April 2nd Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

Still and beautiful this morning with the sun hitting the cirrus and stratus clouds. Temperature started off at -6.7 C but climbed to 0 by the end of the count. At 10:30AM the winds kicked up from the NW to 20-28kph. This caused the ice flows to blow back into the shore ice in front of the count site. The barometric pressure held steady all day. Heat shimmer was again an issue, but there wasn’t much waterbird activity in the straits today.

Waterbird Notes –

Based on how beautiful and calm the morning was, I was expecting a busy count. Unfortunately that was not to be the case. I have no idea where the birds were or why they didn’t take advantage of the calm weather and open water in front of McGulpin Point. There were two American Black Duck resting, so time was spent committing the subtle nuances between this species and Mallard to memory. A good size flock of LTDU was detected flying out near St. Helena which they visit regularly. Quite a bit of COGO moving today. The RBME by far led the tally today with 106 counted on the edge of the ice near St. Helena. They were busy doing their communal courtship display at 11:17.

Non- waterbird Notes –

Bald Eagle were active again, making use of the rafts of ice to perch hunt from. At 9:24 a resident S1 bird perched right in front of the gazebo, providing excellent views of its plumage. It is interesting to note that if the younger birds approach the area it is from the SW side of the bridge and they tend to hug the shoreline approaching McGulpin Point. The bird then slowly worked its way out into the straits, but stayed low to the ice. It is helping tremendously to be able to put the age criteria into the tablet I use as I am starting to be able to track resident birds better. After looking back at the detections of S1, S2 and S3 birds they have all preferred that flight path. Maybe this is a Bald Eagle cease fire zone. Compare that to the dogfighting, territorial behavior noted near the end of the count over Point Labarbe by 2 Adult Bald Eagles. One bird was attempting to perch in the area, but the resident bird wasn’t having it. The resident bird repeated its attacks, then escorted the bird to the NE.

Another stand out observation was the resident adult female NOHA. I spotted her being followed by an AMCR about a mile to the north over the straits from the gazebo. Having now seen a BAEA go after waterbirds, it is my impression she is attempting to secure similar prey. The light from the ice below her lit her up like an icon. She followed the exact flight path she was on last time I spotted her, coming right to the rock at McGulpin Point, then quickly lifting up and over the forest and disappearing to the east. I checked the timing of her last visit, and it was to within one hour and 5 days ago.

I was surprised to see AMCR several times today flying low over the ice as well. I have a tremendous amount of respect for corvids and seeing them fly low over the ice like a raptor shows their ability as aerialists. What they are able to find in the ice is a mystery to me, but they were very active flying low over the ice today. I am beginning to become aware of the fact that the crows seem to keep tabs on the CORA interloping in their territory. If a CORA crosses from the north side of the straits a crow is sure to greet it when it reaches McGulpin. A lone crow landed about 5 feet from me today and processed what it was I was up to under the gazebo and flapping tarp. Curious bird.

My PISI buddy returned this afternoon to collect more nesting material!  She lands in the trees near the gazebo and talks to me and I answer.  She then comes in under the roof to grab strips of bark and some kind of downy material that is caught up in the roof.  I hope her nest is coming along nicely.


Spartan 2 at 8:39 east bound.

Visitors –

None. Road approach update- I have been driving down the road regularly now. The new snow has accreted to the surface of the ice well and is more manageable for walking. The road closed sign was moved today and people were driving down. I am not sure if this was left open by a construction crew or if a road crew has officially opened it up to the public. I left it as I found it and will post the status of it being open daily going forward as some visitors plan on coming down during Mackinaw Raptor Fest. This is the 3rd annual festival that will be taking place between April 6-8th. I will be down at the gazebo daily at first light so please come visit if your awake! Most days so far this spring the birds have been very active in the early morning tapering off by noon. A couple ways to organize your day during the festival would be to start at McGulpin Point, then head up to the hawk count location. Or reverse this and come to the waterbird count if things slow down at the hawk count. Do be aware of the fact I am done earlier though, so plan to be down before 3PM. Even though the road down is in better shape, do use caution coming across the shoreline to the gazebo as there is still patchy ice under the snow that is slick. I will try to walk in a trail that minimizes the icy stretches.  All of the road and ice situation will change tomorrow after the predicted snowfall tonight and tomorrow. This is why I recommend checking the status of the road and approach to the count site regularly here before visiting as this is a highly variable situation this time of year. One simple solution is something like micro- spikes to aid in staying upright.

Another note on the waterbird count site is I am committed to counting from the gazebo. I have considered counting from the car versus counting from the gazebo and my conclusion is I would miss too much sitting inside a car. Basically I would loose all audible cues for birds – the whistling wings of COGO and the calls of all the forest birds behind me. I would loose the higher vantage point as the road is lower and has less of a view of the horizon. If a person wants to max out their bird list while counting at McGulpin, the gazebo is the place to be. The reason I bring that up is you will need lots of warm clothing if your planning on staying more than 15 minutes. I am currently sitting under a tarp when the winds are bad. Clothing looks like this:

wool baselayer
R1 mid layer
60g synthetic coat and bottoms
120 g synthetic parka and pants
convertible fly- fishing mitts
insulated puffy mittens
wool socks
heavy weight mountaineering socks
60g synthetic hot socks
hand warmers and foot warmers
200g synthetic sleeping bag

Total observer hours –


Next days forecast –

Snow. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 31. East wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of around 5 inches. Depending on when the snowfall hits and what the visibility is, probably a good day to go shred Nubs Nob!!!

missing my Carson Range this winter but I will try to put in some good turns at Nubs!

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

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