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Whimbrels and Scoter numbers peaking

Whimbrels and Scoter numbers peaking

Marbled Godwit by Skye Haas

The last week has been a good one for seeing big shorebirds at Whitefish Point. On May 22, not only did flocks of Whimbrel totaling 184 birds fly past the point, but we were twice visited by individual Marbled Godwits. The first flew by with a flock of 11 Whimbrel, just close enough to see that it was a paler, more uniform color, and had a longer, upturned bill. While I was thrilled to see this, I was a bit disappointed that it was a quick fly-by and almost nobody else was around to see it. Four hours later, I was about to head over to the shoreline to check out an unfamiliar shorebird call, when the caller took to the air and made a few passes over the pond near the tip. It was another Marbled Godwit, and this time it landed in the pond and stayed a while, letting several other people see it. For a few minutes, it was standing with a few Least Sandpipers running around at its feet, emphasizing the tremendous contrast in size between Michigan’s smallest and largest regularly occurring sandpipers.

On the evening of May 23, the point experienced its best scoter flight of the season to date, with 248 White-winged Scoters and one Surf Scoter flying by.

White-winged Scoters at dusk by Skye Haas

The highlight of May 24 was the Long-tailed Duck flight during the day, with 277 counted. The morning also produced all three scoter species, with two each of Black and Surf Scoters joining the 121 White-winged Scoters that flew past. The evening flight on May 24 was relatively modest, with only one Long-tailed Duck, 90 White-winged Scoters, and two Surf Scoters.
Twice in the last week, the rarity highlight of the day was practically the first bird to be spotted after the sun rose. On May 24, the day began with an adult Franklin’s Gull flying right over the tip, and on May 25, it was a Parasitic Jaeger that ushered in the day’s count.

On May 27, 104 Whimbrel flying by in the morning was not unexpected for the date, but two flocks in the evening, each with over 300 individuals was a highlight for the several people who ventured out in the early evening in hopes of seeing more migrants than the morning offered.

Whimbrel by Skye Haas

Skye’s last blog post covered some of the other rarer shorebirds seen at the point in the last few weeks, but I must add one other: the lone Red Knot that visited the beach on May 20. This declining species was once seen at the point in small flocks in the spring, though the bulk of their migration is along the Atlantic coast. As they tend to be late spring migrants, with any luck, I’ll be writing more soon about these and any other shorebird species that visit the point as the spring season draws to a close in the coming days.

2018-02-21T13:39:40+00:00 May 28th, 2017|Migration Counts|Comments Off on Whimbrels and Scoter numbers peaking