Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fall 2009 Summary


101611 individuals of 73 species of waterbirds were seen during this fall's count. The number of individuals is about 20 thousand birds above average. This was the second-highest amount of individuals seen in a fall and only the third fall with 6-figure individuals. This includes all of the "reasonable" ducks such as uncommon species like Eider species, Harlequin Duck, Canvasback, Hooded Merganser, and Wood Duck.

For the most part, the weather was accommodating for observation. Fog, haze, rain, and snow only hindered possible observation a relatively low amount of days. September and November were unusually gorgeous and August was normal. October was colder and wetter than normal but most of the rain fell at night. Snow only fell a few days with accumulation once.

The five most common species were:

Long-tailed Duck- 32841 (2nd highest seasonal count)
Red-necked Grebe- 10407
Scaup sp.- 7504
Red-breasted Merganser- 7178
Canada Goose- 5792

The only record high seasonal count set this fall was for Harlequin Duck which tied the seasonal record of 7. Scoters were drastically different between species with 255 Blacks-- a second highest seasonal count, 173 Surfs-- a second lowest count, and 3163 White-wingeds, a slightly above average number.

Noteworthy waterfowl seen this fall were Snow and Cackling Goose, Canvasback, Eider species on two different days, Pacific Loon, Western Grebe, Long-tailed Jaeger, Franklin's Gull, Iceland Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine's Gull, and Forster's Tern. Interesting shorebirds included Piping Plover (the first time they bred on the point in 23 years), 12 Whimbrel (2nd highest fall count), Long-billed Dowitcher (4th point record) and Red Phalarope. Noteworthy non-waterbirds seen from the waterbird count were Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Owl, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Tufted Titmouse (1st point record). Mammals also provided some highlights including Bull Moose, Red Fox, and a canine that was either a Wolf or large unusually marked Coyote.

Finally, I would just like to say that I had a great time as the fall waterbird counter. I would like to thank Chris Neri for spelling me once a week and joining me during the afternoons. I would especially like to thank all of the birders and visitors who stopped by during the count. It was great to spend time with the regular point birders and it was wonderful to meet new people almost every day.

Have a great winter everyone!
Tom Prestby



Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15, 2009- BL Kittiwake

The 2009 fall waterbird count closed out with a much better day than any day the past week. The weather was much more typical of November with temps near 40 and winds out of the west at 30-40mph.

Waterfowl: Not large numbers by any means but better numbers than the past week and a steady trickle of birds throughout the day. Species diversity was up as well with 9 today. Highlights were a close flyby Red-throated Loon (one of three today) and 11 White-winged Scoters-- two of which officially represented the final birds detected during the fall 2009 waterbird count.

Gulls: An exhilarating highlight of the day was a juvenile BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE seen during the fifth hour of the count. We were able to watch the bird for several minutes as it effortlessly sailed NW straight into the 30mph headwind. This was the first of the season and great to see after I thought it may not happen this fall.

Other: A fun sighting was a Sharp-tailed Grouse that flew out of the woods near the merlin pole and flew a lap around the tip of the point before tucking back into the woods near the ponds.

Stay tuned for a season wrap-up post!

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

November 14, 2009

It was another warmer than normal day (about 50 degrees) but cloudy all day. The pattern of extremely slow waterbird movement continued-- 16 total birds were seen. The highlight was a NORTHERN HAWK OWL that made its way out to the tree line after being banded earlier in the day. This was the second Hawk Owl in the past 3 days at the point.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009

The November duldrums continue at the waterbird shack. Temps were in the upper 40's and a fairly strong wind blew out of the South all day. I could not even reach double-digit waterbirds today-- 9 migrating waterbirds were seen. Other highlights were a Northern Goshawk and the return of our pet Glaucous Gull after a one day absence.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 11 & 12- 2009

Chris covered the count on my day off today and had the same results as I had yesterday-- very few birds. I saw 16 total migrating waterbirds yesterday and he saw 13 today. The only birds showing with any consistency now are Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Red-necked Grebe.

Fortunately, the weather remains very pleasant so standing on the point when no birds are flying by is much easier than it would be during a "normal" November.

The highlight of the day today was a NORTHERN HAWK OWL that was seen during the morning and seen again and banded at dusk.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 10, 2009

It was another November day when a winter hat, boots, and gloves were an afterthought and the idea of hand warmers was a joke. Temps were in the lower 50's, winds were calm, and there were almost no clouds in the sky.

Waterfowl: The November doldrums continue with Red-breasted Merganser (28) being the only waterbird that reached double digits. The highlight was a group of 4 male Common Mergansers that were back into alternate plumage-- the first mergansers of the fall that I have seen in alternate plumage.

Gulls: The two Glaucous Gulls are still around but nothing unusual.

Other: There was a decent Redpoll movement this morning with 136 counted coming in off the lake. A late Barn Swallow was hunting the unusually abundant insects that were also enjoying the warm weather.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009- Wolf/Coyote

The September-like weather pattern is holding strong as temps were in the lower 50's again with sunny skies and a light to moderate wind out of the West.

Waterfowl: Extremely quiet- the only species in which more than 5 individuals were seen were Red-breasted Merganser and Red-necked Grebe. Two Red-throated Loons were the most exciting waterfowl of the day.

Gulls: A very interesting small gull was seen during the first hour but it was too far for a positive ID. The Glaucous Gull now spends more time at the shack than the Ring-billeds do.

Other: An incredible sighting this morning was a GRAY WOLF (see photos) that casually trotted towards us and got fairly close before seeing us and bolting back to the cover of the trees. To my knowledge, a wolf has never been seen at Whitefish Point although they are obviously present in the surrounding area. Some other highlights that paled in comparison were an adult Northern Goshawk and a few Red Crossbills and Redpolls.

Photo by Don Jennette

UPDATE: Because of a little uncertainty Chris and I had about the wolf I have passed along the photos to several "experts" in mammal ID. I have received mixed answers about the animal's ID but some feel that this may be a Coyote. This is mainly because my picture shows a rather narrow and pointy snout/muzzle and long pointy ears and Don's photo shows an overbite. These traits are all suggestive of Coyote. If it is a Coyote, it is much more fully coated than normal and is abnormally pigmented. It lacks the reddish tones on the upper legs, chest, and face, which most but not all Coyotes show.

I will update the blog further with any more word on the ID of this canine.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8, 2009

The same pattern as the last several days continues at the point: amazingly gorgeous November weather but slow birding. Temps hit the mid 50's today and would have been higher if it weren't for a thick cloud bank that rolled in during the afternoon.

Waterfowl: Red-breasted Mergansers (57) and Common Goldeneye (49) were the most common species. Mallard were the only dabbler and Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common and Red-throated Loon, and Horned and Red-necked Grebe were seen in small numbers.

Gulls: There are now two juvenile Glaucous Gulls hanging out. The newer bird is lighter colored than the dark juvenile that frequents the shack. Here are some more pictures of them:



Other: The highlight was a nice flock of Bohemian Waxwings working the tree line during the afternoon.

I promise that I'll post pictures of something besides Glaucous Gulls tomorrow!

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 7, 2009

Temps were abnormally warm again with highs in the low 50's. The sun broke out in the afternoon to make it feel much more like September than November.

Waterfowl: Another slow day. Red-necked Grebe (31) and Long-tailed Duck (27) were the most common species with lower numbers of Mallard, White-winged and Black Scoter, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, and Horned Grebe.

Gulls: The Glaucous Gull continues to frequent the shack with some Ring-billeds and Herrings. Here are some pictures of it from today:



Other: Highlights were a Common Grackle and a late Turkey Vulture. If those two species don't excite the readers of this blog I don't know what will...

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, November 6, 2009

November 6, 2009

It was warmer today but SE winds were very strong-- almost 40mph. Skies were partly to mostly cloudy for most of the day.

Waterfowl: A very quiet day because of the strong SE winds. Low numbers of Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, and only a couple loons were seen.

Gulls: The highlight of the day was the Glaucous Gull who is now a regular at the shack. It has a very picky appetite, it loves pretzels but will not touch wheat thins, triscuits, goldfish, or trail mix. Below are several pictures of the bird:





Other: Kirk Zufelt found an immature male KING EIDER at the river mouth just south of Paradise. The bird was present and watched by a few birders until dusk.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5, 2009

Chris covered the count today on my day off. It was mostly cloudy and chilly with occasional snow squalls and a brisk wind. There were decent numbers of Bufflehead and Goldeneye but otherwise it was pretty slow. The exciting news of the day is that a Glaucous Gull has joined the begging Ring-billeds and Herrings at the shack. Chris said that it prefers pretzels over the other snacks we have available for the gulls. He got some excellent photos of it which can be seen on his sightings blog.

I spent my day playing with my new camera and had some real good luck with a few birds at the harbor. This Red-necked Grebe was hanging out near the boat launch:


And this Snow Bunting was one of about a dozen feeding in the grassy areas of the parking area:


Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

November 4, 2009- Snow Geese

It was another very typical early November day weather-wise. Showers ended early and the rest of the day was mostly cloudy with a high in the low 40's. Winds were shifting around all day and ended up out of the SE.

Waterfowl: The highlight was a flyover by a group of 27 Snow Geese during the first hour. The vocalizing group included 15 white and 12 blue morphs. Aside from another good day by Long-tailed Duck (273) and Goldeneye (130), things were pretty quiet. An additional highlight was a mixed group of 6 Black Ducks and 4 Mallards that flew over.

Gulls: A Glaucous Gull was seen in the bay. A Herring Gull (pictured below) has joined the Ring-billeds that beg for food at the shack.

Other: A very fun day for the "other" category. Calm winds in the morning meant I could hear and see a lot of birds flying around the treeline including a Black-backed Woodpecker, a very good number of Red Crossbills (about 30), a Redpoll mixed in with a large flock of Goldfinches and Siskins, and a group of 20 Evening Grosbeaks that came in off the lake from the north.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009- Goldeneyes & late jaeger

It was a partly sunny and chilly day with temps in the 30's and moderate winds out of the NW.

Waterfowl: There was a good waterbird migration in the morning but things really tapered off in the afternoon. Goldeneye had their best day of the fall with 381 seen and Bufflehead had another good day with 104 seen. All three species of scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated and Common Loons, and Red-necked Grebes were seen in smaller numbers.

Gulls/Terns: A jaeger was seen during the third hour of the count. Unfortunately, it was distant and no field marks could be seen. Also, a Glaucous Gull was seen during the last hour of the count. Here's a picture of the bird with a ship in the background:


Other: Not much besides a flyover Goshawk and a brief visit from a Northern Shrike.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Count

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009- Canvasbacks

It felt a lot more like November today with a dark gray sky, occasional showers, and temps in the lower 40's. Winds shifted from the SE in the morning to the W in the afternoon.

Waterfowl: Another good day for numbers and variety. The highlight was 12 Canvasbacks (10 in one group and 2 in another). Although they are a common migrant south of here, they are a fairly rare bird this far north and east. Long-tailed Duck was the most common species today with 763 seen. Goldeneye and Bufflehead had another good day with 93 each. There was a great loon movement in the afternoon with 50 loons seen in the last two hours of the count. 77 Loons were seen total today- 70 Common and 7 Red-throated. Greater and Lesser Scaup, all three scoter species, Common and Red-breasted Merganser, and Horned and Red-necked Grebe were also seen today.

Gulls: An (the?) adult Great Black-backed Gull was present this afternoon and a Glaucous Gull was seen in the harbor after the count.

Shorebirds: A lone Dunlin and 6 frustrating mystery shorebirds flying too far out to ID.

Other: A late Barn Swallow zipped over the shack during the third hour.

As many of you know, I recently purchased a DLSR and zoom lens. I have been practicing using it over the past couple days and already love my new toy. Here is a picture of a female Long-tailed Duck from the harbor this afternoon:

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1, 2009

November started with a gorgeous day-- skies were mostly sunny, temps topped out in the upper 40's, and wind was very light all day. I guess it will only go downhill from here.

Waterfowl: Another good day overall with a great first two hours. Bufflehead were numerous again with 385 migrating by (all in the first three hours) and Goldeneye had their best day of the fall with 129. Scoters had a pretty good day with 71 White-winged, 4 Black, and a Surf. Common Mergansers (6) were seen for the first time in more than a month and 211 Red-breasteds were seen. Other species seen were Mallard, Common and Red-throated Loon, and Horned and Red-necked Grebe.

Gulls: 3 Great Black-backed Gulls were present in the afternoon-- 1 adult and 2 immatures (see photo below).

Shorebirds: None.

Other: A Red Fox walked out to the shack just after sunrise and provided the group of people present with great looks. Both species of crossbills were seen/heard from the shack as well as some large groups of Goldfinches and Siskins. The Western Grebe was seen again near the harbor.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter






Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31, 2009- Bufflehead movement, etc

It was a great Halloween at Whitefish Point as the birds definitely proved to be more of a treat than a trick. Lame jokes aside, strong west winds brought in both quantity and quality of birds. It was about 40 degrees with on and off rain all day.

Waterfowl: The highlight was 601 Bufflehead, a very good movement for this species. Red-breasted Merganser also had their best day so far this fall with 843 seen. Interestingly, most were seen in the late morning and early afternoon once the Bufflehead had tapered down somewhat. Goldeneye had a good day with 77 flying by and scaup/aythya had their best day in quite some time with more than 800 seen. Scoters had a very good day with 157 White-winged, 8 Black, and 2 Surf. Other species seen today were Mallard, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated and Common Loon, and Horned and Red-necked Grebe.

Gulls/Terns: The most interesting bird was a tern that was following a group of Bonaparte's Gulls. Based on a few field marks, this was probably an Arctic Tern but because of distance not all field marks were seen and this bird will never lose the dreaded "probable" tag. Bonaparte's Gulls finally had a good movement today with 85 seen and 3 Great Black-backed and 1 Glaucous Gull hung around the tip all afternoon.

Shorebirds: 1 Sanderling and 1 distant unidentified flyby shorebird were all.

Other: The highlight of the day was a Western Grebe that Jason Bojczyk found at the harbor. The bird stayed just outside the harbor breakwall for more than an hour. There was a steady movement of Juncos and Tree Sparrows off the lake almost all day.

Western Grebe Photo by Jason Bojczyk


Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 30, 2009

Chris covered the count for me on my day off yesterday. Overall, it was pretty slow but Chris had another Harlequin Duck, continuing this excellent fall for them.

The weather today made for a very slow day at the point. Winds were strong out of the SE (30+ mph) and a driving rain fell most of the day. However, temps were pleasant around 50 degrees.

Waterfowl: Long-tailed Ducks were the most common species with 44 seen. White-winged and Black Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loon, and Red-necked Grebe were seen in small numbers.

Gulls: A 1st year Great Black-backed Gull spent the morning at the tip and the afternoon in the harbor.

Shorebirds: None

Other: Nothing of note. Snow Buntings are still the most common bird on the beach.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 28, 2009

It was another gorgeous day out at the point. Temps reached the mid 50's and skies turned mostly sunny by the afternoon.

Waterfowl: It was a much slower day than the previous few days. The highlight was another very impressive day for Black Scoters with 35 seen including a group of 17. Black was by far the most common scoter-- only 10 White-winged and 2 Surf were seen. It was also a good day for loons with 37 Commons and a Red-throated. Long-tailed Ducks were much less numerous today with just over 400 seen. A few Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Horned and Red-necked Grebes were seen and a lone American Black Duck was the only dabbler.

Shorebirds: 1 Dunlin spent most of the day in the puddle at the tip.

Other: The first two Redpolls of the season flew over on a good overall day for finches including groups of siskins, goldfinches, and a couple Red Crossbills.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009- EIDER & LT Ducks

It was a nice morning that turned into a gorgeous afternoon. Winds decreased to almost nothing and the sun broke out occasionally to warm the tip into the lower 50's.

Waterfowl: Another great Long-tailed Duck movement today with an absolutely incredible early morning. 10782 Long-taileds were counted today, about 9000 of which were seen during the first two hours of the count!! Another major highlight of the day was another hen EIDER that flew by with a White-winged Scoter and Pintail, making it the second day in a row an eider has flown by! Chris got a picture of this group that can be seen on the sightings blog. It was a pretty good day for scoters with 73 White-winged, 14 Black, and 6 Surf as well as another decent day for Common and Red-throated Loon and Green-winged Teal. Mallard, Gadwall, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, and Red-necked and Horned Grebe were all seen in low numbers.

Gulls: Nothing unusual today.

Shorebirds: Highlights were another White-rumped Sandpiper and a late Golden Plover. A few Dunlin were also recorded.

Other: A few groups of goldfinches and siskins migrated overhead and the Northern Shrike that was banded last week reappeared briefly by the shack.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 26, 2009- EIDER, Iceland Gull, LT Ducks

My hopes for the day were not very high this morning when I walked out to the shack and was greeted by strong SE winds. I couldn't have been more wrong as waterbirds were moving almost all day, even when light rain began to fall in the afternoon.

Waterfowl: It was an excellent day overall, especially for Long-tailed Ducks. 7562 were tallied with many groups over 100 birds and the majority not very far offshore. Common Goldeneye also had their best day so far this fall with 79 seen. The highlight of the day however was a hen EIDER that flew by with 5 White-winged Scoters during the fifth hour. It was too far to tell if it was a King or Common but was nevertheless obviously an eider. Other highlights were an impressive late-fall flight of Green-winged Teal (103) and a bizarre looking duck that flew down the shore that we felt was probably a partially leucistic Surf Scoter. Wigeon, Mallard, Scaup, White-winged and Surf Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated and Common Loon, and Red-necked and Horned Grebe were all seen in decent numbers as well.

Gulls: Just after the excitement of the eider, a young Iceland Gull gave a very close flyby before continuing on over the lake.

Shorebirds: Another good day with 48 Dunlin, a Greater Yellowlegs, and a Sanderling.

Other: Not much at all besides continued good numbers of Snow Buntings.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009

The sun was out at times today which made things feel a lot different than the past few days. The temp almost reached 50 and winds were light out of the north.

Waterfowl: We had to have a slow day eventually after the past week of good waterbird movements. Well, today was that day. Long-tailed Ducks were the most common species with 48 seen. Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loons, Red-necked and Horned Grebes, and Common Goldeneye moved by in small numbers. Black Scoter was once again the most common scoter with 10 to only 9 White-wingeds.

Shorebirds: An OK day with 4 Dunlin and 3 Wilson's Snipe.

Other: There was a nice movement of Rough-legged Hawks this afternoon with 8 seen. A Northern Shrike (a different bird than the one banded earlier this week) spent a few minutes on the merlin pole. Snow Buntings continue to increase-- upwards of 200 were seen today.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 2009- Shorebirds!!!

It was another chilly day with drizzle almost all day and occasional rain showers. Winds were moderate out of the west.

Waterfowl: It was another very good day, even with decreased visibility because of the drizzle. Long-tailed Ducks had another 1000+ day and Red-breasted Mergansers had a good day with just over 600 seen. The highlight though was once again the scoters. 235 White-winged and 13 Surf were seen and Black Scoters continue their banner year with 37 seen today. Another highlight was a good late-fall push of Red-necked Grebes, especially in the afternoon- 277 were seen today. Decent numbers of Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Common, and Red-throated Loons were seen today as well as a couple Scaup, Horned Grebe, and Green-winged Teal.

Shorebirds: The highlight of the day. An amazing (for late October) 7 species were seen today, all in the morning. 86 Dunlin were present on the beach with 3 Sanderling, 2 Black-bellied Plovers, and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers. A Greater Yellowlegs spent about an hour at the pond towards the tip. A weird seen in the late morning was seeing a Wilson's Snipe fly in off the lake and land in the dune next to the shack. To cap off the great shorebird morning Chris spotted a phalarope flying down the shore. Unfortunately, we could not relocate the bird when we walked to the shore to get closer. This will go down as "phalarope species" but we feel that this was probably a Red Phalarope.

Other: When we were trying to relocate the phalarope, we spotted a swift over the lake. The bird never came close, in fact if flew back out over the lake and into the fog/mist. Hawks made the afternoon fun with an adult Northern Goshawk and 3 Rough-legged Hawks coming in off the lake.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23, 2009

It was another chilly day with cloudy skies and light to moderate rain in the afternoon. Winds were fairly strong out of the east.

Waterfowl: The good duck movement continued in the morning. Unfortunately, once the rain started, the movement came to a screeching hault. The highlights were scoters: 255 White-winged (200+ of which were in the first two hours), 22 Black, and 13 Surf. Red-breasted Mergansers had a good day with 433 seen and Long-tailed Ducks dropped off significantly from the last two days with "only" 190 seen. 3 species of dabblers were seen, the highlight being 10 American Black Ducks. Other species were Common and Red-throated Loon, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Horned and Red-necked Grebe.

Shorebirds: A fun day with a movement of Dunlin- 73 total were seen in a few groups of 20-30. The day after the first White-rumped Sandpiper of the year, another one flew by today.

Other: Snow Buntings continue to increase-- more than 50 were seen on the beach today.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, October 22, 2009



If you've been out to the count you know the birds can be distant, but the top photo shows part of a flock of over 100 scoters, and the bottom one shows scoters and Long-tailed Ducks. The scoter flock in the top photo included approximately 50 of today's 69 Black Scoters (I should have left the file size larger for these photos). It was a very nice flight overall so I stayed at the tip until it died two hours after the official count period. The totals included 6,219 Long-tailed Ducks, and 518 White-winged Scoters. Occurring in more modest numbers were Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common, Hooded, and Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated and Common Loon, and Red-necked Grebe.

The day's only shorebird was the above White-rumped Sandpiper.


Snow Bunting
Others: The number of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers were down from the large numbers being seen recently, but the season's first Red-bellied Woodpecker made a brief appearance on one of the Sharpy sticks today. Snow Bunting numbers increased today and decent numbers of Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur were also present. The Northern Shrike and a Northern Goshawk also made appearances. Tom ordered a DSLR camera so hopefully the waterbird blog will include photos more frequently very soon. They may be underexposed and out of focus, but what can you do?
Chris Neri

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009- Long-tailed Duck movement

Winds were light to moderate out of the NE today and cloudy skies gave way to a steady drizzle and then light rain in the afternoon.

Waterfowl: The "waterbird count" was a Long-tailed Duck count today. "Oldsquaws" were moving steadily throughout the day with more than a hundred seen every hour except the last hour of the count. 2158 Long-tails moved by today and it's a shame that the rain started in the afternoon because this drastically reduced visibility, which probably reduced the amount of Long-tails that were detected. The other highlight was a few Red-throated Loons that were still in breeding plumage that flew right down the shore in the afternoon. Otherwise, only a handful of other species were seen.

Shorebirds: A group of 10 Dunlin flew by during the third hour.

Other: A dozen Snow Buntings joined the group of Horned Larks, Pipits, and Lapland Longspurs on the beach. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen for the first time in a couple weeks.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009

Winds shifted to the ENE today and skies were mostly cloudy. The wind shift did not bring a push of waterbirds, in fact it was a very slow day.

Waterfowl: Very slow. The most common species was Long-tailed Duck with 92 seen, almost half of which was represented by one "bailout" flock with 10 minutes left in the count. Red-necked Grebes had an OK day with 63 migrating by. Scoters, Mergansers, and Scaup were all noticeably scarce with only single-digits of each moving by. 16 loons were seen-- 10 Common and 6 Red-throated.

Gulls: Nothing unusual. Herring Gulls seemed to be moving.

Other: A few large groups of Pine Siskins came in off the lake and a Northern Shrike spent a good amount of time hunting the beach.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009- Jaeger

It was another day of strong south winds and mostly cloudy skies. This time there was a decent waterbird movement in the morning despite the winds.

Waterfowl: Apretty good morning but a very slow afternoon. Highlights were about 100 scaup, 6 Redhead, and 20 scoters (18 White-winged, a Surf, and a Black). Red-breasted Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks had a poor day with 73 and 29 of each respectively. Horned Grebes put in a good showing with a dozen and modest numbers of Red-necked Grebes and Loons were seen. A few dabblers were seen with Mallard being the most common (14).

Gulls/Jaegers: A jaeger was seen harassing a gull during the second hour of the count but it was way too far to tell what kind. A possible second jaeger was with the bird but because of distance this was not confirmed. 7 Bonapartes Gulls were seen-- the highest count in what has been a terrible fall for them so far.

Other: The highlight of the day was 3 Goshawks making frequent passes along the treeline and over the beach, one of which was an adult. 26 Ravens were seen at once this morning which seemed odd. Chris found a Dickcissel near the parking lot in the morning and this bird moved to the feeders later in the day.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18, 2009

The wind was back today and it was back with a vengance. It was out of the south at around 30mph which put a damper on the waterbird movement.

Waterfowl: Slow compared to the last week or so. Red-breasted Mergansers and Red-necked Grebes were the most common birds with about 50 of each. Only 17 Long-tailed Ducks were seen and loon numbers could not escape the single digits. Amazingly, Black Scoters were more common than White-wingeds today but only 7 and 6 of each were seen respectively.

Shorebirds: A Pectoral Sandpiper flew over during the second hour.

Other: A juvenile Northern Goshawk buzzed the tip early and Merlins put on a show hunting Downy Woodpeckers over the water throughout the day (sorry Darlene).

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 17, 2009

It was a rare windless day out at the point and in the afternoon mostly cloudy skies gave way to lake-effect snow and sleet squalls. Temps were around 40.

Waterfowl: A decent day but slower than the last few days. Red-breasted Mergansers put in another good showing with 466 individuals seen. 105 Long-tailed Ducks were seen and Goldeneye had their best day of the year with about 50 seen. 39 Common Loons were seen but no Red-throateds for the first time in a couple weeks. About 100 scaup/aythya were seen as well. The dabbler season continues to wind down, only a few were seen today.

Shorebirds: None

Gulls/Terns: Nothing interesting but Herring Gulls seemed to be migrating a little bit.

Other: Winter finches are reclaiming the point and their presence can be felt at the shack as well-- Evening Grosbeaks, both crossbills, Pine Siskin, and Purple Finch were seen/heard.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, October 16, 2009

October 16, 2009- TUFTED TITMOUSE

Chris covered for me on my off day yesterday. It was fairly slow but he had 2 Harlequin Ducks which represent the 5th and 6th Harlequins of the season.

It was mostly cloudy today with light winds out of the NE and temps in the mid 40's. Waterbird movement was good, especially in the morning.

Waterfowl: The most common species were Red-breasted Mergansers (584), Long-tailed Ducks (450), and scaup (about 300). Perhaps the highlight of the morning was 19 Black Scoters, a rather high count for the most uncommon scoter at the point. About a hundred White-wingeds and a Surf were seen. Goldeneye had by far their best day of the fall so far with 40 seen. Loons and Grebes were seen in small numbers.

Gulls/Terns: Nothing besides Herring and Ring-billed. Herrings are outnumbering Ring-billeds more and more with each passing day.

Shorebirds: None.

Other: The highlight of the day was a TUFTED TITMOUSE that ventured out to the tip with a group of Chickadees around 1PM. It sat on the sharpie sticks for a second and made a couple passes towards the waterbird shack before working its way back into the woods. It has not been seen since but hopefully it will find the feeders if it is still around. Chris got a few nice pictures of this first WPBO record that can be seen on the sightings blog. Other highlights today included a Black-backed Woodpecker and migrating Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Harrier.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14, 2009

Another mostly cloudy and cool day with some scattered flurries. Winds were very light today which was very welcomed after the past couple weeks.

Waterfowl: A good morning and a slow afternoon. Scaup/Aythya made a nice push with almost 1000 seen during the first half of the day. Long-tailed Duck moved by in respectable numbers again with 259 seen. Red-breasted Mergansers also had a decent day with 211 seen. It was a good loon day with 32 Common and 8 Red-throated. All three species of scoters were seen including 4 close Black Scoters and a few Red-necked Grebes were seen each hour. Dabblers had a good day, especially Mallards, with 49 seen and Green-winged Teal with 14.

Shorebirds: Another 4 species day which you can't complain with this late in the fall. 10 Dunlin, 2 Sanderling, a Golden Plover, and a Black-bellied Plover.

Other: The "other" category was the highlight of the day. Best bird was the first Northern Shrike of the fall, a juvenile. 2 Black-backed Woodpeckers spent some time on the merlin pole and a Pileated Woodpecker uncharacteristically flew out very close to the shack which is always a treat.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

October 13, 2009- Parasitic Jaeger

It was another mostly cloudy cool day with moderate winds out of the north. Movement was steady, especially in the morning.

Waterfowl: The highlight was the best day of the season so far for Long-tailed Ducks (541) and White-winged Scoters (222). Over 100 Red-breasted Mergansers were seen again as well as modest numbers of grebes and loons. Scaup/Aythya were noticeably uncommon today with only about 100 seen. 6 species of dabblers were seen with Mallard, Green-winged Teal, and American Black Duck being the most common species.

Gulls/Terns/Jaegers: The highlight of the day was a dark or intermediate juvenile Parasitic Jaeger. It came in from the north and milled around towards the tip of the point before turning around and flying back to the north. We hoped to see it again but never did.

Shorebirds: Another good day with 4 species seen. A Greater Yellowlegs flew over early and a nice mixed group spent a little bit of time on the beach in the afternoon composed of 5 Sanderling, 3 Dunlin, a Pectoral Sandpiper, and a Black-bellied Plover.

Dunlin & Sanderling: Pectoral Sandpiper:
Other: Not much besides a somewhat late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling near the merlin pole.
Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009- Long-billed Dowitcher

It was another cool fall day with overcast skies and temps in the lower 40's. Light rain began to fall with about an hour and a half left in the count and continued until the end.

Waterfowl: Long-tailed Ducks made their first decent push of the year with 271 seen. Red-breasted Mergansers were the second-most common migrating waterbird with 172 seen. Sounds like late fall doesn't it?? Numbers of scoters dropped way off from the weekend with only 8 White-wingeds and a Surf and Loon numbers were lower as well with 14 Common and 2 Red-throateds. A few dabblers and Horned and Red-necked Grebes also went by.

Shorebirds: The shorebird season is not over yet!! An excellent day with the highlight being a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. The bird was in a flock of 7 Black-bellied and 1 Golden Plover and was heard calling as the flock buzzed the tip several times. Unfortunately they did not land despite the pools present at the tip. This is only the 4th record of this species for the point and the 2nd fall record. Chris got a few pictures of the dowitcher which can be seen on the sightings blog. A Greater Yellowlegs and a Dunlin also stopped by in the morning, both of which were first for the season.

Gulls/Terns: 4 Bonapartes Gull's flew by today. Hopefully a sign of more on the way.

Other: Not much else interesting to report besides a Pileated Woodpecker flying out near the shack for a quick but nice look.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11, 2009

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning with a fresh inch of snow and the combination of snow squalls and the sunrise over the lake. Most of the day was cloudy and temps never climbed out of the 30's.

Waterfowl: Another fairly steady movement. White-winged Scoters were the most common waterbird with 169 seen. About the same number of Red-breasted Mergansers were seen as well as about 100 Red-necked Grebes. Loons are still moving-- 30 Common and 3 Red-throated were seen. Mallards were once again the most common dabbler among 5 species of dabblers with 26 seen. Scaup/Aythya were way down from the previous two days-- only about 100 were seen today.

Shorebirds: Not today.

Other: The highlight of the day was two Short-eared Owls coming in off the lake during the morning. The first Snow Bunting of the year was also seen which seemed way too appropriate for today's setting.

Thanks again to all the birders from the Lower Peninsula and Indiana for making this a very fun weekend out at the waterbird count.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter





Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 10, 2009

The weather was shifting again today with winds moderate out of the SW. Partly sunny skies turned cloudy and rain and the first snow of the season started just before the end of the count.

Waterfowl: Another good movement, especially scaup. About 2000 Scaup/Aythya migrated by today as well as a decent number of Red-breasted Mergansers (309). Mallard were the most common dabbler with 62 and Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, and Green-winged Teal also put in appearances. Scoters, loons, and grebes all had a slow but steady day.

Shorebirds: A late Semipalmated Plover was the highlight and a Golden Plover was seen.

Gulls/Terns: One Bonaparte's Gull was the only non- Herring/Ring-billed.

Other: Most interesting was a swallow that ripped in off the lake as soon as the rain and snow started. It came by very close but it was so fast that nobody got a good look at it. With the naked eye it was clear that the bird was either a Cliff or Cave Swallow. Red and White-winged Crossbills were both seen in groups flying between the treeline and shack.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 2009- Sabine's Gull & Scaup movement

It's hard for any day to follow up the kind of amazing day that yesterday was but today didn't do that poorly of a job. Skies were mostly sunny, temps were in the upper 40's, and winds were moderate out of the North.

Waterfowl: There was a huge movement of scaup today. The combined totals of scaup and other aythya species (Redhead and Ring-necked) was about 5000 birds!!! Birds were moving by at an incredibly fast pace in the morning when each of the first three hours recorded more than 1000 individuals. Scoters had a good day as well with 148 White-winged, 16 Surf, and 2 Black. Dabblers weren't nearly as plentiful as yesterday but Wigeon (39), Mallard (15), and Green-winged Teal (33) put in decent showings. Loons and grebes moved by in decent numbers as well with 130 Red-necked and 37 Horned Grebes and 89 Common and 9 Red-throated Loons.

Gulls/Terns: The highlight of the day was a juvenile SABINE'S GULL that flew by during the 5th hour. The bird didn't stick around but flew by slowly for a nice and not-too-distant look for the lucky birders who were present at the waterbird shack at the time.

Shorebirds: A Golden Plover and Black-bellied Plover stopped by briefly.

Other: Red Crossbills were seen occasionally and the Merlin made mincemeat of another Downy Woodpecker that made an ill-advised flight towards the tip of the point.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the birders who were present today for helping me spot flocks of scaup and other migrating waterfowl this morning-- especially Chris Neri, Skye Haas, Darleen Friedman, Jeff McCoy, John Cassady, and Ken Mettie Jr (I'm sure I'm missing a few others). Without your help, a lot of birds would have slipped by without being counted or ID'd.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8, 2009- Incredible Day!!!!!

I can't even fit all of the highlights from today into the subject line! Highlights during the count were a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, probable Boreal Owl, and Short-eared Owl and after the count were NORTHERN HAWK OWL and RED PHALAROPE.

It was mostly cloudy with winds out of the south at first shifting to the west. It was my day off so Chris did the counting which allowed me to casually bird the point for a change of speed.

Waterfowl: A very good mix of waterbirds went by today, especially dabblers. 187 Wigeon, 68 Gadwall, 35 Mallard and a few others. Scaup went by in ok numbers (about 250). Red-necked Grebes had another solid day with 201 seen but RB Mergansers (35) and White-winged Scoters (9) dropped off significantly from yesterday. However, 10 Surf Scoters and a Black were seen.

Shorebirds: None during the count but a very good one after the count. See below.

Other: The highlight of the count was a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER that came in during mid-morning. The bird spent about an hour near the treeline until it moved on. A distant digiscoped picture is below-- see the sightings blog for much better pictures. A Short-eared Owl came in off the lake around the same time. In early afternoon we watched a medium-sized owl come out of the woods and fly north over the lake towards Canada. From what we were able to see, the best candidate for this bird was a Boreal Owl.

After the count: Many birders stayed out because of the excitement earlier in the day and were rewarded for doing so. Things started with a Short-eared Owl sitting at the end of the tip but this bird was soon forgotten about when a NORTHERN HAWK OWL was discovered on the merlin pole. It was enjoyed by many for about 10 minutes until it flew north over the lake. A picture of the Hawk-Owl is below. Just a little later Chris spotted a shorebird flying down the beach which looked like it landed near the tip. After some searching we found a phalarope a couple hundred yards away. Thankfully, it gradually worked its way closer and we were able to id the bird as a RED PHALAROPE!! See the sightings blog for an idable picture of this bird.

It was one of those legendary days that Whitefish Point is known for and a day that I'll never forget in my life.

Tom Prestby

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October 7, 2009- Harlequin Duck

The rain ended just before the count started this morning and skies remained cloudy for the whole count. Winds started strong out of the NW and gradually decreased throughout the day.

Waterfowl: A good day. The highlight was a female-type Harlequin Duck that came down the shore during the 7th hour of the count. Movement of other species was very good this morning and slowed in the afternoon. The species with the most presence were Red-breasted Mergansers (422) and Red-necked Grebes (381). Scoters had a decent day with 65 White-winged and 11 Surf and loons had a modest day with 18 Commons and 4 Red-throated. Scaup numbers were way lower than yesterday (about 100) but a group of 7 Ring-necked Ducks was nice to see. Dabblers included a handful of Pintail, Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, and American Black Duck.

Shorebirds: Zero.

Other: Not much could be detected from the treeline because of the wind. The highlight was probably 2 Merlins chasing each other over the shack.

Tom Prestby
Waterbird Counter