Tuesday, August 31, 2010

... keeps some boredom away

Adult light-phase Parasitic Jaeger from St. Paul Island, AK

Well after breaking my consecutive day streak of seeing jaegers yesterday I managed to start a whole new one today when an adult light-phase Parasitic Jaeger cruised past the point about 10 this morning. However, as was expected bird movement was light overall with strong south winds associated with the last of the high pressure system that has controlled our weather for the past week or so. Mercifully scattered cloud cover and the strong winds helped to mitigate the heat and humidity that had made afternoons so unpleasant lately.

Passage migrants were led by Red-necked Grebe (shocker!) with a still low count of 33, while 27 Common Terns placed them second and 8 Common Loons rounded out the top 3. Horned Grebes returned in small numbers with 6 scattered across the morning and a single Red-throated Loon in the late morning added a little spice to the count. Duck numbers remained low with 2 American Black Ducks being the only species of any note.

Shorebirds numbers and diversity remained similar with 15+ Sanderlings still pacing the point's sand and gravel shoreline while the peep count was made up of 1 Baird's, 1 Least, and 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper. A Lesser Yellowlegs made a pass overhead early this morning.

Most of the resident raptors made an appearance on the point today while a juvenile Peregrine Falcon that flew in mid-day was clearly a migrant. Passerine migrants were few and far between but the woods did produce a few Swainson's Thrushes, a House Wren, and 7 warbler species including a Black-throated Blue.

Tomorrow's forecast includes a cold front, west-to-northwest winds, and reduced temperatures, can't wait.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Swimming weather

As the high pressure system continues to produce near record high temperatures and little to no bird immigration for yet another day the overall bird numbers continue to drop both on the point and passing by the point. On the positive note swimming in Lake Superior off the point today felt quite nice with air temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s by the afternoon.

On the waterbird front Red-necked Grebe was the most common with 24 seen today while Red-breasted Merganser held the second spot with 12 and Horned Grebe snuck into number three with 8 individuals for the day. Shorebirds were scarcer than late with Sanderling numbers holding steady around 25 while all other species were much reduced or absent.

Non-waterbirds were still present but activity was weak with the high temps and humidity causing an early drop-off in bird movement. New migrants included an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Baltimore Oriole, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet while warbler diversity peaked at 7-10 species.

Tomorrow's weather is suppose to be more of the same but depending on which meteorologist you believe there should be a break in this weather between Wednesday and Friday so here's hoping it comes sooner rather than later.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The streak ends

Well I guess it couldn't last forever but the run on jaegers over the past few days sure was nice while it lasted. The weather conditions were essentially the same as the previous few days with sunny skies and light south winds once again, the large number of people swimming in the lake all along the point suggests this may be the last gasp of summer before the fall really kicks in.

Bird numbers were similar to recent days with 150+ Red-necked Grebes back in the top position and Blue-winged Teal returning to the #3 spot with 34 while Bonaparte's Gulls took over the #2 position with 39 thanks to a group of 25 late in the day. Common Loon numbers returned to double-digits with 11 for the morning and afternoon.

Shorebird numbers were steady with 24 Sanderling and 17 Baird's Sandpipers leading the way, a single Solitary Sandpiper flew by calling early in the morning. The only other migrant Larids were 11 Common Terns which flew past in small groups during the morning.

Common landbird migrants were again showing signs of building numbers with flocks of American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warblers conspicuous at the shack while thrush numbers continued to increase in the woods and a consistent variety of warblers remain in the woods including Black-throated Blue and Wilson's. The first Yellow-billed Cuckoo of the season was also detected this morning while a new Peregrine Falcon came in off the lake during the afternoon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Jaeger a day...

Well the jaeger show continued at the shack today with 2 Parasitic Jaegers passing by on an otherwise very uneventful morning and afternoon count. The first, an adult or close to it, dark-morph passed by in the count's 3rd hour while the second was found in overpowering heat haze around noon and could only be placed as a sub-adult or adult Parasitic. Hopefully I can go for the hat trick tomorrow and pick up a Pomarine giving me all three in as many days.

Moderate south-southwest winds dominated all day while clear skies and a lot of sun were the tell-tale marks of continuing high pressure. This is suppose to last a few more days but they say rain is on the horizon. On a personal high note for the first time this year I can say that Red-necked Grebe was not the most common bird, that title was stripped away by the 33 Blue-winged Teal which topped the 29 mark set by their Podiceps cousins. Rounding out the top 3 was Mallard with a whopping 6 seen throughout the day.

Shorebirds were again represented by the same variety on the point while single Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers passed overhead during the morning. Bonaparte's Gulls also increased over recent days with a couple large groups late bringing the total to 74 birds.

Landbirds were less numerous than recent days but 2 Cooper's Hawks moving in off the lake, a small kettle of 17 Broad-winged Hawks mid-morning, and a fly-by Pileated Woodpecker early on added some spice to the bland concoction the lake was serving up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Long-tailed Jaeger

The day all came down to a minute or so around 9:30 am when an adult Long-tailed Jaeger cruised on past the point, just far enough out to keep me from getting a picture, to give me my second jaeger species so far in August. Other highlights for the day included the first 2 Red-throated Loons for the season and my first Caspian Terns for the point this season. The picture below was taken in Alaska but its just to show I do know what an adult Long-tailed Jaeger looks like in real life.

Apart from the aforementioned highlights the day wore on pretty slow with only a handful of birds seen in the afternoon and a near miss on a nap from your truly. Comfortable temps in the mid-70s, a nice breeze out of the south, and weary eyes from hours of little activity nearly got the better of me but I managed to stay awake till the bitter end. To the delight of the vacationers and locals the weather forecast is for similar weather all weekend long, those of us at the shack might have a slightly different take on the weather outlook however.

Red-necked Grebes continued with 156 seen today while all other waterbirds amounted to a total of about 50 birds with 8 Blue-winged Teal and 7 Common Terns leading the pack. Common Loon numbers dropped to only 3 and a pair of Horned Grebes late morning were the only of their species noted. Shorebird numbers were actually up from previous days with the 24 Sanderlings accounting for most of the increase while 4 Ruddy Turnstones continued and 7 Buff-breasted Sandpipers were newly arrived.

Typical raptors again showed well at the shack this morning chasing exhausted birds in off the lake while common birds seemed to be preparing to move as small flocks of Blue Jays, Common Ravens, and Chipping Sparrows were noted in the jack pines.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lake Superior spouts off

No, I am not crazy enough to think the lake is making fun of me for sitting next to it all day staring at birds flying by, though I may be later on this fall but we will just have to wait and see if that happens. I was however fortunate enough to watch the start of a water spout this morning as the one cumulonimbus cloud over the lake decided to put on a short-lived show when it sent down a funnel cloud that made it about half-way to the lake before losing steam and dissipating. Growing up in Tornado Alley and living in the desert I'm pretty familiar with other tornadic events but this was my first water spout.

Unfortunately the birds could not hold the excitement created by the weather as the light northwestern winds didn't seem to be pushing much south or east. Red-necked Grebes were again the most common with 300+ noted today while Common Tern (66) and Blue-winged Teal (25) rounded out the top three. About a dozen Common Loons flew past while a poor duck showing was highlighted by a slight increase over the past week in White-winged Scoters at 9.

Shorebird diversity remained about the same with a small contingent of Baird's, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers joining the Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers on the point. The only clearly new arrivals for the day were a group of 6 Ruddy Turnstones that were found mid-morning but had disappeared by the afternoon.

Non-waterbird diversity continues to be pretty good with a decent raptor show today as the local Merlins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Northern Goshawks duked it out over hunting rights to the point this morning, the Merlins seemed to come away victorious. Passerine numbers were a bit down from the past two days but a healthy contingent of warblers continue in the woods including Black-throated Blue, Blackpoll, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush, while small numbers of Swainson's Thrushes, a Philadelphia Vireo, and a couple Lincoln's Sparrows were also noted during the day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

8/24 and 8/25

Jason spelled me yesterday morning and afternoon so I could catch up on some much needed sleep and check out the woods at my leisure. Not much to report waterbird wise but he did see 3Whimbrel in the early afternoon and dabbler numbers were higher than previous days. The woods had a nice selection of warblers with the season's first Ovenbird and Bay-breastedsamong them.

Today started out promising with light-moderate southwest winds and rain on the horizon. While bird numbers were up markedly from previous days the onslaught of waterbirds that we hoped for never quite materialized. Presumably that just means we will have an even better day once they decide to make a break for the coast.

I feel by this point everyone is aware what the most common bird for the day is going to be but I'll say it anyway, Red-necked Grebe with just shy of 500 birds seen today. A distant second to grebes were Blue-winged Teal with 71 (99 Teal Sp. were also recorded) and then a tie for third at 23 between Common Loon and American Wigeon. Other ducks seen today included single American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, White-winged Scoter, and Common Goldeneye and a pair of Greater Scaup.

Shorebird diversity remained low with a single Solitary Sandpiper being the most uncommon while the highest counts belonged to Sanderling (19) and Baird's Sandpiper (16). The day's best sighting came in the late morning when an adult dark-phase Parasitic Jaeger passed by out on the lake. Unfortunately it never came in to the gull roost on the point, though I'm sure the gulls preferred it this way. Also noted today was a single Caspian Tern.

The best action involved the non-waterbirds as large numbers of migrants arrived last night and throughout the morning on the occasional fronts that passed through. Migrants noted from the shack included a Sora, Broad-winged Hawk, and Clay-colored Sparrow while several walks through the woods produced at least 15 species of warblers (including the season's firstBlackpolls), a House Wren, the season's first Swainson's Thrushes, and a pair of fly-over Red Crossbills.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whimbrel saves the day

For the fourth straight day there was little waterbird movement past the point as non-existent to light east/southeast winds predominated the morning and afternoon once again. As always Red-necked Grebe was the most common bird at 75+ for the morning while Bonaparte's Gull (12), Horned Grebe (7), and Common Loon (6) rounded out the top 4 species counts for the day. Only a handful of ducks were seen with 4 White-winged Scoters topping the list.

The bright spot for the morning was a Whimbrel which flew up the beach from the south and continued west from the point towards the lighthouse and out of sight. Other shorebirds present were much the same as yesterday with Baird's Sandpiper and Sanderling showing in the greatest numbers.

Passerine numbers seemed to be building in the jack pines on the point today with small flocks of American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Chipping Sparrows about this morning which included smaller numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Cape May, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Palm, and Nashville Warblers, a Northern Waterthrush, and a Black-backed Woodpecker which ventured out to the jack pine edge before thinking better of it and heading back to the trees.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bears and Birds, well bears at least

The morning's highlight was a young (discussion on whether he was this year's or last year's offspring never amounted to a final consensus) Black Bear which made two short trips down the path and out to the edge of the jack pines this morning. He must have heard the Blueberry Festival was this weekend and wanted to make sure he had a chance to get in on the action.

In other news today we saw more birders than birds pass by the point under increasingly sunny skies and light-moderate N winds. The day saw the fall's first Sandhill Cranes pass overhead and a Surf Scoter early on but it remained slow most of the day with Red-necked Grebe(163) and Common Tern (31) leading the day's waterbird counts. Also passing by were 7Common Goldeneyes, 9 Common Loons, 2 Horned Grebes, 7 Bonaparte's Gulls, and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, while continuing shorebird numbers were down markedly from yesterday with less than 10 Baird's Sandpipers about and only a scattering of the shorebird species from recent days.

Passerine numbers were again low while raptors were in evidence throughout the day as 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, a Northern Goshawk, 2 Merlins, and a juvenile Peregrine Falcon hunted what birds were on the point during the morning and afternoon.

The weather forecast remains poor for a big migration event in the near future but that can only mean the numbers will be building until the weather turns in their favor, at least I hope that's what it means.

Both photos courtesy of David Bell.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Baird's Sandpipers galore

Well this day was all about the Baird's Sandpipers with several groups found along the beach to the south of the point that totaled about 100! birds in all. Also along the beaches were at least 16 Sanderlings and 7 Buff-breasted Sandpipers with smaller numbers of Semipalmated and Leasts. A fly-over Solitary Sandpiper in the afternoon was a first for the fall.

Waterbirds however had another slow day from the point with less than 100 migrants noted this morning. Red-necked Grebes still led the way at 19 but Horned Grebes weren't far behind at 11. Duck numbers were low as expected and Common Loon numbers dropped to 5 for the day.

Merlins continue to harass the points smaller birds while a Belted Kingfisher and Osprey livened up the scene a little bit as well.

The winds are shifting as we speak and the rain seems to be moving out so hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for those at the shack.

Friday, August 20, 2010

On the bright side of things...

Well on the bright side today I stayed dry, and that about covers the bright side. From the start it looked pretty bleak and the birds just never got going today with strong southeasterly winds prevailing all morning long. A few brave souls attempted southern movements but the final tally was just over 100 Red-necked Grebes and less than 100 other birds with Common Tern (40), Common Loon (8), and Horned Grebe (8) topping the other list. The day's best bird was a Black Tern which passed by around noon, while only 11 ducks were counted for the day, with 6 Mallards being tops among them.

The point's shorebird flock seemed to have made good use of the night as only a few birds remained today with the only potential new arrivals being 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers which could be a re-appearance of the same group as a few days ago.

Non-waterbird sightings were nearly as rare today though accipiters put on a good showing with a single Cooper's and 2 Sharp-shinned making passes of the point, several Northern Harriers came in off the lake mid-morning, a Cape May Warbler posed in the closest tree to the shack early on, and a very lost Ruby-throated Hummingbird made a pass by me on the point before quickly returning to the trees he left.

The forecast is for storms and western/northern winds so hopefully things will get going again soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Both the weather man and I were right, sign of the apocalypse?

I drove to the point and then walked to the shack in a cold, dark rain, I ended the day with a sunburn, go figure. The day started off ugly with the back end of the system that pushed west across the UP bringing rain, light fog, and no birds, but after about 30 minutes it began to clear and everything changed. As the morning went on the clouds dispersed, the wind lessened and shifted to the north/northwest, and the birds began to flow under ever-sunnier skies which means both the weather man's prediction and my prediction, based on his prediction, were correct, eerie. Tomorrow's forecast is for rain and southerly winds so lets hope the meteorologists aren't accurate for two straight days.

After a rough first hour of the count which accounted for under 25 birds and no Red-necked Grebes the dam began to burst with nearly 500 Red-necked Grebes in the second hour and then over 850! in the third hour, numbers declined throughout the rest of the day but the total count ended at 2155, a slight increase over Tuesday. Common Loon numbers were again steady with 16 moving past while duck diversity was significantly better than previous days including the season's first Gadwalls, Northern Shoveler, and Greater Scaup.

Shorebird diversity was slightly higher with 9 species as Black-bellied Plover and Lesser Yellowlegs were replaced by a Spotted Sandpiper, a Ruddy Turnstone, and 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers while Baird's continued to be the most common at 26 individuals. Tern numbers were higher than previous days as 25 Common Terns passed by the point with a couple unidentified Sterna Sp. passing by mid-morning.

Other birds noted today included a pair of Broad-winged Hawks in the early afternoon and a clear turnover in migrant passerines on my walk back from the shack which included a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 3 Red-eyed Vireos, and numerous warblers (Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Palm, Black-and-white, Wilson's, and Canada).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

South winds are not my friend

Second day on the job and I'm already complaining about something, bad sign for November. The winds today came out of the south/southwest all morning long at speeds up to 20-25 MPH making the movement of birds to the south all the more challenging, although they seemed to be better at moving against the wind than the few Monarchs that were attempting to move south today. The weather man says a shift to western and then northern winds tonight though so maybe that will re-open the floodgates.

As expected Red-necked Grebes still led the count with close to 300 birds (or 1700 less than yesterday) passing by while White-winged Scoter and Blue-winged Teal held the #2 and #3 positions respectively. Seasonal firsts included 2 Surf Scoters mixed in with the White-wingeds and 3 Horned Grebes mixed in with the Red-neckeds while the Common Loon numbers held steady at 15 for the day and a Black Tern floated past around 11 a.m.

Counting shorebirds was made all the more difficult as the incessant hunting by Northern Harriers, then Northern Goshawks, and then Merlins left the birds a wee bit wary as the day wore on. Still the flock contained a Black-bellied Plover, a Lesser Yellowlegs, up to 8 Sanderlings, and up to 29 Baird's Sandpipers at different points throughout the day.

Other birds noted throughout the day included an ever increasing flock of swallows over the point itself comprised mainly of Cliff but also containing Tree, Bank, and Barn, that grew into the low hundreds by the afternoon, a number of raptors (most of which were chasing the shorebirds), and a few chips from the forest along the walk out that materialized into Tennessee, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Palm, and Canada Warblers.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Its just some more Red-necked Grebes

So I finally made it to the point yesterday after a few days of disagreements between myself and the rear differential on my pickup, I thought he should work, he disagreed, so we decided to part ways in Flagstaff, AZ. Anyway I made it here just in time to find a Parasitic Jaeger on the point last evening and get myself ready for the count this morning.

The morning's count started off with wind and a serious threat from rain but it seemed Mother Nature favored the USA this Tuesday as the inclement weather all stayed north along the Canadian shoreline. Which meant nicer weather but way too much heat shimmer for my liking. Despite the wind and "heat" the morning turned out nicely as a strong mid-to-late morning push of Red-necked Grebes contributed to a nice count of 2,017 by the time I left with a trickle still moving past. Also on the point this morning were 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers among the smattering of Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, Baird's Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Sanderlings.

Other waterbird numbers were relatively low with 19 White-winged Scoters and 18 Common Loons topping the non-Red-necked Grebe list while 5 Bonaparte's Gulls and a single Common Tern broke up the Ring-billed/Herring Gull monotony.

Non-waterbirds around the point this morning included dueling juvenile Northern Goshawks, a Merlin trying to dine on the shorebirds, a Bald Eagle successfully dining on a fish, and a few birds in the trees that would prefer to remain nameless.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Parasitic Jaeger

The official count wasn't that great today, with rain during the first five hours. Despite this, a good number of migrants were coming in off the lake. This included a bat that had me fooled for awhile. The highlight were 7 Black Terns, 5 of which were in non-breeding plumage, that kept passing around the point in the rain. 5 species of raptors and several swallow species were seen as well. Official results:

Common Loon-9
Red-necked Grebe-23
Great Blue Heron-1
Semipalmated Sandpiper-9
Bonaparte's Gull-7
Black Tern-7

This evening was a lot better, with the highlight being the Parasitic Jaeger that Scott found. It stayed close to the tip around 5 minutes, chasing the gulls, before finally heading towards the harbor. Quite exciting!

White-winged Scoter-4
Common Loon-1
Red-necked Grebe-162
Grebe Sp.-4
Semipalmated Plover-1

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Awesome Start!

5 minutes into the count a Whimbrel started calling and was briefly seen, beginning a great day. The rest of the hour was decent, but at the start of the second hour things just kept coming and coming, including a ridiculous amount of White-winged Scoters this early in the season. Tons of waterfowl were specks in the scope, and if you include all the dabbler, grebe, and waterfowl sp., with the numbers below, then over 1,000 waterfowl were seen today. There was hardly a breeze until the last couple hours of the count.

Blue-winged Teal-23
White-winged Scoter-232
Common Goldeneye-1
Common Merganser-3
Red-breasted Merganser-1
Common Loon-18
Red-necked Grebe-418
Black-bellied Plover-1
Semipalmated Plover-1
Least Sandpiper-1
Bonaparte's Gull-6
Caspian Tern-1
Common Tern-4

Went back for a couple of hours this evening, but didn't have anything spectacular.

White-winged Scoter-1
Common Loon-1
Red-necked Grebe-24