Despite a strong headwind both days, thousands of waterbirds migrated past Whitefish Point on Tuesday and Wednesday! Following several slow days of warm weather and southerly winds, I wasn’t expecting to see much migration on Tuesday as conditions were set to stay the same. The day got off to a promising start though, with a couple dozen ducks and over 90 Common Terns in the first two hours. Mid-morning, when Jim Dawe ran back to the count shack to alert me to the Red-necked Phalarope he located foraging in the bay just a couple meters offshore, I was sure that would be the highlight of the day.

But before long hundreds upon hundreds of Common Terns began to fly past, and by the end of the count they reached an astounding total of 2,283! This is certainly among the highest single-day totals ever recorded at the Point, and in fact only four seasons in the 30 year history of the fall waterbird count have a season total surpassing Tuesday’s tally. Common Tern’s season total is currently 3,576, making this already the second-biggest season for the species, behind 4,764 from 2015.

While unfortunately only seen after the count on Tuesday, September 11, this American White Pelican was one of two seen that evening, a rather unusual fall record on Lake Superior!

On Wednesday just 70 Terns were seen, but ducks had their biggest day of the season by far, with a total of 515 counted flying by! Blue-winged Teal led the way with 195, followed by 65 American Wigeon, 46 Mallard, and a handful each of Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Green-winged Teal. Diving ducks have just barely begun to make an appearance on the count, with under 50 recorded so far if foraging local Common Mergansers are excluded.

The flow of Red-necked Grebes has slowed to a mere trickle lately, with no more than 16 being seen in a day in nearly a week. Their total stands at 7,208, well shy of the long-term average of 12,572, so presumably many more are yet to come. Shorebirds have certainly slowed down — Wednesday saw just the continuing Red-necked Phalarope and a lone Baird’s Sandpiper.

Full season totals and live updates throughout the day are always available at Dunkadoo!



Gary Palmer

WPBO Fall Waterbird Counter