April 6th Waterbird Count Summary

Weather –

It was mostly cloudy with low clouds hanging over the straits this morning at the start of the count. To the west bands of snow could be seen falling over the lake. Light snow was falling and at times the north shore was obscured in a light fog. It was very still which made for a pleasant start to todays count. Visibility was good to the east, but limited to the west due to fog and a light snow falling.  By 10:00 the winds kicked up out of the north west and within a couple hours it had started to snow. Visibility came and went as bands of snow raced through the straits. By 1:30 the highest wind speeds of the 2018 count were recorded at just under 74kph. This made for blizzard conditions and the count was called off at this time. The temperature had actually dropped one degree since the beginning of the count to -4 C.

Waterbird Notes –

Strong flight of RBME this morning starting right at dawn. 355 RBME moved through in some of the largest groups I have seen thus far on a west to east flight path. Very few COGO, COME and LTDU observed during todays count. For at least the first few hours of the count there was a lot of wet snow that had fallen on top of the lake near the shore ice. This made it so that waterbirds weren’t using the area directly in front of McGulpin Point at the beginning of the count. Birds were commuting from somewhere to the west, going past the gazebo and off to the east along the shoreline.

Non- waterbird Notes –

The McGulpin Point resident adult Bald Eagle was the first raptor spotted today, hauling something ( fish maybe) back to the south side of the straits. Later in the day I saw it rob a S1 BE of its meal. It was an interesting interaction to watch as it is now apparent that the resident bird uses a low approach so as not to be detected by its fellow eagles. It literally swooped right in and nearly onto the back of the younger bird. The younger bird flushed, but came back and perched next to the adult bird that was now feeding on what it had stolen. The entire interaction looked much less violent than the encounters between two adults that I have observed this spring. The fact that the younger bird came back and perched beside the adult also made me curious if they were related.

The exciting observation of the day was 41 Turkey Vultures flying together along the shoreline from east to west over the gazebo. I couldn’t believe it when the entire group flew into view and I made out 41 individuals. They continued west briefly, then came back and crossed the straits from McGulpin Point to somewhere in the vicinity of Point Labarbe. This was during a brief break in the snow bands and clouds, a “sucker hole”. The winds had begun to kick up and no sooner had the TUVU made it to the far side than they disappeared in the next band of snow. I lost sight of them momentarily. 10 minutes later during another lull I could see several of them tilting in the winds and heading back west. The group was completely disorganized though, nothing like the tight formation they had when they flew over McGulpin Point.

Two SACR came back across the straits from south to north. I don’t know if these are resident birds or if they were migrants that got part way out across the straits and realized they couldn’t make it in these winds.




American Century west bound at 11:30 and Pere Marquette east bound at the same time. I didn’t realize two ships could pass one another in the shipping channel, but now I know.

Visitors –

Leonard Graf joined me for about 1.5 hours of the count today. It was nice to see that Leonard and my tally of RBME was ballpark to each other at the end of the day. I had an opportunity to visit with 2 employees of Enbridge who were down marking something with regards to the pipeline. Really nice guys, one from Maine and the other a Canadian from Alberta. They wanted to know what I was doing under a tarp other than freezing.

The road and best approach update hasn’t changed since yesterdays post. Parking in the McGulpin Lighthouse parking lot is advised and walking down the Chi- Sin trail is your best bet.

Darrell Lawson has worked his magic and has our Live Waterbird Updates page up! You can click this link and follow the waterbird migration in real time going forward.

Total observer hours – 6.5

Next days forecast –

Scattered snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29. Breezy, with a west wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Todays tally is posted on eBird here.

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