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