Author Archives: Steve Baker

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

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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.

Peregrines up close. October 2 Hawk Watch , Steve Baker posting.w

A pleasant day at the hawk watch with good views of special birds and good company. Highlights included some sweet  views of curious Peregrines (one landed and observed us for 15 minutes!), an adult northern Red-tailed Hawk,  and a steady stream of Sharp-shinned Hawks overhead. We also had six White-winged Scoters fly west and many wandering flocks of Blue Jays and Pipits.

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Farewell dinner and misc. photos

Monday,November 9 there was a farewell dinner for Selena at the Keyhole in Mackinaw City. We celebrated a very successful owl banding season thanks to Selena’s efforts. Thanks to Tony for the group photo. Tuesday was the last day for the waterbird count and Ed closed out the season. Sunrise over the straits was a good show as usual and I will miss these early morning scenes.

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Redheads at north end of bridge

Redheads at north end of bridge

Redheads

Redheads

The Mighty Mac

The Mighty Mac

Boats at sunrise

Boats at sunrise

Ed scanning the Straits

Ed scanning the Straits

Cheers!

Cheers!

Waterbirds for November 5

it was supposed to be a foggy morning but a visit to the bridge view cam showed pretty good visibility at 6 am so I did a few hours of observation at McGulpin Point. Migration has definitely slowed to a trickle. Several flocks of 20-50 small birds, probably finches, were seen headed south, but none were close enough to ID.

RB Merganser 2
Common Loon 3
Unidentified Flying Ducks 33
Mallard 2
Long-tailed duck 12
C. Goose 19

November 1 waterbirds

Goldeneye 1
Long-tailed Duck. 158
Buffleheads. 11
Unidentified duck. 107
Redhead. 4
Common Loon 34
Red-throated Loon 1
Mallard 1
WW Scoter 3
R-b Merganser 1

Bald Eagles 6
Snow Bunting 1

Blustery west winds with driving rain showers slowed migration until the 3rd hour when the sun poked through and the birds perked up. Common Loons totaled 23 the 3rd hour , all east bound. Photo shows flock of crows and Bald Eagle following the bridge south.

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Redheads are gathering!

Every autumn large flocks of ducks gather in the Lake Huron waters at the North end of the Mackinac Bridge. Rafts of thousands can be seen when northbound on the bridge. The vast majority are Redheads but study of photos usually show a few Canvasbacks and Scaup in the mix. They are often so tightly packed that they appear as dark smudges on the water. These rafts will remain until ice up and can be a spectacular show when taking to the air. Already this October there are at least a few thousand present with more to come.

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October 23. A slow day for waterbirds

Light NE winds and frost greeted us this morning but the Ducks were few and ID was challenging with water level distortion and aberrations. Two hours of observation produced these totals:
Mallard-11
Long-tailed Duck-110
DC Cormorant-2
Horned Grebe-1
Unidentified duck-138
Common Loon-2
Buffleheads-1
Red-breasted Merganser-1

Other birds : crow>200
Coopers Hawk-1

Red-tailed Hawks on the move

There was a good movement of Red-tailed Hawks along the north shore of Lake Michigan on October 20. While birding at Pt. Labarbe in the late morning a loose kettle of a dozen Red-tails was seen. Traveling west on US-2 , many more Red-tails were noted , generally drifting east. Best observation sites were the bluffs at the two picnic areas on US-2. At least 90 Red-tails were observed in about 45 minutes. Other migrating raptors seen were several Bald Eagles and a few Sharp-shinned Hawks.
submitted by Steve Baker

A quiet morning for waterbirds-October 20

A slow morning for waterbirds at McGulpin Point. Moderate NE winds did not push many birds and it seems that any wind from the east is not very productive for migration. Just an observation. Two Snow Buntings perched on the big rock was a highlight of the day.

Long-tailed Duck-14
Unidentified Duck-45
WW Scoter-2
Horned Grebe-1
Redhead-13
Canada Goose-4
Common Loon-2
Red-necked Grebe-1

Submitted by Steve Baker

Waterbirds for October 19

Blustery west winds caused traffic escorts on the bridge , freighters to anchor down and birds to sit tight. Waterfowl movements tended to be flights right at water level with ducks disapearing into wave troughs. Even the crows were skimming the waves as they headed south. Two hours of observation from McGulpin Point yielded small numbers but good variety with the majority heading west, directly into the gale.
Redhead-6
Black Scoter-2
Mallard-1
Black Duck-1
C. merganser-4
C. Loon=1
Long-tailed duck-43
Horned Grebe-1
DC Cormorant-4
Bufflehead-11
WW Scoter-10
Unidentified Duck-5

Submitted by Steve Baker

October 17 Morning Waterbird observations

Snow flakes were in the air at Mcgulpin Point this morning with a chilly 28 degrees. There was not much activity through the straits and I only counted till 9:45 am. The days highlight was watching the many snow squalls roll through. Results were 2 Common Loon, 21 Redheads, 125 Unidentified Ducks, 43 WW Scoters, 1 Horned Grebe, and 1 Red-necked Grebe. Other birds seen were 4 Bald Eagles, and 2 Lapland Longspurs. Submitted by Steve Baker

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October 14 Waterbird Report

October 14 at McGulpin Point began with a spectacular sunrise to the east and a rainbow to the west. It would have even better if it was 70 degrees instead of 40 with wind. A Bald Eagle flew by and seemingly bumped into the rainbow but he should be ok. Two hours of observation the best looks at Redheads so far for this water watcher and the first of many more Long-tailed Ducks yet to come. Totals were 316 Redheads, 5 DC Cormorant, 10 Common Merganser,8 Common Loon, 11 WW Scoter, 1 Canada Goose, 40 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Gadwall, and 249 Unidentified Flying Ducks. The only raptor observed were 5 Bald Eagles. Submitted by Steve Baker

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October 16- afternoon sightings from McGulpin Point

I was able to observe from 3 to 3:50 at McGulpin Point with strong north winds, snow squalls, some sunshine, and the huge waves of gale warning proportions. 2 Common Loons, 32 WW Scoters, and 36 UFD(Unidentified Flying Duck).
Beach birds were 3 Pipits and a single Rusty Blackbird.
It was a day for contrarians as 12 Bald Eagles , 80 Crows, and a single Pileated Woodpecker all proceeded to head north towards the UP directly into the bluster. One Eagle circled a panicked merganser briefly before flying north giving great views in brilliant sunshine. Submitted by Steve Baker

Catch up Waterbird report –October 15

October 15 dawned with cool WNW winds and peaks of blue sky.I observed for two hours at McGulpin Point and picked up a nice variety of waterfowl. It gives me indigestion to say that a highlight was a fly by of a Mute Swan pair. Other tallies were 12 DC Cormorant, 3 RB Merganser, 6 Common Merganser, 33 WW Scoter, 315 Aythya type ducks, 332 UFD(Unidentified Flying Duck),26 Common Loon, 2 Horned Grebe, 6 Red-necked Grebe, and 83 Redhead.
Other observations of south bound migrants include over 150 Crows, 3 Northern Harriers, 40 Turkey Vultures, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a single Merlin.

From 10 to 11 am I moved just east of the bridge near the Old Mackinac Lighthouse and noted a nice migration of raptors with 190 Turkey Vultures(TVs often follow the bridge),9 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and 2 Merlins. Submitted by Steve Bakerimage

A day of diversity, September 29

There was an uptick in migration on Tuesday with strong NW winds and a mostly cloudy sky. Waterfowl were joined by a nice mix of raptors and the beginning waves of Sandhill Cranes. Steve Baker and Ed Pike observed from 7:30 am to 1 pm. Highlights included 91 Common Loons, 175 Canada Geese, 140 Redheads, 54 White-winged Scoters, and 7 Red-necked Grebes. Many duck flocks were too distant to identify to species and were listed as Aythya ducks(379) or unidentified ducks(735).
Raptors seen were Bald Eagle(12), N. harrier(4), Red-tailed hawk(1), Sharp-shinned Hawk(1). Sandhills totalled 100 and I suspect many more came later in the day as the sun broke through .
An interesting finding was that from McGulpin Point we could identify Turkey Vultures soaring over US-2 on the north side, a distance of 5 miles.

May 1 update

imageimageWell it looks like Hawkcount is still down, so here is a quick update. April 30 and May 1 were big Broad-wing days with several thousand each day. Golden Eagles still regular. The weekend looks great with lots of sunshine so come enjoy the migration .

Raptors and other cool birds 4/30/15

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

Hawk count is out of commission today so this note will be a sort of update. I don’t have Kevin’s numbers but can tell you there were at least 10 Golden Eagles , many Bald Eagles, a thousand plus Broad-wings, and a nice assortment of other raptors.
The other cool birds were 9 Bonaparts Gulls, a lone Lapland Longspur, and a line of 5 White Pelicans.
The weekend looks promising weather wise and there should be more birds in the pipeline so come and enjoy the show.

A Ghostly Visitor

Luecystic RTLuecystic RT

Another great day at the hawk watch. A steady stream of raptors overhead delighted the many visitors and kept Kevin busy. The highlight was a luecystic Red-tail that made repeated appearances in kettles directly overhead. This bird appeared brilliant white , especially when backlit by the sun. Photos show what the eye could not, as there are obvious chest streaking , a hint of patagium markings, and a streaked head. Still a very stunning individual and a real crowd pleaser. Behaviorally this bird was a bit of a loner, hanging out on the edge of the kettles. Ring-billed Gulls singled out this bird for harrassment as well.
Today’s Golden Eagles were all immature birds and most visitors to the hawk watch were able to see one of these special raptors.

Big crowd at Darrow's field on a week day.

H Big crowd at Darrow’s field on a week day.

Support from Mackinaw City

Support from Mackinaw City

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

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East winds are seldom productive and today was no exception. Every once in awhile a wind shift would briefly stir the pot and some kettles would stream north. For a week day there was a great turnout of hawk people and we all enjoyed the banter between veterans and newbies.
Jim Veller captured a beautiful immature a Golden Eagle shot and Jack Kirby shared the people shots.

Day of Diversity 4/14/15

image image  imageToday was a very rare day at the hawk watch. Every regularly occurring species of raptor ( 15 species) on the checklist was seen on this day. All 3 falcon species, all 3 Accipitors , the 4 Buteos, both Eagles, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, and Northern Harrier . The season’s first Broad-winged Hawk made it back from South America and soon there were hundreds moving north. Red-tails were steady all day with many kettles overhead. A very cooperative Perigrine flew directly over the counters not just once, but returned for an encore .
Visitors from the Thunder Bay Audubon enjoyed the day at the count, but had to leave without seeing a Golden Eagle when a handsome immature GE soared by just in time. I think they toasted that one at the Keyhole Bar down the street.  Other highlights were the first of season Osprey and a couple of dark morph Red-tails and an intermediate morph bird that was a beautiful rufous color.

Eagles steal the show. 4/11/15

Golden Eagle, immature

Golden Eagle, immaturen

Look up!

Look up!

Bald Eagles, adult and immature

Bald Eagles, adult and immature

Migration was strong today and Red-tailed Hawks were the dominant sighting. The first immature RT of the season soared over. A large group of hawk watchers were treated to several low altitude fly overs of both Bald and Golden Eagles. First an immature BE was joined by an adult BE as they circled directly over the gawking crowd below. The excitement peaked when a stunning immature Golden Eagle soared in tandem with an immature Bald Eagle . They passed over the amazed hawk watchers twice before continuing north. Lots of oohs and ahhs and clicking cameras were heard. Even the first time visitors to the hawk watch were enthralled by this spectacle. Keep your eyes to the skies!

April 7 Red-tails on the move

Red-tails kettling

Golden Eagle

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Cold NE winds this day had expectations low . Clearing skies by mid afternoon brought out the raptors as thermals developed quickly. Kettles of 50 birds plus several strings of sqauking Sandhill Cranes made for a nice finish to the afternoon.  This day wrapped up the first month of  the hawk count and Kevin’s tally of Red-tails is already over 5000 . The Golden Eagle numbers are at 297, a total unimaginable to us all before this season.  We still await rarities such as Swainson’s Hawk and Black Vulture. A few days of warm spring air would be welcomed as well. Steve Baker

 

Red-tails rule today!

image image imageToday, 4/3/15, was another cold and windy one. These same NW winds brought the record Golden Eagle days, and today the Red-tails showed up big time. Kevin had the clickers going for the first time this season and by the day’s end , 1899 Red-tails had been ticked. Three western dark morph birds were a highlight. Several very interested visitors enjoyed the spectacle of kettles of hawks overhead.

Foggy beginnings, great kids visit

image image imageApril fools day began with early morning fog all around the Mackinac Straits . The bridge and the birds were totally obscured till the sun burned off the fog and melted the fresh 3 inches of overnight snow.  It was a good day for Red-tails and Turkey Vultures as their numbers seem to be increasing every day. The real highlight of the day was a visit to the hawk watch by a very enthusiastic group of home schoolers. Dave Mayberry did a stellar job of explaining the wonders of raptor migration and basic identification information .  A few Red-tails and Turkey Vultures circled low over head for great views but most birds rode thermals to great heights  before crossing the Straits.  I hope Dave’s efforts spark an interest in hawk migration in a few of  these students.

Golden Eagles, new owl decoy

  • imageThe Golden Eagles continue to roll on through, with a shift toward more obvious immature birds.image imageDave improved our plastic bobble-head owl with the addition of some exotic looking feathers . Dave sacrificed some of his fly tying hackles to create the masterpiece.  Owl decoys are frequently mounted at hawk watch sites to attract the attention of passing Raptors.  Falcons and accipitors will often pause to harrass an exposed owl.  The hawk watch has had a plain plastic owl for a few years but it did not have much action. Other hawk watch sites have had much better results when feathers are used to adorn the decoy.  So we are hoping that Dave’s creativity with feathers and Gorilla Glue will bring in the next Merlin that buzzes by.