The End of the 2020 Fall Season

Nov 9th was my last full day of counting, as Nov 10th was an overall miserable weather day. So with the season coming to an official end, I thought it would be great to break down this record year of waterbird migration.

From Aug 20th, 2020 until Nov 10th, 2020 I counted 79 days and 614 hours (some days were cut short of 8 hrs due to weather). Mcgulpin point was surveyed 40 times and Graham 39.

The most abundant species I saw throughout the season were redheads (Aythya americana) and long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis). I counted 33,612 redheads. This number is inflated due to the large raft of birds seen almost daily the last few weeks from Graham Point. Once I have access to the data on just migrating redheads, this may provide a better estimate for the total number passing through. The largest raft I saw during the season was close to 6,000 birds resting on the water.

The second most abundant species was the long-tailed duck, which for the most part migrated through with little interest in resting on the water. I recorded 26,287 individuals during the season. The most I observed in a single day was 6,600, and although the migration duration for this bird was narrow, it was the most active migrant in the Straits.

The next two highest totals were the categories “Duck Sp.” and “Aythya Sp.”. Unidentified duck flocks were common in the beginning of the season as well as in the middle when large and distant groups were passing in all directions. The short time spent with a given group of birds led to many flocks not being identified. Additionally, Aythya flocks were a common group of birds, and these were likely mostly redheads, but due to distance some of these groups couldn’t be assigned to species. Aythya are a genus of diving ducks that include the redheads, scaup, canvasback, and ring-necked ducks. The group has a very characteristic flight pattern that is discernable at great distances, but subtleties between the species can be somewhat more difficult to tease out. Even though many of these Aythya flocks were redheads, it was best to leave them classified to just genus. I recorded 8,341 unidentified ducks and 7,525 unidentified Aythya species.

Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) was the next most abundant species with 2,866 individuals recorded. There was a good balance of resting and migrating birds, and this species was observed throughout the entirety of the fall season. The consistency and occasional large days of migrants equaled a great season for this species.

Double-crested cormorants were extremely difficult to separate as migrants or local foragers in the early part of the season. I recored 2,637 individuals, but the true total could easily be skewed in either direction. The same thing applied for other locally breeding birds such as ring-billed and herring gulls. These birds were attempted to only be recorded when actively migrating, but this behavior can be somewhat difficult to ascertain in many groups.

2,464 canada geese (Branta canadensis) were recorded. Most were migrants, but a few small groups were observed resting on beaches or in the channel. White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca) were observed in a narrow window towards the end of the season as well, but I observed 2,155 during the counts. A few of these birds were resting on the water, but many were active migrants.

Not waterbirds, but 1,605 monarch butterflies were observed!

Common Loons (Gavia immer) were a common species throughout the season as 1,765 individuals were observed. This was one of the most consistently seen species on the year and was recorded on nearly every survey. The most seen in one day was 184.

Red-necked grebes were the most abundant migrant when the season started in August, however they tapered off quickly and became usual species resting in the channel. I recorded 1,036 individuals on the season, with the most in a day being 176.

Here is a look at all of the other birds observed during the fall 2020 season

redhead – 33,612

long-tailed duck – 26,287

duck sp – 8,341

aythya sp – 7,525

sandhill crane – 5,289

american crow – 3,689

red-breasted merganser – 2,866

turkey vulture – 2,667

double-crested cormorant – 2,637

canada goose – 2,464

white-winged scoter – 2,155

common loon – 1,734

monarch butterfly – 1,605

ring-billed gull – 1,595

mallard – 1,051

red-necked grebe – 1,036

greater/lesser scaup – 971

common merganser – 842

herring gull – 808

common goldeneye – 628

greater scaup – 461

bald eagle – 424

bufflehead – 412

black-capped chickadee 355

red-tailed hawk – 326

sharp-shinned hawk – 237

bonaparte’s gull – 227

horned grebe – 213

gull sp – 199

snow bunting – 179

common redpoll – 173

merganser sp. – 158

common grackle – 147

common raven – 124

cedar waxwing – 120

scoter sp – 116

blue jay – 109

pine siskin – 103

european starling – 93

red-throated loon – 82

american goldfinch – 82

lesser scaup – 81

dabbling duck sp – 74

american wigeon – 72

loon sp – 72

song sparrow – 72

blue-winged teal – 71

american pipit – 71

teal sp – 60

red-breasted nuthatch – 56

surf/black scoter – 55

green-winged teal – 53

black scoter – 53

hooded merganser – 53

yellow-rumped warbler – 47

horned lark – 43

downy woodpecker – 40

american black duck – 39

runy-throated hummingbird – 38

golden-crowned kinglet – 38

american redstart – 37

red-eyed vireo – 34

dark-eyed junco – 34

mute swan – 33

blackbird sp – 30

northern harrier – 28

hairy woodpecker – 26

tufted titmouse – 25

trumpeter swan – 23

merlin – 22

mourning dove – 21

northern cardinal – 20

surf scoter – 19

palm warbler – 19

rough-legged hawk – 19

barn swallow – 18

cackling goose – 17

white-breasted nuthatch – 17

peep sp – 16

northern shoveler – 14

white-crowned sparrow – 14

red-winged blackbird – 14

american robin – 14

sanderling – 13

belted kingfisher – 13

pileated woodpecker – 13

northern flicker – 12

white-throated sparrow – 12

black-and-white warbler – 12

evening grosbeak – 11

northern parula – 10

caspian tern – 9

spotted sandpiper – 9

black-throated green warbler – 9

savannah sparrow – 9

semipalmated sandpiper – 8

cliff swallow – 8

lapland longspur – 8

great Black-backed gull – 6

brown creeper – 6

ruby-crowned kinglet – 6

american tree sparrow – 6

chipping sparrow – 6

cooper’s hawk – 5

broad-winged hawk – 5

great blue berhon – 5

canvasback – 5

red-headed woodpecker – 5

nashville warbler – 5

osprey – 4

wood duck – 4

american golden-plover – 4

peregrine falcon – 4

blue-headed vireo – 4

tree swallow – 4

blackpoll warbler – 4

golden eagle – 3

gadwall – 3

common tern – 3

parasitic jaeger – 3

jaeger sp – 3

northern pintail – 3

eastern phoebe – 3

yellow warbler – 3

rusty blackbird – 3

purple finch – 3

house sparrow – 3

red-shouldered hawk – 2

snow goose – 2

lesser black-backed gull – 2

pied-billed grebe – 2

greater yellowlegs – 2

wilson’s warbler – 2

scarlet tanager – 2

common yellowthroat – 2

magnolia warbler – 2

goose sp – 1

tundra swan – 1

sabine’s gull – 1

iceland gull – 1

glaucous gull – 1

least sandpiper – 1

killdeer – 1

ring-necked duck – 1

ruddy duck – 1

harlequin duck – 1

chimney swift – 1

red-bellied woodpecker – 1

olive-sided flycatcher – 1

eastern wood-pewee – 1

philadelphia vireo – 1

marsh wren – 1

carolina wren – 1

canada warbler – 1

eastern towhee – 1

rose-breasted grosbeak – 1

gray catbird – 1

blackburnian warbler – 1

pine warbler – 1

house finch – 1

red crossbill – 1

hoary redpoll – 1

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