew south over the straits.  Sharp-shinned Hawks and Northern Harriers were also well-represented with 17 and 10 birds respectively.  Three Cooper’s Hawks were nice, as was an immature Red-shouldered Hawk.  Once again the falcon sweep was completed, but only was represented by a lone female American Kestrel.  Most birds were rather high today or quickly gained height before crossing.

Non-raptors: Rainy days are quite often good shorebird days and this was the case today.  In fact, 2 species of shorebirds actually landed today-Baird’s Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.  A lone Solitary Sandpiper and 5 Pectoral Sandpipers completed the shorebirds for the day.  5 Common Loons and 3 Gadwall were other highlights in the waterbird department and the first Sandhill Cranes (2) of the season were recorded.  Northern Flickers had their first push, with 12 birds.  Twenty-one Ravens, most of which crossed the straits, were nice, as were both species of Kinglets14 warbler species were recorded today, the bulk of which were Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, and Yellow-rumped.  Ovenbird, Bay-breasted, and Yellow Warblers were nice additions as well. Six of the 14 warbler species only involved one individual.  Eleven Bobolinks and 12 Pine Siskins round out the non-raptor highlights.

73 species of birds were recorded today.

Baird’s Sandpiper

Monarchs: Incredible, simply incredible all day long!!!  During the rainy morning, only a dozen or so were flying around, but once that stopped around 11, they were flying around everywhere for the next 6 hours.  More minutes than not you could scan with your binoculars at any one time and see over 50 at one time.  They were high in the sky to the west, east and north, they were low throughout the scattered wildflowers in the fields, they were circling over your head half a dozen at a time, and they were between the telephone wires with every scan for raptors.  It was an amazing, mesmerizing experience that was like an unending, enjoyable movie.  Except, this wasn’t just a movie.  No, this movie had a sequel.  And the sequel was equally good, if not better.  Back to the original though, the Monarchs mostly streamed south for the first several hours and then ESE for the next few hours until around 4:30.  Around this time many were starting to fly from east to west and by the time it was 5:00 most were heading west, and the numbers were dwindling significantly.  When the show was finally over, a total of 1,674 Monarchs had flown by!!!  This was by far the most Monarchs I’d ever seen in a day.  Hourly totals are broken down below.

11-12: 188 Monarchs

12-1: 319 Monarchs

1-2: 278 Monarchs

2-3: 264 Monarchs

3-4: 448 Monarchs

4-5: 148 Monarchs

5-6: 29 Monarchs


Monarchs were roosting together starting in the late afternoon with groups of 20 regular near by.  Seeing that many Monarchs were flying west between 5 and 6, I headed that way shortly after 6 to see how many hundreds were roosting for the night.  Steve Baker had found several groups throughout the area, but the better groups were at the west side of the point.  I picked up my mom from Mackinaw to see the show and we were back in the area around 6:30.  We quickly came across the first large group of Monarchs and then the next.  In one small area there were over 1,000 Monarchs roosting!!!  Close by were three more clusters of Monarchs and then even larger clusters next to those!!!  I started off counting by 2s, but 8:00 came quick, which necessitated counting by 10s instead so as to attempt to count as many as possible with the remaining daylight.  After 8:30 came upon us it was rather hard to see much anymore and we seemed to be cover most areas pretty well, given the short amount of time we had.  When all was said and done a roosting total of 3,810 Monarchs was tallied!!!  Only 14 of these were east of the hawk watch site, or conceivably double-counted, but surely more than 14 were undetected migrating.  Which means the day’s Monarch total ended with 5,484 Monarchs!!!  An unforgettable day and evening, although it may just become a blur with the future.  That is there may be another movie or several in this series as this seems to be weeks earlier than when Monarchs peak at several other locations in Michigan.  Is 10,000 Monarchs a conceivable number in a day if that is the case!?!?  It’ll be very exciting to find out, to say the least.

Monarchs, courtesy of Steve Baker

Monarchs, courtesy of Steve Baker

Best of the next 5 days: Tomorrow (Thursday) is the best of the next 5 days and then Friday is.  Tomorrow could be another amazing day and the radar right now (11:30 PM) looks incredible for bird migration not only for Michigan, but most of the eastern U.S.

Waterbird Count 8/28/2018

The highlight species from today would definitely be the 4 White-winged Scoters or the 3 Red-necked Grebes.  Although not migrating, another neat find was a family of 3 juvenile Common Mergansers with their mother that swam by.

Migrating species counted…

Canada Goose – 6

White-winged Scoter – 4

Common Loon – 10

Red-necked Grebe – 3

Double-crested Cormorant – 89

Bald Eagle – 4 (all adult, at least one of which appeared to be a resident)

Ring-billed Gull – 58

Herring Gull – 5

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 2

Monarch Butterfly – 1

Today’s complete list via eBird…

Hawk Count-August 28th

Raptors: Another day of rain and moderate SW winds to start off hampered the raptor migration for most of today.  However, there was a brief period where the wind switched to the WNW and the sun peaked out for a bit.  The raptors took advantage of this weather change and a nice diversity of 6 species went through at this time-1 Osprey, 2 Bald Eagles, 3 Northern Harriers, 6 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, and 2 Peregrine Falcons.  This produced most of the day’s migrants.  The first Cooper’s Hawk of the season was seen, but spent it’s time hunting the woods rather than migrating.

Non-raptors: Not too much of interest in this category today.  3 Pectoral Sandpipers, a Yellowlegs Sp., a Caspian Tern, 6 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Wilson’s Warbler, and 4 Pine Siskins were the most notable.

Monarchs: Another nice day for monarchs, with 134 recorded.  Very curious what the daily totals will be for Wednesday-Friday, and especially (if the forecast holds true) on Sunday, given these rather good numbers on non-optimal winds.

Best of the next 5 days: Tomorrow (Wednesday) should be a rather nice early-season day, particularly from noon onward.  Thursday could be hit or miss, but is likely to be somewhere between today’s total and whatever tomorrow brings.  Sunday is also looking good for migration.

Hawk Count-August 27th

Raptors:  Scattered rain showers in the morning, followed by strong southwest winds throughout the afternoon led to a low yield in the raptor department today.  Highlights included an Osprey and Northern Harrier cruising over the straits as low as possible against the 17 mph winds.  The first Turkey Vultures were seen from the count site albeit not countable birds.

Non-raptors:  Like the raptors, few passerines were around today.  The best was once again an Olive-sided Flycatcher that briefly dropped in during the afternoon.  72 Cedar Waxwings was the most this season so far.

Monarchs: 14 were recorded.

Best of the next 5 days: Wednesday continues to have conflicting weather forecasts, but regardless of which is forecast is correct, both Wednesday and Thursday are likely to be the best of the next 5 days.

Waterbird Count 8/25/2018-8/27/2018

Hello everyone,

My name is Kyle Wiktor, I will be the Waterbird counter for the Fall 2018 season at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  I am from Illinois, and I’m looking forward to witnessing the fall migration here in northern Michigan.

Here are the total counts of migrating species from this survey from the past 3 days.


Canada Goose – 3

Double-crested Cormorant – 18

Great Blue Heron – 2

Bald Eagle – 3 (all adult)

Ring-billed Gull – 18

Herring Gull – 3

Caspian Tern – 1

Belted Kingfisher – 5

Tree Swallow – 6

Also a total or 41 Monarch Butterflies were counted migrating across the strait, this does not include any that were just flying around the immediate area.

This list can also be viewed via eBird here…


Common Merganser – 1

Red-breasted Merganser – 1

Common Loon – 3

Red-necked Grebe – 6

Double-crested Cormorant – 165

Great Blue Heron – 3

Great Egret – 6

Bald Eagle – 4  (1 2nd year, 3 adult)

Spotted Sandpiper – 1

Ring-billed Gull – 37

Herring Gull – 9

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 1

Belted Kingfisher – 1

Tree Swallow – 2

Monarch Butterfly – 8

This list via eBird…


Canada Goose – 22

Common Merganser – 1

Common Loon – 2

Double-crested Cormorant – 79

Spotted Sandpiper – 1

Ring-billed Gull – 35

Herring Gull – 1

Caspian Tern – 1

Belted Kingfisher – 1

Monarch Butterfly – 13

Today’s list on eBird…


Hawk Count-August 26th

Raptors: It was an interesting day for raptors.  Sometimes raptors can have a pulse or series of pulses of migration within a day of counting, but the pulse today was rather unique among my experience.  The first 4 hours of the count didn’t really have much moving in the raptor department, but all of a sudden, between 1-2, there was a rather nice early-season pulse of raptors.  Seven species of raptors flew by within this hour comprised of Bald Eagle-11, Northern Harrier-3, Sharp-shinned Hawk-2, Broad-winged Hawk-1, Red-tailed Hawk-1, American Kestrel-1, and Merlin-1.  The following 3 hours were just as slow as the first 4, with only 5 of the day’s 25 raptors recorded in the 7 hours of observation outside this lone pulse of birds.  No obvious weather movement appeared to impact this pulse of birds and it remains a mystery, and perhaps the most bizarre raptor pulse I’ve ever experienced. The first Osprey of the season was also recorded, along with (presumably) the same Peregrine Falcon (this time perched on Green Island) making for a 9 species day.

Non-raptors: It was another fairly good day for non-raptors, contributing 61 of the 70 species recorded today.  Warblers were again well-represented with 14 species detected.  Yellow-rumpeds made up exactly half of the warbler total, with 55 birdsCommon Yellowthroat, American Redstart, and Cape May made up the bulk of the rest.  There’s virtually no habitat for shorebirds at Pointe LaBarbe, so I was pleasantly surprised to have 2 Semipalmated Plovers, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs (along with 3 Killdeer) fly by.  Other highlights included 4 Great Egrets, 1 Bonaparte’s Gull, 21 Common Nighthawks, 1 Least Flycatcher, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Monarchs: 133 were recorded during the count, with an additional 12+ recorded during non-count periods.

Best of the next 5 days: Thursday still looks like the best day of the near future, although Wednesday may be just as good or better.

Hawk Count-Opening Day at Pointe LaBarbe-August 25th

Raptors: The weather didn’t exactly cooperate for the first day of the season, with frequent rain throughout most of the day and southerly winds.  Nonetheless, 6 raptor species were recorded, but only one bird was determined to be a migrant-a lone Sharp-shinned Hawk that flew south across the straits.  All of the expected falcons were recorded and were the highlights within the raptor department.  A Merlin made several passes over the count site throughout the day.  During one of these passes, it headed out over the lake and tried unsuccessfully to snag up a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Peregrine Falcons are always an exciting bird to see and a lone bird was on a smaller island, west of Green Island, for most of the afternoon.

Non-raptors: It was a fairly good day for non-raptors, as many warblers were around the point, especially on the eastern half.  Fourteen species were recorded, with American Redstart, Nashville, Cape May, and Yellow-rumped most numerous and nearly 100 individual warblers for the day.  As nice as the warblers were, the best bird of the day was not a warbler but an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  A lone bird was briefly teed up on a spruce early in the morning.  American Goldfinches are already starting to move as several moderate flocks involving 68 birds were recorded.  Black-capped Chickadees were also around in above daily dose numbers, with at least 18 individuals.  Other highlights for the day included 5 Gadwall, 1 Common Goldeneye, 3 Pied-billed Grebes, 6 Red-eyed Vireos, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Monarchs: Considering the weather, it was an excellent day for monarchs.  Many flew across the straits into a southerly headwind while it was still raining.  During the count 103  were recorded with an additional 53+ recorded before and after the count.  At least 30 were “roosting” together in deciduous trees on the west side of the point during the late afternoon.

Best of the next 5 days: Thursday (the 30th) is currently looking to be the best day for raptor migration in the near future.  This may produce the first 50+ raptor day of the season.  After that Wednesday, the 29th, looks like it may be the next best day, but still has conflicting forecasts.

Another slow day at the waterbird count

It seems the Red-necked Grebes moved on through last night. Apparently they stopped for the day and moved on; today I only found a group of 3 in flight mid-morning. More D.C. Cormorants were seen today with a couple of flocks in a V headed south. Still a trickle of C. Loons. Otherwise a slow day.
Mallard 5
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Common Loon 9
Red-necked Grebe 3
Double-crested Cormorant 116
Bald Eagle 2
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Ring-billed Gull 5
Herring Gull 1
Song Sparrow 1 (flew onto shore off the lake)

Ed Pike