Today was the first day snow fell on me during the waterbird count! I saw snow across Lake Superior in Canada’s Algoma Highlands on September 29, over two weeks ago, and Saturday was the first day I brushed off my car before heading to the Point for sunrise, but today’s precipitation was my first opportunity to utilize the ‘snow’ category while collecting my hourly weather data.

Fittingly, today also saw the first spike of Long-tailed Duck, whose scientific name, Clangula hyemalis, derives from the Latin for ‘winter.’ Despite generally lousy weather all day, with conditions ranging from driving rain to lentil-sized hail to near total whiteout, a total of 652 Long-taileds were tallied. This brings their total to 1,443 for the season, which is certainly a lot of ducks, though still shy of 10% of their long-term average of 15,686.

Plenty of other ducks are being seen daily, with Goldeneye and Bufflehead now occurring regularly, and the occasional dabbler flock still slipping through. Scoters have been giving great looks on occasion, with White-winged up to a total of 1,149 for the season, followed by Surf at 487, and 80 Black. Aythya ducks are at a combined count of 7,199, with Greater Scaup leading the way among those identified to species.

Red-necked Grebes still haven’t stopped — the past four days each have seen over 100, with a peak so far for the month of October of 255 on the 14th. This brings them to a total of 10,389, a solid count, but still a bit below the average of 12,572. Loons are certainly past their peak, but both Common and Red-throated continue to be seen regularly, with current season totals of 2,148 and 378, respectively.

Shorebird numbers continue to fluctuate wildly from day to day, with today seeing a resurgence. Ruddy Turnstone, the fourth individual for the season, was the shorebird highlight today. White-rumped Sandpipers have arrived at the Point, with the first being spotted October 11th, then again on the 15th. It’s been a fantastic fall for Pectoral Sandpiper across the Upper Peninsula, and a new record high has been set for the WPBO fall count, with a current count of 68 edging out 2016’s total of 60. Dunlin, Sanderling, and Greater Yellowlegs made up the remainder of today’s shorebird flocks.

Once again, there’s much, much more going on at the waterbird shack than I can cram into a single blog post, so be sure to check Dunkadoo regularly for more!



Gary Palmer

WPBO Fall Waterbird Counter