Saturday, October 30, 2010

Winter is a coming

Long-tailed Duck at St. Paul Island, AK
Today was downright cold with a chilly north wind off the lake and persistent rain/drizzle throughout the morning into the early afternoon making for less than pleasant conditions.  Yesterday was a little more mild with western winds and partly cloudy skies, I mean the temperature actually reached higher than 40 degrees as opposed to today's high of 35 at the point.  But with nasty weather often comes the birds and so while my fingers and toes have loudly voiced their displeasure with the working conditions of late the counting itself has been good.

As the duck diversity begins to drop (along with the thermometer and my core body temperature) this time of year it also signals the arrival of the largest daily duck flights which can make for a more entertaining day of counting.  While the largest daily totals are yet to come, at least we hope, the past two days have seen large movements led by Long-tailed Duck (only 115 yesterday but 2712 today), Red-breasted Merganser (1408 yesterday and 1164 today), and Common Goldeneye (389 yesterday and 739 today).  Each day has also seen decent flights of Bufflehead (253 and 104) while all three scoters have been seen each day but not in overwhelming numbers, though the counts of Black Scoters (32 and 11) have been pretty good.  A few dabblers, mainly Mallard, American Black Ducks, and Green-winged Teal, are still being seen daily while a few scaup have also made their way past the point.  The waterfowl highlights over the past two days have been 2 Hooded Mergansers and 1 Canvasback yesterday and a flock of 10 Tundra Swans (likely birds that have been present at the Tahquamenon River mouth over recent days) today.

Loons are still flying past in the same numbers that they have all season with Common Loon counts of 28 and 48 over the past two days with just 1 or 2 Red-throateds also seen each day.  The grebe numbers also continue to hold steady with another little burst of Red-neckeds mixed into the duck flight, the daily counts of 130 and 74 are the best in almost two weeks.  Horned Grebes are still around but in much smaller numbers with 11 on today's count.  No unusual gulls have been noted over the past two days and shorebirds continue to be quite scarce with a Dunlin yesterday and two Sanderlings today, both sightings came in the final half hour of the count.

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