Sorry its been awhile since my last posting but in that time, spring has been soldiering onward. The weather has continued to be a bit inconsistant so the hawk watch has had its good and not so good days. May 7th saw the largest movement with 2594 birds recorded that included almost 2 thousand Broad-wings. Another thousand bird day was tallied on the 14th. It is worth noting that both these migration days were on south winds. For anyone planning a trip to the mountain, this is a very key point to keep in mind. Most days though, a typical flight has been in the hundreds and on north or west winds. Overall, totals for most species are close to or well above numbers seen in the last three years of the survey. Most notably perhaps are the totals for Ospreys, Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles and American Kestrels which are all posting numbers well above those seen in that three-year time frame. We are still seeing Golden Eagles too, so if you thought your chance of spotting one this year was past, this is not necessarily the case. Broad-wing numbers are still at the low end, but there is still time for them to migrate, especially when the juvenile birds arrive in the area. Northern Harrier is probably the one species that seems to be lagging a bit in overall numbers, which is a reflection of the poor weather in April, a typical window time-wise for this species to migrate.
There are lots of other birds around which I’m sure most of you have noted. An Eared Grebe is still being seen in the Harbor off Sixth Street in Copper Harbor. This species is annual in the state but in very small numbers as it breeds further west in the prairie potholes. A female or immature male Harlequin Duck was seen at this location for a few days recently as well. Supplementing the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler numbers have been other warblers like Palm, Black & white, Black-throated Green, Northern Parula, Nashville, Orange-crowned and Ovenbird. Tree Swallows are around now as well as a few Barn and Cliff Swallows. Chimney Swifts have arrived just in the last couple of days and when I stepped outside just this morning, I heard my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the spring greeting me with its song.
Well, just when you thought spring was here…not so fast. We’ve had several days of chilly, damp weather that effectively shut down the hawk migration. Yesterday was a marked improvement over recent days even with the fog and north winds. But hopefully now with improving weather this week, there we be a return to some good raptor movement. A note on that last good day before the bad weather; there was a juvy dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk that came by the watch, making it the last of the sixteen regular raptor migrants to be seen this spring.
Other non-raptor migrants continue to come into the area. Many of the sparrow species are around now; some in numbers like Junco, White-throated, Song and Fox but also a few Savannah, Chipping, Swamp and White-crowned as well. With all the little wet areas around now, there have been both yellowlegs seen as well as Solitary Sandpiper and Snipe. Of course the ducks are in those damp areas too, with both teal showing up now along with Wigeon, Shoveler and divers like Ring-necked and Lesser Scaup. There have been a few Horned Grebes in the harbor here in Copper Harbor, wearing their spectacular spring feathers. In the uncommon category, I have heard of at least two Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the area and there was a Townsend’s Solitaire on the mountain for most of the day one of those last nice days last week.
A word on the road up the mountain; there are still some deep areas of snow up there. On the east end, there have been folks attempting to drive the road and with a few more brave soles doing so, this should help speed up the melting process. I haven’t talked to anyone who has attempted the west end so I’m not sure of the coverage on that side. Hopefully, with a few warm days this week, someone will be able to blast a path up there.
Well, we are finally getting some warm weather and south winds here in the Keweenaw and as a result, the last three days have been productive ones over the mountain. We’ve had about 2,800 birds cumulative for those days! Sharp-shins have really kicked into gear and the Broad-wings are starting to push their way up the peninsula as well now. Red-tails continue to put in a good showing each day and most days there are one or two dark-morphs around. I think I even had three on one of those days. For those of you unfamiliar with these variations, the dark-morphs are of the western subspecies of Red-tail and are annual here in small numbers. Bald Eagles continue to migrate in numbers…I was thinking with the late spring, there may be another push of them. Truely impressive are the record number of Golden Eagles and Rough-legged Hawks we are seeing. We are well beyond the previous high for Goldens and are already up to the high count for Rough-legs and I believe as well for Goshawks. So even with the tardiness of the spring, things have a way of catching up.
As far as non-raptors, large groups of Canada Geese are moving now and Sandhill Cranes are coming through in pretty good numbers as well. I did manage to find a couple of Cackling Geese among a group of Canadas on one of those days. I’ve seen both Tree and Barn Swallow recently as well as Great Blue Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Winter Wren, Rusty Blackbird and Palm Warbler. Robins seem to be everywhere now to greet the dawn with their singing and White-throated, Fox and Song Sparrows are adding to that early morning chorus as well.
Not to sound too much like a broken record, but our late spring weather pattern continues and even as I write this, there is snow in the air. After last Friday’s blizzard, the road up the mountain has even more snow on it and some truely impressive drifts; it was Sunday before I could safely make it to the top on the snowmobile once a trail had been blazed by other more experienced riders. There are sections that were blasted by the storm that look like ski-hill moguls!
As to the migration, the hawks continue to move, when there are breaks in the weather. In fact, this Sunday past was one of the most enjoyable days of the season with most of the flight low along the bluff on strong southeast winds. Imagine, if you will, Red-tails, Rough-legs and Golden Eagles coming by the watch at eye-level! Can’t beat that. While the Red-tails have taken over as the dominant species, there has been a definite increase in the numbers of several birds, most notably Sharp-shinned and Rough-legged Hawks. I love those dark-morph Rough-legs; one of my favorite raptors. The day-to-day diversity of species has also picked up. Adding to that variety have been the sighting of a couple of dark-morph Red-tails in recent days; always nice to see among the typical light birds.
Large numbers of Canada Geese are moving now and on Sunday, I ran up a tally of almost 3600. New birds the last couple of days have been Bittern, Greater Yellowlegs and Kingfisher. Juncos certainly outnumber any other songbird that’s around right now but there are a few Fox and Tree Sparrows in the mix as well.
Well even with this continued late-winter type weather we have been experiencing (and more to come if the weather man is correct), there have been definite signs of spring migration in recent days. The hawk watch diversity has increased noticeably with Harrier, Osprey, Kestrel and Peregrine all added to the species list in the past week. Turkey Vultures and Red-tails have taken over from Bald Eagles as the dominant raptors seen from the mountain in the last couple of days, although we did have our largest eagle day of the season this past week with 91 seen on the 14th. Golden Eagles continue, if not quite daily now; one of the pleasant surprises of this late spring, with our tally now up to 48.
Other arrivals to the area the last week have included Common Loon, Cormorant, Flicker, Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Pipit, both Kinglet species, Phoebe, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Woodcock. Sandhill Cranes are seen just about daily now and vocalizing Merlins are settling into traditional breeding areas and are particularly noticeable around town right now.
A word of caution to those who have a yen to get to the mountain or who are just curious, the road is nowhere near being open. Even the open area at the very top is still mainly snow-covered. We need a good warm rain-storm to open things up, I think.
Since my last posting, the weather has continued to be less than cooperative with several days missed because of inclement conditions on the mountain. However, several species have been added to the new arrivals in that time, including Red-shouldered and Cooper’s Hawks. Most noticeable is that Red-tails have picked up, if modestly, so that has been a plus in recent days. Perhaps surprisingly, we are still looking for our first Northern Harrier of the season. Golden Eagles continue to be seen pretty much daily, a perk of the early part of the season, even when the weather is bad.
Other arrivals recently have been Sandhill Crane and Short-eared Owl. Short-ears will quite often be seen migrating during the day and I’ve even seen them use thermals like other raptors, soaring high on the rising air. The one I had yesterday was just doing its stiff-winged flap alternated with long glides as it made its way eastward over Rocky Ridge. Arrivals the last week here in Copper Harbor have been Robin and Eastern Phoebe.
After all the wind and chilly temps the last few days, looks like we are back into a bit of a warm-up. If there is a recurring theme for the season, it is how different the weather is from the last several springs, particularly last year when 70s and even 80s were being seen here in the Keweenaw.
As far as the count, 356 Bald Eagles have been tallied so far, which is quite a bit behind the pace seen in 2010 and 2012 but similar to that of 2011. In contrast, 31 Golden Eagles have been recorded, a total that has already equalled the highest number for any of those three seasons. Turkey Vulture has been the newest arrival, with two seen yesterday, making it the eighth raptor seen on the mountain so far this year.
Non-raptor arrivals to the area recently have included Horned Lark, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Small groups of Snow Buntings are seen daily on West Bluff and yesterday there were quite a number of Bohemian Waxwings up there as well.
Bill Degowski tells me that quite a few folks are keeping up with the blog which is always good to hear. I like getting that feedback. Hopefully, if the road ever opens up, we’ll see some of you folks on the mountain.