Waterbird Count, April 19

The weather was far from perfect today; westerly winds ranging from eleven to fifteen miles per hour, and a gradually decreasing temperature made for a tough day looking for birds.  Evidently though, it was a good day for the waterbirds to be on the move, because there was a huge diversity of species, and many individual representatives for each species.  In particular, the number of Aythya ducks today was exceedingly high, with the Greater Scaups alone going into the hundreds between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.  There was also a high number of Redheads moving west with the Greater Scaups, along with the first Lesser Scaups for the season.  I dreaded the day that I would have to pick out the small numbers of Lesser Scaups in large flocks of Greater Scaups, but thanks to the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching:  Eastern Waterbirds in Flight as recommended by Ed Pike, differentiation is now an easy task.  The number of Common Loons and Horned Grebes today were also exceedingly high compared to previous counts.  Additionally, there were quite a few dabbling ducks that were making their way west among the flocks of Greater Scaups trickling through all day.  It was very confusing as to why so many birds were migrating west today when the winds were blowing hard and to the east, but this could be a sign that the weather will soon undergo a dramatic shift.  Despite having a productive day for waterbird counts, the raptor activity was disappointingly low, and there were still no confirmed sightings of Bonaparte’s Gulls.  Nevertheless, after a day like this, nothing can overshadow the hope that there will be even better days yet to come.  On a final note, the Mackinaw Raptor Watch is now sharing its daily counts with eBird; to see full species accounts for the daily waterbird count, go to http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L1300584 to find out what’s stirring down at the straits.

Canada Goose – 3
Gadwall – 14
American Black Duck – 1
Mallard – 12
Northern Pintail – 2
Northern Shoveler – 12
Redhead – 71
Greater Scaup – 339
Lesser Scaup – 10
Aythya sp. – 178
White-winged Scoter – 135
Long-tailed Duck – 172
Common Goldeneye – 2
Common Merganser – 11
Red-breasted Merganser – 182
Common Loon – 62
Horned Grebe – 11
Double-crested Cormorant – 42
duck sp. – 58

Other Species:
Great Blue Heron – 1
Turkey Vulture – 13
Northern Harrier – 2
Bald Eagle – 3
Red-tailed Hawk – 3
Merlin – 1