I have to apologize for the missing blogs, there has been some technological glitches and WiFi errors here on my end. However, here is an update on what the November season has looked like so far.
Long-tailed Ducks had moved through the area fairly consistently all throughout late October, but had begun to trickle in those last few days. I went into November with limited expectations for high numbers and thought that the peak season (Over 4,500 in a day) had already passed.
Once again, and like most of my predictions for this waterbird season, I was wrong. After being unable to count on Nov 1st due to weather conditions, Nov 2nd brought with it a cold wind, flurry of rain, and an astronomical amount of long-tailed ducks. It started off relatively slow, so I was excitedly scanning the skies for rough-legged hawks and golden eagles, but then I saw it. A line of small birds clearing the South tower of the bridge, about 100 long-tails. Pretty good start, but I thought it would be the only large flock I saw. Yet, this line of 100 just kept going, and going, and going. Next thing I remember there was a massive cluster of birds coming in from the East and joining the already massive line of birds, and the flock reached close to 900 individuals. All moving West straight into a headwind. I couldn’t believe it, they came so close that I could see all of the beautiful subtleties of each bird. The rest of the day had a flock of long-tails with every scan of the binoculars, but none matched the grandeur of this early group. At the end of the day on Nov 2, I had tallied over 6,600 long-tailed ducks in 8 hours. I didn’t bother to check the totals until the day was over and could barely believe that’s what the data was telling me.
Nov 3rd didn’t equal the number of long-tails as the day prior, but was an incredible movement in its own right. Just over 3,700 birds flew by that day to bring my 2-day total for the 2nd and 3rd to over 10,300 individuals. Nearly doubling my season total from before. The birds on Nov 3rd at Graham Point were much more inclined to rest on the water for a while before moving on, and a few came within naked-eye distance, something rare as the waterbird counter to experience!
While Nov 4th didn’t have the same luck with long-tailed ducks as the days previous, I managed to have a great day on the water. This marked the beginning of a heat-spell in the area, and the day hovered close to 60 degrees throughout. Early in the morning there was a frantic scene as a juvenile Iceland Gull (kumlieni type) flew right past as I was scanning for duck flocks. About 30 minutes later, a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were heading South past the bridge. Then 20 minutes after that, a juvenile Glaucous Gull hovered in the channel for a long while before moving on. This was amazing for me as gulls are my favorite group of birds, and seeing 5 species in a day (including ring-billed and herring) was incredible. But the day wasn’t done, and with an hour left in the count, a small group of Bonaparte’s Gulls went past the point to bring my daily gull total up to 6 and season total to 8!
I know that these last few paragraphs make November seem exciting, which it was, but the last 3 days have been something different, slow. With seemingly most of the long-tails passed through, there are very few birds actively migrating now. Redheads still raft on the water and common goldeneyes frequently float down the channel then fly back up it. However, there hasn’t been the large flocks that I was spoiled with in those first few days. Additionally, I hadn’t seen anything in the way of rare birds until yesterday, Nov 6th. In the last few hours of the count, a female Harlequin Duck was foraging about 20 ft offshore from Mcgulpin Point. The bird was so close that it was hard to get a photo through the scope because it wouldn’t focus. This one bird made it exciting to stand and count despite not seeing much in terms of migrants.