Category Archives: Waterbird Count 2015

Late migration waterbird count

On Nov 10, 2015 Ed Pike conducted the last scheduled waterbird count from 7:50 am till 10 am.  The count was slow with few birds moving.  The winds were light from the south which probably kept many birds from migrating or even moving around.  Conditions over the water were hazy leading to a reduced visibility making it difficult to see across the Straits.

C. Merganser 4, Gadwall 1, Long-tailed Duck 11, C. Goldeneye 1, C. Loon 3 sitting on the water with 1 flying toward the east.  Swan sp. 2 flying south, and Duck sp. 8.

Although we did not document large numbers of waterbirds migrating through the Straits area we did have some interesting sightings as with the Common Egrets seen early in the count period.  The numbers of loons counted over the fall shows a large number of Loons migrate through the Straits area.  Although the count of Redheads was not large on a daily basis from McGalpin Point, counts taken from the area at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge give an estimate of 5000 on Nov. 2.  Daily counts for 8 hours would definitely increase the numbers and possilbly the species counted.

Waterbirds – 11/17 – Goldeneyes!

The waterbird count on Saturday started out with a bang. I had difficulty keeping up with the number of Common Goldeneyes that were flying by. One flock even contained a Hooded Merganser. I believe this was the first Hoody I had counted during the waterbird count. By the end of the first hour the Goldeneye had slowed significantly, but Red-breasted Mergansers then took over to keep things interesting. Other notable species included Red-throated Loons. Ten of them flew by. Of the identified Loons, this meant that more Red-throated than Common were counted, although a few unidentified Loons went by as well. Here are the numbers with some photos and videos to follow.

Species East West
Common Goldeneye 12 173
Loon sp. 3 0
Hooded Mergansers 0 1
Common Loon 6 1
Red-breasted Merganser 9 66
Long-tailed Duck 2 29
Duck sp. 6 41
Mallard 2 0
Red-throated Loon 9 1
Redhead 0 10
Bufflehead 6 4
Surf/Black Scoter 0 9
White-winged Scoter 14 14

One of a few Bald Eagles that were flying around the straits.


A flock of Common Goldeneye.


An early morning flock of Common Goldeneye. Even as a silhouette the identification is relatively obvious (for those with experience waterbird counting anyway).


Red-breasted Mergansers

Waterbirds for November 5

it was supposed to be a foggy morning but a visit to the bridge view cam showed pretty good visibility at 6 am so I did a few hours of observation at McGulpin Point. Migration has definitely slowed to a trickle. Several flocks of 20-50 small birds, probably finches, were seen headed south, but none were close enough to ID.

RB Merganser 2
Common Loon 3
Unidentified Flying Ducks 33
Mallard 2
Long-tailed duck 12
C. Goose 19

A foggy morning

On Nov. 3 Ed Pike did a waterbird count 7:20 am till 9:50 am, from McGalpin Point.  The Straits were foggy and I could not see the bridge.  I believe there was about a mile of visibility.  In the second hour the fog started to lift and I could see almost half of the bridge.  Then the fog moved back in and the bridge disappeared again.  Only a few waterbirds seen with such low visibility.  The other problem was that every time I went to use my spotting scope the lenses would be fogged up and needed to be wiped off to see.

C. Loon    3                                                                                                                                                        C. Merganser         2                                                                                                                                Mute Swan             4                                                                                                                                         Red-necked Grebe            5                                                                                                                White-winged Scoter           5                                                                                                         Canada Goose                 4                                                                                                                         Long-tailed Duck              33                                                                                                                       C. Goldeneye                       5                                                                                                                   Duck sp.                 76

Two C. Crows were seen flying south across the Straits.  Very few gulls were seen; only a few Ring-billed Gulls.  The D. C. Cormorants seem to have all moved south.  Hoping for better conditions nest time.

November 1 waterbirds

Goldeneye 1
Long-tailed Duck. 158
Buffleheads. 11
Unidentified duck. 107
Redhead. 4
Common Loon 34
Red-throated Loon 1
Mallard 1
WW Scoter 3
R-b Merganser 1

Bald Eagles 6
Snow Bunting 1

Blustery west winds with driving rain showers slowed migration until the 3rd hour when the sun poked through and the birds perked up. Common Loons totaled 23 the 3rd hour , all east bound. Photo shows flock of crows and Bald Eagle following the bridge south.



Lots O’ Long-tails

While the count was generally pretty slow on Saturday, October 31st, there were plenty of Long-tailed Ducks moving.  Almost 500 (497) were counted heading west, compared to a meager 72 going east.  Other than Long-tails, a few Bufflehead, Common Mergansers, and White-winged Scoters were seen.  Twenty-five American Crows was a relatively light number compared to recent counts.  They were joined by three Common Ravens.  Two Bonaparte’s Gulls flying east were a highlight.  Here is the total breakdown of the count.

Species East West
Common Loon 1 1
Mallard 5 0
Long-tailed Duck 72 497
Bufflehead 0 3
Duck sp. 0 108
White-winged Scoter 0 13
Red-necked Grebe 0 1
Common Merganser 0 4
Greater Scaup 3 0
Bonaparte’s Gull 2 0

A slow morning of waterbirds

On Oct. 29, 2015 Ed Pike and Steve Baker counted waterbirds.  Waterbird movement was very slow with light southwesterly winds, cloudy skies and drizzle.  Waterbirds seen were:

Mallard                           4                                                                                                                                     C. Goldeneye            7                                                                                                                                    C. Merganser                 27                                                                                                                            C. Loon                          6                                                                                                                                      Horned Grebe              5                                                                                                                        Long-tailed Duck             38                                                                                                              White-winged Scoter       2                                                                                                                  Red-breasted Merganser    1                                                                                                              Duck sp.                               3                                                                                                                             also seen flying south across the Straits were:                                                                                C. Crow                                  69                                                                                                                 One adult Bald Eagle was seen flying north across the straits (maybe confused).  After conducting the count we traveled north across the bridge and saw the Redheads by the north end on the east side; many were near the bridge with a string of them extending to the east for a half mile or more.  We estimated 3,500 in the flock.

A Feast Of Crows – And Good Diversity

This weekend I counted on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  To say that Saturday was slow would be a monumental understatement.  Very few birds were counted throughout the day, although the diversity was not bad.  It was just that only one or two birds was typical for a species.  American Crows flew over from the Upper Peninsula in good numbers with 205 being counted, but that was about it.  Anyway, here are Saturday’s numbers.

Species East West
Double-crested Cormorant 0 2
Shorebird Sp. 0 1
Mallard 5 0
Horned Grebe 0 1
Common Loon 1 0
Common Goldeneye 1 1
American Wigeon 3 0
American Black Duck 0 1
Lesser Scaup 0 2
Greater Scaup 2 0
Long-tailed Duck 48 23
White-winged Scoter 0 9

Sunday’s numbers were quite a bit better.  There was quite a bit of species diversity, although the number were not high, they were much more respectable than on Saturday.  Here is the breakdown.

Species East West
Common Merganser 5 4
Duck sp. 44 24
Common Goldeneye 0 3
Common Loon 1 1
Long-tailed Duck 82 31
Bufflehead 60 28
Aythya sp. 6 0
Readhead 75 100
White-winged Scoter 4 14
Greater Scaup 7 2
Red-necked Grebe 0 5
Merganser sp. 4 2
American Wigeon 3 17
Loon sp. 5 0
Red-breasted Merganser 0 2
Mallard 4 0
Red-throated Loon 3 0
Black Scoter 1 0

Redheads are gathering!

Every autumn large flocks of ducks gather in the Lake Huron waters at the North end of the Mackinac Bridge. Rafts of thousands can be seen when northbound on the bridge. The vast majority are Redheads but study of photos usually show a few Canvasbacks and Scaup in the mix. They are often so tightly packed that they appear as dark smudges on the water. These rafts will remain until ice up and can be a spectacular show when taking to the air. Already this October there are at least a few thousand present with more to come.