March 24th Waterbird Count Summary

Herring Gull loafing along the shore ice


20 degrees out as I made my way down to the count location this morning. It was impressive to see the straits completely free of ice ( minus the shore ice) since I left yesterday afternoon. The temperature started at -7 degrees C at 7:30AM and managed to warm up 1 degree by 11:30. Winds were steady all morning at 12-19kph out of the NE. Wave action was noticeable at 2-3ft which is tall enough for a waterbird to be hidden behind. As usual excellent visibility over 16km. Barometric pressure held steady throughout the day. It should be noted that until temperatures rise above freezing all weather measurements with the exception of temperature are being read off the Mackinac Straits Bridge weather station.

Waterbird Notes-

Common Merganser were the first waterbirds detected moving shortly after dawn to take advantage of the newly opened straits. By 8:30AM things started to pick up with both Red-breasted Merganser and Common moving into the straits to fish. This continued into the 9:00 hour with Mallard, American Black Duck and Herring Gull moving through. It was nice to have birds come through mostly on a East to West or West to East flight path directly in front of the count site for really good views. By 9:30AM duck movements tapered off to be overtaken by Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. Some Herring Gull perched on the shore ice right in front of the count site and I was happy to watch them enjoying their newly opened up territory. Some Canada Goose were noted early at the start of the count and again near noon but very distant near St. Helena Island or the far northern shore of the straits.

Non-waterbird Notes-

First bird of the day was an adult Bald Eagle flying low over the count site. My guess would be this was the same bird perched on the ice nearby later in the morning. It is my assumption that I likely flushed the bird off the high blocks of blue ice that are growing in height as more ice blows into the straits and piles into the shore ice. Later in the morning an immature Bald Eagle was seen flying off of St. Helena Island. The most exciting observation of the day was a Merlin flying off of Gros Cap. It was obviously a notable bird from a distance and lucky for me it turned and came directly at me for a closer look, crossing the straits from North to South. It may be a resident bird that was detected later in the day up at the alternate hawk count site hunting starling. The power and limited time it took for the bird to cross the straits is impressive, compared to watching the corvids “row” themselves slowly across the straits. In addition to the raptors the usual cast of characters were noted in the forest behind the count site.


Ed Pike.

Total observer hours – 7.25

Next Day Forecast-

Clear with a high of 33. East wind 10 to 15 mph.

I also wanted to add that all the daily totals are being posted to the eBird hotspot for McGulpin Point at:

Canada Goose – 17
American Black Duck – 2
Mallard – 4
Common Merganser – 16
Red- breasted Merganser – 3
merganser sp. – 18
duck sp. – 20
Herring Gull – 8
gull sp. – 115

Bald Eagle – 1 Adult 1 Immature
Merlin – 1
American Crow – 8
Common Raven – 3
Black- capped Chickadee – 1
Common Redpoll – 7
Pine Siskin – 10

Adult Bald Eagle perched in the ice jam

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