Waterbird Summary fall 2015

The Macinac Straits Raptor Watch sponsored a Waterbird count at the Mackinac Straits from Aug. 23 till Nov. 10, 2015.  The count was conducted to determine if there are sufficient numbers of waterbirds moving through the Straits area to conduct a complete waterbird count in the future.  Observations were done from McGulpin Point which lies on the south side of the Straits near the west edge of the lower peninsula, in Emmet Co..  Effort was made to conduct observations on at least 3 days each week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sat. or Sun.) for a minimum of 3 hrs., beginning at sunrise each day.

Volunteer observers included Steve Baker, Bill Grigg, Darrell Lawson, and Ed Pike.  Observations were done with binoculars and a spotting scope; noting birds that were on the water resting, while counting all waterbirds flying through the area in apparent migration.  Direction of travel was noted for all migrants.  Counts were also taken of other species migrating south across the Straits to the lower Peninsula.

Observations occurred on 60 days with a total of 169.5 hours of observation time.  A total of 28 species of waterbirds were counted migrating through the Straits; with 18,164 individual birds counted.  In order of highest numbers counted, the most common were Redhead, Long-tailed Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, White-winged Scoter, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, and Canada goose.  A surprising observation was of Great Egrets seen on 4 days in August with a single bird on 2 days and large flocks on 2 days with a total of 69.  Jaegar (unknown species) were observed flying through the area on 2 occasions.   The total list with the numbers of individuals counted are shown below:

1 Snow Goose 30 15 Long-tailed Duck 2365
2 Canada Goose 658 16 Bufflehead 217
3 Mute Swan 9 17 C. Goldeneye 292
4 Trumpeter Swan 6 18 Hooded Merganser 2
Swan sp. 4 19 C. Merganser 407
5 Wood Duck 5 20 Red-breasted Merg. 269
6 Gadwall 31 21 Red-throated Loon 29
7 Am. Wigeon 42 22 C. Loon 902
8 Am. Black Duck 3 Loon sp. 19
9 Mallard 78 23 Horned Grebe 119
Teal sp. 41 24 Red-necked Grebe 677
10 Redhead 2760 25 Dbl.-crested Cormorant 1694
11 Greater Scaup 65 Duck Sp. 3765
Aythya sp. 2529 26 Jaegar sp. 2
12 Surf Scoter 16 27 Great Egret 69
13 White-winged Scoter 1022 28 Bonaparte’s Gull 8
14 Black Scoter 7 Total individuals 18164
Unid. Dk. Winged Scoter 22  

Other species, counted during the Waterbird Count, migrating south from the upper to the lower Peninsula were:

Turkey Vulture 178
Bald Eagle 77
Peregrine Falcon 1
Am. Kestrel 1
Golden Eagle 1
Merlin 10
Sharp-shinned Hawk 39
Cooper’s Hawk 1
N. Goshawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 4
N.  Harrier 43
Sandhill Crane 271
Am. Crow 1563
C. Raven 43
Total individuals 2234


Also noted were 5 Monarch Butterflies flying south across the Straits.

These observations provide a baseline representation of the numbers of waterbirds migrating through the Mackinac Straits during fall migration.  Continued more extensive counts will provide a better picture of the migration.

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