The Waterbird Shack seems to exist in its own universe. It certainly has its own microenvironment–comfortable weather at the parking lot does not necessarily translate to comfortable weather at the Point. This detail is responsible for both the hasty retreats of ill-prepared visitors and the sideways glances directed my way when I emerge at the toasty parking lot after the count, wearing a hat and raingear–and sometimes gloves. 

At the shack, many of the world’s confounding questions take a backseat to a new, esoteric set: my regular rotation includes “which pocked of which layer did I put my keys in?” and “are the gulls migrating south, or are they migrating to a fishing boat?” 

Another recent addition to life in the waterbird shack world are large, mixed dabbler flocks–such a fun event of migration. The last week has had days where upwards 50 each of Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, and American Wigeon have been recorded. These are fast fliers, often packed into tight groups, and present a fun problem to solve. A cursory glance might suggest a flock is homogeneous, but this is rare. There is a limited window of time to sift through–to find the Gadwall tucked into a clump of American Wigeon, or to put a number on the teal mixed with the Northern Shovelers. 

Mid-September is truly a lovely season at Whitefish Point: the woods are lush with Swainson’s Thrush calls and what I hope is the season’s last mosquito hatch; while shorebird numbers and diversity wane, the duck movement accelerates. Red-throated Loon migration nears its peak, with 102 recorded on 20 September. Also very deserving of mention are the SABINE’S GULL that delighted several birders with its close flyby last Saturday, 14 September and distant unidentified jaegers on 15 September (1) and 20 September (2). 

Thank you for reading!

-Alison Vilag, 2019 Fall Waterbird Counter

*Featured Photo: Canada Geese southbound at sunrise. Alison Vilag photo.