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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A little bit windy

flock of American Avocets on the 28th
Well that was quite a storm!  The highest wind I personally dealt with while counting was about 55 MPH though I heard that there were speeds of 63 MPH recorded at the point so either those were during the night or I am a poor judge of wind speed, either way it was strong.  With that said the power is still out at the point and I am currently in Paradise as tonight's temps were just gonna be a little too cold to stay in the house with no heat.  Because I haven't been able to post for quite some time now I'm not going to go over everything that has happened since the 23rd but I'll just give some highlights from each day.

October 24th:

My day off, there was a decent Long-tailed Duck flight, another Harlequin Duck, 6 more Trumpeter/Tundra Swans, and a good count of 161 Green-winged Teal to top it off.

October 25th:

A good duck flight despite the poor wind conditions with a solid 500+ Red-breasted Mergansers and the best scoter numbers in awhile with 17 Surfs, 175 White-wingeds, and 23 Blacks.  Very little else was willing to fly into the wind though.

October 26th:

A pretty poor day overall but what can you expect with 30-45 MPH winds out of the SE (i.e. the direction the birds were trying to fly).  A few Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Red-breasted Mergansers still managed to fly south and the first Great Black-backed Gull of the season was an adult bird that flew west with the winds during the afternoon.

October 27th:

A pretty unique day overall, winds from the SSW/SW sustained at more than 30 MPH with gusts into the 50s and perhaps 60s along with the usual rain, etc...  The best birds were an American Coot (only a handful of previous records from the point) and a Franklin's Gull which were both present for only a limited time during the morning and afternoon respectively.  Also of note were the first Killdeer and Lesser Yellowlegs since mid-September along with 42 Blue-winged Teal which had not been seen in any numbers since early-mid September.  Other gulls seen among the Herrings and Ring-billeds which were sheltering on the point throughout the day included a juvenile Thayer's and 2 different juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls.  The only ducks willing to fly in any numbers were Long-taileds with 573 recorded but only about 100 other ducks seen in total.

October 28th:

Today was a bit more tame than the 27th both on the bird and weather fronts.  The clear highlight of the day was a flock of 8 American Avocets which flew by late morning, briefly setting down on the point before heading on south along the shoreline.  This represents only the 2nd or 3rd point record and highest total ever recorded here.  Other birds were similar to recent days with a good count of 22 Black Scoters, a new daily high count of 106 Buffleheads, a mini-resurgence in Common Loon and Red-necked Grebe numbers after a very poor showing the past few days to 38 and 35 respectively, and another (or continuing?) juvenile Great Black-backed Gull roosting on the point.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10/22 and 10/23

juvenile Northern Goshawk
Today was almost pleasant on the point with mild temps (32-50 degrees), no precipitation, and lighter wind although its direction (ENE/E/ESE) left something to be desired while yesterday was unexpectedly unpleasant with rain for nearly 4 hours during the late morning and early afternoon to go with moderate SW wind and temperatures that never reached 40 degrees.

The waterfowl highlights of the past two days both came today with a family of 4 Tundra Swans that made a close fly-over of the shack late this morning and a Harlequin Duck which passed by with a flock of White-winged Scoters during the last hour of the count.  The first Long-tailed Duck push of the season continued yesterday with 2906 counted while the number dropped off considerably today into the 600-700 range.  A few Mallards and American Black Ducks continue to pass each day with small numbers of Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal also noted while the Aythya numbers continue to be low with about 100 total birds yesterday including 15 Redheads and only 12 total birds today.  Scoter numbers are holding firm in the low-moderate range with 4 Blacks seen yesterday but none located during today's count.  Rounding out the ducks currently being seen are consistent numbers of Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes with daily averages around 25 and 60 respectively and moderate numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers with daily counts of 371 and 302 over the past two days.  Loon and grebe numbers are almost mirror images of each other with Common Loon and Red-necked Grebe both averaging about 30 per day while just a couple Red-throated Loons and Horneds Grebes are being seen daily. 

The Sabine's Gull show continued yesterday with a bird that hung out around the point for much of the day and a second bird which was seen intermittently to the west of the point as it would feed on the lake before moving back towards the west and out of sight, however with a the change in weather overnight there were no Sabine's seen today after 10 consecutive days of sightings dating back to the 13th.  For the first time in almost a week there were sandpipers on the point yesterday and today with a pair of Sanderlings among the roosting gulls at the tip.

Meat-eating birds continued to make their share of appearances over the past two days with a few Rough-leggeds Hawks and a single Short-eared Owl noted flying in off the lake while small numbers of Bald Eagles, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and Merlins are seen on the point.  Overall bird numbers remain low on the point though an increase in Pine Siskins and a recently arrived Northern Shrike were noted today along with continuing Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting, and Evening Grosbeaks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Long-tailed season begins

juvenile Sabine's Gull
Today's weather has taken the top spot in the "I wish I was somewhere else" category with temperatures that fluctuated between 30 and 35 degrees all day with wind gusting up to 35 MPH and just as icing on the cake we had rain, freezing rain, sleet, dry snow, and wet snow come through in waves throughout the day, FUN!!!

Overall waterbird movement was good, however about 75% of that was Long-tailed Ducks which had their first good movement day with 1498 recorded.  A few dabblers were again seen with small numbers of Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, and Green-winged Teal noted along with a pair of Canada Geese that flew in during the morning.  Other diving ducks seen included the highest counts yet of Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye with 72 and 66 respectively, a similar number of scoters to recent days with 7 Surfs, 28 White-wingeds, and 9 Blacks, a small increase in Aythya ducks over recent days, and another decent merganser day.  Loon numbers held firm with 26 Common and 1 Red-throated seen while Red-necked Grebes were down a bit to 22 with no Horneds observed for the first time in quite awhile.

The Sabine's Gull show continues (though only for a few privileged individuals it seems) with a single bird noted in the early morning and then up to 2 birds that were seen at the point's tip for most of the afternoon from 12:30 until the count ended around 4.  The birds this afternoon were actually the most cooperative yet with most of their time spent within 100 yards of the point.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sabine's Gull invasion

This year's great Sabine's Gull numbers just got amazing with the past few days being the best yet for the species.  On Monday for the second time this year there were two sighted and on Tuesday there was a single bird seen and with that sighting the single season record was broken with 20, today however, was by far the best yet with no less than 4 juveniles seen.  Three birds were visible at one time late morning and a single bird flew in from Canada a little later to add to the total for the day.  It remains to be seen how long this "invasion" will last but as far as I am concerned it doesn't need to end anytime soon.

In other news the weather has been seemingly very good for the past few days but the waterbirds have been a little disappointing given the conditions.  While total numbers each day are not that bad, and the flight was actually pretty good on Monday, it has been a little bit of a letdown, given that our poor migration weather had finally broken, not to have a larger movement.  The weather (strong western winds with some wintery precip) is suppose to remain similar through Saturday so we will see.

The only slightly unusual duck species to be seen of late were 2 Canvasbacks that flew past on Monday afternoon with a small group of scaup and scoters providing the first sighting of the year for that species.  In dabbler news the number of Gadwalls, American Black Ducks, Mallards, Northern Pintails, and Green-winged Teal continue to hold firm with daily sightings of all species, and in some cases, in good numbers.  Scoter numbers were best on Monday when 30 Surfs, 83 White-wingeds, and 24 Blacks were seen while all three species have been seen each of the past two days but in smaller numbers.  Aythya ducks were present in good numbers on Monday (about 1100 total birds) but there has been fewer than 50 each of the past two days.  Smaller numbers of Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes continue to pass by of late with the most common waterfowl being Long-tailed Duck and Red-breasted Merganser with average daily totals of 250 and 400 respectively.

Common Loon numbers have yet to drop-off (not that they have been that high to start with) with an average of 35+ for the past three days while Red-throateds just continue to move by in small, but consistent numbers with daily tallies of 4, 2, and 2.  Horned Grebe have dropped off from the large numbers last week with only 2 each of the past three days while Red-neckeds are still moving by with about 45 per day to begin the week.

Beyond all of the Sabine's Gull the clear gull highlight was a non-breeding adult Black-legged Kittiwake that graced the point with its presence for a preciously short time on Wednesday afternoon only 15 minutes prior to the end of the count.  The Thayer's Gull also remained until Monday but has not been seen since then.  The only shorebird noted in the past three days was the season's sixth Wilson's Snipe which was tallied on the morning of the 18th as it flushed from the Jack Pines to the west of the shack.

For notes on recent landbirds and the Common Ground-Dove found today please take a look at the sightings blog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Broken promises

Thayer's Gull
In an ironic twist of fate the weather man was correct in his predictions for the past few days but Mother Nature simply wasn't listening as favorable weather for migration has been largely free of our feathered friends.  Of course there are always a few birds with an average of about 1500 per day but with the light-strong western and northern winds that have been present since the 14th it seems like a let down more than anything.  The forecast continues to be promising though so hopefully we can get on the right track soon and have a little more to be excited about.

Overall duck diversity is still pretty good with an increase in dabbler numbers over the past few days while the expected divers continue to be seen.  A surge of Gadwalls, American Black Ducks, and Northern Pintails over the past few days has been a welcome sight while decent numbers of American Wigeons, Mallards, and Green-winged Teals have also been noted, 3 late Northern Shovelers were seen on the 16th.  There were decent numbers of Aythya ducks on the 14th but since then they have been in short supply with small numbers of Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Lesser Scaup joining the flocks of Greater Scaup.  The best duck of late was the third Harlequin Duck of the season which was noted with two Surf Scoters on the 15th while overall scoter numbers have been good with daily high counts of 28 Surfs on the 14th, 320 White-wingeds on the 14th, and 13 Blacks on the 15th.  "Winter" ducks are beginning to increase as well with small numbers of Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes showing up more frequently in recent days while Long-tailed Duck numbers are steadily increasing as one would expect.

Loon numbers are holding steady with a daily average of more than 50 Commons from the 14th to the 17th while up to 5 Red-throateds continue to be seen daily.  Grebe numbers have also held their own with about 20 Horneds per day lately while Red-neckeds continue to add to the record high count at a rate of nearly 90 each day.  As is customary this time of year shorebirds have been very few and far between with a group of 4 Dunlin on the 15th being the only birds seen other than an occasional Sanderling.  The juvenile Sabine's Gull first noted on the 13th was still being seen regularly each day through the 17th with a second migratory bird noted on the 15th.  The season count now stands at 17, just two short of the all-time season record.  The only large white-headed gull noted beyond the two ubiquitous species was a 1st-winter Thayer's that was found among the the roosting gulls on the point late this afternoon.

It's the season of sparse landbirds so this weekend's low numbers were no surprise but there were a few nice birds noted with a Townsend's Solitaire seen at the edge of the Jack Pines on the morning of the 17th being the best.  Other good birds noted included a Sharp-tailed Grouse that was found along the trail to the point on the 16th, a Short-eared Owl that came across the lake on the morning of the 17th, and a Brown Thrasher frequenting the feeders during the afternoon of the 17th.  Other birds seen of late included a few lingering warblers (mainly Yellow-rumped) and a lone Blue-gray Gnatcatcher while winter finches (including Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak) and Snow Bunting numbers continue to increase with each day that passes.  Raptor numbers have been good lately with the increased Buteo migration in recent days totaling about 15 Rough-leggeds and 25 Red-taileds while Bald Eagle, Northern Harrrier, Northern Goshawk, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon have also been seen coming in across the lake or hunting the point.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Biggest day yet

Bald Eagle from St. Paul Island, AK
As expected a weak front moved through pre-dawn and with it being the first break in the "nice" weather in quite some time the birds were moving with it.  The day itself was actually quite nice as the rain stayed away leaving us with cloudy to mostly sunny skies and pretty moderate temperatures given the persistent winds from the NW all day.  There were no major highlights for the day but an early morning Harlequin Duck, a distant Sabine's Gull, and yet another unidentified jaeger topped the list.  Tomorrow is suppose to be similar, though with a greater chance of showers during the count, so we will see what it has to bring.

Overall waterbird numbers were the best of the season and while Aythya ducks were a large part of that total, with 207 Redheads, 6 Ring-necked Ducks, 708 Greater Scaup, 50 Lesser Scaup, 576 unidentified Scaup, and 401 unidentified Aythya ducks, there were also seasonal high counts for a number of other species including White-winged Scoter (389), Black Scoter (23), Bufflehead (15), Common Goldeneye (11), and Red-breasted Merganser (234), of course most of these numbers will be far exceeded later in the season but for now they are the high water marks.  Small numbers of dabblers are also still moving through with the first American Black Duck and Gadwalls in some time seen today along with a moderate flight of 52 Mallards among others.  Loon numbers were not much improved however with 39 Commons and 5 Red-throateds making fly-bys, but grebe numbers were much improved with a good late-season count of 487 Red-neckeds and another nice flight of 50 Horneds to boot.

The shorebird clan made a glorious re-appearance on the point today with a total of TWO: a fly-by Wilson's Snipe early this morning and a single Sanderling on the shore.  The only other notable sighting in the gull realm was a group of 11 Bonaparte's Gulls during the late-morning which was the first such sighting in quite awhile.

Landbirds were less in evidence than waterbirds on this day but a small group of White-winged Crossbills were seen passing over the point for the first sighting of the fall while a small movement of Bald Eagles (at least 8 birds) was noted throughout the day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Early week lull

Rough-legged Hawks
The past few days have all been without any great highlights as the high pressure system is still influencing the weather on Lake Superior.  Each day has seen a different wind selection with west on Sunday, north yesterday, and south today and as one might assume the overall number of birds has decreased each day this week.  The next two days are suppose to see a short series of fronts move into the area so hopefully my next posts will be with better news.

On the duck front yesterday and today were quite poor with Long-tailed Ducks and scoters accounting for most of the birds seen as there numbers continue to increase and hold steady respectively.  Sunday had a larger duck movement which was mostly Aythya ducks which totalled about 900 birds.  All three days have seen small numbers of Black Scoters (with 12 on Monday) and there have been Ring-necked Ducks on two days which are the most uncommon species to be noted recently.  Loon numbers are still low with an average of 22 Commons and 3 Red-throateds while grebe numbers are about as expected with 29 Red-neckeds and 4 Horneds on average each day.  There continues to be no shorebirds or unusual gulls around the point as of late though a light-phase adult non-breeding Parasitic Jaeger made a fairly close pass of the point on Sunday morning.

Sunday and Monday both saw the arrival of another late fall/winter species when a group of 7 Rough-legged Hawks flew in across the lake on Sunday afternoon and a pair of Snow Buntings appeared along the lake shoreline on Monday morning.  Other birds making appearances include a Northern Goshawk all three days, a Black-backed Woodpecker on Sunday, Orange-crowned Warblers on Sunday and Monday, and most other late fall passerines on at least one of the three days.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Loon hat trick

Common Redpoll from St. Paul Island, AK
The past two days have seen similar weather: light-moderate winds with A LOT of sun and warmer than normal temperatures.  Pretty much all that means is that the big high pressure system is still controlling our weather and ruining what should be one of the most productive times of the year at the point.  Thankfully there are enough decent birds on the lake to produce a few nice sightings both yesterday and today but overall migration has stalled considerably.  Tomorrow is forecast for W/NW winds and some clouds so maybe that will be accompanied by a resurgence in bird numbers.

Yesterday and today both saw two "write-ins" appear off the point with yesterday's being a Sabine's Gull and a White-rumped Sandpiper (the first of the fall) and today it was a family group of 5 Tundra Swans and 2 separate Pacific Loons.  The loons flew east about an hour apart and were still retaining their full breeding plumage which made up for the continuing small numbers of Common and Red-throateds this season.  Also seen yesterday was another unidentified jaeger to add to this year's record count.

Basic migrant waterbird numbers were weak both days with yesterday being a shade better than today.  Scoters, Mergansers, and Aythya ducks continue to be most abundant with small numbers of the more common dabblers and a few additional divers mixed in for good measure.  Long-tailed Ducks are still passing through in small numbers while a Hooded Merganser this morning was the second of the season and still a bit on the early side for them.  Grebe numbers were much better yesterday with 112 Red-neckeds and 42 Horneds as compared to 13 Red-neckeds and 11 Horneds today, Common and Red-throated Loon numbers were basically the same with mid-20s for the big species and a couple for their snaky-necked cousin each day.

Shorebirds are in short supply these days but a single American Golden-Plover was seen both days with a few Sanderlings still on the point and a Dunlin joining them today.  A Bonaparte's Gull was noted each day with the much reduced Ring-billed numbers down to about 30-40 around the point each day.

Non-waterbirds have been a bit better these past couple days but again that may simply be due to a few pairs of eyes in the woods during the morning.  Yesterday was mostly forgettable with a Northern Goshawk and White-breasted Nuthatch being the most interesting birds while today saw an increase in Common Redpoll and Evening Grosbeak numbers along with a few new migrants including a late Osprey, an additional White-breasted Nuthatch, and the first Blue-headed Vireo seen this fall.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A point milestone

juvenile Bonaparte's Gull
While one of the original reasons to start the waterbird count at Whitefish Point was to document the loon migration, one of the other main reasons was to document the Red-necked Grebe passage.  On the loon front this year has been very underwhelming with Commons at only half of their longterm average and Red-throateds are at two-thirds of their longterm average, but after today's count of 211 grebes we have passed the previous high count of 16,624 set in 2001 with 16,709 now recorded and another month plus to add to that total.  The old adage "slow and steady wins the race" seems to sum up this year's grebe migration with no one singular day making up a huge portion of the total but instead many good days adding up to make a record-breaking number.

Overall migration was better today than yesterday with Aythya ducks making up a large percentage of the birds seen yet again.  The top three species were similar with Greater Scaup still first with 490 counted while Red-breasted Merganser slid into the two spot with 227 and Redhead was again third with 188.  Dabbling duck numbers (particularly American Wigeon and Mallard) were much lower than yesterday while scoter numbers remained steady (107 White-wingeds, 74 Surfs, and 1 Black) and "other" diving duck numbers were about the same.  Of note were the first 2 Buffleheads of the season that went past soon after sunrise.  Accounting for the overall increase in birds for the day were the Gaviidae and Podicipedidae families with 138 Common and 9 Red-throated Loons seen along with 211 Red-necked and 55 Horned Grebes.

Well on a positive note there were 6 Sanderlings on the point today so I at least wasn't shut out in the shorebird department again, unfortunately that's about all there was in the shorebird, gull, tern, and allies bird realm.

Its amazing what a difference having a few eyes in the woods makes as today's landbird list was much larger albeit with no major highlights.  The most notable species included the season's first Common Redpoll among the hordes of Pine Siskins and a Clay-colored Sparrow among the Chippies.  A few Rusty Blackbirds were noted flying in off the lake early this morning.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A bit more on track

Today's weather was similar to those of late but with the influence of a weak low pressure system that moved into the area early in the afternoon which increased the activity this morning.  Winds were from the south most of the morning with a mid-afternoon shift to the west but even that could not hamper the will of the birds as they must have realized this could be the only good day to move soon.  In a true testament as to how improved the day was, I managed not to bring out the chair at all, that's a first in almost a week.

As one would expect Aythya ducks were the dominate birds on the move with in excess of 1000 birds from that genus seen today.  Greater Scaup were the most common duck with 413 while American Wigeon claimed the number two spot at 206, just ahead of Redhead which rounded out the top three at 191, also seen in numbers exceeding one hundred birds were Mallard (169) and White-winged Scoter (111).  The most interesting duck seen today was a male Wood Duck that flew past with a ball of scaups early in the morning while single Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal this afternoon were the first of their species in quite a while.  Loon and grebe numbers were nearly the same as they have been over the past few days.

For the first time this year I was unable to find a shorebird today though another juvenile Sabine's Gull and a single unidentified jaeger were a nice consolation.  Also seen for the first time in a little while were a few Bonaparte's Gulls that joined the Ring-billeds feeding off the point.

The only non-waterbird of note today was a Black-backed Woodpecker that made a quick appearance on the Merlin pole late this morning, otherwise it was pretty much the same in the woods.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Same old, same old

For the past few days a big ball of high pressure has been sitting around the Great Lakes which has meant a little bit of "Groundhog Day" syndrome for me up here.  Each day I know exactly what to expect, cool and clear mornings with light bird movement and a late morning warm-up into the high 50s/low 60s with almost no birds and lots of sun.  Its a great recipe for a lengthy afternoon nap, unfortunately for me that's a luxury which I am not afforded.  It sounds crazy but I'm really hoping for some clouds and colder temperatures, at least then I wouldn't be so tempted to close my eyes and go someplace a little more exotic.

Duck numbers remained steadily unimpressive with the big pushes typical for this time of year still not happening due to the current weather patterns.  The most common species however have been right on target with scoters (mostly White-winged), scaup (mostly Greater), and Red-breasted Mergansers leading the daily tallies since Sunday.  Smaller numbers of dabbling ducks continue to pass by with Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, and Mallard leading that group and a scattering of other Aythya ducks as well as a few other scoters and the occasional Long-tailed Duck add to the diver numbers.  Loon and grebe numbers have been steady with 20ish Common and a couple Red-throateds seen daily while around 50 or so Red-neckeds have been joined by 10+ Horneds to start the week.

A first of the year showed up on the 4th while a nearly forgotten friend made an appearance this morning. Yesterday was the grand arrival of the fall's Dunlin season when a single bird flew past the point during the afternoon as well as a Sandhill Crane.  Today marked the first jaeger of October when an unidentified bird was noted multiple times during mid-morning.  Few other birds have been around of late with a single American Golden-Plover still hanging around been the most notable.

Landbird numbers have held steady in much the same way as the waterbird numbers with the same grouping of birds still about but with few arrivals or departures.  Of note today was a strong showing by Red-tailed Hawks when at least 15-20 birds used the warmer temperatures to their advantage as they kettled and moved SE along the lake shore during the early afternoon.  Passerines have remained consistent with sparrows and chickadees still being the dominant forest birds while a few other late migrants join them each day.  The most unusual bird for the point seen recently was, drum roll please, a female House Sparrow which was present around the bird feeders yesterday afternoon.  If that doesn't get you out here in a hurry I am at a loss as to what will.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Start of October

October began yesterday with light to moderate NW winds and continued today with strong N winds and a few spits of frozen precipitation from the sky.  The afternoons continue to be fairly nice with sunny skies helping to thaw out frozen extremities after morning temperatures that are hovering just above freezing.  Tomorrow is predicted to be as cold but with less wind which should make for a more enjoyable experience to those braving the point in the morning.

Diversity continues to be pretty good with yesterday and today showcasing a different group each day.  Yesterday was by far the year's best loon showing with 218 Commons (though only 8 Red-throateds) with a slight continuation of the previous day's grebe show.  Today saw many fewer loons (27 Commons and 3 Red-throateds) but more ducks with scoters (151 White-wingeds, 95 Surfs, and 2 Blacks) leading the way.  Both days have continued to see small numbers of dabblers, mainly American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal, with ever increasing numbers of Aythya ducks which are still mostly Greater Scaup but include a smattering of other species/unidentified birds.  Today was the biggest Long-tailed Duck day to date with 16 while Red-breasted Mergansers continue to pass by in small numbers each day.

Shorebirds have been almost non-existent the past couple days with daily counts of 2 and 6 Sanderlings while yesterday also had 2 American Golden-Plovers and a fly-by Wilson's Snipe.  The most notable bird yesterday was a juvenile Sabine's Gull which worked along the point's shoreline from east to west in the early afternoon.

Strong winds continue to hamper birding in the woods but the suite of cold weather birds (minus the finches and a few later migrants) typical for this time of year are building in numbers each day.  Sparrows continue in the largest numbers with an American Tree Sparrow arriving yesterday along with increasing numbers of Fox Sparrows.  Warblers on the other hand are in ever decreasing numbers with only a handful of Yellow-rumpeds and Palms seen of late.  A Northern Goshawk and a Merlin continue to hunt the flocks of larks, longspurs, and pipits on the point each day.