By Skye Haas, 2018 Spring Field Ornithologist
And I thought there was little to report in my last update! Very little bird migration has occurred in April so far. Persistent north winds and frequent snow showers have plagued the research programs here at WPBO, and we have been setting some new late arrival dates for species. April 15 was the start of the Waterbird Count and a few hours of counting were accomplished before the massive snow storm shut things down for the day. A pair of COMMON MERGANSERS on April 13 were our first new species of waterfowl since April 3, and other than a trickle of HERRING GULLS and a few SANDHILL CRANES (a peak of 20 on April 13), there have been no other waterbirds sighted. At least this isn’t going to be one of those years were the thaw occurred early and flocks of early waterbird snuck by before the count started! Silver lining right?
Red-tailed Hawk, Photo Skye Haas
Hawk migration had the tiniest of upticks in this period- a brief warm-up and some south winds brought a handful of TURKEY VULTURES, BALD EAGLES & RED-TAILED HAWKS, a few of NORTHERN GOSHAWKS and a couple of AMERICAN KESTRELS and MERLINS. Setting the latest arrival date ever for this species, a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK was finally observed on April 13. We have yet to still see a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK here at the Point this spring, an alarming development for a species that we predicted to have an excellent spring movement. Still time for it happen, but the next ten days will be critical to having a good season for this species.
Juvenile White-winged Crossbill, Photo Skye Haas
A YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER a mile south of the Point was a snowstorm surprise on April 15, but very few woodpeckers have been recorded, with still no Pileated Woodpecker at the Point this spring. GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS have slowly started to trickle back in, and a handful of cranky AMERICAN ROBINS have been observed. DARK-EYED JUNCOS have been ratcheting up their numbers, but still it is a good day to have double-digit totals. Finches remain in low numbers, with virtual no migrants in the last week. PINE GROSBEAKS have seemed to have departed for the spring, but there are still some COMMON REDPOLLS and a few sightings of RED & WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS.
Great Gray Owl, Photo Skye Haas
The most exciting birds to report are two different GREAT GRAY OWLS discovered between Sault Ste Marie and Dunbar in far eastern Chippewa County with reports spanning from April 12-14. The birds are located both just east of Riverside Drive with one on 12 Mile, the other on 13 Mile.