Waterfowl through Cranes
A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck was recorded from MI in White Pigeon, St. Joseph Co from 3–10 Sep (Karen Brown, John Cassidy, m. ob.). Another was taken by a MN hunter on 25 Sep in Nicollet Co. This species is casual in both these states. Snow Goose numbers were below recent seasonal averages in both MI and MN. MI generated 11 reports of Ross’s Goose, and in both MN and WI the species was recorded in six counties. This is expected. Greater White-fronted Goose was also reported in average numbers and frequencies for all states. A Brant, casual in MN, was taken by a hunter on 11 Nov in Beltrami Co (Thorlid Nelson). The region’s high count of Tundra Swans, 7,000, was recorded in MN from traditional staging areas along the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Houston Co on 22 Nov. Numbers elsewhere were normal. A record high count of Lesser Scaup—5,370—was recorded in MN from the Reno Bottoms area, Houston Co on 26 Nov (Ezra Hosch); in nearby Altura, Wabasha Co, MN, another notable count, 2,500, was recorded on 21 Nov (Matthew Schaumburg).
Two Common Eiders, casual in Michigan, were found in the U.P. on Lake Superior: at Marquette Lower Harbor, Marquette Co 17–22 Nov (Beth Olson, m. ob.) and in Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Co 23–24 Nov (Nancy Leonard, m. ob.). A MI hunter took two King Eiders in MI’s northeastern L.P. on 16 Nov. Eight Harlequin Ducks were reported in MI, and nine—a record—from WI. The species was reported from one county in MN. MI compilers tallied the following numbers of what are traditionally considered sea ducks: 1,366 Surf Scoters (10-year average 1,900), 6,488 White-winged Scoters (10-year average 4,490), and 496 Black Scoters (10-year average 663). MI also recorded 64,685 Long-tailed Ducks (10-year average 66,000); Whitefish Pt.’s fall waterbird count total for this species, 24,554, represents a near-average season. MN reported Long-tails in normal numbers. Minnesota recorded its second-highest fall count of Common Mergansers, 30,000, on 27 Nov from traditional staging areas along Lake Pepin, Goodhue Co (Paul Jantscher).
Spruce Grouse were reported from six counties in north-central MN, six U.P. counties in MI, and four counties in northeastern WI. Sharp-tailed Grouse were reported from their usual range in the northern half of MN, as well as from two of the state’s west-central counties, where their presence is encouraging. In MI, the species was reported from the eastern and central U.P., where they are most expected. In WI, they were reported only from the northwest part of the state, in Burnett Co. Greater Prairie-Chickens were found in the usual areas of northwest MN and in WI at Portage Co’s Buena Vista Grasslands and Adams Co’s Leola Marsh. Gray Partridge was reported from 16 counties in MN’s southern and northwestern reaches.
The only noteworthy grebe reports were from MI’s Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co, where 4,350 Red-necked Grebes were tallied during the fall count. This number is well below the 10-year average of 11,927. Eared Grebes, infrequently reported from WI in the fall, were found at: Lake Kegonsa Road, Dane Co from 2–12 Oct (Shawn Miller, Kris Perlberg, Nate Shipley), Lake Barney, Dane Co from 6 Oct–4 Nov (Kathy Keyshawn, Melissa Kesling), and Lake Ripley, Jefferson Co on 20 Nov (Aaron Stutz). Two Western Grebes were also found in WI during the period, at Barker’s Island, Douglas Co on 8 Nov (Cole Bauer, Jan and Larry Kramer), and at Lake Kegonsa, Dane Co from 23–28 Nov (m. ob.). One Western Grebe was reported in MI, on Lake Michigan at New Buffalo, Berrien Co on 23 Nov (Matt Hysell).
A White-winged Dove, rare in MI, was seen in Escanaba, Delta Co from 10–13 Nov (Joe Kaplan, Joe McDonnell), and five were recorded during the period in WI. Two Rufous Hummingbirds were reported from WI: in Richland Co from 16 Oct–30 Nov (Susan Reed), and in Milwaukee Co on 28 Oct (Dan Panetti). In MN, another Rufous Hummingbird was present at a residence in Duluth, St. Louis Co from 6 Nov–4 Dec (Laura Erickson, m.ob.). In 2004, this same residence hosted a Selasphorus Hummingbird for nearly the same window of time! MI had Rufous Hummingbirds in Calhoun Co from late Aug–14 Dec, in Saginaw Co from 20 Sep–22 Nov, and in Tuscola Co from 7 Oct–15 Nov (all fide Allen Chartier).
MI’s 15th Purple Gallinule was discovered at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co on 5 Sep (John Brubaker, Denise Markstrom). Yellow Rails—difficult to locate in the fall—were found in WI at Mortorelli Wetlands, Douglas Co on 24 Sep (Peder Svingen), and in MN at: Tony Schmidt Park, Ramsey Co on 23 Sep (Liz Harper), Lundquist WMA, Waseca Co on 26 Sep (Kim Emerson, John Hockema), Duluth, St. Louis Co, a window-strike bird taken to a wildlife rehab facility on 29 Sep (Frank Nicoletti), and at Middle Lake, Nicollet Co on 1 Oct (Aaron Pietsch). Sandhill Cranes were reported from 78 MN counties, the most in over a decade. MI also reported higher than average numbers of the species this fall. Whooping Cranes were reported from 15 WI counties, up from 2020’s nine.
Shorebirds through Gulls
Black-necked Stilts were reported in MN at Marsh Lake, Swift Co from 2–5 Aug (Douglas Pierzina, Ron Erpelding) and from Artichoke Lake WPA, Big Stone Co on 21 Aug (Garrett Wee). MI’s first October record of the species came from the U.P.’s Dead River Marsh, Marquette Co on 19 Oct (Caden Klanderman). Black-necked Stilts nested successfully at WI’s Horicon Marsh NWR in both Dodge and Fond du Lac Cos and were last seen on 6 Sep (Carly Crow, Karl Hays); they were also recorded in WI’s Jefferson and Sauk Cos. Michigan reported 19 Piping Plovers this season, which is slightly below-average. The period’s only other Piping Plover report came from WI: a single bird seen in Douglas Co on 11 Aug (Scott Swengel). Upland Sandpipers were found in 18 south MN counties, the most in over a decade; in WI, three were reported in August from Burnett, Oneida and Dodge Cos; MI’s seasonal tally, 20 individuals, was lower-than-average. Fourteen Whimbrel, which again is slightly below the 10-year average, were observed in MI. In WI, there were five reports of the species—all from Lake Michigan’s coastline.
For the first time since 2010, WI did not report any Marbled Godwits. Red Knots, casual in MN, were documented at three locations: six at Interstate Island, St. Louis Co on 14 Aug (Peder Svingen), a single bird in Paynesville, Stearns Co (Philip Chu, m. ob.), and three at Robert Lake, Becker Co from 30 Aug–1 Sep (Heather Hundt, Shawn Goodchild, m. ob.). In WI and MI, Red Knots are still considered regular; in WI, they were reported from five counties bordering Lake Michigan from Aug–Sep; 14 individuals, an average seasonal count, were reported from MI. The region’s only Ruff was found in MN at Albert Lea Lake, Freeborn Co on 18 Aug (Paul Jantscher). In MN, Buff-breasted Sandpiper distribution was the most widespread for 10 years: they were reported from 38 counties. MI’s seasonal tally, 53 individuals, was slightly below-average.
Willet, infrequent in WI during fall, was reported three times: at Festival and Samuel Myers Parks, Racine Co on 9 Aug (Drew Goldberg, Dawn Klamut), at the Milwaukee lakefront, Milwaukee Co from 9–10 Aug (Jessica Hilt, Greg Ongie), and at Peshtigo Harbor, Marinette Co on 4 Sep (Lynette Thonne). Red Phalaropes were reported in MN at Somsen Slough, Brown Co from 21–24 Oct (Brian T. smith, m. ob.); in WI from Sheboygan City lakefront, Sheboygan Co from 6–8 Nov (Tiffany Biedermann, Steven Thompson) and at Tenney Park, Dane Co on 15 Nov (Cynthia Bridge, Caitlyn Schuchhardt, C. Warneke). MI birders detected at least three Red Phalaropes at Port Huron, St. Clair Co, during the 22 Sep storm (Adam Byrne, m. obs.); additional sightings, all single birds, came from Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co on 1 Nov (Mario Balitbit), Muskegon Co from 1–7 Nov, and St. Clair Co on 11 Nov (Andrew Simon, Brian Beauchene).
This fall was exceptional for jaeger observations throughout the region. A juvenile Pomarine Jaeger appeared at Wisconsin Pt., Douglas Co, WI 29 Sep–9 Nov (Peder Svingen, m.ob.) and was repeatedly seen across the state line from Minnesota Pt., St. Louis Co., MN. So often in this region, jaeger sightings come as quick flashes at lakewatches; to have one—especially a Pomarine—seen reliably for more than six weeks is remarkable. An adult Pomarine Jaeger was also seen at Wisconsin Pt., Douglas Co, WI on 24–25 Sep (Aaron Holschbach). In MI, birders had a single Pomarine on Lake Superior at Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co, on 24 Sep and two more on southern Lake Michigan in Berrien Co on 22 Sep. On that date, winds streaming south from northern Ontario built to gale force over Lake Huron and drove numerous jaegers into the narrows between Port Huron, MI and Sarnia, ON. Of these, conservatively, one was identified as a Pomarine, 11 as Parasitic, and five as Long-tailed (Adam Byrne, m.obs.).
Elsewhere, Parasitic Jaegers were reported from Wisconsin Pt. and Minnesota Pt. from 8 Sep (Scott Swengel) to Oct 19 (Becca Engdahl, Rob Freeman); an impressive high count of 10 was observed from Wisconsin Pt. on 26 Sep (Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus, Gregg Severson). In MI, 16 Parasitic Jaegers were tallied from Whitefish Pt over the course of the season. A Long-tailed Jaeger was observed in WI at Oakland, Douglas Co 2 Aug (Ben Havlicek), and another was in MI at Whitefish Pt. on 13 Sep; the number of Long-tailed Jaegers seen in Michigan this fall was a new record. Black-legged Kittiwakes graced Minnesota Pt. and Wisconsin Pt., St. Louis and Douglas Cos, respectively, from 29 Oct–14 Nov (Andy Forbes, Matthew Thompson, Joshua Watson, m. ob.). They also appeared at three other WI locations: Port Washington, Ozaukee Co on 3 Nov (Alex Mann), Washburn Harbor, Bayfield Co from 7–30 Nov (m. ob.), and in Milwaukee Co on Nov 28 (Kevin Welsh).
Sabine’s Gulls showed at both Minnesota Pt. and Wisconsin Pt. from 10 Sep–10 Oct (m. ob.); a high count of 10 was seen on 18 Sep from Duluth, St. Louis Co. In MN away from Lake Superior, a single Sabine’s appeared at Lake Vadnais, Ramsey Co 3–9 Oct (Peter Nichols, Dana Sterner, m. ob.). In WI, another individual appeared at Lake Kegonsa, Dane Co from 16–22 Sep (Shawn Miller, Kris Perlberg, Steve Thiessen). MI had three individual Sabine’s Gulls at Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co, as well as individuals in St. Clair Co on 22 Sep (m. obs.) and Bay Co on 25 Sep (Dan Duso). WI reported one Little Gull at Thompson’s West End Park, Bayfield Co on 2 Oct (Ryan Brady); the five individuals documented in MI represent a typical number for the season.
A spectacular highlight of the fall was a Ross’s Gull that appeared on the St. Croix River and visited both sides of the MN–WI border at Hastings and Prescott, Washington and Pierce Cos, respectively, from 27–29 Nov (Ben Douglas, m. ob.). This individual represents the fourth state record for MN and the second state record for WI. The region’s last Ross’s Gull report was from 2010. The Ross’s Gull was exhibiting signs of poor health on the last day of its stay and died in transit to the Wildlife Rehab Center in St. Paul. WI produced the region’s lone Laughing Gull at Grant Park, Milwaukee Co from 22–31 Aug (m. ob.). The region’s lone California Gull was seen in MI at Tiscornia Park, St. Joseph, Berrien Co on 29 Oct (Matt Hysell); this location has produced the majority of MI’s records of this species. A Slaty-backed Gull was seen in MN at Lake Pepin, Wabasha Co on 22 Nov (Paul Jantscher). Other gull species appeared in normal numbers and distributions across the region.
Loons through Owls
Modest numbers of Pacific Loons were seen in all three states at various locations along Lake Superior. One was also found inland in MN at Madison Lake, Blue Earth Co from 14–20 Nov (Chad Heins, Tom Dahlen, Kimberly Emerson, John Hockema). Two Wood Storks made regional appearances. The first, lingering from summer, was in MI at Ludington, Mason Co from 31 Jul–13 Aug (Brian Allen, m. ob.). The second turned up in MN at a residential mitigation pond in Ham Lake, Anoka Co on 2 Sep (Cynthia Atchinson); it lingered long enough to be photographed and then departed. Wisconsin’s sixth Magnificent Frigatebird was seen at Cupertino Park, Milwaukee Co on 28 Aug (Nicholas Doty); another flew past MI’s Mackinac Straits and was seen from both Mackinac and Emmet Cos. It was a seventh state record (Calvin Brennan, Ty Sharrow). A Fregata species was also photographed in Berrien Co, MI on 22 Sep (David Pavlik).
Neotropic Cormorants continued from summer at three locations: in MN at Richfield Lake, Hennepin Co through 1 Oct; and in MI at both Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co through 3 Nov and Humbug Marsh, Wayne Co through 19 Sep. Six Snowy Egrets were reported from MI, where they are regular, in Aug. In WI, one was reported from the Wilbur Roads Ponds, Dane Co from 18 Sep–12 Oct (Aaron Holschbach, m. ob.). Little Blue Herons, casual in MI, made five appearances statewide: at Maple River SGA, Gratiot Co from 10 Aug–4 Sep (David Smitley, m. ob.), at Kinderhook Sewage Lagoons, Branch Co on 11 Aug (Carson Cousino), at Brown Sanctuary, Berrien Co on 14 Aug (Nolan Keyes), in Muskegon Co from 16–17 Aug (Michael Boston), and at Little Stone Stepping Falls, Genesee Co from 23 Aug–5 Sep (Jeff Buecking, m. ob.). An impressive 22 Cattle Egrets were found in MN along the Root River, Houston Co (Scott Puchalski), and another was along the St. Louis River in Duluth, St. Louis Co on 11 Oct (Steve Kolbe); this species is found periodically along MN’s Lake Superior coast during October.
There were four reports of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in WI and one from MN; the species is regular in both states. In MI, where it is casual, Yellow-crowneds were reported from Erie Marsh Preserve, Monroe Co from 9–29 Aug (Amber Piotter, m. ob.) and from Shiawassee NWR., Saginaw Co on 3 Sep (Ryan Dziedzic). Reflecting recent averages, just three White-faced Ibis were reported this season: one from WI and two from MN. However, in WI there were four reports of unidentified Plegadis Ibis—three birds from Goose Pond, Columbia Co from 4–5 Oct (m. ob.), single birds at Horicon Marsh NWR, Dodge Co from 10–14 Oct (William Holton, Nina Koch), in Kewaunee Co 19 Oct (Kathy Java), and two birds again at Horicon Marsh NWR, Dodge Co on 21 Oct (Liz and Matt Herzmann). A Black Vulture, very rare in MI’s U.P., flew past Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co on 1 Sep (Matt Johnstone, Mario Balitbit, Chris Neri). Wisconsin’s sixth and seventh records of White-tailed Kite came from Crex Meadows WA, Burnett Co on 21 Aug (Rory Cameron, Anne Geraghty) and 10 Oct (Kathy Java).
Swainson’s Hawks are rare in MI during fall, particularly away from known migration vantages: one was seen at Allegan SGA, Allegan Co on 12 Sep (David Denton), and another was at Pointe LaBarbe, Mackinac Co on 4 Oct (Calvin Brennan). A sick Ferruginous Hawk was reported to the MN DNR from a residence in Two Harbors, Lake Co on 15 Oct (Beth Kuehn, Jessica Parson) and was collected the following day. This is only the second sighting for the region in the last decade. The region’s established hawk watch sites reported mixed results from this season’s counts. Hawk Ridge in Duluth, MN, reported 73,215 raptors (a 17% increase over the 10-year average), compliments of high Broad-winged Hawk numbers. In fact, more than half of Hawk Ridge’s raptors this fall were Broad-wings—42,682 were tallied. However, most other raptor species passed through Hawk Ridge in below average numbers. In MI, the Mackinac Straits count near St. Ignace tallied 17,311 raptors, which is slightly above-average; Turkey Vulture (5,392) and Bald Eagles (1,477) were new fall high counts there. The Detroit River Hawk Watch in Brownstown tallied 94,616 raptors, which is below average. Season totals for Cooper’s (54) and Rough-legged hawks (4) were the lowest since 1994.
Five nestling Barn Owls were discovered on the under-deck of the Highway 60 bridge that spans the Mississippi River at Wabasha, Wabasha Co. They were observed from 5–14 Oct. This is MN’s fourth nesting record of the species, and one of these Barn Owls was heard calling from across the state line in WI. Both MI and MN reported average numbers of Snowy Owls; in WI, they were reported from 34 counties, and fall record high counts of 12 on 27 Nov (Tom Prestby) and 11 on 30 Nov (Jack Swelstad) came from Cat Island, Brown Co. Only two Northern Hawk Owls were reported, one in the U.P. near Paradise, Chippewa Co, and the other from WI in Bayfield Co. Great Gray Owls were reported from their usual haunts in MN’s Sax-Zim Bog, St. Louis Co, and a single bird was reported in WI’s Bayfield Co on 18 Oct. An average number of Long-eared Owl reports came from throughout the region: from seven counties in MN, two counties in WI, and three in MI. Short-eared Owls were widespread and present in numbers slightly above the 10-year average in both MN and MI.
Woodpeckers through Buntings
The only American Three-toed Woodpecker reports came from MN’s St. Louis Co. Seven MN counties—six of these bordering Ontario—produced Black-backed Woodpeckers. In MI, the species was observed only at its regular U.P. locations: Peshekee Grade, Marquette Co and Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co. None were reported in WI. The only noteworthy falcon reports came from MN, where one Gyrfalcon was reported flying past the Hawk Ridge banding station in Duluth, St. Louis Co on 8 Oct (Abbie Valine, Ellie Heiser). Prairie Falcons showed respectably in MN, being seen at: Aitkin Co on 12 Aug (Mark Jacobs), Land of Memories Park in Mankato, Blue Earth Co on 29 Aug and also on 27 Sep (Jim Amundson, Bethany Hawkwatch), Rothsay, Otter Tail Co on 7 Sep (Brad Abendroth), and at Mound Spring Prairie SNA, Yellow Medicine Co on 4 Nov (William C. Marengo).
In MI, the state’s 10th and 11th Ash-throated Flycatchers appeared at Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co, on 29 Aug (Karl Overman, m. ob.) and from 2–6 Oct (Nolan Keyes, m. ob.). As they typically do in the fall, Western Kingbirds wandered east into WI and MI; they were reported from two and five counties, respectively. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher—barely regular in MI—appeared on Mackinac Island, Mackinac Co on 4 Aug (Merry Beth, Justin Scott). In MN, where the species is casual, a Scissor-tail appeared in Olmsted Co on 18 Oct (Sandy Hokanson, m. ob.). Olive-sided Flycatchers usually depart the region by mid-September, so one seen in MI near downtown Detroit, Wayne Co from 8–13 Oct was unusually late (Kyle Schanta, m. ob.). A Bell’s Vireo lingered through 8 Sep at its regular location in Benton Harbor, Berrien Co. White-eyed Vireos were reported in WI: a pair nested successfully at Lake Kegonsa SP, Dane Co 1 Aug–10 Sep (m.ob.), one bird was in Verona, Dane Co on 29 Sep (Joe Hodkiewicz), and another was at Grant Park, Milwaukee Co on 17 Oct (Rita Flores Wiskowski).
Regionally, Loggerhead Shrikes are declining and becoming increasingly hard to find. In MN, the species was reported from Agassiz Valley, Polk Co where one lingered from July through 10 Aug (Hv Hughes), near Chester Woods Park, Olmsted Co from 4–18 Aug (Joel Dunnette, Edward Hicks, Lance Vrieze), and in Aitkin Co 5 Sep (John Lawrey). In WI, one was found in Grant Co on 2 Aug (Ryan Schmitz). Boreal Chickadees were found within their usual range along the Canadian border in MN and their reliable locations in MI’s U.P. For the third fall in four years there were no WI reports of the species. A single Mountain Bluebird appeared in MN’s Itasca Co on 8 Oct (Nancy Henke, Craig Mandel, m. ob.). Townsend’s Solitaires were reported in MN from 14 counties this season—double the 10-year average. In WI and MI there were three and five reports, respectively. The season’s only Varied Thrush was reported from north-central MN. MI’s 12th record of Northern Wheatear turned up in Vermontville, Eaton Co (Adrian Bass).
A Eurasian Tree Sparrow, casual in MN, visited a residence in Meeker Co from 12 Oct–14 Nov (Jim Gordon, m. ob.). MI’s 6th Sprague’s Pipit was at Whitefish Pt., Chippewa Co from 6–8 Nov (Mario Balitbit, m. ob.). Regionally, finches were present in modest numbers. Common Redpolls irrupted in numbers almost double MN’s 10-year averages. The state’s second highest fall count, 12,100, came from Stoney Pt., St. Louis Co on 7 Nov (Steve Kolbe, Hannah Toutonghi). White-winged Crossbills irrupted too; reports throughout the region were widespread and significant numbers were present in Nov. A MN record high count, 1,348, also came from Stoney Pt., St. Louis Co 5 Nov (Ian Davies, Steve Kolbe). European Goldfinch, an exotic, was reported from five southeastern WI counties. With continued breeding success, this species might become countable on the state list.
Smith’s Longspurs were reported from 10 MN counties, the most in over a decade. Unsurprisingly, the species was unrecorded elsewhere in the region. In MN, a Lark Bunting turned up at Park Pt., Duluth, St. Louis Co on 26 Sep (Pam and Loren Albin, m. ob.). LeConte’s Sparrows were widespread, reported from 49 MN counties—the most in over 10 years. In MI and WI, they were observed in average numbers. Nelson’s Sparrows were reported from 17 MN counties, which is well above the 10-year average. This likely corresponds to increased coverage. There were four reports of Nelson’s Sparrow in MI, which is average for fall there, and in WI they were reported from an above-average 12 counties.
In WI, three Kentucky Warblers were reported at Wyalusing SP, Grant Co on 4 Aug (Michael Herriot), and a single bird was in St. Croix Co on 7 Sep (Cathy Olyphant). A Kirtland’s Warbler was discovered in WI’s Adams Co on 1 Aug (Aaron Haycraft). This report is only WI’s second ever for the season. WI had two Yellow-throated Warblers, one in Winnebago Co on 6 Sep (Morgan Churchill) and the other at the Chiwaukee Prairie SNA, Kenosha Co on 24 Sep (Stan Rosensteil). Summer Tanagers are expected to appear in the region during fall. This year, there were three reports from MI, two from WI, and four from MN. A Western Tanager, casual in MI, was found at Holland SP, Ottawa Co from 23 Oct–3 Nov (Caleb Putnam). Friends strolling along Duluth’s Lake Superior Lakewalk found an odd bird in the shrubbery. After taking a photo, which circulated through the birding community, the “odd bird” was confirmed to be a Painted Bunting; this sighting happened in St. Louis Co on 27 Nov (Tori Frye, Mary Thomas).
Report processed by Alison Világ, 29 Mar 2022.