16 November 2013


It's been months since I've updated my own personal blog but hopefully you've been following along at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory waterbird blog.  If you're in desperate need to know what I saw every day, you can always go back and find my daily blog entries at:


However, the fall waterbird season has wrapped up here as winter seems to have an ever-tightening grip on the north woods.  I'll be heading out of Michigan soon and will be birding my way back to California (snagging year birds along the way, hopefully).

But before I leave, I thought I'd share a few photos from my stint here at Whitefish Point....

My job here centered around the waterbird count.  Simply put, I would start at dawn every day and count all the migrants for 8 hours, rain or shine.  The fall season here extends from mid-August to mid-November and has been run every fall for 25 years.  

More specifically, I was counting all the different waterbirds; things like loons, ducks, grebes, geese, and shorebirds.  The COMMON LOONS seem to be one of the most popular migrants that pass by here.  And for good reason; sometimes they'll fly directly overhead:

Perhaps less exciting, I also tallied several thousand CANADA GEESE:

Not all the geese that migrate past here are common though.  For example, this fall we had a rare ROSS'S GOOSE and several different bunches of SNOW GEESE.  Here's one that flew directly overhead:

Although most of the duck species that migrate past here aren't super rare, once in a while we'll get a treat such as this HARLEQUIN DUCK that passed by back in September:

Being surrounded by water, it's no surprise that we had lots of terns around including CASPIAN TERNS:

... and COMMON TERNS which sometimes migrate past by the hundreds:

Strangely, FORSTER'S TERNS aren't usually too common up here.  However, we had a great fall for them; here's one sporting that distinctive isolated dark cheek patch:

With a background in shorebird ecology, it's no surprise that I'm quite fond the shorebirds that migrate through here.  It was actually a great fall for shorebird diversity here at the point.  Here are a few photos of various kinds including this BAIRD'S SANDPIPER:


One of the most abundant shorebird species here were the SANDERLINGS:

One of the rare shorebirds that showed up this fall (multiple times, too) was the STILT SANDPIPER.  Here's one in a puddle up at the point:

However, not all shorebirds are at home out on the beach.  Here's a SOLITARY SANDPIPER that found some flooded woods inland:

The raptors here can be pretty decent too although spring is better-known for the large congregations here.  Here's a NORTHERN HARRIER from early in the season:

The warmer months also gave me bugs to look at, primarily a few butterflies.  Here's a COMMON BRANDED-SKIPPER:


I was also happy to be around some new sulphurs which included the PINK-EDGED SULPHUR (whose larval foodplant is wild blueberries, btw):

The later in the season it got, the colder and more bleak things became:

There were still bright moments though, such as having 3 TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES at the point together:

... or this attractive first-cycle ICELAND GULL that stayed at the point for a day:

Of course, many birders that visit here hope to catch a glimpse of a JAEGER.  Generally speaking, this is one of the best spots in the Midwest to see jaegers (although they can be quite distant!).  During the course of the last three months, I've seen 40 different jaegers!  Here are a few random photos of PARASITIC JAEGERS:

Then there are always songbirds to snap pictures of if you're in the mood.  Here's the first LAPLAND LONGSPUR of the fall:

The feeders here at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory have a long list of rarities that have spent time there.  Although nothing too crazy showed up this fall, it's always worth a check.  Here's a GRAY CATBIRD that lingered near the feeders for a while:

And although this isn't at the point, there are great spots to see LE CONTE'S SPARROWS here in Chippewa County too (as long as you're in season):

One of my favorites up here in the north woods is the SPRUCE GROUSE.  We had a great fall for these at the point; one day, several of us saw this male throughout the day at different spots:

There is plenty of wildlife besides birds and bugs though.  I saw both moose and bear tracks right on the beach near the waterbird shack!  Then there are things like this MINK that spent almost an entire day underneath the shack:

Being at Whitefish Point for a season gives you the chance to see an incredible array of clouds and sunrises.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Even the waves, especially on stormy days, can be quite magnificent out here:

However, it's time for me to keep moving.  Stay tuned as I target year birds as I venture west.  And, yes, hopefully, I'll keep this updated a bit more frequently now!