Got an email right after school today saying there was a Ross's Goose - less than 10 blocks from my house!!! Of course, I jumped on my bike and headed down there. And also of course, the bird had left only seconds before I got there...not to return for the rest of the day. I sat around for 2 hours, and biked down the waterfront a bit to try to pick it up, but with no luck. I picked up a few Sault year birds though, with a female Lesser Scaup, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, House Sparrows, a somewhat early(?) pair of Northern Shovelers, and 8 Canada Geese - the geese the Ross's was hanging with. Also a lot of the more common species (not that common grackle is rare or anything!) were around. Some bare patches of grass, temps above 0, and later, pouring rain all point to spring! Even if it is a little late (there was almost no snow as of March 25th here last year!), it is most certainly welcome.
As the title suggests, there were Golden Eagles involved in today's birding, but more on that later. Kirk Zufelt, Stan Phippen, and I left around 8 (a late start by our standards) to head over to Whitefish Point Bird Observatory (WPBO). We first stopped at Forrest Rd. off the M-28 to look for the Sharp-tailed Grouse on their lek, and found 17 dancing in the morning light. When we got to the point, it was reasonably cold (-8ºC) for this time of year, with a little bit of a windchill, and more ice than normal. It was nice and sunny the whole day, to make up for this though. The feeders were dead when we got there, but we found some Boreal Owl wingprints (see image) in the snow, where it had picked off an unsuspecting rodent. We searched the banders' route, but with no luck. When we got back, the feeders were active, with a flock of 25+ Bohemian Waxwings sitting in the tree, a Robin in a nearby shrub (first for the year), and 200+ Redpolls, mostly Commons but with at least 3 Hoary in the mix. By now it was warming up, so we grabbed our stuff and headed for the hawk platform. Calvin Brennan is the hawk counter for this year, and Ken Mety Jr. was there to tell more of his stories and jokes. The day was fairly productive for this time of year, with 7 species of raptor, most of them new for my yearlist. It eventually warmed up to 0ºC, but the windchill was still uncomfortable when you're sitting mostly still for so long. At least the sun was warm, and I even got a bit of a sunburn (another first for the year!) with the sun reflecting off the snow. Two Golden Eagles came by, one a nice adult bird with an amazingly golden head in the sun - almost looked white it was so bright. The other was a subadult bird, again in nice plumage. On the way back to the Sault, we spotted another Robin on the side of the road, foraging in what little grass was showing on the shoulder.
Our day list came out to only 24 species, but since most of it was spent at the hawk watch, that's not too bad a total. My Sault year birds are in bold.
Ring-billed Gull Herring Gull Rock Pigeon Mourning Dove Blue Jay American Crow Common Raven Black-capped Chickadee American Robin - 2 European Starling Bohemian Waxwing - 25+ Pine Grosbeak - 10+ Red Crossbill - 12 Common Redpoll - 200+ Hoary Redpoll - 3
Yep, more of that white stuff, and just when I thought it was going to melt too. A good 3+ inches of wet, soggy snow, followed by drizzle. Bleh. There's more in the forecast for next week too :(. I suppose the good news is that WPBO has Golden Eagles going by most days, so hopefully I'll see one this weekend. That's it for now, unless something good shows up between now and Saturday this'll probably be my only post until the weekend.
The Locks are probably the best place here in town to go birding, and you can occasionally see 90+ species in a morning there. Not today however, as the only feathered creatures around were the usual Chickadees, Mallards (with a couple Black Ducks), Common Goldeneye, Common Mergansers, and assortment of gulls, which didn't include any northern species today. Just as we were leaving, the aforementioned collection of gulls was airborne, and when I looked around to see what scared them, an adult Bald Eagle turned out to be the culprit. Nice and sunny, but the northwest wind made for a wind chill of about -15ºC. I sure hope spring comes soon.
Went down to the marina a few days ago to look for a possible Gyrfalcon. No luck, but did find a pair of Mute Swans, as well as some Common Goldeneye and a male Hooded Merganser. More spring birding to come as the snow melts (still over 2 feet here).