I was surprised to drive north of the snow band on my way to Mackinaw City today. Winds were gusting out of the north east to 30kph creating solid 5 foot waves in the straits. It was warmest at the beginning of the count with a temperature of -1C. Visibility was good for the entirety of the count, however heat shimmer and wave action made it next to impossible to spot birds at a distance. The barometer rose throughout the count and the temperature dropped to -3.9C by the end of the day. The winds were gusting to 38kph when I closed the count a little over an hour early.
Waterbird Notes –
Nothing but respect for the ultimate waterbirds of the straits, merganser! Both RBME and COME seem to be the only waterbirds that don’t mind the wind and wave action. Every other waterbird detection today was sheer luck as it was nearly impossible to spot the birds in the troughs of the waves and the heat shimmer was pretty bad. It has a tendency to blow towards the McGulpin Point side of the straits in the strong north east winds. It is like looking through a mirage and birds easily disappear in it. I had no luck trying to make out any coloration on the birds in flat light like today. By 1:30 PM I was ready to call the count after not seeing any waterbirds since a little after 10:00 until the close of the count.
Non- waterbird Notes –
A lone immature NOHA made its way south across the straits. It seemed to be following a gull and this got me to thinking that possibly this is on purpose. Is it possible that a NOHA may follow a gull and surprise other waterbirds by flying in incognito? The reason I say this is I have now seen an immature NOHA either flying in the midst of a string of AMCR or more commonly now with gulls. The bird fooled me from about 2 miles away, but as it approached I noticed its wings were broader and less tapered than a gulls. I decided to keep following it and when it was no longer back lit I realized it was a NOHA. I would imagine a NOHA could get much closer to prey without being detected if it flies like or with other birds. Much like the Merlin has the ability to take short glides , which gives it a thrush like flight that may help it fool its prey. Speaking of the resident Merlin I have seen regularly in the afternoon coming across the straits from the vicinity of Gros Cap to the south, I thought I saw it again today. It was a quick naked eye observation, but upon review I realized it was a MODO that got blown off course. The head was too small and a Merlin would not struggle in winds like this. I hope the MODO exercises caution to the north west of the count site as that seems to be the favored flight path of the Merlin and it wouldn’t take much for it to approach low behind the ice wall to surprise an unsuspecting dove.
3 SACR were seen flying back south across the straits at the end of the day. I have one BCCH chick a buddie who landed on my hand for the first time today. He wasn’t sure about this new development though.
Lil’ red squirrel was cleaning up under the feeder at dawn, but disappeared into the forest for the remainder of the day.
Virginiaborg west bound at 9:45.
Total observer hours – 6.75
Next days forecast –
Snow and sleet before 3pm, then snow between 3pm and 4pm, then snow, possibly mixed with sleet after 4pm. High near 31. Windy, with an east wind around 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow and sleet accumulation of around 5 inches.
Todays tally is posted on eBird here.