Category Archives: Waterbird Count 2016

Waterbird Count, November 10 — Finale

The fall 2016 season has come to an end. Things were slowing down in the past few days and more birds were resting in the Straits than migrating. The last day was overall unremarkable, but at least it was warm despite strong SW winds. The highlight was probably 2 Black Scoters. This season brought more Black Scoters than I had anticipated. I suspect that Black Scoters may have surpassed Surf Scoters in total individuals. I will post a season summary once I have all the data compiled.

It was a very enjoyable season with many wonderful birds. This season’s data will tell us a lot about how waterbirds utilize the Straits in the fall. I’m grateful MSRW invited me to do the count!

Mallard – 3
Redhead – 53
Lesser Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 26
Black Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 291
Common Goldeneye – 8
Red-breasted Merganser – 14
Common Loon – 10
loon sp. – 1
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 4
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Bald Eagle – 4

First winter Ring-billed Gull, 11/09/16

First winter Ring-billed Gull, 11/09/16

Waterbird Count, November 9

Quite a good day of movement, especially considering it’s the penultimate day of the count. The first three hours were very productive, but it slowed down heavily afterward. There were many raptors moving south, but the west winds pushed most of them beyond my detection. Still, I had 3 Golden Eagles and 8 Rough-legged Hawks. In the morning, I also had a presumably local Merlin flying northward. I hadn’t seen a Merlin in a month or so prior to today.

Redhead – 1020 (all birds from east of the Mackinac Bridge moving west)
Greater Scaup – 4
White-winged Scoter – 70
Long-tailed Duck – 886
Bufflehead – 101
Common Goldeneye – 10
Common Merganser – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 38
duck sp. – 7
Common Loon – 7
loon sp. – 1
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Golden Eagle – 3
Bald Eagle – 8
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
Rough-legged Hawk – 8
Merlin – 1

Waterbird Count, November 8

Strong NW wind made it feel much colder than it was, but it brought some decent movement. Aside from it being my best Bufflehead day, there wasn’t much of note. Overall, not a bad haul for the end of the season.

Gadwall – 11
American Wigeon – 1
Mallard – 6
Redhead – 257
Greater Scaup – 14
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 1
Aythya sp. – 1
White-winged Scoter – 21
Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 225
Bufflehead – 159
Common Goldenye – 22
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 2
Red-breasted Merganser – 32
duck sp. – 54
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 12
Horned Grebe – 1
Red-necked Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 9

Bald Eagle – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

Waterbird Count, November 5 & November 7

November 5
A bit out of order, but November 5 was actually pretty productive. I had good numbers for all the usual species, especially Bufflehead for which it was my best day as of yet. Another highlight was an adult Golden Eagle migrating south near the bridge. I’m thankful to Darrell who covered for me on November 6 so Steve Baker, Jack & Bev Kirby, and I could go see the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI — the third state record!

Mallard – 3
Redhead – 185
Greater Scaup – 10
White-winged Scoter – 64
Long-tailed Duck – 463
Bufflehead – 80
Common Goldeneye – 19
Common Merganser – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 26
duck sp. – 193
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 6
Horned Grebe – 2
Red-necked Grebe – 7
Double-crested Cormorant – 2

Golden Eagle – 1
Northern Harrier – 4
Bald Eagle – 2
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

November 7
In contrast to the 5th, today was very slow. It reminded me of the days in early August in terms of slowness, but also in terms of nice weather. I still saw some nice species diversity, including my best day for American Black Ducks with an impressive 5 birds.

American Black Duck – 5
Mallard – 6
Redhead – 12
White-winged Scoter – 25
Black Scoter – 2
Surf/Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 133
Common Goldeneye – 3
Common Merganser – 2
Red-breasted Merganser – 20
duck sp. – 125
Common Loon – 3
Horned Grebe – 4
Red-necked Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Bald Eagle – 2

Photos of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher — not very relevant to the count or Straits area, but relevant for Michigan’s avifauna history.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Menominee, MI, 11/06/16

Long-tailed Duck in Munising, MI, 11/06/16

Long-tailed Duck in Munising, MI, 11/06/16

Waterbirds – 11/6

I filled in for Jason today so he could have a rare day off and so he could go track down the Fork-tailed Kingbird that has been hanging out in the Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border.  It was a pretty slow day but had a few highlights.  There were two large flocks of Mallards that flew by to the east.  I know you’re thinking “big deal, Mallards?”  The thing is, Mallards are actually not all that common during the waterbird count.  One flock even had an American Black Duck with it.  Other unusual birds included a late Northern Harrier and a Hooded Merganser.  Other than that it was mostly the usual suspects: Long-tailed Ducks, Redheads, Red-breasted Mergansers and White-winged Scoters.  Here is the full list with some photos following.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  1
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)  1
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  56
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  1
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)  15
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  4
Aythya sp. (Aythya sp.)  117
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)  59
Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)  1
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)  354
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)  23
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)  8
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)  36
duck sp. (Anatinae sp.)  93
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata)  2
Common Loon (Gavia immer)  3
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)  3
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)  3
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  3
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (borealis) (Buteo jamaicensis borealis)  1
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  13
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  4
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  7
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  1
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  7
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  3
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  3
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  31

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American Goldfinch

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Black-capped Chickadee

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Common Mergansers

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Not a great photo, but Hooded Mergansers don’t fly by the count very often.  And why not show photos of all three Mergansers species?

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Red-breasted Mergansers

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This Ring-billed Gull kept me company most of the day.

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Tufted Titmouse

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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White-winged Scoters flying behind a Horned Grebe with part of St. Ignace in the background.

Waterbird Tour, Nov. 5, 2016

On Sat. Nov. 5, 2016 the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch conducted a waterbird tour around the Straits area; starting at McGulpin Point with waterbird counter Jason Newton and then across the bridge to Saint Ignace area.  Sixteen people and the leaders Ed Pike and Steve Baker enjoyed great weather.

It was a beautiful day for Nov. 5 with temperatures starting in the forties and climbing into the sixties, sunny, with light to moderate westerly winds.  We observed 24 species of waterbirds and five species of Raptors with a few song birds mixed in giving us a total of 45 species for the day.

At McGulpin Point we had distant looks at Long-tailed Duck, Horned Grebe, Common Loon,  Red-breasted Merganser and Herring and Ring-billed Gull.

We then went across the Mackinac Bridge to the Saint Ignace area where we had great looks at Long-tailed Ducks, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Redhead Ducks (about 3000 in total), Red-necked and Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, Double-crested Cormorant, Common and Hooded Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Herring and Ring-billed Gull.   There was also a family of 2 adult and 2 young Sandhill Cranes on the beach at the north end of town.

After lunch we went to the Moran area and just east of Moran, Steve Baker observed a Rough-legged Hawk land in a tree.  We stopped to look at it and during the next 45 minutes were treated to several Rough-leg’s hovering with great looks at several light morph and one dark morph.  We saw a total of at least 10 Rough-leg, 2 N. Harrier, 2 Bald Eagle, 2 Red-tailed Hawk and to top it off had a great look at an adult Golden Eagle that flew over us.  We then went to Brevort Lake area and saw a Great Blue Heron, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Green-winged Teal.

Along the way in our travels we observed Ruffed Grouse, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Am. Crow, C. Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Am. Robin, European Starling, Am. Pipit, Snow Bunting and Am. Goldfinch.

A great day with great birds.

Ed Pike

Waterbird Count, November 4

Strong westerly winds all day brought some pretty good movement. It was my best day for Common Goldeneyes thus far. I saw a lot of raptors kettling across the Straits, but never ended up seeing many cross except a few Bald Eagles. Over the past few days I’ve seen some dead waterbirds floating in the lake, usually being picked at by Herring Gulls. It’s possible these birds are victims of botulism, or perhaps were killed by duck hunters — ideally the latter. The deceased birds have been primarily Long-tailed Ducks and a single White-winged Scoter.

American Black Duck – 2
Mallard – 3
Redhead – 110
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 5
White-winged Scoter – 86
Long-tailed Duck – 166
Bufflehead – 18
Common Goldeneye – 109
Common Merganser – 7
Red-breasted Merganser – 101
Common/Red-breasted Merganser – 9
duck sp. – 467
Red-throated Loon – 1
Common Loon – 16
Horned Grebe – 2
Double-crested Cormorant – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1

Bald Eagle – 9

Waterbird Count, November 3

I’m grateful that the nice weather has continued and looks like it will continue through the end of the count. It’s possible that this weather could be impeding movement, but perhaps migration is just winding down. Today had a moderate amount of movement, though the majority of it was the Redheads moving from the near the bridge westward. It was my best day for Buffleheads thus far. There have been many American Goldfinches flying around Mcgulpin Point this week, and today I estimated at least 95 in one flock.

Mallard – 1
Redhead – 575
White-winged Scoter – 53
Black Scoter – 3
Long-tailed Duck – 67
Bufflehead – 62
Common Goldeneye – 19
Hooded Merganser – 2
Common Merganser – 5
Red-breasted Merganser – 19
duck sp. – 901
Red-throated Loon – 2
Common Loon – 13
loon sp. – 1
Horned Grebe – 4
Red-necked Grebe – 7
Double-crested Cormorant – 3
Bonaparte’s Gull – 2

Bald Eagle – 2
Rough-legged Hawk – 1

Rough-legged Hawk and Snow Bunting, 11/03/16

Rough-legged Hawk and Snow Bunting, 11/03/16

Waterbird Count, November 2

With little to no wind, there was not much movement today. There were still some decent things to be seen, including, once again, all 3 mergansers, all 3 scoters, and 4 species of gulls. All morning a large group of American Goldfinches were flying around, at least 60 that I saw at once. Among them were 1 Pine Siskin and 1 Common Redpoll. The ducks east of the bridge, presumed 99% Redheads, lifted off the water and split off southward and westward, interestingly. I managed a poor photo of them.

Mute Swan – 1
Mallard – 5
Redhead – 156
Surf Scoter – 1
White-winged Scoter – 26
Black Scoter – 1
Long-tailed Duck – 94
Hooded Merganser – 1
Common Merganser – 5
Red-breasted Merganser – 14
duck sp. – 1848
Common Loon – 5
Horned Grebe – 3
Red-necked Grebe – 5
Double-crested Cormorant – 3
Bonaparte’s Gull – 2
Great Black-backed Gull – 1

Bald Eagle – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 3
Rough-legged Hawk – 3

Red-breasted Mergansers, 11/02/16

Red-breasted Mergansers, 11/02/16

Horned Grebe, 11/02/16

Horned Grebe, 11/02/16

Ducks east of the Mackinac Bridge, 11/02/16

Ducks east of the Mackinac Bridge, 11/02/16

Waterbird Count, November 1

What better way to ring in November than  mid-60s and a winter gull.  Today a lovely adult Iceland Gull flew by McGulpin, granting me another four gull species day (with a lone Bonaparte’s Gull). In addition, I also had all 3 merganser species and all 3 scoter species — a good day for species combos. Overall there was nice waterbird variety.

Canada Goose – 10
Gadwall – 5
Mallard – 5
Northern Pintail – 2
Redhead – 3
Greater Scaup – 2
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 3
Surf Scoter – 2
White-winged Scoter – 74
Black Scoter – 2
Surf/Black Scoter – 3
Long-tailed Duck – 175
Bufflehead – 6
Common Goldeneye – 9
Hooded Merganser – 3
Common Merganser – 8
Red-breasted Merganser – 19
duck sp. – 194
Common Loon – 5
Horned Grebe – 2
Red-necked Grebe – 3
Double-crested Cormorant – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 1
Iceland Gull – 1

Bald Eagle – 3

Adult Iceland Gull, 11/01/16

Adult Iceland Gull, 11/01/16