To see all the details in some of the pictures, right-click them. From the mini-list choose "Open link in new window". In that window click the picture for actual size, often too big to fit your monitor. Scroll around to appreciate all the details. Then click again to see the entire picture.
I see you have an amazing amount of cool ducks down in the river channel. I was out on the Muskegon River right by Croton today and saw a White-winged Scoter(photo below) which I have never seen so far upriver. There was an impressive number of Bald Eagles. as well as a lot of mergansers, goldeneyes, and Mute Swans about. The extreme cold appears to be pushing a lot of birds to the open water of the river. A good place to observe these is right below the spillway of the dam in Croton.
Continuing the series of Lake Michigan
shoreline counts from last fall, I completed six more sessions in
December and early January. Despite lower waterfowl diversity during
these months, good numbers of diving ducks continue to pass,
generally in response to local weather, forage availability, and
various disturbances. On December 2, I tallied 11,596 Long-tailed Ducks at
Lake Harbor Park. This unusually large cluster was concentrated by
pressure from duck hunters far offshore to the north and south.
Other highlights were a Red-throated
Loon and 9 Horned Grebes on December 19, and a juvenile Black-legged
Kittiwake on December 24 at the Muskegon State Park overlook.
Consistently cold temperatures, strong
winds, and snowfall during December made additional forays difficult,
but more significantly, the chilly conditions produced early freezing
along Lake Michigan. By early January, overall ice cover was the
greatest since the winter of 1993/94. As shallow water froze, various
species of waterbirds moved to open channels or left Lake Michigan
Under such conditions, shoreline counts
are unproductive, so I switch to surveys of Muskegon Lake Channel,
although careful counts can be quite time-consuming and somewhat
uncomfortable. High numbers there reflect the impact of ice coverage
On January 12, with pack ice extending
0.5 mile offshore, my counts included:
Canvasback - 3
Redhead - 26
Greater Scaup - 547
Lesser Scaup - 1
Surf Scoter - 1
White-winged Scoter - 28
Long-tailed Duck - 21
Bufflehead - 3
Common Goldeneye - 553
Common Merganser - 16
Red-breasted Merganser - 48
The various species of divers forage at
different distances from shore. Common Mergansers and Buffleheads not
only stay very close, but they actually prefer inland waters. Common
Goldeneye remain within one mile of shore, and Red-breasted
Mergansers range only moderately further. White-winged Scoters and
Greater Scaup forage further yet, and the most distant rafts consist solely of Long-tailed Ducks. These patterns relate to diving ability. The
Long-tailed Duck dives deeper than all other local waterfowl and is
surpassed only by the Common Loon. A scientific paper from 1947
reported that Long-tailed Ducks were occasionally caught in gill nets in Lake Michigan more than 200 feet below the surface!
Today, January 29, I conducted another
survey at the channel. This time, pack ice extended three miles
offshore, and according to the ice cover estimates provided by the
National Weather Service, Lake Michigan was 45% covered with ice, and drift ice extended about nine miles from shore. At the limit of
pack ice, Lake Michigan is approximately 100 feet deep, and this would
preclude benthic foraging by all but the most persistent ducks.
Still, I was amazed by some of the numbers:
Canvasback - 4 Redhead - 35
Greater Scaup - 2,258
Surf Scoter - 2
White-winged Scoter - 463
Long-tailed Duck - 3,137
Bufflehead - 1
Common Goldeneye - 912
Common Merganser - 6
Red-breasted Merganser - 18
I have never before seen so manyLong-tailed
Ducksin the channel. I did not find any Lesser Scaup, but I could
have missed a few among the Greaters. Still, after painstakingly
counting and observing them, I am certain that no more than 2% were
Lessers. Both Surf Scoters were adult males, which are the least common age/sex cohort in this area. The White-winged Scoter
total was astounding; without a doubt this is the most ever recorded
in Muskegon County.
I decided to spend some time at Pigeon Lake on Sunday. This is some of what I found: Belted Kingfisher, Tundra Swans and Long-tailed Duck. When the two swans flew in, I assumed they were the trumpeters. It wasn't until I got home that I realized that they were Tundra Swans. The close-up picture clearly shows the yellow markings near the bill.
Went to the Muskegon Channel this morning; same old ducks (including this Long-tailed Duck). Was hoping to see the Surf Scoter again, no luck there. For the gentleman who was talking to me at about 11:30 a.m, I took 21 frames of the Redheads in 3 seconds, saved 4, and this is the best.
The Northern Cardinal and American Tree Sparrow were seen on our club's field trip at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve around noon. The Surf Scoter was seen at the Muskegon Lake Channel 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. He moved around a lot, so any place you can see the channel will be good. I was by the USS Silversides. Thanks Ken Sapkowski for the location of the Surf Scoter.
I went into Grand Haven looking for some Cedar Waxwings that Chip Francke had reported at Snug Harbor Restaurant. I sat for a while and sure enough, here comes a flock of Cedar Waxwings headed for the tree I was parked at. They didn't stop; just kept on going. Then I noticed this Cooper's Hawk sitting in the same tree not 40 feet from me. The hawk flew when I opened my door to take a picture. At least I got my Year Bird 41, Cedar Waxwing.
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