Western Great Lakes: Fall 2016

1 Aug—30 Nov

Peder H. Svingen

Recommended Citation: Svingen, P. H. 2020. Fall 2016: Western Great Lakes. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9jS> North American Birds.

The relentless mantra, “temperatures were generally above average in the region,” was accompanied by the drumbeat of above average precipitation—though much of it fell in dramatic bursts. November was balmy, especially in Minnesota where the statewide temperature was 10 degrees above normal. Winter storm “Argos” 18—19 November dumped significant amounts of snow across the region, along with gale-force southwesterly winds. Some lingering migrants were probably trapped by this fast-moving system.

Each state received its share of rarities, but all scripts were one-act plays, rather than a regional tour de force. Shorebirds stole the show in Minnesota: unprecedented numbers of Black-necked Stilts were followed by the state’s first Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in September; the same flooded field later attracted a Red Phalarope. Wisconsin’s set was conceived in Sonora: Blue-throated, Magnificent, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, followed by Painted Redstart. Michigan’s theme was western, involving Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Ancient Murrelet from the northwest, Black-throated Gray Warbler and Bullock’s Oriole from the west, and Vermilion Flycatcher and Sagebrush Sparrow from the southwest.

Abbreviations: Hawk Ridge/Lester River (Hawk Ridge/Lester River Census, Duluth, MN); Muskegon (Muskegon Wastewater System, Muskegon, MI); Pointe Mouillee (Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Monroe, MI); Shiawassee (Shiawassee NWR., Saginaw, MI); Tiscornia (Tiscornia Park, Berrien, MI); U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI); Whitefish Point (Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Chippewa, MI); Wisconsin Point (Wisconsin Point, Douglas, WI). Since the majority of rare birds in our region are seen and photographed by multiple observers, citations generally refer to the original discoverers of the bird and/or those providing written documentation.

Cited observers (sub regional editors in boldface): Brad Abendroth (BAb), Danny Akers (DAk), Brian Allen (BA), Jim & Ruth Amundson (J&RA), Nick Anich (eBird Wisconsin), Linda Ar (LAr), Wayne Arent (WA), Mary Backus (MBa), Tim Baerwald (TBa), Jacqui Baker (JqB), Steve Baker (SBa), Karl J. Bardon (KJB), John Behrent (JBe), Emily Bertucci (EB), Martin Blagdurn (MBl), Milt J. Blomberg (MJB), Brad R. Bolduan (BRB), Mike Bourdon (MBo), Ryan S. Brady (RSB), David & Margaret Brasser (D&MB), Gerald Brow (GBr), Paul E. Budde (Minnesota), Van Burmeister (VB), Adam M. Byrne (eBird Michigan), Allen T. Chartier (Michigan), Shawn Conrad (SC), Mike & Merrylynn Denny (M&MD), Andy Dettling (AD), Herb H. Dingmann (HHD), Dan Doeppers (DD), Robert C. Domagalski (Wisconsin), Louis J. Dombroski (LJD), Kim R. Eckert (KRE), John P. Ellis (JPE), Kimberly Emerson (KEm), Gerry Erikson (GE), Ron A. Erpelding (RAE), Monica K. Essenmacher (MKE), Laurie Evans (LEv), Bruce A. Fall (eBird Minnesota), Chip Francke (CF), James Frank (JF), Alex Franzen (AlF), Zach Gayk (ZG), Julie Gidwitz (JGi), Richard Gotz (RGz), Leonard Graf (LG), Juliann Grahn (JGr), Michael Gray (MG), Evan Griffis (EG), Carolyn Grisdale (CGr), Skye Haas (SH), Bernice Hall (BHa), Liz Harper (LzH), Tom Heatley (THe), Chad Heins (ChH), Anthony X. Hertzel (AXH), John W. Hockema (JWH), Peter R. Hoeger (PRH), Sandy Hokanson (SHk), Kris Horton (KH), Eric Howe (EH), Greg Hottman (GH), Mark & Joanie Hubinger (M&JH), Margaret S. Jewett (MSJ), Robbye J. Johnson (RJJ), Mark A. Junghans (MAJ), Kathy Kaczynski (KKa), Kay Kavanagh (KK), Brianne Keehan (BKe), Doug W. Kieser (DWK), Christina Kionka (ChK), Jan & Larry Kraemer (J&LK), Joseph Kurtz (JKu), Demetri Lafkas (DLa), Alex Lamoreaux (ALx), Tony Lau (TLa), Josh Lefever (JLf), Dale Leitzke (DLe), James W. Lind (JWL), Chris Lipps (CLi), Steve Lubahn (SL), Cindy Lupin (CLu), Mary Maertz (MMz), Stuart Malcolm (SM), Craig R. Mandel (CRM), Marsha Marek (MMk), William C. Marengo (WCM), Nathan Martineau (NM), Mike Mencotti (MMe), Diane Miller (DMi), Graham Montgomery (GM), William Mueller (WM), Chris Neri (CNe), Landon Neumann (LN), Jeff R. Newman (JRN), Clinton Nienhaus (CNi), Phil Odum (PO), Michael Oetkin (MOe), Earl E. Orf (EEO), Dan Orr (DOr), Andy Paulios (eBird Wisconsin), David Pavlik (DPv), Elizabeth Peterson (EP), Aaron Pietsch (APi), Janine Polk (JP), David Powell (DPo), Tom Prestby (eBird Wisconsin), John P. Richardson (JPR), Robert & Ruth Richmond (R&RR), Collin Richter (CRi), Eric Ripma (ER), Ryne Rutherford (RR), David Samuels (DSa), Steve Santner (SSa), Joe Schaufenbuel (JSc), Darrell Schiffman (DSc), Chace Scholten (CSc), Richard Schultz (RSc), Thomas & Wendy Schultz (T&WS), David Slager (DSl), Kevin D. Smith (KDS), Alex Sundvall (ASu), Peder H. Svingen (PHS), Sarah Taylor (STa), Jen Thamban (JT), Andrew Theus (AT), Howard C. Towle (HCT), Butch Ukura (BU), Kevin Vande Vusse (KVV), Lance A. Vrieze (LAV), Josh Wallestad (JWd), William Walter (WWa), Mike Wanger (MW), Garrett Wee (GWe), Kristin Wegner (KWe), Andy W. Weinrauch (AWW), Thomas R. Wheeker (TRW), Kate Wilder (KWi), Mark Wloch (MWl), Thomas C. Wood (TCW), Patrick Wright (PW), Samantha Wright (SWr), Julie W. Zempel (JWZ), and Roy Zimmerman (RZi). We offer sincere thanks to the hundreds of additional contributors who could not be cited here individually.

Waterfowl through Alcids

Minnesota hosted a juvenile “Atlantic” Brant at Two Harbors, Lake 18—22 Oct (ph. Gary Leeper). Michigan had 2 Brant: one in Manistee 7—23 Nov (MBl, ph. GE) was banded as an adult male on Southhampton Island, Nunavut, 24 Jul 2015; the other was in Luce 19 Nov (EG). Wisconsin welcomed a King Eider in Milwaukee 21 Nov+ (ph. SL, MW). Harlequin Ducks in Michigan were more numerous than typical, with 12 reports in total. Most of these were singles, but 4 visited Tiscornia 12 Nov (TBa). Seasonal scoter tallies from Whitefish Point included 931 Surfs, 2758 White-wingeds, and 370 Blacks (ER); these totals were all up from last year, as was the total of 29,901 Long-tailed Ducks (ER et al.).Whitefish Point also tallied 14,350 Red-necked Grebes with a peak of 2272 on 21 Aug (ER). Up to 6 Eared Grebes continued at Muskegon, and singles surfaced in Marquette 16 Oct (JKu) and Huron 10 Nov (†MKE). Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported from 61 of Minnesota’s 87 counties northeast to Lake 7 Oct (JWL). This species is still rare in Michigan, where one of several in Berrien was carrying nesting material 20 Sep (ph. DSl). White-winged Doves, now annual in the region, visited Mason, MI 26 Sep—8 Oct (VB, ph. MWl) and Anoka, MN 23 Nov+ (MAJ, †DWK, ph. †ASu); the latter was notably late.

Concerted counts at Chimney Swifts roost sites on 27 Aug produced Minnesota high counts of 2060 in Olmsted (SHk) and 1400 in Sherburne (TLa). 2 potential 1st records for Wisconsin, Magnificent Hummingbird in Dane 24 Aug (†DSc) and Blue-throated Hummingbird in Portage 25 Aug (†JSc), were seen by single observers for one day only; in the absence of photos or other physical evidence, each would be placed on the state’s hypothetical list if accepted. Wisconsin’s 10th Anna’s Hummingbird visited a feeder in Milwaukee 27 Oct—21 Nov (p.a., m.ob.). An apparent juvenile female Rufous Hummingbird visited a feeder in Isanti, MN late Sep+ (p.a., JqB, ph. EEO, ph. RZi, ph. AlF). Michigan’s Rufous in Oakland 5 Nov+ was confirmed to species when banded in early Jan (ATC). Yellow Rails are rarely detected as fall migrants in southern Minnesota; records from Brown 30 Sep (BRB) and Goodhue 3 Oct (KDS) were noteworthy. Wisconsin had just 3 previous fall records of Purple Gallinule; one in Wood 2 Sep (†R&RR) and another in Juneau 13—23 Oct (ph. JWn) raised the total to 5. Michigan’s 12th Purple Gallinule was photographed as it sat in the window of downtown café in St. Joseph, Berrien 17 Nov (ph. WA); no word on the daily special there…

Minnesota’s summer influx of Black-necked Stilts extended to fall with a continuing pair in Big Stone through 16 Aug (ph. JPR, ph. LzH), and up to 7 in Jackson through 20 Aug (KEm); lone stilts were discovered in different Blue Earth locations 1 Sep (ph. J&RA, ph. STa) and 16—18 Oct (ChH, APi, WCM). Michigan’s only Black-necked Stilt was a county first in Ottawa 15—17 Sep (CF). Tardy Hudsonian Godwits were photographed in Dodge 4—7 Nov (SM) and Sheboygan 13—20 Nov (D&MB, TCW); the latter was record late for Wisconsin. 7 Red Knots in 3 Michigan locations during Aug were followed by a late juvenile in Alcona 25 Oct (THe). Minnesota had single knots in Grant 10—14 Aug (ph. JPR, BU, ph. JWd) and Duluth 24—28 Aug (ph. J&LK).


Both Michigan and Minnesota finally joined the ranks of the inland states that have Sharp-tailed Sandpiper on their official state lists. Michigan’s bird was an adult at Muskegon 11-13 Aug (p.a., ph. KVV, m.ob.); Minnesota’s was a juvenile with Pectorals in a flooded farm field in Carver 20 Sep (ph. †PRH, m.ob.). A 2nd juvenile was discovered 23 Sep (ph. JWZ), and both were seen through the 25th.

End S.A.

Purple Sandpiper was more numerous than usual in Michigan; 7 records involved 11 individuals. 3 of these records were at Whitefish Point, including 3 birds together 17 Oct (ph. CNe). Minnesota reported ~170 Buff-breasted Sandpipers scattered across 27 counties and Michigan contributed ~64 in 20 counties. A Willet, noteworthy in fall, made a substantial meal for a Peregrine Falcon at Whitefish Point 13 Sep (ph. CNe, ER). The same farm field that hosted Minnesota’s Sharp-tailed Sandpipers attracted the first Red Phalarope for Carver 13 Oct (RGz, †WCM, ph. JWZ); another at Cook WTP, St. Louis 19—22 Oct (JGr, ph. JPR, ph. †PHS) was far inland from Lake Superior. Michigan spun up single Red Phalaropes at Whitefish Point 9—11 Oct (CNe et al.) and 20—27 Oct (PW). Jaegers were numerous in Michigan with ~24 of 83 identified as Parasitics. One of Wisconsin’s Parasitic Jaegers was far inland in Chippewa 7 Sep (†JP). An immature Long-tailed Jaeger passed Whitefish Point 17 Oct (ER, ph. CNe). Consistent coverage undoubtedly explains Whitefish Point’s Ancient Murrelet accrual; the state’s 13th occurred there 14 Nov (ER, †TRW, †CNe).

Gulls through Corvids

Casual in Minnesota, a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake visited Two Harbors, Lake 7 Nov (ph. ALx, JLf). 6 of Michigan’s 10 kittiwakes this season were at Whitefish Point, including an adult 24 Oct (ER); another adult was in Houghton 12 Oct (LJD). All 3 states had multiple reports of Sabine’s Gulls on the Great Lakes. Minnesota had inland reports in Goodhue, Stearns, Jackson, and Sibley. Unusual for Wisconsin were the number of inland reports from Marathon, Eau Claire, Chippewa, Jefferson/Rock, and Polk. Though few juv. were seen, up to 14 Little Gulls in 4 Michigan counties was above average. The Region’s only Laughing Gull was a juv. in Berrien, MI 16 Sep (ph. DSl). Michigan also had an ad. California Gull in Berrien 21 Sep-18 Nov (MBo, ph. AT). Whitefish Point recorded 3960 Common Terns this fall, including 1845 on 9 Sep (ER et al.). A seasonal total of 567 Red-throated Loons at Whitefish Point was up from last year. In Minnesota, a Red-throated Loon at Zippel Bay SP 17 Oct (SC) was, surprisingly, a first for Lake of the Woods. Wisconsin had Pacific Loons in Douglas 23 Sep (†SM), Ashland 21 Oct (NA), and Brown 2 Nov (TP). Single Pacific Loons in Houghton 9 Oct (†LJD), Leelanau 17—18 Nov (GBr, ph. †BA), and 11 & 15 Oct at Whitefish Point (ph. ER) were more than usual for Michigan. Minnesota’s 5th frigatebird was photographed from a rooftop in Ramsey 21 Aug (ph. AXH). Michigan recorded a Magnificent Frigatebird at Tiscornia 6 Sep (p.a., ph. TBa).

Impressive counts of 426 Great Egrets 16 Sep (AMB) and 21 Snowy Egrets 17 Aug (NM, JKu) were made at Pointe Mouillee. Minnesota had Little Blue Herons at Agassiz NWR 4—7 Sep (KRE et al.) and a county first in Pine 8 Sep (†LEv). Record late for Wisconsin by >2 weeks was an immature Little Blue Heron in Superior 21—25 Oct (ph. †PHS, ph. RJJ). Tricolored Heron was last reported at Pointe Mouillee 16 Sep (m.ob). In Minnesota, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at the Bass Ponds 8—14 Aug (BKe, CRM) and an adult was photographed by m.ob. at another Hennepin location 23—27 Aug. Juvenile Yellow-crowneds were also found in Wright 25—29 Aug & 13 Sep (ph. TLa, ph. DOr) and Blue Earth 31 Aug (J&RA, ph. ChH, ph. MOe, ph. STa) — this adds up to the most Minnesota records since 2009. Wisconsin also had Yellow-crowneds in Milwaukee through 7 Aug (m.ob.) and Waupaca 2 Sep (CLu). Many observers witnessed a long-staying Glossy Ibis at Shiawassee 21 Sep—25 Nov (p.a., SWr). A White-faced Ibis, Wisconsin’s 6th in fall, graced Mack SWA, Outagamie 29—30 Aug (MG, MMz). Plegadis ibis continue to increase in western Minnesota; 25 were in Traverse 13 Aug (MJB), and up to 24 were at Miedd Lake, Yellow Medicine 10—23 Sep (GWe), with some of these identifiable as White-faced Ibis. Black Vultures, nearly annual in Michigan, were found in Kalamazoo 12 Sep (†WWa) and Washtenaw 20 Sep (LAr). In Wisconsin, a Swallow-tailed Kite from July continued along Longview and Juddville roads, Door 1—2 Aug (GH, KK, T&WS). A week later, 2 Swallow-tailed Kites were reported from the Simon Creek Winery in Door (DSa). This brought Wisconsin’s record total to 15. Mississippi Kites continued at Wisconsin’s first nesting site (see summer report) through 14 Sep, anda lone kite was seen over Grant 21 Sep (†GM). Swainson’s Hawk is rarely detected away from hawk watches in Wisconsin, so one in Ozaukee 28 Sep (†JF) was noteworthy.

In Michigan, Snowy Owls in Cheboygan 29 Jul—15 Aug (ph. CGr) and Otsego 23 Aug—3 Sep (ph. KH, ph. KWi) likely summered. A Great Gray Owl in Vilas 3 Oct (†JBe) was unusual for Wisconsin. Michigan celebrated a Northern Hawk Owl in Chippewa 2 Nov (ph. M&JH). 7 Boreal Owls were banded during the 2nd half of Oct at Whitefish Point (fide CNe). 2 pairs of American Three-toed Woodpeckers, typically recorded as singles in fall, in Koochiching 11 Nov (RAE, HHD) were intriguing. Michigan’s first Crested Caracara continued from summer through 12 Nov at the Anna River mouth, Alger (m.ob.). Wisconsin’s 7th Prairie Falcon was photographed by m.ob. in Racine 24 Sep. In western Minnesota, where they are more expected, Prairie Falcons were in Lyon 25 Aug (†GWe) and Pipestone 29 Oct (DAk). 2 Say’s Phoebes at Cottonwood WTP 6 Sep were the first for Lyon (ph. GWe). Flycatchers showed well in Michigan this season, with Say’s Phoebe at Ludington SP, Mason (ph. CLi), Vermilion Flycatcher at Fish Point SWA, Tuscola 15—18 Nov (ph. RR), Tropical Kingbird south of Sault Ste. Marie 19-26 Oct (†SBa), Western Kingbirds at Pointe Mouillee 10 Aug (MSJ) and Nayanquing Point 14 Oct (SSa), and the state’s 3rd Fork-tailed Flycatcher north of Menominee 3—11 Nov (p.a., DLa)! In Wisconsin, a Western Kingbird in Bayfield 30 Aug (†RSB) and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Ozaukee 10 Sep (†WM) were noteworthy. Minnesota also had a Scissor-tailed in Lac qui Parle 12 Aug (p.a., †BAb). Bell’s Vireo, prevalent in Minnesota this season, was reported from 7 counties—the most of any fall. One at the Marquette Bogwalk 15 Sep (p.a., ph. SH) was the Upper Peninsula’s 3rd record. In southeastern Michigan, 3 Fish Crows foraged at Forest Lawn Landfill, Berrien through at least 13 Nov (DPo).

Swallows through Orioles

For the 2nd consecutive fall, Cave Swallow was documented at Whitefish Point 5 Nov (ph. ER et al.). Tufted Titmice, very unusual for the U.P., were in Dickinson 25 Oct (ChK) and Menominee 18 Nov (DLe). This species has also slowly expanded northward in Minnesota, with occasional pioneers heading west; one in Jackson 7 Sep (DAk) fits this pattern. Record late and far northeast was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Door, WI 27 Nov (ph. EH, KWe). Noteworthy high counts by the indefatigable Hawk Ridge/Lester River team included 679 Golden-crowned Kinglets 18 Oct (plus 613 on the 13th) and 147 Ruby-crowned Kinglets 13 Oct (plus 73 on the 18th) (KJB et al.). Michigan’s 9th Mountain Bluebird brightened Kent 9—12 Nov (†JT). Minnesota’s only Mountain Bluebird of the season was a male in Anoka 2 Oct (AXH). 6 Townsend’s Solitaires in Michigan included an early arrival at Whitefish Point 25—28 Sep (†CRi, †EB). 12 solitaires in 7 Minnesota counties was twice the typical number. Another extraordinary count by Hawk Ridge/Lester River. was 506 Swainson’s Thrushes at Duluth 30 Aug (KJB). Eurasian Tree Sparrow, expanding in range, appears increasingly in our region. This season, one was found along the North Shore in Lake, MN 21 Nov+ (ph. JWL). A Sprague’s Pipit in Jackson 5 Oct (p.a., †DAk) was Minnesota’s first since 2013. Single Smith’s Longspurs were along the North Shore at Duluth 27 Sep (†PHS) and Lake 29 Oct (WCM); small numbers were found in more expected western Minnesota locations.

A Kentucky Warbler, rarely detected in fall, appeared at Lake St. Clair Metropark, MI 12 Sep (†DMi). A Yellow Warbler in Tuscola 16 Nov (MKE, ph. PO) was extremely late for Michigan. Black-throated Blue Warbler was notably widespread in Minnesota, and was recorded in 18 Minnesota counties; one in Watonwan 20 Sep HHD was a county first. High counts at Hawk Ridge/Lester River included 174 Palm Warblers 19 Sep and 11,435 Yellow-rumped Warblers 6 Oct (KJB). Michigan gained another Black-throated Gray Warbler in Leelanau 24 Nov (†KKa). Wisconsin celebrated a Painted Redstart in Marathon 1 Nov (MBa, RSc). The only prior record, 22 Apr 1965, was a single-party sight record; this time, photos were obtained. For the second consecutive fall, Michigan hosted a Green-tailed Towhee. This year’s was at Whitefish Point 18 Oct (ph. CNe). The season’s only Spotted Towhee was in Lac qui Parle, MN 15 Oct (WCM). Minnesota’s record high count of 85 Chipping Sparrows in Otter Tail 3 Sep (M&MD) was surpassed by 94 at Whitefish Point 26 Aug (ER et al.). Michigan’s only Lark Sparrow visited Keweenaw 23 Aug (†ZG). The region’s first Sagebrush Sparrow delighted birders at Whitefish Point 11—13 Nov (LG, m.ob.). Late and extralimital Grasshopper Sparrows were in Lake, MN 14 Oct (KRE, ph. JWL), and at Whitefish Point 8 Oct (LN, ph. CNe) and 5 Nov (ph. CNe). Nelson’s Sparrow showed well in Michigan: 2 were in Ingham 27 Sep—2 Oct (ph. DPv), 2 were in Washtenaw 30 Sep—2 Oct (AD), and singles were in Kent 4 Oct (CSc) and Lake St. Clair Metropark 7—11 Oct (†AWW). One of Minnesota’s Nelson’s, in Mower 2 Oct (JWH), furnished a first county record. Minnesota high counts of 135 Swamp Sparrows in Jackson 5 Oct (DAk) and 1509 White-throated Sparrows at Hawk Ridge/Lester River 13 Sep (KJB) were impressive. For the 3rd consecutive year, a Golden-crowned Sparrow was at Duluth 30 Sep+ (JRN, ph. †PHS, ph. CNi).

Michigan had Summer Tanagers in Berrien 15 Sep (ph. JGi) and at Whitefish Point 27 Sep (ER, ph. CNe). Minnesota also had 2, a female in McLeod 6 Aug (fide BHa) and a young male in Steele 15—18 Sep (HCT, BAb). Western Tanagers are almost exclusively a spring migrant in the region, so birds in Douglas, MN 19 Aug (†JPE) and Dane, WI 27 Aug (†DD) were of note. In Michigan, Blue Grosbeaks from summer continued through 17 Aug in Washtenaw and Pointe Mouillee; a pair of with 3 fledglings provided a first county record in Oakland 6 Aug—5 Sep (ph. MMe). Breeding was also confirmed in Sauk, WI, where Blue Grosbeaks were last seen 14 Aug (m.ob.). Their slow expansion in southwestern Minnesota was demonstrated by 4 in Big Stone (MJB, JWH, LAV) and 2 in Swift (DOr, HHD) this Aug. A Painted Bunting 2 Nov (ER, CNe) added to Whitefish Point’s incredible rarity roster this season. Michigan acquired 2 more Bullock’s Oriole records, an immature male near Paynesville, Ontonagon 20 Nov+ (ph. EP) and an adult male in Muskegon 29 Nov (†MMk).

Exotics / Escapes: Great Tit continues to flourish in Ozaukee and Sheboygan, WI, where breeding has been confirmed. The same applies to European Goldfinch in Kenosha and Racine. Michigan also reported a European Goldfinch in Macomb.