Waterbirds slowed by wind and weather (Cheboygan SP)

3/29: A slow day off Cheboygan State Park, as a persistent NW wind offshore was working against migrants, and had additionally driven a large mass of ice sheets into the channel. Numbers were good in the first hour, especially among gulls, which turned up in the hundreds in the hour around sunrise, when the wind was lighter. Decent numbers of goldeneyes and mergansers, too, although groups of both were seen loafing and feeding throughout the morning, so many may be moving locally. A single flock of mallards and one of ring-necks rounded out duck numbers for this hour.

In the ensuing hours, wind increased, and migration slowed to a trickle by 10 AM, with just a pair of geese and a handful of gulls moving North amidst otherwise local movements. Scattered passerine movements, with grackles, red-wings, robins, and two more Eastern bluebirds on the move. Also picked out what I determined was an acceptable candidate for a rusty blackbird—its flight call stood out as immediately distinct from the other icterids, and matched pretty closely with recordings.

Hourly totals:

eBird list: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54348859

3/30: Even slower day, as a massive snow front was moving through from the Southwest, just a few miles South of the watch location. Cloud movement confirmed that winds in this system were persistent, and the snow was falling heavily, as it obscured much of the Eastern horizon. 

This front was almost certainly acting as a near-impenetrable migratory barrier, as Northward fliers up Michigan’s East coast would have to work very hard not to be swept off to the East. This effect was visibly the case, as the only ducks moving in North substantial numbers were seen at a distance of maybe five miles—barely visible through the scope, and moving around the East side of Bois Blanc Island with the wind. 

Movements within identifiable range were essentially nonexistent, with a single flock of mallards the only Northward-flying ducks besides goldeneyes, long-tails and mergansers (many of which, again, were likely local birds). The largest collective movement (4 Canada goose, 2 red-breasted mergs, and 6 goldeneyes) was produced by a passing immature bald eagle. Even the previously hardy gulls were in short supply, and these were flying much higher than their congeners in the previous few days. 

The largest flock seen was one of 18 Canada geese, which flew in low from inland and headed ENE towards Bois Blanc Island (most geese entering the channel here over the past few days have tended a bit more Easterly than passing duck flocks, but these birds were headed almost due East. 

With a check of the radar, I found the front would not be passing until afternoon, so I headed to the Cheboygan River mouth at 9:30 to see if any fallouts were loafing around. This location was relatively unproductive, too. Large numbers of geese and mergansers were loafing, but these were likely local birds, as were the pair of greater scaup and the ring-neck male nearby. Decent movement out beyond the ice edge, but again entirely goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, and long-tailed duck, and with no strong Northward trend.

Promising signs, though, as a large wedge of open water out towards Bois Blanc appears to be making its way towards the Bridge, so hopefully the straits open up soon! Red-winged blackbirds, grackles, mourning doves, and song sparrows singing aplenty.

Hourly totals (Cheboygan SP):

eBird lists:

Cheboygan SP: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54392828

Cheboygan River: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S54366121

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