2nd week of October

The armchair challenge has met an unfortunate end. Although I have had a few days with some returning birds to the armchair, I have been unable to successfully capture any birds on the piece of furniture. I like to think that it was a good run we had, and maybe will give me the chance to better breakdown waterbird identification here. However, as for the waterbird migration…

The skies are filled with ducks, raptors, cranes, and everything in between. My highest totaling days have all come this week. Thank in large part to the immense numbers of redheads, sandhill cranes, turkey vultures, american crows, red-breasted mergansers, and unidentified duck species. It is rare to have a few minutes without watching a large flock of redheads, or some aythya species flying by in the first half of the day. This can be hectic, but is pretty spectacular to watch as they maneuver their way up the channel towards St Ignace. Not many of these birds are forming the large rafts near the Mackinac Bridge, but there has been a group of close to 500 birds consisting of redhead, scaup, long-tailed duck, and white-winged scoter all loafing in the channel.

The winter birds have arrived. For me, seeing long-tailed ducks and scoters is a symbol of the cold weather to come. In Washington, these species for large groups in the winter throughout the Puget Sound and provide the only color to otherwise gray landscapes. Here, it is much of the same. All three scoters species have been seen (white-winged, black, and surf), but white-winged are by far the most numerous. They are easy to spot at a distance thanks to a large white wing patch that contrasts brilliantly with their sleek black bodies. Often times they fly kilometres overhead, but have recently started sitting in the Straits to show off their incredible style. Similarly, long-tailed ducks have become regulars in the Straits. Not in the large numbers that are expected later, but they do fly past regularly now. I will sometimes see them sitting on the water as well, but more often, I notice them as they are flushed off the water by a passing boat. These small, slender-winged, beautiful birds are a highlight any place they decide to pass through.

The number of birds migrating right now is astounding. October 13th yielded over 7,000 different birds, and October 14th produced over 4,000. These totals are slowly piling up to create a pretty spectacular year. Still waiting on a few more species to pass by, but hopefully the cooling weather is motivating the waterbirds to push South sooner rather than later.