Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marbled Godwit

Some good birds keep trickling through at the tail end of this spring '09 season, including today's Marbled Godwit. Strong south winds most of the day were convincing enough for a number of Canada Geese (710), Ring-billed Gulls (83) and Herring Gulls (43). Shorebird diversity was good today as well, with the following species counted; Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Semipalmated Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover, and Dunlin.

Tomorrow marks the final day of the season. It looks to be sunny, but also chilly (high 48) and windy (from the NW 10-20 mph). Whatever the final day brings, I'll post a season wrap-up by June 1st with the final numbers.

Andy N

Friday, May 29, 2009

Parasitic Jaeger

In years past these late May days have meant the arrival of a jaeger species; and a Parasitic Jaeger showed up on the tip today, just after the official count ended.

I'm a little disappointed I missed it, as well as yesterdays Pacific Loon, but a Kirtland's Warbler and the Bird-a-thon were certainly worth it. Jaegers are fairly consistent fall visitors as well so I'm still very hopeful.

For the offical waterbird count it was rather slow as the season winds down. 225 Canada Geese winged their way in a north direction, along with a smattering of shorebirds. Just two days left in the spring 2009 season, time enough for yours truely to catch a few more birds on my wish list.

Andy N

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pacific Loon

A Pacific Loon showed up during the waterbird count today. Adam and Phil reported it was a foggy and rainy day; but the shorebirds were good along with the loon.

3/5 of the WPBO field staff (John, Sarah, Myself) spend the day in Grayling on a Kirtland's Warbler tour, which was very successful. The rain held off (mostly) and we got some great looks at a wonderful bird.

The season is coming to a close soon, but there's still time for things to show up, and there's still Bird-a-thon-ing to be done!

Andy N

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


2 Brant were spotted during the waterbird count today. The last spring waterbird count to record this species was in 2004; and they have been tallied in the official spring count only 3 times since 1984. The last hour of the count saw 137 Ring-billed Gulls making their way north. Phil was hoping to find an oddball among them but nothing turned up. We are optimistic about the evening flight tonight, I'll be sure to update the blog if anything interesting turns up.

Andy N

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rainy Day

There wasn't a whole lot happening on this cloudy (and occasionally rainy day), but you can only have so many beautiful days in a row.

WATERBIRD COUNT: The highlight for the waterbird count was an Upland Sandpiper, and aside from that the flight was rather sparse.

I spent the day covering for John on the hawk platform, where things were also a bit slow with only 8 raptors. However, this Ruby-throated Hummingbird seemed quite appreciative of John's addition of a feeder on the platform.

Elsewhere on the point, the Green Heron is still hanging around one of the ponds, and no sign of the Yellow-headed Blackbird that has been spotted the last few days. Looks like more rain tomorrow, but hopefully later in the week we'll get some more nice weather and more birds before the end of the season.

Andy N

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Overall it was a good today to finish off the long weekend. There was some nice waterbird (3 species in the 100s) and shorebird activity, and warblers among the pines.

WEATHER: Sunny skies, temperatures once again into the 60s, with very light winds from various south directions (ESE, SE, S, SSW).

WATERBIRD COUNT: White-winged Scoters (180), Canada Geese (161), Red-breasted Mergansers (110) and Long-tailed Ducks (96) were the most numerous waterfowl for the day. Also Common Loon (27) and Red-throated Loon (19).

SHOREBIRDS: Dunlin (87), Whimbrel (73), Semipalmated Sandpiper (22), Black-bellied Plover (10).

GULLS: Bonaparte's Gull (112), Herring Gull (60) and Ring-billed Gull (10).

TERNS: Common Tern (44), Caspian Tern (1) and 16 tern sp.

OTHER SIGHTINGS: Warblers today; Blackburnian, Nashville, Chesnut-sided, Wilson's, Cape May, Magnolia. Elsewhere there was a Red-bellied Woodpecker on the merlin pole.

TOMMORROW: Well after so many beautiful days we were due for some rain eventually. Looks like it will come tomorrow in the afternoon (70% chance). It will be cloudy most of the day, with temperatures in the low 50s and ESE winds 10-20 mph. I'll actually be doing the hawk count tomorrow to give John a breather, hopefully the weather allows for a full day.

Andy N

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Good Weather

Red-Breasted Mergansers

We had another beautiful spring day today, with sunny skies and temperatures into the 60s. Phil had a relatively slow day with the waterbirds on the tip; and while we're still waiting for a big push of songbirds there was a plenty to look at today.

Note: Phil is going to serve as the official waterbird counter for the last 7 days of the season, so I'm going to reformat the blog a bit to cover the count and my other birding endeavors.


Waterbird Count: 33 Red-breasted Mergansers, 30 Common Loons, 18 White-winged Scoters, 11 Red-throated Loons, 3 Common Mergansers, 1 Hooded Merganser.

Shorebirds: 6 Semipalmated Plovers, 3 Ruddy Turnstones, 1 Whimbrel.

Gulls: 128 Herring Gulls; they seem to be really be moving all of a sudden.

Other Sightings: Yellow-Headed Blackbird at the feeders was the highlight of the morning. Ken, David and I chased a Worm-eating Warbler reported down the road but came up empty. The Green Heron is still hanging out around the ponds. Also Evening Grosbeaks, American Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, and various sparrows.

Black-backed Woodpecker


I spent the better part of the afternoon trekking through the burn area off M-123 in search of Black-backed Woodpeckers. After about 2+ miles of hiking (and a lot of mosquitoes) I was greeted by 2 females just off the road, both busy stripping bark off some conifers. Well worth the walk and the mosquitoes!


The forecast for tomorrow looks very pleasant. Sunny, with temperatures into the 60s, and winds ENE 5-10 mph. Hopefully the hawks, waterbirds and passerines all come out to celebrate Memorial Day.

Andy N

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Terns and Shorebirds

I didn't make it out to the tip for very long today (I was mostly bouncing between the hawk platform and the feeders) but here's Phil's report.

Weather: Partly to mostly cloudy in the AM, sunny in the afternoon. Temperatures into the mid 50s with winds starting from the S and shifting WNW by the end of the day.

Waterbird Count: 76 Red-breasted Mergansers, 57 Common Loons, 35 White-winged Scoters, 18 Common Mergansers, along with 2 Red-throated Loons, 2 Mallards, and 1 Wood Duck (first in a few weeks).

Shorebirds: Good numbers and diversity. 11 Sanderlings, 6 Semipalmated Plovers, 6 peep sp., 5 dowitcher sp., 2 Red Knots and 2 Piping Plovers were the highlights.

Gulls: 79 Herring, 4 Bonaparte's, 2 Ring-billed.

Terns: 48 Common Terns, 1 Caspian Tern.

Other Sightings: European Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeaks, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks among others at the feeders. Later there was a Red-headed Woodpecker (which I missed). John had another Swainson's and another pale Red-tailed Hawk, check the hawk blog for more info on those birds.

Forecast for tomorrow is for sunny skies and temperatures into the high 50s. Winds NW 10-15 mph. Looks like weather is really going to cooperate for Memorial Day weekend, hope to see all you birders out and about!

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Friday, May 22, 2009

Loons Reappear (sort of)

Today was pretty slow again. The loons had their best day in over a week, but overall activity was very sporadic.

Weather: Gorgeous day, sunny, temperatures into the high 50s, with wind NNW 5-10 mph.

Waterbird Count: 60 Common Loons, 8 Red-throated Loons, 48 Red-breasted Mergansers, 31 White-winged Scoters; a few Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Ducks, Double-crested Cormorants, and a Red-necked Grebe in the mix.

Shorebirds: 10 Dunlin, 4 Sanderlings, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Black-bellied Plovers.

Gulls: 17 Bonaparte's, 16 Ring-bills.

Terns: 11 unidentified; they were flying pretty far out and neither myself, Phil or Tom could come up with a species.

Other Sightings: Blue Jays (271), American Goldfinch (13), Eastern Kingbird (3). An Osprey also made an apperance over the water, before heading north up the beach.

Well faithful blog readers I will be taking a few days off. Phil will be doing the count, and he'll either update the blog or I'll pass the results along; either way we'll keep you updated in the days to come.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scoters in the Morning Then a Whole Lot of Nothing

Today got off to an excellent start with a barrage of White-winged Scoters the first hour. The paced slowed considerably in hour 2, and hours 3-8 were very slow.

Weather: Warm and pleasant most of the day. Temperatures into the 60s, with S winds 10-20 mph. A storm approached later in the day, causing the temperature to drop and winds to shift to the W.

Waterbird Count: 179 White-winged Scoters (143 in the 1st hour), 2 Surf Scoters. Also 50 Red-breasted Mergansers, 23 Canada Geese, 15 Common Loons, 2 Red-throated Loons. Added to the mix were 9 Long-tailed Ducks, and 4 Great Blue Herons. The Great Blues were all flying together, quite an odd sight from what is usually a solitary bird.

Shorebirds: 3 Dunlin, 2 Sanderlings, 1 Killdeer, 1 Black-bellied Plover. 1 Piping Plover was spotted today, the others are likely still in the area.

Gulls: A few ring-bills and herrings seemed to have Canada on their minds today. 15 herrings and 8 ring-bills.

Other Sightings: In the jack pines, at the first pond was a green heron. Around the point: blue jays (~200), chimney swift, barn swallow, eastern kingbird, and american pipits (11 or so).

Forecast for tomorrow is for a beautiful spring day. "Plentiful sunshine," with temperatures reaching 60. Winds are less than favorable, coming from the NNW 5-10 mph. I don't think that's a strong enough headwind to completely shut down a flight, but I have been wrong before (i.e. everytime I make a prediction).

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Decent Scoter Flight

White-winged Scoters

The White-winged Scoters finally showed up today in respectable numbers. It was very much a stop-and-go day, with 4 very slow hours and 4 busy hours.

Weather: Partly cloudy, wind 10-20 mph from the SE first thing in the morning shifted to the S. Warm, temperatures in the high 50s.

Waterbird Count: 229 White-winged Scoters and 22 Surf Scoters. Also 124 Red-breasted Mergansers, 18 Canada Geese 15 Common Loons and 8 Double-crested Cormorants.

Shorebirds: 3 Dunlin, 2 Killdeer, 2 Sanderlings, 2 Least Sandpipers, 1 Whimbrel. The 3 Piping Plovers are also still present and accounted for.

Gulls: 28 Bonaparte's Gulls

Other Sightings: The Blue Jays remained very active, with the daily flock over the pines around 150. There were a few Red-winged Blackbirds mingling with the Blue Jay flock. Also 10 Bobolinks and 6 Brown-headed Cowbirds in the pines just off the trail to the shack.

Forecast for tomorrow doesn't look too great. Overcast skies, with 40% chance of rain. Winds from the W at 10-20 mph. The wind refuses to let up, and coming out of the W won't do any favors for the waterbird migration. Still, the scoters and mergansers may still have bigger days ahead. I'm also still waiting on LT Ducks and Canada Geese.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good Shorebirds

Today provided the best numbers and diversity for shorebirds, as well as some sparks of life from the ducks. Still nothing close to the past numbers around this time but a whole lot better than the last 5 days.

Weather: Rain in the morning, then mostly cloudy. Chilly, with temperatures only into the low 40s, and a N/NW wind 5-10 mph.

Waterbird Count: 98 Red-breasted Mergansers, 89 White-winged Scoters, 21 Common Loons, 10 Surf Scoters. Best duck for the day was an American Black Duck, which flew in from the north and rested on the point for a little while.

Shorebirds: 35 Dunlin, 10 Semipalmated Plovers, 8 Whimbrel, 6 Black-bellied Plovers, 4 Killdeer, 3 Piping Plovers, 2 Sanderlings, 2 Least Sandpipers, 2 Hudsonian Godwits. The tip was quite literally crawling with birds when I first arrived, a very welcomed sight. Most of the species could still be seen by the end of the count. The Hudsonian Godwits are especially good birds for the spring.

Other Sightings: 2 Peregrine Falcons were patrolling the beach for a good chunk of the day. This didn't seem to phase the shorebirds, and the falcons never did go after them. Also 2 Bald Eagles (1 adult, 1 immature), a male Lapland Longspur in near full breeding plumage, and several Horned Larks.

Forecast for tomorrow is for possible rain (30% chance) and thunderstorms in the morning, followed by partly cloudy skies. Temperatures up to 70 (<--not a typo) and winds SSW at 20 to 30 mph. I'd love to see the wind chill out a bit, but today was just enough to keep my hopes up about the scoters and mergansers.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Monday, May 18, 2009

Not Much

Today was a bust. The weather was quite pleasant (once it warmed up a bit), and winds were coming 10-20 mph from a south direction most of the day. However, this did little to help break the slow streak for this spring (which now stands at 39 hours).

Weather: Sunny, with only a few occasional clouds. Wind fluctuated a bit during the day, from S, SE, ESE, and finally SW directions. It was quite chilly in the morning but once thing warmed up it was a refreshing (albeit strong) breeze.

Waterbird Count: 25 Red-breasted Mergansers, 22 White-winged Scoters, 11 Double-crested Cormorants, 9 Common Loons, 4 dark-winged scoters, 2 Canada Geese and 1 lone Long-tailed Duck.

Shorebirds: 14 Dunlin, 2 Killdeer. Some visitors from the University of Minnesota stopped by today to check out the Piping Plovers.. They found a male and a female that seemed to be paired, and another male without a mate in sight. Could be he's going stag for the spring, or there's a nest hidden somewhere.

Terns: 1 Caspian, possibly the same one milling around for a few days.

Other Sightings: American Pipits, some sharpies zipping around the beach at near ground level, and lots of Blue Jays (I estimated around 200 in the flock above the trees).

I'm tired of putting my foot in my mouth so I'm just going to give the forecast for tomorrow and NOT comment on what I think will happen. Possible showers (40% chance) in the morning, high near 45 with N winds 5-10 mph. Pretty chilly so I could definitley do without the rain, we shall see.

Quick update: I finally looked through some old spring data (back to 2004) to see if there were any other mid May slumps like this one. There's nothing even close to whats going on this spring. Unless the skies literally darken with ducks and geese in the next 13 days, this is going to be one heck of a down year.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flights Delayed

This picture of a frazzled, wind-swept Savannah Sparrow hunkered down next to the shack sums up the weekend nicely.

Today, not surprisingly, was very slow. WNW winds 20-30 mph killed the flight once again, though there are signs that things could pick up. I spotted a few large Long-Tailed Duck flocks and White-winged Scoter flocks, they just happened to be going the wrong way. As I mentioned on a previous day, these species are due for some big days, especially the scoters. Overall numbers are once again not worth mentioning, but there was another flock of Bonaparte's Gulls (46 total).

Forecast for tomorrow is a 60% chance of rain and temperatures into the mid 50s. Winds from the south at 20-30 mph. That could make for one doozy of a tail-wind, it will be interesting to see if the waterbirds take advantage, or spend another day doing whatever they do when they aren't migrating.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Windy

I can't even bring myself to do a proper blog update about today. It was rainy, extremely windy and unpleasant. There were almost no waterbirds in the sky. We also were treated to a few snow flurries.

Forecast for tomorrow is for sunny skies and WNW wind at 20 mph. Probably another slow one due to the wind, but the chance of rain is 0%. It looks like some good conditions are on the horizon, probably by mid next week.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Friday, May 15, 2009

Much Better Conditions, Only Slightly Better Flight

Despite another relatively slow waterbird flight I'm going consider today a treat because of the weather (especially given yesterday's nightmarish conditions and tomorrow's forecast).

Weather: Sunny, temperatures in the high 50s, with winds ESE 5-10 mph.

Waterbird Count: 69 WW Scoters, 37 RB Mergansers, 17 Common Loons, 14 Greater Scaup, 2 Double-crested Cormorants.

Shorebirds: 12 dunlins. Our visitors from Britain were observing 2 of the Piping Plovers for a while, and said they actually saw the 2 in copulation; it will certainly be interesting to see if they successfully nest on the point.

Gulls: Surprisingly the gulls seem to do a bit migrating today. I counted 15 Ring-billeds and 5 Herrings; these particular gulls were flying rather high, in flocks, and in a NE direction leading me to believe they were actually headed to Canada. There were also 27 Bonaparte's gulls.

Other Sightings: It was pretty quiet in the woods behind the shack, though the sharpies started making appearances the 2nd half of the count. An immature Bald Eagle also hung out between the harbor and the point most of the morning.

I'm thrilled to report that tomorrow is actually going to be a worse version of yesterday. 60% chance of rain, temperatures in the low 40s. The real kicker will be the W winds 25-35 mph; which will accomplish 2 things. 1) is squash any chance of a good waterbird flight, and 2) is blow 10 gallons of sand in my face. But hey, this is the life I choose.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, May 14, 2009


4th snowy owl of the season on North Shore Rd.

Powerful west winds (average of about 20 mph, gusts much faster) seemed to suppress any waterbird migration today. Very little in the sky on the point, though the birding elsewhere was quite good.

Weather: Windy, rainy, and at times foggy. Temperatures fluctuated from high to low 40s, strong W wind, and heavy fog the first 30 minutes of the count. Things cleared up by the end of the day.

Waterbird Count: 17 common loons, 11 RB mergansers, 5 sandhill cranes, 2 WW scoters, 1 gadwall.

Shorebirds: 3 dunlins, 3 semipalmated plovers, 1 spotted sandpiper, killdeer.

Terns: 1 Caspian

Other Sightings: It was a good warbler day from what I heard. John had around 12 species from the platform and in the net lanes. Being on the beach all day I didn't see as much, but I did stop by the feeders once or twice. There were a plethora of white crowned sparrows, a scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, savanna sparrow, and a cape may warbler. There was a merlin on the beach all day hunting quite aggressively, and snatched a few song birds out of the air.

We also had our 4th snowy owl of the spring, this was in plain view on North Shore road. It could be seen from the road but wasn't there last I checked around 7pm. A strange place and a strange time for a snowy sighting. It's pictured above, far from a good shot but you can see how much it stood out from the road.

Forecast for tomorrow is a little bit better. Warmer, with temperatures into the high 50s, and a 0 % chance of rain. Winds SE 10-20 mph.

These 15 straight extremely slow hours, along with a smattering of slow days in May, are slowly chipping away at my eternal optimism about the season picking up. But I'm still semi-hopeful and on paper tomorrow is offering good conditions. Will the waterbirds accept? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Bird-a-thon 2009

Dear all of you avid blog followers,

If you have enjoyed the various blog posts this season, now is your chance let us know by pledging to our staff Bird-a-thon. This is a great way to ensure that there will continue to be blog posts in the future to amuse and amaze you.

This is the 3rd year for the WPBO spring Bird-a-thon fundraiser. Last year the Bird-a-thon pledges were the single biggest contributor to the summer owl research project. The total amount of funding required for this program is $8,000. In the last month, we have raised $7,060 towards our goal, mostly through Bird-a-thon pledges. We are so close, please consider becoming a sponsor!

At the end of May, WPBO staff known as the “Northern Saw-whats” team will record the number of bird species seen in the Whitefish Point Peninsula area during a 24 hour time period. We hope to see about 100 species. You can choose to pledge per species or donate a fixed amount. All pledges collected will directly support the summer owl research at WPBO. Sponsors will receive a written account of our day, a species list and information on our summer research. Anyone who donates over $150 will receive a juvenile saw-whet adoption package, including a photo of your owl, banding information, and adoption certificate.

Be the first to pledge from this blog post! Send your name, address and phone # along with the amount you would like to pledge to, or send by snail mail to:

WPBO Birdathon
16914 N Whitefish Point Rd
Paradise, MI 49768

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1 Good, 7 Slow Hours

Today got off to a fast start with an excellent first hour. Things really fizzled however, and only a few waterfowl trickled through the last 7 hours of the count.

Weather: Partly cloudy, temperatures into the mid 50s. Wind from the SE 15-25 mph with occasional stronger gusts. The birds really seemed to be struggling with the wind today.

Waterbird Count: 162 RB mergansers (99 in the 1st hour), 24 WW scoters, 14 common loons, 7 LT ducks, 5 scoter sp, 3 double crested cormorants, 2 RN grebes, 1 sandhill crane. The sandhill actually landed on the beach, which was a first for me despite all the individuals that have been counted migrating. I've seen sandhills abandon migration attempts with the lightest of E or SE winds, so I was surprised to see one even try today with the powerful gusts.

Shorebirds: 2 of the piping plovers were spotted today. Also 1 killdeer and 2 semipalmated plovers.

Other Sightings: Not too much. A few bobolinks, 1 male lapland longspur, and 44 american pipits. I estimated todays blue jay flock was about 130. There was a kestrel and a few sharpies battling the wind all day. They would try to fly against it, and essentially end up flying in place, as if they were on a treadmill. It was quite a funny scene.

Forecast for tomorrow is for another windy one. Partly cloudy, temperatures into the high 40s, and winds from the W at 15-25 mph. The RB merganser push seems to have started and we should be due for a lot more. Other species due for larger in numbers in mid-may are scoters and LT ducks. Unfortunatly the loons seem to have peaked, but there is always the possibility they could have another big flight before the end of the month. I'd really like for these winds to calm down just a bit, both for my own personal comfort and for the sake of waterfowl migration.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Signs of Life, Good Diversity

Things picked up a bit today. We finally had some south winds, and it was otherwise a beautiful day. Overall a nice combination of waterbirds, gulls, shorebirds and songbirds.

Weather: Gorgeous. Sunny, temperatures in the high 50s, with S/SE wind 5-10 mph.

Waterbird Count: 248 RB mergansers, 125 common loons, 41 red-throated loons (including two right over head), 33 WW scoters, 26 common mergansers, 21 greater scaup, 15 lesser scaup, 5 double-crested cormorants, 4 sandhill cranes, 1 RN grebe, 1 LT duck, 1 teal sp.

Shorebirds: The 4 piping plovers are still around. Also 4 short-billed dowitchers, 1 black-bellied plover, 1 killdeer, 1 shorebird sp.

Gulls: 166 bonaparte's gulls winged their way across the bay, headed towards Canada. Also 1 great black backed gull flew right over the shack.

Terns: 2 caspian terns

Other Sightings: Today was much more active than recent days. Other sightings include 19 bobolinks, 50 or so american pipits, an indigo bunting and 3 horned larks. The blue-jay flock continues to grow, I estimated at least 130 over the pines at one point. Warblers included black and white, black-throated green and black-throated blue. Heard but not seen; eastern bluebird and evening grosbeak.

Forecast for tomorrow is for light rain (70% chance) and winds SE 20-30 mph. High of 56. That's very windy. However, the wind direction plus an overcast day could result and a good waterbird flight. It could also just be a miserable day. Guess we'll just have to wait till sunrise to find out..

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Monday, May 11, 2009

Slow But a Few Nice Birds

The weather was once again pleasant today, but there still wasn't much for waterfowl migration.

Weather: Mostly sunny, wind from the N/NW 5-10 mph. Temperatures into the low 50s, conditions were very comfortable the last 4 hours of the count.

Waterbird Count: 73 common loons, 2 red-throated loons, 1 loon sp. 20 RB mergansers, 5 RN grebes, 4 surf scoters, 4 bufflehead, 3 DC cormorants, 3 LT ducks, 1 common goldeneye. A merganser flew across the tip in front of the shack the first hour. I assumed it was red-breasted but once in scope it was clearly a hooded merganser. The 1 loon sp. is being investigated.

Shorebirds: Now 4 piping plovers on the beach. 1 semipalmated plover.

Gulls: 4 Bonaparte's gulls.

Other Sightings: The flock of blue jays continues to grow, probably around 200 over the pines today. There was a merlin patrolling the beach today, we were worried it would snatch up one of the piping plovers. It settled for a nashville warbler however.

Forecast for tomorrow is partly cloudy, temperatures into the high 50s and south winds 10-20 mph. I'll say nothing about what that means for waterfowl migration seeing as I've been wrong nearly everytime. These last few days have been a grind though a good flight would be a nice surprise.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It Was Indeed A 3 Day Weekend for the Ducks...

...with the loons taking Sunday off too. The wind wasn't too bad today, but it was just a slow one all around.

Weather: Partly cloudy, temperatures into the middle 50s, with wind from the N/NE that picked up as the day went on.

Waterbird Count: 40 common loons, 2 red-throated loons. 8 LT ducks, 4 RN grebes, 3 sandhill cranes, 2 double-crested cormorants, 2 RB mergansers, 2 surf scoters and 1 WW scoter.

Shorebirds: 1 of the piping plovers was spotted today. Also one spotted sandpiper.

Other Sightings: Very very little, it wasn't just the waterbird count that was slow.

Forecast for tomorrow looks pleasant, but not great conditions for waterbird flight. Mostly sunny, high in the low 50s, with WNW wind 5-10 mph. I've given up trying to predict what will happen these days, so I've decided to flip a coin first thing in the morning. Heads it will be a good migration day, tails another slow one.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Loons march on

This is Ken again, filling in for Andy. Although the weather was tough today, the loons continued to migrate. 

Weather: It started cloudy, cleared up, then became cloudy again. The wind was strong throughout the day, with gusts almost up to 30 mph. Temperatures barely cleared 40 F, and with the wind, it felt much colder. 

Waterbird Count: 2 Redhead, 19 Greater Scaup, 2 Lesser Scaup, 3 Surf Scoters, 10 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Common Goldeneye, 34 Red-breasted Mergansers, 15 Red-throated Loons, 210 Common Loons, 13 Red-necked Grebes, 9 Double-crested Cormorants, and 7 Sandhill Cranes. 

Shorebirds: There are still 2 male Piping Plovers on the beach. One of them was battling the wind to give a fluttering display flight throughout the morning. 

Other Sightings: Raptor migration seems to have slowed, which is not surprising considering the winds. There are still plenty of Rough-legged Hawks about, including at least one dark bird. A Merlin spent the morning around the point, seemingly hoping to catch migrating passerines. It chased a small bird that I took for a Pine Siskin. Although I thought the small bird a goner, it somehow managed to use the gusting winds to its advantage and make it to the shelter of the pines. In calm weather, I don't think it would have had a chance. Throughout the first several hours, I occasionally heard a Lapland Longspur calling, but could not locate it. Towards the end of the count, a flock of Horned Larks and longspurs landed in front of me, which was quite satisfying. One of the 'spurs was a male in full breeding plumage, a beautiful sight that is rarely enjoyed in the lower 48. 

The weather forecast for tomorrow is slightly warmer than that endured today, though the winds are no more promising. My guess is that at least 100 loons will still muscle their way through, as they seem to be migrating strongly right now irrespective of the weather. 

-Ken Behrens

Friday, May 8, 2009

Loons Present, Ducks Absent

Not including yesterday's stinker the loons keep coming fairly consistently. Still haven't had one of those really big loon days I keep hearing about, but there's still 3+ weeks left so who knows what will happen. Hopefully the ducks do not have a 3-day weekend in mind...

Weather: Partly cloudy, very calm in the morning with the wind picking up later in the day, mostly from the NW. Temperatures into the middle 50s. There was another period of fog, only for about 10 minutes, in the afternoon.

Waterbird Count: 163 common loons, 14 red-throated loons. Also 6 double-crested cormorants, 5 RB mergansers, 3 RN grebes, 2 common mergansers, 1 great-blue heron. Also 7 dabbler sp, and 1 duck sp.

Shorebirds: There are now 2 male piping plovers on the beach. Also 4 killdeer.

Gulls: I went out on a limb and counted 11 herring gulls today. 99% of the time I see herring gulls doing nothing even close to migrating, but a group today may have actually been headed to Canada.

Other Sightings: Impressive raptor day. There was a kettle of at least 100 at one point. Mostly broad wings, and also red-tails and rough leggeds. Bald eagles and golden eagles were also thrown into the mix. There was also a flock of 100+ blue jays that flew over the pines, though they were minus 1 (the unfortunate blue jay I saw get snatched off the feeder by a sharpie yesterday morning).

This tired waterbird counter is taking another day off. Ken is filling in again, it's supposed to be a bad weather day but lets hope for the best.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heavy Fog, Short Day

Today didn't get off to a great start when I was greeted at the shack by showers and strong wind. Not much was moving the first 2 hours or so, then a heavy fog rolled in. Once it got to the point that I couldn't see the water from the shack I called it a day, just short of 5 hours.

Weather: Clouds rain and fog were recurring themes of the day...

Waterbird Count: 3 common loons, 5 RB mergansers, 1 great-blue heron.

Shorebirds: The piping plover remains, also 4 semipalmated plovers.

Other Sightings: Fog?

Forecast for tomorrow will at least allow for a full day of observation. Partly cloudy, with a high of 55. Winds west 10-15 mph. Not great conditions; but hey even golf-ball sized hail would have made for a better waterbird count today.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Loons, Grebes, and a smattering of ducks

This is Ken Behrens filling in for Andy, who probably deserves a day off after some 35 consecutive days 'on'. There was fairly strong movement early which slowed to a trickle in the later hours. 8 Horned Grebes flying together was a fine sight, and my personal highlight. Between raptors, passerines, and waterbirds, I was surrounded by birds all day, and can think of few more pleasant ways to have spent the time. 

Weather: The day started mostly clear and then clouded up. The wind picked up and then dropped to almost nothing by the end of the count. It came mostly from the south. 

Waterbird Count: 1 Mallard, 2 Redhead, 1 Ring-necked Ducks, 3 Greater Scaup, 4 Lesser Scaup, 4 White-winged Scoters, 55 Long-tailed Ducks, 5 Bufflehead, 2 Common Mergansers, 75 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Red-throated Loons, 153 Common Loons, 8 Horned Grebes, 17 Red-necked Grebes, 41 Double-crested Cormorants, 7 Great Blue Herons, 25 Sandhill Cranes. 

Shorebirds: One American Golden Plover dashed by in a northwesterly direction, while 15 Killdeer were mostly headed northeast, off the point. 

Other Sightings: There was a great hawk flight, with lots of Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, including a very pale 'Krider's'-type Red-tailed that eventually drifted by after being spotted at the hawk watch. I saw at least one Golden Eagle and several Bald Eagles, most of which I was able to watch crossing Lake Superior. The soft calls of American Pipits came from the sky throughout the day, and I watched hundreds of these birds leave the security of land to venture across the lake. 

The forecast for tomorrow seems un-promising, though one never knows with waterbird migration. 

Ken Behrens

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Loons Keep Moving

I must admit I am slightly disappointed with how the day turned out, but the common loons continued migrating in solid, if unspectacular numbers.

Weather: Turned out to be cloudy most of the day, with occasional sun and strong SE wind which made the day feel colder than the upper 50s.

Waterbird Count: 192 common loons, 6 red-throated loons. Also thrown in the mix were 49 RB mergansers, 32 scaup sp, 18 double-crested cormorants, 17 greater scaup, 9 RN grebes, 6 common mergansers, 4 red-headed ducks (my first of the season), 3 gadwall, 3 WW scoters, 3 sandhill cranes, 2 common goldeneye.

Shorebirds: The piping plover was on the beach again in the morning.

Gulls: Finally something new! 4 Bonaparte's gulls

Other Sightings: Raptors raptors and more raptors! We had sharpies around the beach all day, spotted some harriers, rough-leggeds, red-tail, and bald eagles. Turkey vulutres were out kettling again.

I am reluctantly taking a day off tomorrow, and I'm not even going to check the weather forcast for fear that I'll see good conditions and end up at the shack at 7am when I should be sleeping. The count is in excellent hands though, I'll pass along the results tomorrow.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Monday, May 4, 2009

Loons and Piping Plover: Part II

Piping Plover on the point yesterday and today. Photo courtesy of Joe Brooks

Today was mostly about the loons again. They had another good flight, with numbers landing in the middle of the 5/2 and 5/3 counts. The piping plover was still on the point this morning but was no where to be found by the afternoon.

Weather: Beautiful day; sunny, temperatures into the high 50s. It was completely calm at sunrise, with no wind you could hear a pin drop, or in our case the whistling and wing beats of a loon flying directly over head. The wind did eventually pick up some, coming mostly from the SE and E but never topped 5 mph.

Waterbird Count: 198 common loons, 24 red-throated loons. Also 29 RN grebes, 26 greater scaup, 24 scaup sp, 12 sandhill cranes, 12 common mergansers, 8 RB mergansers, 4 LT ducks, 2 surf scoters, 2 northern pintail, 1 DC coromorant, 1 great-blue heron.

Shorebirds: The piping plover again

Other Sightings: A lot of raptors today. We had sharpies, rough leggeds and red tails in the morning. The afternoon brough an impressive kettle, including turkey vulutures, red-tails, and broad wings. There were as many as 8 golden eagles around Whitefish Point today as well. My favorite sighting came after the count, when an osprey swooped over the parking lot with a very large fish in its talons. Quite a sight it was.

I'm supposed to be taking a day off soon but I don't see how I could tomorrow. Forecast is for mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the high 50s and a SE wind 10-20 mph. Looks like a good day for the loons to continue moving, and hopefully other waterfowl as well.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Loons and a Piping Plover

The loons improved greatly their numbers from the yesterday, and we had a piping plover on the beach for most of the day.

Weather: Cloudy in the morning turned the sunny after a few hours. Temperatures in the mid 40s with winds starting from the W, shifting between the W and SW for a while. The second half of the count the wind shifted to the NW and effectively put a stop to waterfowl movement for the day.

Waterbird Count: 340 common loons, 58 red-throated loons. Also 40 sandhill cranes, 35 greater scaup, 27 RB mergansers, 8 lesser scaup, 7 scaup sp, 7 common mergansers, 4 RN grebes, 3 common goldeneye, 2 double-crested cormorants, 1 LT duck. Also 7 ducks with no ID, and 2 aythya sp.

Shorebirds: First piping plover of the season. This one was hanging out on the south side of the point just at the water line. It stuck around for a while before moving farther up the beach. It seemed quite content with itself and didn't mind the attention it recieved from our numerous weekend visitors.

Other Sightings: The beach was pretty quiet once the loon flight died down. Aside from the piping plover there wasn't much the last few hours of the count. Action over the jack pines included numerous kettling turkey vultures, some red-tail, broad-wing and rough-legged hawks and sharpies. John reported at least 4 golden eagles in the area, 2 of which flew right over head as I was packing up for the day.

Forecast for tomorrow is fantastic. Sunny skies all day, with temperatures up to 57. Winds from the SSE at 5-10 mph. I see no reason the loons can't keep up the good work and maybe we'll get some more diversity tomorrow as well.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Good Loon Flight

Weather conditions were so-so today, with winds coming straight out of the west (with occasional shifts to the S, NW and E). Not great variety or numbers in terms of duck species but the loons had their best day yet for the spring 09 count.

Weather: Cloudy in the morning, turned into a mostly sunny day. Temperatures into the 40s, with winds up to 15 mph mostly from the W. I should note the wind was a little wacky today, starting out from the S, at one point stopping completely before shifting its way to the W.

Waterbird Count: 104 loons: 97 common and 7 red-throated. Mixed in were 13 common mergansers, 11 RN grebes, 10 greater scaup, 5 RB mergansers, 5 wood ducks, 2 LT ducks, 2 Am. widgeon, 2 Canada geese, 1 northern shoveler.

Shorebirds: 1 greater yellow-leg

Other Sightings: A short-eared owl made its way around the point once or twice before disappearing into the jack pines. Aside from that not much, the day slowed down considerably once the winds picked up.

Tomorrow's forecast is almost identical to today's. Possible rain in the AM turning into sun. Winds from the W 10 to 20 mph, and temperatures into the upper 40s. That's a pretty gusty wind, and unless it shifts to the south or lets up I don't imagine tomorrow will be a big day. Although, seeing as the loons did well today I have no reason to believe they won't have good numbers again tomorrow. Dare I even hope for an improvement?

Andy N
Waterbird Counter

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Day to Forget

White-throated sparrow that flew into the shack today. One of the few birds I saw all day.

Today was not a good one. Very strong NW winds, clouds, and occasional rain contributed to thoroughly miserable conditions. The waterfowl sat this one out and I don't blame them.

Weather: Cloudy, with occasional rain. Strong winds quickly shifted from the SW to NW. The wind was pretty consistently blowing at 15 mph and gusts must have come close to 30. Temperatures in the low 40s. It did clear up by the end of the count.

Waterbirds: 11 Sandhill cranes, 5 horned grebes, 3 red-necked grebes, 3 RB mergansers, 2 common loons, 2 bufflehead, 2 greater scaup, 1 red-throated loon. One more comment on the waterbirds today: I saw more common loons (4) and RB mergansers (4) going in the opposite direction.

Shorebirds: 1 killdeer

Other Sightings: 3 bald eagles. One adult that perched on the point for about 30 minutes, and looked about as annoyed with the weather conditions as I was. Two immature balds were fighting over some food the first hour. Also a merlin and kestrel. Then of course there was my visitor pictured above. This little guy must have thought I looked lonely in the shack seeing as he flew right in while I was writing some notes in my book. I'm just glad I made it out without getting pooped on.

Looks the winds are going to shift tomorrow. Forecast is for clouds, temperatures in the upper 40s and a 30% chance of a "few" showers. They were initially saying winds from the SW, but checking forecast again now it says W. Looks like it could be a toss up tomorrow.

Andy N
Waterbird Counter