Loaded Glauc (Oct. 23)

Whitefish Point woke up to snow yet again, this time about an inch coating all the trees, veg, and cars.  The hike out to the waterbird shack was all white and green:

The weather today was brutal once again which probably accounts for the lack of tourists (I didn't see a single one today).  The temperature ranged from 33 to 41 degrees and winds continued to be strong out of the northwest.  The first several hours were filled with heavy snow showers which limited visibility; at times I couldn't even see the water.  The lake-effect snow rolled through in waves all day but we also had short clearings in between bands.  Here's the shack with the next band coming in behind it:

Compared to past days, the count today was pretty unimpressive (<1000 birds).  I had next to no dabblers and even my LONG-TAILED DUCK numbers were way down (307, but still my most numerous species).  I had a decent flight of BUFFLEHEAD (63) but COMMON GOLDENEYE still numbered fewer than 10.  I finally snagged my first HOODED MERGANSER of the fall today too.  I was starting to think I was going to miss it this season!

In terms of scoters, I had 41 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and 6 BLACK SCOTERS.  I had both species of loons today but fewer than 15 total.  A few RED-NECKED GREBES were being pushed out too, I had 64 today.

The only shorebird today was presumably the same GREATER YELLOWLEGS that was present yesterday.

The highlight today was my first-of-the-fall GLAUCOUS GULL that was roosting at the tip with the other gulls:

When I was out there scoping gulls, I also came across this banded HERRING GULL:

You can see it has a metal band on the lower right and a blue band on the lower left.  Anyone out there know who might be banding Herring Gulls?

Other than the waterbirds, I didn't see much activity out at the waterbird shack besides the omnipresent SNOW BUNTINGS, LAPLAND LONGSPURS, and HORNED LARKS.  There were also a couple of AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS working some grassy patches at the tip along with two different ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS that migrated overhead.

This weather pattern is holding and we're supposed to get more of the same nasty weather tomorrow; frequent lake-effect snow/rain showers coming out of the northwest.

Before I forget, a couple of days ago I posted a picture of a woodpecker tail as a photo quiz.  Separating between DOWNY WOODPECKER and HAIRY WOODPECKER by the outer tail feathers is really quite easy.  If it has black spotting, it's a DOWNY.  If it lacks that spotting, it's a HAIRY.  So, in this case it was a HAIRY WOODPECKER that I photographed behind the gift shop.

Good birding,

Cory G.



When it's slow at the Point, some of us have discussed old, and mostly forgotten, bird names: Holboell's (Red-necked) Grebe, Red-backed Sandpiper (Dunlin), Blue-headed Vireo (Solitary and back again), etc. I'm pretty certain that "Burgomaster" was never approved by the nomenclature folks, but it was apparently in wide enough use to be mentioned in Barrows "Michigan Bird Life" (1912), in A.C. Bent"s "Life Histories" (c. 1921), and in Ernest Choate's wonderful book "American Bird Names" (1973, 1985). Here's the opening paragraph from Bent's description of Glaucous Gull. It's a bit long, but a nice example of an extinct style of writing.
"The name burgomaster is a fitting name for this chief magistrate of the feathered tribes of the Arctic seas, where it reigns supreme over all the lesser water fowl, levying its toll of food from their eggs and defenseless young. Well they know its strength and dread its power, as it sails majestically aloft over the somber, rocky cliffs of the Greenland coast, where , with myriads of sea fowl, it makes its summer home; and useless is it for them to resist the onslaught of its heavy beak when it swoops down to rob them of their callow young. Only the Great Skua, the fighting airship of the north, dares to give it battle and to drive the tyrant burgomaster from its chosen crag. Its only rival in size and power among the gulls is the great black-backed gull, and where these two meet on the Labrador coast they treat each other with dignified respect." Matt J

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