This morning, I huddled against the lee side of the Waterbird Shack: chilly, wet, panning a scope mounted on a shaking tripod in a mostly futile attempt to distill migrating waterbirds from mammoth swells. Lake Superior has certainly outdone herself in welcoming me back to her shores.
Though I was gone three and a half months, it doesn’t feel that long ago that I was standing in this very spot for the spring count: scanning the Lake, feeling at the mercy of the weather. Now though, it’s fall: the season of stunning juvenile shorebirds, of confounding warblers–of rakish jaegers strafing unfortunate gulls. I’m glad to be back, thankful for another opportunity to spectate migration.
I’ve just been back at WPBO since September 3rd (there was a summer job in Traverse City, a place where summer lasts beyond the start of fall here in the Upper Peninsula…thanks Eric Ripma for covering the first bit of the waterbird count!) Highlights since I arrived have been Red-necked Phalaropes on 3 & 6 September, Parasitic Jaeger sightings on 4 days (1 juvenile, 3 adults), a diverse array of shorebirds including Buff-breasted Sandpipers (as many as 4 today!), a single Long-billed Dowitcher (also today, 13 September), and a thousand Red-necked Grebe day (7 Sep).
My first day back at Whitefish was, fittingly, a temperamental weather day. During the ritual evening shorebird search, I was walking west, into the wind. A flock of gulls huddled on the beach, also facing into the wind. I put my head down, kept my eyes up, thought about what birds the west wind might bring this fall…
For real-time updates of the fall waterbird count, follow our Dunkadoo feed; I will also be providing regular updates to WPBO‘s social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) pages and posting daily checklists to eBird. So–pick your poison!
Thank you for reading.
-Alison Vilag, Fall Waterbird Counter
Feature photo: Pectoral Sandpiper (Alison Vilag).