Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good way to end the month

Today's weather was nearly as predicted, the winds came out of the W/NW all morning and afternoon long but to our benefit the rain stopped pre-dawn and the sun came out in the afternoon which made the point a much nicer place to be.  Activity was good early this morning and continued steadily through the day with only a moderate drop-off in the afternoon, much different than the precipitous decline in activity that  has been typical of late.  Tomorrow's forecast is for similar conditions to today with a greater chance of rain so we will see if the birds are still going to use the favorable winds to their advantage.

Presumably making their final large push of the season Red-necked Grebes were the most common bird of the day with 914 counted, of note they continued to move past at rates above 100 birds per hour till the end of the count.  A number of other birds also had their best showing to date with Horned Grebe (61), Common Loon (116), Ring-necked Duck (32), Greater and Lesser Scaup (209 and 95 respectively), and Surf Scoter (220) among them.  Duck diversity remained good with 16 total species including 124 Redheads, 1 Black Scoter, and 7 Long-tailed Ducks.  Surprisingly only 6 Red-throated Loons were counted despite the much larger numbers for their larger cousins.

There were very few other waterbirds around the point today but for the first time this season there appeared to be a southward movement of Ring-billed Gulls during the morning and a few Bonaparte's Gulls continued out on the lake.  A single American Golden-Plover along with at least one Sanderling are still hanging on along the beach.

The woods continue to be quite active with sparrows making up a large percentage of the biomass these days but there are still a few late warblers and other migrants.  So far it seems the winter finch forecast is holding true as the number of Pine Siskins continues to build each day.

Peregrine Falcon

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Increased diversity

As has been the case in recent days the weather was mediocre for bird flight and so the past two days have been average with good diversity but only small numbers of individual species.  Yesterday's wind was moderate to strong from the N/NW and today was light turning strong from the S/SW, not anything to hinder migration but nothing to really get it going either.  Tomorrow and Friday are forecast to be strong from the W/NW with sporadic rain which seems like a recipe for a good flight along the lake.

The past two days have had good waterfowl diversity with 18 species of ducks seen (and Canada Goose) including all three scoters and an increased number of scaups of both species.  No species have been present in exceptional numbers but there have been small mixed flocks regularly passing the point into the early afternoon as of late.  Loon numbers have remained in the same pattern with Common Loon counts in the high-20s both days and a combined 11 Red-throateds with most of those coming today.  Horned Grebes have increased in numbers with day counts of 18 and 11 while Red-neckeds remain in the 50-100 per day range.

For the first time in awhile I did not see a jaeger today though yesterday was more "typical" of this year with the continuing juvenile Parasitic and one unidentified bird out on the lake during the morning.  Shorebird numbers were no better with a few American Golden-Plovers around the point both days and a trio of juvenile Sanderlings still patrolling the shoreline.  Yesterday a migrant Greater Yellowlegs made a brief flyover and an unidentified phalarope was seen momentarily as it worked the breakers off shore before disappearing as quickly as it appeared.

A resurgence in raptor numbers the past few days has led to more action on that front lately with Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon all hunting the point at various, and sometimes overlapping, times.  In the prey category sparrows have made their grand arrival with large numbers and good variety present in the woods while a few warblers (mostly Yellow-rumpeds) and thrushes are still hanging on for good measure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blondes? Brunettes? Nope, I'll take a Redhead

Today's weather appeared like it would be no better than recent days when I checked the forecast before reluctantly rolling out of a warm bed this morning but like I have learned while trying to predict bird migration in the past, what we presume to happen is often not what does.  All day it was clear and sunny with light S winds but for some reason there were birds.  To be fair they were almost all Redheads or other species associated with the Redhead flocks but at least there was movement.  In the end I tallied 401 Redheads today mostly coming through in flocks of 15-40 birds that sometimes trailed a few hangers on, and sometimes did not.

Small but respectable numbers of other duck species came through as well with the next two highest counts being 76 American Wigeons and 75 Greater Scaup.  All of the regular dabblers appeared at some point or another while the divers were in smaller numbers with very few scoters coming through and a much reduced merganser count.  Loon numbers continue to be low with Red-throated nearly out-pacing Common today but a late surge gave the Great Northern variety a 13 to 9 advantage.  Red-necked Grebes continue in small numbers with 54 seen while a pair of migrant Horned Grebes and a single bird hanging around the point this morning were the only ones noted of that species.

As has become typical of recent days the same light-phase juvenile Parasitic Jaeger cruised the point on several occasions today while two other distant jaegers added to the total of unidentified birds for the year.  Shorebirds were again scarce with a single American Golden-Plover joining a small group of Sanderlings as the only healthy birds left while an injured Baird's Sandpiper was there but who knows for how much longer.

The woods were a bit more alive today with a Black-backed Woodpecker heard from the shack this morning and small numbers of passerines including an improved warbler count with at least 6 species seen.  Most notable was a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird that buzzed the shack this afternoon, if the records I have are correct this would be the latest sighting for the point by one day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

9/24 and 9/25: They had so much potential

Cold "wall" that came through on 9/24

The past two days have been characterized by very mediocre bird movements and interesting weather.  Yesterday was warm, eventually getting up into the 60s, and humid in the morning when a serious cold front plowed through that dropped the temperature 10-15 degrees and hit me with rain for the last 2-3 hours of the count.  The picture above is the front itself, truthfully I can't ever remember seeing clouds make a 90 degree right angle before.  Today was all about the wind, it blew out of the N and NNW and it blew hard.  The winds this morning were sustaining themselves in the 20-25 MPH range with gusts well over 30 at times.  Despite, or perhaps because of, the winds bird movement was pretty poor except for Canada Geese.

Canada Geese continue to be the most common birds of late with counts of 137 and 480 the past two days while other waterfowl are still showing but in sporadic groups.  Yesterday saw a decent movement of dabblers while today was mostly scoters and mergansers with only a handful of dabbling ducks noted.  While on the loon front numbers continue to be about the same with Commons totaling 87 for the two days and Red-throateds totaling 18.  Red-necked Grebes made a bit of an improvement today with 61 seen which is better than the 10 that were seen on Friday.

Shorebirds are still in short supply with a small flock of Sanderlings providing most of the total though a Baird's Sandpiper has been present for two days now and an American Golden-Plover was seen this afternoon.  As has become the norm up here this year jaegers were noted both days with a continuing light-morph juvenile Parasitic seen both yesterday and today while the light-morph adult that has been hanging around for several days was again noted this afternoon.  An additional unknown jaeger was seen this afternoon bringing the season's total to 61 jaegers!

The conditions have not been conducive to birding the point itself when I have had the opportunity for a couple days so I have seen very little but a few intrepid birders did scout the woods this morning with Rusty Blackbird and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker being the top prizes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MIZZ-UR-A-BULL weather

adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in the harbor

So today dawned with rain and strong E/SE winds, and it never changed.  Rain showers hit the point on and off all day long and the wind picked up through the day never deviating from the ESE or SE.  Despite that some birds still flew on and with tomorrow's forecast of similar conditions but with winds from the SW and W my hopes are high for what might fly by.

Today's best bird by far was a non-breeding plumaged Laughing Gull that made two quick passes along the lake in front of the shack about 9 and 11 this morning, unfortunately the bird never came in to the point to roost or in shore for a picture.  While this species is a rare, but not entirely unexpected, late spring and summer wanderer to the area a fall bird anywhere inland is exceptionally uncommon and much like the recent southern finds on Lake Michigan it could be due to recent tropical systems from the Gulf of Mexico.  Also quite rare for the point was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that was found after the count concluded in the Whitefish Point harbor while looking in vain for the Laughing Gull; add in another juvenile Sabine's Gull and today was quite the gull day for the point.

Overall diversity was good today despite not having a large count of any particular species or group.  The most common species for the day were White-winged Scoter (59), Canada Goose (47), and Northern Pintail (43), the breakdown is notable because for the first time this year the top three does not include Red-necked Grebe.  Duck diversity was good today with handful of dabbler species including the first 2 Wood Ducks of the year, 9 American Black Ducks, and 16 Northern Shovelers while divers consisted mostly of White-winged Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers with the first 2 Long-tailed Ducks of the season flying the wrong way past the point this morning.  Loons far outnumbered grebes for the day with 23 Common and 17 Red-throateds as compared to 10 Red-neckeds and 4 Horneds.

Jaegers were present once again with at least 4 individuals seen today including 2 Parasitics and 2 unknowns. The parasitics included a light-morph adult bird that is likely the same bird that was seen a couple days ago and a light-morph juvenile that made a number of passes throughout the morning and afternoon.  Shorebirds were almost non-existent with 16 Sanderlings along the shoreline and a group of 6 American Golden-Plovers that set down on the point during one of the rain showers being the only ones seen.

Due to the weather I wasn't able to bird the woods at all today so I have no idea what may or may not be in there right now but the flock of "open land" birds on the point is still present with the Lapland Longspur count up to 13.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Its all about the highlights

Much like yesterday it was a day with a few clear highlights but a lot of time with few to no birds passing by the point. The overall weather pattern for today seemed promising with moderate WNW to NW winds all day but the lack of real fronts seemed to doom the movement of birds on the lake since the number of migrant ducks and loons was much lower than yesterday. The forecast for tomorrow is not a great one (E/ESE winds) but I haven't been too accurate with my predictions lately so who knows.

The top tier birds were once again in the Laridae and Stercorariidae families with a juvenile Sabine's Gull passing by early this afternoon while the curtains still have not fallen on this year's jaeger show as a juvenile Long-tailed, an adult Parasitic, and an unknown bird were all seen before noon today. Also unusual for the point were a trio of Trumpeter/Tundra Swans which flew past late this morning.

Among the other birds seen Canada Goose was once again the most common with 308 while Red-necked Grebe was second with 56 and Common Loon slid into the three spot with 32. Duck numbers were down once again with 29 Greater Scaup, 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, and 12 Common Mergansers accounting for almost all ducks seen. After yesterday's good loon showing today was a different story as only 1 Red-throated Loon was noted. Shorebird diversity remained at a whopping four with a Greater Yellowlegs being the most notable among them.

Raptor and landbird numbers continue to decline with not even a Merlin noted this morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Warm, warm, cold

Today's weather was interesting to say the least with both warm and cold fronts passing over the point, warm fronts bringing thunder and lightning to liven up the early morning and a cold front in the afternoon to make sure I didn't get too comfortable out there and start napping. The winds associated started more southerly but were swinging to the west as the day progressed with SW being the most common direction for the day. And is usually the case that meant a pretty good bird day with the total number of birds a bit lower than I anticipated but the highlights were certainly enough to make up for that.

The most unexpected bird title went to a Marbled Godwit that flew into my scope view as I was scanning the point about 8:00 a.m. this morning and landed for a very short time before heading off to who knows where. A close second, and the coolest for me personally, were 2 juvenile Sabine's Gulls which showed up during the first and second hours of the count. The second bird came in along the shoreline and flew across the point into Whitefish Bay.

General waterbird movement was highest in the first couple hours after sunrise with loons and grebes making up a majority of the birds. Overall the most common bird of the day was Canada Goose thanks to several large groups in the afternoon with Red-necked Grebe taking second with 62 birds and Common Loon in third with 56. Red-throated Loons had their best day by far this year with 31 all counted before noon, while ducks were sparse with a few dabblers in the morning and a small scoter movement throughout the day ending with 21 Surfs and 10 White-wingeds. The season's first Cackling Geese were two singles among groups of Canadas this afternoon.

The only other new arrival among the shorebirds present today was a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper while a Black-bellied Plover, 2 American Golden-Plovers, and 18 Sanderlings continued from previous days. A few Common Terns and Bonaparte's Gulls continue around the point and an unidentified jaeger was noted in the haze as one the warm fronts passed through this morning.

Flocks of common passerines were present on the point this morning with Blue Jays, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Pine Siskins particularly obvious while a few new migrants were seen including a Bobolink and a few Black-throated Green Warblers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

9/19 and 9/20

Jason gave me yesterday off and among the birds they saw were another Sabine's Gull, 2 unidentified jaegers, and decent selection of dabbler and diving ducks.

Today was a nice day to be on the point but bird numbers were fairly weak. Wind was almost non-existent today and when it did make an appearance it was from the S and SE, this morning's weather could be summed up by three C's: calm, clear, and cool.

Overall movement was pretty slow with the 244 Canada Geese making up a majority of the migrant birds recorded while Common Loon was second with 57 and Red-necked Grebe was third with 39. Duck migration was slow but 11 species were noted with 19 Northern Pintails, 9 Greater Scaup, and 7 Surf Scoters leading the way. Red-throated Loon numbers remained steady with 7 seen while a few Horned Grebes were seen as well.

Once again a light-morph adult Parasitic Jaeger was noted during the waterbird count and another unidentified phalarope was seen too far out onto the lake to tell if it was a Red-necked or Red. Other shorebirds seen today included 4 Black-bellied Plovers, 3 American Golden-Plovers, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, 12 Sanderlings, and 1 Baird's Sandpiper.

Woodpeckers were unusually common at the point today with a Hairy landing on the shack itself while a Downy, Pileated, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were noted during the morning and afternoon. The woods had a good number of birds in them but the species breakdown was the same as recent days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just another LTJA

Red-necked Phalarope from St. Paul Island, AK

For the third time this season a Long-tailed Jaeger was found, but for the first time it wasn't just me that saw it. A light-morph juvenile flew past the point this morning to the delight of the 5-10 other birders present who got an unexpected treat. Not all that more common at the point were the 2 Red-necked Phalaropes that were working the breakers just off the point for a while early this afternoon. The birds really got going on the moderate W and W/NW winds that held through the day with an early morning shower ending about 8:00 a.m. really seeming to get the birds flying.

Overall movement was similar to last weekend with 2000+ birds counted, the three most common being Red-necked Grebe (892), American Wigeon (384), and Common Tern (307). Overall duck numbers were much increased with dabbler diversity good including 14 Gadwall, 6 American Black Ducks, and 22 Northern Shovelers while divers were led by Greater Scaup that had its best day so far at 191 while Redhead was second at 59. Loon numbers remained almost unchanged with 31 Common and 5 Red-throateds noted while Horned Grebes had their best day at 24. Shorebird numbers continue to be very poor with a handful of Sanderlings being the only ones seen today.

Landbird numbers on the point were good this morning with large numbers of thrushes and sparrows joined by many of the late fall migrants at the beginning of their migration window. Warbler numbers were decent with 9+ species seen including Black-throated Blue and Northern Waterthrush. Falcons put on a good show this morning with 3 Merlins and a Peregrine hunting the exhausted passerines trying to make it safely across the lake.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I may have spoke too soon

Light-phase juvenile Parsitic Jaeger chasing a Ring-billed Gull

Well any day where the wind blows between 15 and 25 MPH from the wrong direction for bird migration would not be looked to for much movement and today was just that case. The wind was from the S all morning and afternoon and picked up with time, the forecast has it coming from the SW to NW for the next few days so hopefully this will just be a fluke poor day in an otherwise good weekend.

The highlight today was a light-morph juvenile Parasitic Jaeger which came in right to the point's shoreline this afternoon providing all out there with amazing views at the bird which was the first light-phase juvenile jaeger we have seen this fall. The overall waterbird tally was fairly low with 55 Red-necked Grebes, 27 Canada Geese, and 21 Common Loons leading the way. Duck numbers were way down from previous days but scoters continue to trickle past with 15 White-winged and 1 Surf observed. Also seen in reduced numbers were Red-throated Loons and Horned Grebes with 2 and 3 respectively. The only shorebird species seen besidesSanderling were a pair of Wilson's Snipes that flew out of the dune grass and headed south this afternoon.

Overall numbers of landbirds on the point seemed to be up from recent days but much of that was likely due to the American Robin, Blue Jay, and Cedar Waxwing flocks which moved in to the area. Small numbers of expected thrushes, warblers, and sparrows continue in the woods as does the flock of Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and American Pipits on the point itself.
Lapland Longspurs

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Season-to-date Jaeger Summary

Pomarine Jaeger from St. Paul Island, AK

Parasitic Jaeger from St. Paul Island, AK

Long-tailed Jaeger from St. Paul Island, AK

I had a request for a summary as of today (Sept. 16th) of this year's jaeger numbers. The highest number of jaegers recorded during any fall waterbird count is 53 in 2000 so the tally of 44 so far this year is well on its way to setting a new mark. The breakdown is

Parasitic: 15
Long-tailed: 2
Unidentified: 27

Also note that there have been at least 1 Pomarine, 1 Parasitic, and a few unidentified Jaegers seen in the afternoon or evening after the count.

The start of a new season


Today signaled the beginning to the high season with poor weather dominating and yet birds still passed by in moderate numbers. The day was nothing but E, ENE, and NE winds (once again the rain passed around the point) but despite that there was still some duck, loon, and grebe movement past the point throughout the day, it was a sight for sore eyes.

The majority of birds on the move today were the 380 Canada Geese which flew by before noon, a distant second were Red-necked Grebes with 49, and third was grabbed by Common Loon with 42. Overall duck numbers were not exceptional but diversity was good with 2 American Black Ducks, 12 Green-winged Teal, and 11 Northern Shovelers leading the dabbler pack while 9 Redheads, 9 Greater Scaup, 12 Surf Scoters, and 9 White-winged Scoters headlined the divers. Other grebe and loon movement was moderate with 12 Horned Grebes noted this morning and 13 Red-throated Loons passing by in the afternoon.

A Ruddy Turnstone and 2 Baird's Sandpipers joined the 28 Sanderlings on the point this morning while an unknown Phalarope flew over the point from south to north, but was lost almost immediately when it dropped into the waves along the lake shore. Another jaeger passed by off the point, an unidentified light-morph adult, and small numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls and Common Terns continued to be seen feeding in the rip current off the point's tip.

No new landbirds were noted today but overall warbler numbers were better with increased numbers of Orange-crowned, Black-and-white, Northern Parula, and Nashvilles while several of each Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos were seen. Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, and White-throated Sparrow continue to make up the majority of the passerine flocks that are now being hunted by a juvenile Northern Goshawk as well as the resident Merlin.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An empty lake

Well I think after two days jam packed with moving waterbirds there just aren't that many left around Lake Superior right now. Today was cool, but mostly sunny with light west winds early on turning to north by the afternoon. Once again the rain showers kept mostly to the north shore of the lake sparing me a much less pleasant day at the "office."

On the bird front there were few highlights with the most notable sighting being a group of 5 Surf Scoters flying past early this morning. Small numbers of dabblers and divers continue to pass by with Greater Scaup (14) and Red-breasted Merganser (7) being the most common duck species seen. Overall the most common species seen today were Red-necked Grebe (156), Common Goose (26), and Common Loon (19) while Horned Grebe (18) was the best-of-the-rest. A small number of Red-throated Loons (3) passed by again today.

Shorebird diversity was a bit improved over recent days with 6 species including a Black-bellied Plover, an American Golden-Plover, a Least Sandpiper, and a Baird's Sandpiper. Small numbers of migrant gulls and terns were working the point with 4 Bonaparte's Gulls and 8 Common Terns seen.

The woods continue to have a moderate bird show with the same basic birds present today as yesterday including a few new birds that were headlined by a Pileated Woodpecker, one Bohemian Waxwing, and a Wilson's Warbler.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another highlight reel day

Harlequin Ducks from St. Paul Island, AK

Yesterday was pretty darn good but today had little to no drop-off in the bird department. The definite highlight was an early Harlequin Duck which flew along the point and took a quick breather in the rip current off the tip before heading on south about 8:30 this morning. Less than an hour later as I watched a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger attempt to grab a struggling warbler making its way across the lake I noticed a bird weaving its way through the wave troughs, it was another Red-necked Phalarope, the bird eventually lost me when it stayed below the wave peaks for too long to predict where it would re-appear. All-in-all not a bad hour to be standing out there.

Total bird numbers were down slightly from yesterday but the species diversity was actually better today thanks to a couple new diving ducks for the season. First-of-seasons (FOS) included a pair of Ring-necked Ducks in the company of several Greater Scaup and a quartet of Black Scoters that flew past a little before noon, add to that 3 separate White-winged Scoters and a single Surf Scoter about 1 p.m. and today constituted my first scoter sweep for the season. While diving duck numbers continue to increase, about 75 birds seen today could be lumped into that designation, dabbler numbers dropped off a bit more with a few teal, wigeons, and pintails adding some variety. On the overall waterbird front Red-necked Grebe continued to show strongly with 1665 counted while Canada Goose was again in second place as the skeins of geese eventually totaled 483 today. Greater Scaup made its way into the top three for the first time with 47. Loon numbers were a bit down from yesterday when just 33 Commons and 3 Red-throateds could be located flying past.

Almost surprisingly given there abundance so far this fall only one jaeger was seen today, the aforementioned Parasitic, and shorebirds were again in short supply with 2 American Golden-Plovers joining the handful of Sanderlings still on the beach.

The woods continue to produce small numbers of birds with my FOS Scarlet Tanager and Fox Sparrows seen this afternoon while Golden-crowned Kinglets and Palm Warblers were the dominant passerines on the point while small numbers of warblers are still joining the mixed-species flocks (including a few Cape Mays, Blackpolls, and Bay-breasteds). The point still has its flock of open land birds which now contains 44 Horned Larks, 5 Lapland Longspurs, and a few American Pipits while a few raptors still make an occasional appearance to dine on the many passerine migrants caught out in the open.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Long-tailed and more

This morning dawned with moderate-strong W winds and just had the feeling like it would be one of those good days. From the beginning Red-necked Grebes were moving in large numbers and smaller numbers of ducks, loons, and Horned Grebes were evident amongst them. The birds that really bring people to the point didn't show up until 9:30 a.m. though, that's when the season's second Long-tailed Jaeger (an adult with broken off tail streamers) kited past the point, some distance away but close enough to still be appreciated. About 30 minutes later a juvenile Sabine's Gull made a short appearance and was then followed by a Red-necked Phalarope which was lost when it flew into the rip current at the point's tip. It took another few hours but eventually a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger came by (an unidentified bird flew past about the same time as the Long-tailed) to give a 2 jaeger species day. Guess it pays to be on that spit of land 8 hours a day every once in a while.

Beyond the highlights there was a good waterbird movement led by Red-necked Grebe which took the day's top spot with 1760 while Canada Goose was second with 242 and American Wigeon was the most common of the ducks with 73. Small numbers of Blue-winged Teal and other dabblers also made an appearance while diving duck numbers remained steady with Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter, and Common Merganser being the most common from that group. Loons were present in increased numbers with 52 Common and 11 Red-throated seen today while 19 Horned Grebes joined their larger cousins. A young Forster's Tern joined the few Common Terns that were around this afternoon and an American Golden-Plover flew over calling on an otherwise poor shorebird day.

A non-waterbird count Wood Duck was flushed from one of the point's small ponds this afternoon while the woods on the point still held a few birds but were quieter than yesterday. Small flocks of passerines were moving around this afternoon made up mostly of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows but a few others were among them including a Philadelphia and a Red-eyed Vireo, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned and Cape May Warblers, and a few Lincoln's Sparrows. A first for me on the point was a Ruffed Grouse that was in the underbrush near the Fog horn Pond.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dabblers on the move

No post yesterday as Adam gave me the day off to do some much needed grocery shopping, it seems I picked a good day as it was nothing but south and southeast all morning and waterbird movement was expectedly weak. Of note were 4 more jaegers (2 unidentified and 2 Parasitics) but overall numbers were fairly low, though they still beat a couple days ago.

Today was a different story, there were birds early, and there were birds often. Without a doubt this was a banner day for Blue-winged Teal movement on Lake Superior as we tallied 1488 this morning and afternoon with another 236 unidentified teal seen, Green-winged Teal was much less common with 62 seen this morning. Along with the teal most other expected dabblers were seen this morning including an impressive count for Whitefish Point of 82 Northern Shovelers while other counts included 301 American Wigeons, 3 American Black Ducks, 63 Mallards, and 8 Northern Pintails. Diving ducks continue to be seen in small numbers with 30 Redheads, 32 Greater Scaup, and 16 White-winged Scoters leading the pack.

Other waterbird numbers included 307 Red-necked Grebes, 16 Common Loons, 8 Horned Grebes, and 64 Common Terns. As has become normal so far this fall there were 4 jaegers seen today, all in the final 2 hours of the count, with a single Parasitic and 3 unidentified birds (one that got away may have been a Pomarine). Shorebirds were still present in low numbers with a single Baird's and 2 Buff-breasteds still present on the point's shoreline.

For info on today's passerine/landbird movement take a look at the sightings blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A new day

Today may not have been the best waterbird migration day nor the best day in the woods this Fall but after the past few days it sure seemed like it was. A big boost in the overall numbers was the re-appearance of Canada Geese flocks and sparrows added some diversity to the woods, in the end it was just nice to see something was moving up here once more. Tomorrow's forecast is for similar weather, the avian forecast to-be-determined however.

Skeins of Canada Geese coming south from the Hudson/James Bay region made up almost half of today's birds with 243 counted and easily outdistanced Red-necked Grebe (62) for the most common bird of the day. Coming in third was Green-winged Teal with 29, one ahead of Common Loon which increased from the past couple days to 28. Other waterbirds rebounded a bit as well with a single American Black Duck, 14 White-winged Scoters, 2 Red-throated Loons, and 2 Horned Grebes also seen today.

Shorebird numbers were better than recent days with new arrivals including an American Golden-Plover than came in during the last hour of the count and 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers that arrived around noon. Also found today was a Wilson's Snipe that was flushed from the dune vegetation close to the shack. An unknown Jaeger species passed by on the lake early in the morning and small numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls and Common Terns were again present along the point.

Passerines were in much larger numbers today around the point with the expected mid-to-late Fall mix of American Pipits, Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows, and Lapland Longspurs now present on the point for the second straight day. In the woods American Robins and Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the largest numbers while 9 other warbler species were found including a late Yellow and a female-type Black-throated Blue. Other birds present included numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, a House Wren, and solid sparrow numbers which included 2 Field, 2 Vesper, a Swamp, and a few Lincoln's among the more regular species.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More birds than colors in a rainbow

And when I say that I am being literal, we did eventually manage more total birds today than there were individual colors in the rainbow that showed to the south of us this morning. Though it did take some time to rack up 8 total birds, it did finally happen. My heavy sarcasm has likely led you all to infer that the large bird movement did NOT happen today, instead one of the slowest days of the year was in its place. Winds were strong to moderate out of the NW turning to the N by the afternoon with rain surrounding us though we remained dry on the point itself, seemingly good weather for a movement but I guess there was more going on than I could account for. Maybe tomorrow.

Highlight has to be used loosely for anything today but 2 Red-throated Loons would qualify as today's best birds with a Common Goldeneye vying for second place in the category. Among the most numerous were Red-necked Grebe (69), Common Tern (18), and Common Loon (12), those three species accounting for more than 85% of the total birds seen today.

Total shorebird numbers were slightly higher than the past few days thanks to 18 Sanderlings on the point this afternoon though diversity was no better with a Semipalmated Plover and a Least Sandpiper the only other species noted.

Passerines were just as poor with the woods deathly quiet this afternoon during my walk though two new birds for the fall did grace the point, 3 Horned Larks and a Lapland Longspur.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sabine's and Parasitic

The winds did indeed shift overnight and today I was greeted by strong WNW and eventually NW winds that blasted the point under cloudy skies all morning long. By mid-morning the sustained winds were causing waves on the lake to reach the 10-15 foot range and a small contingent of freighters were sitting in Whitefish Bay so as not to become 2010's Edmund Fitzgerald. Of course the birds can fly above the waves so while it seems many (at least hopefully) decided to wait for the weather to die down a bit a few still decided to get up and use the strong tailwind to their advantage. The weatherman says similar weather for tomorrow but with a little calmer winds so we will see what that has in store for us.

Since this blog is suppose to be about Whitefish Point birds not the weather I guess I'll mention the few highlights that did come by. The season's second and my first juvenile Sabine's Gull spent about 5-10 minutes kiting over the waves along the point a little before 10 this morning while in other news the season's jaeger total continued to rise with 5 seen today including two intermediate juvenile birds that came close to the point and could clearly be ID'ed as Parasitics. That brings the season total to 30 jaegers including 25 over the past week alone.

However, overall waterbird numbers were lower than hoped for with Canada Goose remaining the most common for the second consecutive day at 164 birds while Red-necked Grebe was again second with 135 and Common Loon clung to third with 27 birds counted. Duck numbers rebounded a bit with the season's first Hooded Merganser early in the morning, a single of each Scaup species, and 2 White-winged Scoters in the afternoon. Red-throated Loons continue to move by in small numbers with 5 seen today, the season's highest yet total. Shorebirds, terns, and Bonaparte's Gulls continue in small numbers with little change in species makeup or abundance.

The high winds hampered birding on the point itself for yet another day with a couple American Pipits circling the point being the most notable landbird seen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What would I write about if not for jaegers?

The morning greeted me with 20-25 mph winds blowing out of the SE and a dearth of birds on or near the point. As the day passed by the winds began to slow a bit and by the time I left this afternoon they were coming from the S/SW and rain was beginning to fall. The forecast tells me that I'll return to the point with strong W/NW winds tomorrow morning so hopefully all of the birds that have been stalled yesterday and today will be making their way south past the point then.

Among the birds that did pass by today the highlight was yet another jaeger, a light-phase adult, but given the great distance and behavior, the bird could not be identified between Parasitic and Pomarine. For the first time this year Canada Goose was the most common bird for the day with a whopping 27 while Red-necked Grebe came in second with 24 and Common Loon outpaced Common Tern 17 to 16 for third place. Duck numbers continued to be weak with a few teal and other dabblers struggling past through the day.

Shorebird diversity remained around 5 species with Sanderling still present in the largest numbers and a group of 6 American Golden-Plovers flying over being the most interesting. Much like the water the point's woods were also quiet today with a total of 8 warbler species seen including Pine and Wilson's but little else showing itself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

9/5 and 9/6

Adam gave me a little rest time yesterday so I spent the day either in the woods or inside but those at the point did see a decent duck diversity, 598 Red-necked Grebes, 3 American Golden-Plovers, a juvenile Sabine's Gull, and a single Jaeger Sp.

Today's count was less exciting as the winds shifted to the S/SE overnight and continued that way through the afternoon eventually picking up some speed by the time I left the shack.

Migrant highlights passing the point today included a Surf Scoter, 4 Red-throated Loons, 20 Horned Grebes, and yet another juvenile Parasitic Jaeger. Passing in the largest numbers were 103 Common Terns, 99 Red-necked Grebes, and 23 Common Loons, a clear decrease in numbers from recent days.

The forecast is for a return to west and northwest winds in the next couple days so hopefully that will herald a few more birds and little less time fighting to stay awake in the afternoon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jaegers galore

Well today was one for the Whitefish Point record books, no less than 14 jaegers (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) were seen today with 13 during the count (including a group of 3) and 1 within the first hour after the count ended. Only two could be definitively identified as Parasitics though jizz and percentages suggest that all likely were. Given that this count has been performed for nearly 25 years and the previous record was 6 or 7 illustrates just how unique today was.

The uniqueness was not just confined to the jaegers as the weather this morning and afternoon was more suggestive of mid-October than early September with cool temps (40-50 degrees F all day), high winds (20-30 mph), and regular rain squalls off of the lake. The weather overnight included very high winds and torrential rain which downed trees and flooded the point itself creating a small lake where there was once just gravel. Tomorrow is suppose to be lighter winds and sunnier skies so hopefully all of those birds set down by this weather event will be gracing us with their presence.

A few other birds showed up in between jaeger sightings today topped by 1241 Red-necked Grebes, 262 Canada Geese, and 30 Common Loons. Small numbers of ducks continue to pass by with 4 Northern Pintails, 8 White-winged Scoters, and 2 dark-winged Scoters being the most notable among them.

Small numbers of Common Terns were again seen today with up to 11 feeding about the point during the count. A few shorebirds remained on the point despite the weather and included a Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Baird's Sandpiper.

Very few other birds were seen given today's weather but at least a few raptors and warblers are still poking about on the point for the time being.

Friday, September 3, 2010

3 Jaeger day

While moderate to strong SW to W west winds dominated today and storms passed all around, though most missed the point to my benefit, the number of birds passing through again dropped from previous days. As seems to be the case when the birds stop moving that's when jaegers appear off the point, so it was no surprise and perhaps a bad omen that I was graced with at least three today with two being clear cut Parasitics and the third undoubtedly also a Parasitic but at a distance which made a 100% decision difficult.

With the drop in overall bird numbers Red-necked Grebe again took the top spot with a grand total of 48 birds seen today, Canada Geese stole the second spot with a group of 17 early on, and Common Loon rounded out the top three with 15 throughout the day. Small numbers of dabbling and White-winged Scoters continued to pass by today and a single Red-throated Loon also flew past early this afternoon.

Common Terns were again present but in much smaller numbers with a total of 9 seen while shorebirds continue in small numbers including newly arrived Ruddy Turnstone and Pectoral Sandpiper, the later being the first of the fall.

Passerine migrants continue to reduce in numbers and while small numbers of the more common warbler species were seen the diversity and total abundance was not large. The current weather outside and the forecast for the near future looks very promising so hopefully tomorrow's post will have better news to report.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finally a Canada Goose

While I realize the 6 Canada Geese that passed the point may not be that exciting I had been stunned by the fact that I had not seen one yet at the point so for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed when they came by. However, no other new birds for the fall passed by today under increasingly cloudy skies with light to moderate SE to S winds probably not helping matters much.

For the second straight day Common Tern was the most common migrant with 412 passing by while Red-necked Grebe held the #2 spot with 106 birds seen. Common Loon put on its best showing so far this fall and climbed into the #3 spot with a total of 103. Duck numbers were drastically reduced from yesterday with 4 American Wigeons, 17 Blue-winged Teal, and 25 Common Mergansers the only ones seen. Horned Grebes and Red-throated Loons continue in small numbers with 6 and 2 respectively.

Another jaeger passed by the point today which was almost assuredly an adult light-morph Parasitic but the distance and poor early morning light caused me to enter Jaeger Sp. on the taly sheet. Also passing through were 2 Sandhill Cranes midday, 4 Bonaparte's Gulls, and another Forster's Tern. Shorebird numbers were greatly reduced from yesterday with fewer than 15 birds of 6 species seen.

Overall land bird numbers were also much lower with numerous migrant warblers seen flying off the point during the morning and small numbers still hanging on in the woods. The only additional passerine species noted today were Blue-headed Vireo and American Pipit. Raptor numbers seemed to be higher today with multiple Northern Harriers, an Osprey, and a Bald Eagle all arriving off the lake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Common Tern bonanza

As predicted the weather changed abruptly last night with several cold fronts rolling through into the morning bringing with them a complete shift in bird activity. Instead of warm and sunny with poor action, the temperature dropped, the wind turned to the west, the rain started, and low and behold the birds started to move past the point once more. The forecast is for winds from the SE tomorrow so we will see how it holds up, but so far September is looking good.

While all species were up for the day the real highlight was the movement of Common Terns between 8 and 10 this morning with nearly 1500 passing by in those two hours alone giving a daily total of 1696 birds that made them far and away the most common for the day. With the strong cold front that rolled in just before 11 came an increased movement of waterbirds which brought the total of Red-necked Grebes up to 603 for the day and Blue-winged Teal up to 542 ranking them second and third respectively. Duck numbers continue to improve with nine total species including 20 American Wigeons, 1 Lesser Scaup, and 79 White-winged Scoters, while loon numbers were the best of the season with 32 Commons and 3 Red-throateds.

Besdies the glut of Common Terns other Larids passing during the series of fronts were 6 Black and 1 Forster's Tern along with 5 Bonaparte's Gulls. Shorebird numbers were also on the rise with 2 Black-bellied Plovers, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 1 Buff-breasted Sandpiper added to the regular mix of Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, and peeps.

While waterbird numbers were much increased the real movement today was on the passerine front so to see a summary of what was found in the point's woods check out the sightings blog.