Monthly Archives: November 2018

Waterbird Count 11/6-11/10, plus season totals.

There was a pretty decent selection of birds for the last week of the count.  Redpolls have been around the area frequently, there have still been a few grebes to count, and the recent duck species are definitely more of the “winter duck” species.  A Great Black-backed Gull was seen on the 8th.

Some noteworthy numbers include 120 Bufflehead on the 9th, and 777 Long-tailed Ducks on the 10th.

The last of the eBird lists… 11/6     11/7     11/8     11/9     11/10

In the Fall of 2018, 29,034 waterbirds were counted, 17,632 of them being ducks/geese.  It is likely that many of the cormorants and gulls that contributed to the count were counted more than once, so in reality the waterbird total would be smaller.

Here are McGulpin Point’s waterbird species totals for fall 2018…

Snow Goose – 1

Canada Goose – 1,725

Goose sp. – 6

Mute Swan – 13

Gadwall – 6

American Wigeon – 79

American Black Duck – 7

Mallard – 105

Blue-winged Teal – 51

Northern Shoveler – 7

Northern Pintail – 20

Green-winged Teal – 35

Teal sp. – 34

Dabbling Duck sp. – 42

Canvasback – 1

Redhead – 2,027

Greater Scaup – 96

Lesser Scaup – 91

Greater/Lesser Scaup – 131

Aythya sp. – 532

Surf Scoter – 4

White-winged Scoter – 759

Black Scoter – 22

Surf/Black Scoter – 61

Scoter sp. – 42

Long-tailed Duck – 5,255

Bufflehead – 340

Common Goldeneye – 173

Hooded Merganser – 9

Common Merganser – 554

Red-breasted Merganser – 1,521

Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 172

Duck sp. – 3,711

Red-throated Loon – 11

Common Loon – 328

Loon sp. – 13

Horned Grebe – 116

Red-necked Grebe – 617

Grebe sp. – 2

Double-crested Cormorant – 6,210

Great Blue Heron – 13

Great Egret – 19

Bonaparte’s Gull – 32

Ring-billed Gull – 1,988

Herring Gull – 500

Great Black-backed Gull – 3

Gull sp. – 107

Caspian Tern – 2

Common Tern – 15

Tern sp. – 4

Sandhill Crane – 1,377

American Golden-Plover – 1

Sanderling – 6

Least Sandpiper – 1

Peep sp. – 10

Spotted Sandpiper – 25

Greater Yellowlegs – 1

Shorebird sp. – 1

Also of note was a total of 682 Monarch Butterflies that were seen migrating south from McGulpin Point.

Although this was a below average season, it was definitely an interesting fall.  I wonder what waterbirds will pass the straits next season!

Owl update: November 05-07

Owl banding at MSRW this fall has come to a close.  Since running the station from September 19 through November 07, we captured a total of 115 northern saw whet owls, 2 barred owls, and 1 long eared owl.

8 of the saw whet owls were already banded at other stations.  These are called foreign re-traps.  Most of the foreign retraps were fairly local, with 2 banded at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, 1 at Cheboygan, and another 2 at Hilliardton Marsh in Ontario.  One saw whet was banded far far away, in the distant lands of Maryland!  That’s crazy-cool.  We’re still waiting to get word on the other two foreign re-trap owls.

It is very exciting when one of our banded birds gets caught elsewhere.  On October 6 I banded an adult female saw whet owl, Miss 1104-43131, and 20 nights later she was captured again at Indiana Dunes State Park.  That’s a straight-line distance of 310 miles!  Although I suspect she took a more leisurely route along the east side of Lake Michigan, stopping often to wait out the weather and catch juicy mice, small birds, and insects.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.  Those 115 saw whet owls consisted of 81 females, 7 males, and 27 owls of unknown sex.  Profoundly higher female to male ratio is common at banding stations.  While the reason for this isn’t definitive, It is widely held that male owls tend to stick to their natal territories, and female owls migrate south.  Interestingly, only about a third of the owls were Hatch Years (hatched this spring), and the rest were adults.

This season’s saw whet owl total is well below our historic average, but documenting declining populations is part of why full-time banding stations are so essential.  The Upper Peninsula was often fraught with inclement weather, possibly causing many birds to take a totally different course altogether; however, I believe the the ratio of young birds to adult birds indicates that it was just a bad reproductive year for saw whet owls populations who generally migrate through the Straits.

I had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful owls and people, which has made fall 2018 a very fun and successful season for me!

Until next time,

Happy Owling!!!


Waterbird Count November 1st-5th.

There still have been a few decent days for Long-tailed Duck movement, the 3rd in particular had a total of 205 of them.  There has now been an increase in the number of Bufflehead on the move; 98 of them were counted on the 4th.  In the past few days Horned and Red-necked Grebes have been resting on the water and can often be pretty close and easy to see.

1 Greater Yellowlegs flew by to the east today, it is getting kind of late in the season for this species to still be around.

Just about every day lately, Snow Buntings are seen from McGulpin Point, on the 1st a nice flock of 37 landed very close to me on the beach.

Here are the recent lists via eBird.






Owl update: October 31 – November 4

The season is coming to a close, with tonight potentially being the last night I open as cold rain and snowfall seem to be on the weather’s agenda until November 10, the official end date for owl banding at Point la Barbe.

I’m not expecting to encounter any saw whet owl travelers tonight.  For the past week of being open, I caught an average of 1-2 birds per night.  Early season, I surmised that many birds were merely delayed due to the frequent storm fronts this fall, but with the lack of late season movement activity, I’m not so sure about that anymore.

It will be with deep reverie that I open and furl the mist-nets for possibly the final time before setting off on my own journey.  I don’t plan to head west to California just yet; first, I will sojourn at the Cape May Bird Observatory, NJ.  After that, I’ll get to see the east coast, then the west coast following a week of driving; the new perspective will be quite something.

Stay tuned for one last blog post in which I summarize our findings, totals for the season, and juicy tidbits about our foreign retraps as well as tidings of the birds I banded here getting caught elsewhere.

Until next time,


Hatch Year female caught the night of October 31

Champion of the “Stink Eye;” saw whet caught the night of November 3

November 3 was a cold one! The ditch water surface froze.