Waterbird Count, May 4

After nearly a week of rain and harsh winds, at last the sky has opened up and the winds have calmed.  Although the morning started off in the high thirties, it did not take too long for the ambient temperature to rise into the fifties.  Surprisingly, the morning had an incredibly intense heat shimmer despite the cool air.  As the hours passed, it became easier to see birds at greater distances until the final hour when the heat shimmer was so strong it was as if a wall of chrome was sitting on the horizon, producing exaggerated forms of the land and the water.  Along with the calm, mostly southerly winds, the water was flat all day, making it easy to see the Long-tailed Ducks peppered throughout the straits.  In fact, the only part of Lake Michigan today that experienced even moderate swell was in the Chicago area.  It hasn’t been since early April that the water appeared like glass, but unlike in early April, today had an incredible avian diversity.  There was so much to be seen of waterbirds and non-target species that the data sheet was filled past practical capacity.  In addition to getting the flat water and sunshine I’ve been craving, a pair of Bonaparte’s Gulls made their west in the early afternoon.  I believe it is thanks to the flat water that today yielded this spring’s record high for Long-tailed Ducks and Red-necked Grebes, in addition to the second highest count for Red-breasted Mergansers.  The waters of Lake Michigan were so calm today, even a passing freighter could barely make waves long-lasting enough to reach the shore and crash against the rocks.  With no wind nor waves to pollute the ambient sound, I could not only hear the chorus of Long-tailed Ducks and mergansers, but it was quiet enough to hear the sounds of dead leaves hitting the ground.  Every little noise in the woods surrounding me penetrated my ear drums like a gun shot, which may sound unpleasant, but a welcome change from the howling of the winds and the crashing of the waves.

Canada Goose – 3
American Black Duck – 1
Green-winged Teal – 6
Greater Scaup – 1
Greater/Lesser Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – 27
scoter sp. – 3
Long-tailed Duck – 935
Bufflehead – 4
Common Merganser – 16
Red-breasted Merganser – 455
Common Loon – 29
Horned Grebe – 4
Red-necked Grebe – 9
Double-crested Cormorant – 117
duck sp. – 19
Great Egret – 2
Bonaparte’s Gull – 2

Other Species:
Great Blue Heron – 4
Turkey Vulture – 10
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
Bald Eagle – 5
Broad-winged Hawk – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
Buteo sp. – 2
Sandhill Crane – 3
Killdeer – 1