Waterbird Count, April 20

Today the activity was spread thin throughout the eight hours, though not surprising given the day began with wind speeds of sixteen miles per hour, increasing all the way to twenty-two miles per hour by midday.  The temperature remained stable at 37°F for the entire day, but the rain and visibility varied in intensity every hour.  The worst visibility was during the final hour, and seemed to get worse by the minute as the winds continued to push storm clouds and fog from the east at alarming speeds.  As the winds continued to pick up, the number of birds in flight decreased to the point where there were only gulls trying to steal the fish from the Red-breasted Mergansers.  Along with the high winds were the tallest waves I’ve seen so far on the straits.  The smallest waves were in the early hours, and even then they were four feet, increasing all the way to five and a half feet by 11:00 AM.  This made spotting loafing waterbirds exceedingly difficult as the heavy swells easily concealed the birds presence even at short distances.  It makes me wonder how many more I could have missed along the horizon, since at that distance you could barely see the deep blue water of the lake, let alone a loafing waterbird.  The good news is that I had a lot more time to examine birds heading east since that was where the strong winds hailed from.  It’s hard to imagine why so many birds were determined to head east since the winds dramatically decreased their speed and was tossing them around like rag dolls.  Every time a bird changed direction from east to west or vice-versa it seemed a crash or injury was inevitable- thankfully there did not appear to be any casualties.  Despite the bad weather, the diversity of waterbird species was still fairly good, but the representative numbers of each species were comparatively low to previous days with high diversity.

Canada Goose – 1
Green-winged Teal – 2
Greater Scaup – 17
White-winged Scoter – 8
Long-tailed Duck – 73
Bufflehead – 9
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 7
Red-breasted Merganser – 104
Common Loon – 1
Horned Grebe – 4
Double-crested Cormorant – 13
duck sp. – 7

Other Species:
Great Blue Heron – 1
Turkey Vulture – 3
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 4
Merlin – 1