Trails End Bay Open!

4/13: Well, apparently the birding powers-that-be heard yesterday’s lament that numbers were low, because today was a bumper day! Activity picked up just before sunrise, and waterfowl began to absolutely stream past. Red-breasted mergs and long-tails were by far the two most common ducks, with the mergs coming by within a mile in pairs or flocks of 5-10, and the long-tails 2 or more miles out, in groups typically of 3-5. Numbers were massive compared to those seen previously, with 208 red-breasted mergs in the first hour, with 513 by the end of the count at 11:35. Hour 1 was also the biggest for long-tails, with 171 (486 total by 11:35). 

Another remarkable sight was the massive influx of common loons, which have been seen sparsely until today. A breath-taking 247 of them came through over the morning, generally in small groups, but with a maximum group size of 8. I also noted 23 loon sp. that were either too far off to be definitive about, or had an intermediate impression, but no clear red-throated loons (early yet for these). 

Grebes were also present in their highest numbers yet, with 19 horned grebes, one red-necked grebe, and four unidentified. The horned grebes seemed either to be taking the leisurely route to migrating, or were struggling with the wind, for many ditched out and fished or loafed for ten or twenty minutes in front of where I was sitting before continuing on. Tried hard to avoid recounts with these in particular. Other waterfowl were relatively sparse, with just 19 white-winged scoters, a wigeon pair, 15 pintails, 7 mallards, and 4 Canada geese across the morning. 

Gull movement was limited, as was raptor and passerine movement. 9 turkey vultures circling above the UP and a single local merlin; and only crows and ravens seen (it was hard to hear passerines in the woods due to high winds). All in all a big, exciting morning, and certainly an exercise in endurance looking through the scope, which was essentially in action for all five hours straight.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54929028

The spectacle continued for the evening count, and the three stars from the morning kept up the show (they probably had been moving all day given apparently favorable winds). Numbers were smaller, but still notable: 117 long-tails, 61 red-breasted mergs, and 59 common loons. An additional 3 horned and 4 red-necked grebes passed, along with ten more pintails. 

Gull movement picked up around sunset, and was also almost entirely Westward. Several tight lines of 30-40 birds flew right above the surface; these appeared to be mostly ring-bills, while the higher, more separated flocks were primarily herring. Four immatures were seen: a 2cy ring-bill, 2cy and 1cy herrings, and a possible immature great black-backed gull, though views were poor.

First woolly bear caterpillar of Spring on the road today!

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54938600

4/14: Slow morning. Moderate breeze from ENE, but surprisingly almost nothing was migrating. Had four loons fly over (all headed West, this time with the wind), five white-winged scoters, and ten cormorants (though these may have been local birds). Around 90 long-tails were seen in flight near St. Helena, but they were simply milling about, and didn’t seem to be making a foray in either direction (likely in flight from an eagle spook). Passerines were slow, and raptors were all moving South, aside from a single intrepid female harrier. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54953769

For the evening count, I headed to Trails End Bay Marsh, as I noticed on my bike ride that it had finally melted out! Limited waterfowl movement here, but a good number of ducks on the water, with common and red-breasted mergs, buffleheads, goldeneyes, mallards, mute swans, and Canada geese in good numbers, as well as a single pintail and black duck. Several flew West near the end of the count, but this seemed to be in response to an eagle flyover. 

Some interesting non-ducks, though: a great blue heron headed North from the shore, three tree swallows (FOY) headed West towards Wilderness SP, a singing winter wren (FOY), and a male woodcock, first peenting across the road, then giving five sky-dances right above the count location. Got a pretty good recording of a full dance, and am looking forward to more as the season progresses, as across the road from the marsh is absolutely ideal habitat: a dense thickety maple swamp with scattered open patches and standing water. 

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54966991

Sunset, Trails End Bay
Tamarack/Maple Swamp, Trails End Bay

4/15: Super slow morning. Breezy directly from the North, and shifting to the Northwest over the morning, warming to about 40°F. Almost nothing was moving, apart from three loons and 8 white-winged scoters.

About 30 crows headed North, along with a male harrier, but no other movement across among non-waterbirds. FOY cedar waxwing heard overhead.

eBird List: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54989124

The evening count was hampered by the return of ice cover to much of the bay, as the North winds had blown down the remaining large sheet. Still, one surprise turned up: a hunting osprey (FOY!) came cruising in from the East, and was later seen carrying a fish off to the South.

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55004146

Sunset No. 2, Trails End Bay