March 31st Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

Trace amounts of snow had fallen overnight. Up at the straits it was cloudy and a 6-11kph wind blew out of the north. The temperature was bearable at -3.3 C and the visibility was good at over 30km to either the east or the west. The wind died down a little by 8:30AM and the visibility on the east was closing in at 16km and 24km on the west respectively. At this point a very light snow was coming and going around the gazebo. An hour later it was almost still out, but the snow had picked up. As the snow came down so did the clouds. Visibility was now limited to about 250M in any direction looking north from the gazebo. I stayed to the top of the 10:00 hour before calling the count due to lack of visibility.

Waterbird Notes –

Red- breasted Merganser accounted for nearly half of the total count this morning. The gulls on the north shore were active today but it wasn’t long into the morning before the north shore was shrouded in fog. I logged many duck sp. due to poor light and falling snow. I did detect a couple Mallard which I am beginning to see more regularly in the straits.

Non- waterbird Notes –

Right at the beginning of the count a gull was raising an alarm when I noted it was mobbing a Bald Eagle. The eagle made a dramatic landing on the blue ice wall just to the NW of the gazebo. When the eagle landed on a picturesque pane of blue ice it let out a loud call that didn’t sound too welcoming. I believe this is the resident bird that has its territory by McGulpin Point. It is a noticeably large raptor, bigger than the other eagles I have seen. I have watched a resident adult Bald Eagle rob other birds of food they have scavenged in the icy straits. Once a crow and now I believe this gull. This eagle soon took off and landed on a perch on an ice raft out near St. Helena Island. I looked to the north side of the straits near the shipping channel and now noted what looked like the 3rd year bird ( the heat shimmer was really bad) and 2 more adults closely perched to one another, also on floating rafts of ice. This was an incredible sight even through the heat shimmer as the sheets of ice have now stood upended so they are about 3-4ft tall like panes of blue glass. Imagine a very large dark bird perched on top while the rafts of ice grind back to west through the straits. Food must have been plentiful enough that all 4 birds where out together and they where all focused on hunting, not displacing one another.

The same cast of forest birds were detected calling from the forest behind the gazebo. The exception today would be a male Northern Cardinal who I think is coming to the feeder now with a female. This visitor will add some color to the monochromatic arctic landscape.

All in all a very slow day with only 198 individuals noted. Not much diversity either. It was still well worth the visit with the eagle activity and the snow sifting down over the straits.

Visitors –

None. The road down is getting better, but the new snow on top of the ice is very slick. I will keep posting updates to the progress of the road. It will be interesting to see how much fell down at the straits by tomorrow. About 2 – 3 inches fell during the afternoon today.

Total observer hours – 2.5

Next days forecast –

A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 26. Wind chill values as low as -1. Breezy, with a west wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

Going forward the daily tally will be posted on eBird for the McGulpin Point hotspot here. The days list is posted here.