Western Great Lakes: Fall 2022

Fall 2022: 1 Aug–30 Nov

William Marengo

Recommended citation:

Marengo, W. 2023. Fall 2022: Western Great Lakes. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-fs8> North American Birds.

Rarities abounded in a spectacular season. There were three regional first records with numerous accidentals and casuals for all three states. Whitefish Point Bird Observatory (WPBO) continued its reputation as the region’s premier rarity hotspot. Note that many of the casual and accidental species have yet to be reviewed by the state’s records committees. This report will be updated accordingly as the records are reviewed.

Sub-regional Compilers

Lynn Barber (Wisconsin), Andrew Simon (Michigan), Ethan Urban (Michigan)

Abbreviations: Abbreviations: C.P. (County Park), L.P. (Lower Peninsula, MI), N.L. (National Lakeshore), N.W.R. (National Wildlife Refuge), R.A. (Recreation Area), S.F. (State Forest), S.G.A. (State Game Area), S.N.A. (Scientific/State Natural Area), S.P. (State Park), S.R. (State Riverway), S.W.A. (State Wildlife Area), Twsp. (Township), U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI), W.P.B.O. (Whitefish Point Bird Observatory), W.P.A. (Waterfowl Production Area), W.T.P. (Wastewater Treatment Plant).


Three Black-bellied Whistling Ducks made appearances with the first in WI in Trempealeau Co 7–31 Aug (Doug Stratton) followed by two from MI in Harrisonville, Alcona Co 13 Sept–2 Oct (Christine Brackett, m. ob.) and in R.A. Greene Park, Jackson Co 29 Oct–1 Nov (m. ob.). Snow Geese reports were roughly 50% above the 10-year average for MN while they were normal for MI. Ross’s and Greater White-fronted Geese showed similar trends. Brant made two appearances with the first from WI in Bailey’s Harbor, Door Co 31 Oct and in MI from Pentwater, Oceana Co 9–10 Nov (Brian Brosky, m. ob.). Tundra Swans staged at their usual areas along the Mississippi River and in the Saginaw Bay area of MI. The season’s high count of 6,000 came from Brownsville, Houston Co MN on 18 Nov. Highlighting the incredible waterfowl season from MI’s Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Chippewa Co were the following record high counts: daily high count of White-winged Scoter (978), Black Scoter (214), Long-tailed Duck (16,266, possibly a North America record flight), and Hooded Merganser (62); highest season total for Long-tailed Duck (49,694).

Casual in MN the region’s only King Eider was found at Two Harbors, Lake Co 16–18 Nov (Andrew Goldfarb, m. ob.). Harlequin Ducks were found in MN, Cook Co where one lingered from the previous summer and was last reported 6 Sep plus another 8 Oct–11 Nov. In WI they were regularly seen through entire period from Kewaunee Co in the north to Wind Pt, Racine Co in the south. In MI there were 13 reports well below the historical average. Surf Scoters made their usual appearances in MN along Lake Superior plus 16 inland counties. In MI they had an excellent season with reports from 40 counties, the highest from the previous four years. White-winged Scoters were reported as usual in MN from Lake Superior and eight inland counties. MI received reports from 43 counties representing a typical season. MN provided Black Scoter reports from St. Louis and Cook counties along Lake Superior with an additional 10 inland county sightings. MI had an above average season for Black Scoters with reports from 32 counties. Long-tailed Ducks appeared in MN along Lake Superior with reports from eight inland counties. While in MI, despite the impressive counts from WPBO, they experienced a slightly below average season with reports from 41 counties.

Grouse through Cranes

All three states reported Spruce Grouse. In MN from five counties along the Canadian border; from four different locations in northern WI and an overall increase in year-to-year reports from MI in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas show this species is doing well. In MN, Sharp-tailed Grouse were reported in 12 north counties, the third year in a row of above average reports, while in MI good numbers of reports in the eastern UP show positive trends as well. Greater Prairie-Chicken was only reported from three counties in northwestern MN while Gray Partridge were well represented in the state’s western and southern tier of counties. Unusual in WI a Western Grebe was found at Lake Kegonsa, Dane Co 20–21 Nov. Casual in MI, two White-winged Doves were recorded with the first from Chocolay Marina, Marquette Co 4–6 Nov (Kathy Koenig, Tom Noren) followed by one from the city of Cheboygan, Cheboygan Co 23 Nov that continued into the winter season.

WI’s eighth Mexican Violetear came to a residential feeder in Wisconsin Rapids, Wood Co on 31 Oct (Kayla Killian). Rufous Hummingbirds made multiple appearances in the region. In MN one appeared in Forest Lake, Washington Co 25 Jul–8 Aug (Scott and Denise Appleton) and a Selasphorus sp. was sited in Anoka Co 4 Aug (Matt Crutchmer). In WI three appearances were made. The first was at Horicon NWR, Dodge Co 7– 10 Sep (Jeff Bahls, m. ob.) then at Nelsonville, Portage Co 9 Sep–31 Oct where it is was netted and measured and lastly in Cambridge, Jefferson Co 13–16 Nov (m. ob.). MI’s Rufous Hummingbird showed up in White Lake Twsp, Oakland Co 17–30 Oct (m. ob.). WI’s third Broad-billed Hummingbird appeared for one day in Neenah, Winnebago Co 12 Oct (Darwin Tiede).

Individual migrant Yellow Rails were found in all three states in the most unlikely of places. In MN one was discovered in a vestibule of a retail shopping complex in Dakota Co 20 Oct and was released unharmed. A second was discovered at the Silver Creek Reservoir, Olmsted Co 24 Oct (John Hockema, m. ob.). In WI an individual was found in the town of Port Washington, Ozaukee Co 28 Sep in a busy, industrial loading dock area on the shore of Lake Michigan. And in MI one was found in yet another retail shopping area in Fort Gratiot, St. Clair Co 18 Oct (Tom Dennis) and was released into a nearby marsh. Limpkins continued their parade in the region with two from WI. The first came from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Madison, Dane Co 11 Aug (Joe Friesen) and the second from Kettle Moraine SF, Sheboygan Co 21 Aug–9 Sep (m. ob.). MI reported its first and second state records from Grand River Islands, Ottawa Co 23 Aug–11 Nov (Malcom Sineath, m. ob.) and at Flat River SGA, Montcalm Co 23–28 Oct (m. ob.). Sandhill Cranes posted solid reports from both MN and MI. The high count of 29,256 on 8 Nov at Sherburne NWR, Sherburne Co (Cody Carlstrom) more than doubled MN’s previous. MI had a near record high count of 8,000 from Saginaw Co and reports from 83 counties indicate a solid population in the region.

Shorebirds through Gulls

Black-necked Stilts continued their progress toward regular status in MN with confirmed nesting reports in Big Stone Co. In WI there were numerous August reports from the southeast part of the state. While in MI, where they are mainly a summer species and breeder, there were two reports from Monroe Co with one, 7 Oct, being the second Oct record for the state. Upland Sandpipers were scattered throughout the region with reports from 16 counties from mostly western MN counties, five widespread WI and 11 MI counties all from the LP. Whimbrel numbers in fall migration are fewer than in spring. This held true for this season with only six reports from WI and MI in Aug and Nov.

MI documented one of the region’s three firsts with an impressive Bar-tailed Godwit that made a brief appearance at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Chippewa Co 16 Oct (Alec Olivier, m. ob.). Still casual in MN, Red Knots are trending regular. This season provided three MN records with two from St. Louis Co and one inland in Sibley Co. WI only reported one from Milwaukee Co, 11 Aug while MI had reports from 12 counties, the highest in five years. Three Ruffs were reported. The first was from WI at Lake Koshkonong, Jefferson Co 1–8 Aug (Aaron Stutz). The second also from WI was found for one day at Horicon NWR, Dodge Co 7 Oct (Jim Frank). The third was located at Erie SGA, Monroe Co 18–21 Aug (Evan Griffis, Hannah Landwerlen, m. ob.). WI provided a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper record from Manitowoc Co 2–4 November (Dorothy Jayne, Joel Trick). Also in WI a Purple Sandpiper appeared at Lakeshore SP, Milwaukee Co 15 Sep (Andy Tairks). Buff-breasted Sandpipers were reported in average numbers and distribution. Casual in MN a Western Sandpiper was nicely documented at High Island Lake, Sibley Co 11 Sep (John Hockema, Joshua Watson). In the rest of the region they are rare-regular with WI and MI having one and three reports this season respectively. Both Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes occurred in normal numbers and distribution. One Red Phalarope was reported from WI and two from MI.

One Pomarine Jaeger was reported from MI in Berrien Co on 19 Oct and is pending review by Michigan’s record committee. Parasitic Jaegers appeared along the coast throughout the region in below average numbers but with concentrations in Duluth, St. Louis Co, MN, Superior, Douglas Co, WI and Port Huron, St. Clair Co, MI. Casual in both states three Long-tailed Jaegers were reported with one from WI at Kewaunee Harbor, Kewaunee Co 3 Sep (Ted Keyel) and two from MI at Lighthouse Park, St. Clair 22 Sep (m. ob.) and from Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co 26 Sep (Alec Olivier). The only Black-legged Kittiwakes reports came from five MI counties where they were split between both peninsulas. Sabine’s Gulls put in an average showing with reports from four, three and three counties respectively for MN, WI and MI. MI maintains its stronghold in the region for Little Gulls with reports from seven counties while the regions only other report came from WI. MI provided the region’s lone California Gull from New Buffalo, Berrien Co 27 Sep (Nolan Keyes). Iceland Gulls were reported in typical numbers mainly from coastal areas. Lesser Black-baked Gulls were widespread in southeast WI and in MI’s LP where the number of sightings and quantity of birds has been increasing for several years. A lone Slaty-backed Gull appeared in MI at the Muskegon wastewater treatment facility, Muskegon Co 21 Nov (Alec Olivier, Morgan Waller, m. ob.) and lingered into the winter. WI hosted its seventh Glaucous-winged Gull at Wisconsin Point, Douglas Co 24–25 (Thomas Schultz). Glaucous Gull reports were below average and Great Black-backed Gull reports were concentrated along the shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron with scattered reports along Lake Superior.

Loons through Owls

Red-throated Loons are a regular occurrence in the fall around the coast, but unexpected was one individual found in MN along the St. Croix River, Afton Co, Washington Co 22 Nov (Ben Douglas, Peter Nichols, Dana Sterner). One of the region’s spectacular firsts a Brown Booby was discovered in WI along the Mississippi River, LaCrosse, LaCrosse Co 9–27 Aug (Tim Collins, m. ob.). It subsequently made appearances in MN in Winona Co 13–15 Aug during its stay. Neotropic Cormorants lingered from the summer in MN at Richfield Lake, Hennepin Co and in MI at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co. One other made a one-day appearance in MI at the Muskegon wastewater treatment facility, Muskegon Co 1 Oct (Ryan Endlein, Alex Hamilton). Snowy Egrets made single appearances in both MN and WI. In MI, where the species is becoming more common in southeast during fall, they were reported from six counties. Little Blue Herons, casual in MI, made three appearances: Sterling SP, Monroe Co 5 Aug (Brian Beauchene), Brown Sanctuary, Berrien Co 17–24 Aug (Nolan Keyes, m. ob.) and at the Erie SGA, Monroe Co 26 Aug–11 Sep (Bruce Arnold, m. ob.). Lingering only briefly, which is typical, MN’s 18th Tri-colored Heron was found at the Watonwan WPA, Blue Earth Co 9–10 Aug (Brian Sandstrom, m. ob.). Cattle Egrets were reported from four, nine, and six counties respectively for MN, WI, and MI. Individual Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were reported once from MN, from five counties in WI and once from MI at the Shiawassee NWR, Saginaw Co that lingered from the summer last reported 9 Sep (m. ob.).

Also at Shiawassee NWR, MI’s 10th White Ibis appeared 29 Aug–4 Sep (Dan Duso, m. ob.). White-faced Ibises were found in 12 MN counties, the most ever for fall, with four reports coming from WI all in Nov. With a season full of rarities, unusual was the lack of many rare raptors. WI hosted a single Black Vulture in Lincoln Co 18 Sep (Chucky Wensel). In MI a Swallow-tailed Kite lingered in Fremont, Newaygo Co 10 Aug–10 Sep (m. ob.) and one in MN passed by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, St. Louis Co 20 Aug (Sean McLaughlin). Casual in WI a Swainson’s Hawk was found at the Alice Moody Chapin Arboretum, Kenosha Co 15 Oct (Aidan Kingsbury). The region’s hawk counting sites reported as follows: MN’s Hawk Ridge, St. Louis Co with 65,719 total raptors was just above the 10 year average. MI’s Detroit River Hawk Watch, Wayne Co had a very good year with 145,577 raptors and the Mackinac Straits Count, Mackinac Co reported an average count of 18,041 raptors.

Barn Owls continue to be discovered from the southeast region of MN primarily due to systematic, nocturnal audio recordings. Across the region Snowy Owls were reported in low numbers. Great Gray Owls were reported in their usual locations in northern MN. Long-eared Owl reports were scattered throughout in average numbers. The same was true for Short-eared Owls in MN and MI while WI continues to have the region’s largest concentrations in the southeast portion of the state during the fall.

Woodpeckers through Phainopepla

An American Three-toed Woodpecker appeared at MI’s WPBO, Chippewa Co 22 Oct (Alec Olivier). This was MI’s third in the past 10 years. Black-backed Woodpeckers were reported in their usual areas of northern MN and in MI’s UP. MI had the region’s only Prairie Falcon that was spotted for one day at WPBO, Chippewa Co, 1 Aug (Cory Gregory, Chris Neri, Alec Olivier). Another spectacular regional first again came from the Wolverine state. A Variegated Flycatcher graciously lingered for two weeks at Port Austin, Huron Co 15–30 Oct (m. ob.). Away from western MN where it is regular, fall wandering Western Kingbirds appeared in MN, Duluth, St. Louis Co 15 Aug and in WI, Sheboygan Co Sep 13. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were found in WI in Oak Creek, Milwaukee Co 28 Sep (Jeremy Meyer) and in MI at WPBO, Chippewa Co 23 Oct (Chris Neri, Alec Olivier). MN’s 4th Fork-tailed Flycatcher lingered for one day at Stony Pt., St. Louis Co 17 Sep (Adam Sell, m. ob.). Say’s Phoebe, barely regular in MN, appeared at the Big Stone NWR, Lac Qui Parle Co 13 Aug (Kevin Halling, Michael Henry) while two were seen in MI, where they are casual, both at WPBO, Chippewa Co 27 Aug (Alec Olivier, Morgan Waller) and 19 Sep (Alec Olivier, m. ob.). A Vermillion Flycatcher was found in MI’s Dead River Marshes, Marquette Co 24 Aug (Ivan Wiljanen, m. ob.).

Casual in MN two White-eyed Vireos were found at identical times but nearly 240 miles apart: Grey Cloud Dunes, Washington Co 29 Oct (Dustin Wrolstad) and Grand Marais, Cook Co 29–30 Oct (Aaron and Cooper Ludwig, Matthew Scott, m. ob.). Still casual in MI, Bell’s Vireos were found as follows: Benton Harbor, Berrien Co where it held over from the summer and was last reported 24 Aug and Presque Isle Park, Marquette Co 17 Sep (m. ob.). Periodically, Boreal Chickadees will have migration “movements” away from their core areas. This was the case this season where they were reported from MN along the shore of Lake Superior and from MI in the southern and eastern UP. A lone Cave Swallow flew by MI’s WPBO, Chippewa Co 4 Nov (Alec Olivier).

Townsend’s Solitaires had below average reports from 10, two, and one counties respectively from MN, WI and MI. Varied Thrush were reported twice in MN and once in WI. Northern Mockingbirds made one and three appearances in MN and WI respectively. Bohemian Waxwings were reported in average numbers from northern MN and MI’s UP with a few reports from the southern LP and a handful of reports from extreme northern WI. The region’s second and a MN first, a Phainopepla added to the region’s run of rarities. It was found just a few yards from Lake Superior at the eastern edge of the city limits of Duluth, St. Louis Co 29 Oct–1 Nov (Molly Misfeldt, Michael Sack, m. ob.).

Weaver Finches through Buntings

MN had its first breeding record of Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Meeker Co. This species is trending toward regular status in the state. MI’s sixth record Brambling was found in St. Ignace, Mackinac Co 8–15 Oct (Oliver and Jack Kew, m. ob.). Mirroring a trend seen in other parts of the country Evening Grosbeaks were reported further south and in greater numbers than normal for the region. Pine Grosbeaks appeared in normal numbers and distribution through the northern portion of all three states. Common Redpolls experienced below to average distribution and, accordingly, Hoary Redpoll reports were limited with only two for the entire region. Red and White-winged Crossbills were found in below to average numbers across the state’s northern regions.

Casual in MI a Smith’s Longspur appeared at WPBO, Chippewa Co 5–11 Sep (Alec Olivier, m. ob.) an exceptionally early date. Similarly, MN had a record early Smith’s Longspur at the Janesville WTP, Waseca Co 11–13 Sep (John Hockema, Joshua Watson). Out-of-range Lark Sparrows occurred in MN, Two Harbors, Lake Co 5 Sep (Jim Lind), in MI in Munising, Alger Co 10 Sep (Skye Haas) and at WPBO, Chippewa Co 30 Oct (m. ob.). WI hosted a Lark Bunting for one day in Ozaukee Co 12 Nov (Bryan Lenz). MI’s potential second state Sagebrush Sparrow appeared in the UP at Wetmore Landing, Marquette Co (Michael Gray, Skye Haas). MN’s Abert’s Towhee pair, carrying over from the summer in Grand Rapids, Itasca Co, was last reported 18 Nov. This record was accepted by the records committee under the subscript “origin uncertain.” LeConte’s Sparrows had above average reports in MN while in WI and MI their reports were average. Nelson’s Sparrows were reported in 18 MN counties and 10 WI. This was above average suggesting improved coverage, while numbers in MI were typically low with just two reports. Following their typical pattern of October appearances, four widespread Spotted Towhees were found in MN while in MI, where casual, one showed up in Escanaba, Delta Co 6 Nov (Joe McDonnell).

One WI Worm-eating Warbler was discovered in Lake Park, Milwaukee Co 15 Sep (Karen Johnson). Individual Kentucky Warblers made appearances in WI in Dane Co 10 Sep (Richard Ouren) and Sauk Co 22 Aug (Eric Hamburg). Casual in MN, Yellow-throated Warblers are trending regular where two were documented. The first was from Lake Winnibigoshish, Cass Co 9 Nov (Alex Burchard) and the other from Washington Co 22 Aug (Lynn Hartmann). Rare-regular in WI, they were found at Devils Lake SP, Sauk Co 20 Aug (Cicero Stewart) and Waukesha Co 5 Sep (Anne Moretti). Prairie Warblers were picked up in WI at New Berlin, Waukesha Co 8–9 Sep (Vincent Maglio) and in MI at the Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Leelanau Co 5 Aug (Logan Clark) and by the Kalamazoo River, Allegan Co 5 Sep (m. ob.). MN had eight reports of Summer Tanager, the most in over 10 years, scattered throughout the state, while WI had one in Dane Co 8 Oct. Western Tanager was documented once in MI from Tawas City, Iosco Co 14 Nov (Gordon Haase). Rare-regular in WI, a Blue Grosbeak showed up at Spirit Lake, Ozaukee Co 8–9 Aug (Braden Meyer). Lastly, a Painted Bunting appeared in Warren, Polk Co 11 Nov (Heidi Hughes).

Report processed by José Ramírez-Garofalo, 10 Apr 2023.

Photos–Western Great Lakes: Fall 2022

A Western Great Lakes regional first, photographed here on the 16th, this Brown Booby was first sighted 9 Aug 2022 on the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. It also made appearances in nearby Winona, Minnesota and was last reported 27 Aug. Photo © Dexter Patterson.

Brown Booby in flight on 13 Aug 2022 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Photo © Myles Hurlburt.

The tip of Michigan’s “Thumb” delivered another regional first for the Western Great Lakes with a Variegated Flycatcher near Pt. Aux Barques in Huron Co. It first appeared on 15 Oct 2022, here photographed on the 16th and remained through the 30th. Photo © Geoff Malosh.

The Western Great Lakes region’s second and a Minnesota first, this Phainopepla appeared on 29 Oct 2022, here photographed on the same day. Conveniently, the last weekend in October is a traditional time for birders along Minnesota’s North Shore. The timing provided scores of birders the opportunity to quickly see this rarity. It was last reported 1 Nov. Photo © Michael Sack.

The last state in the Western Great Lakes region to document a Limpkin, Michigan’s first was discovered 23 Aug 2022 at an island in the Grand River near Grand Haven. Photographed here on 23 Aug 2022 it made subsequent appearances throughout the fall and was last reported 11 Nov. Photo © Andrew Simon.

Wisconsin’s third Limpkin for the year, here photographed on the 29th, appeared at Crooked Lake in Sheboygan Co on 21 Aug 2022 and was last seen 1 Sep. Photo © Steven Thompson.

Wisconsin’s third Broad-billed Hummingbird was netted and photographed in-the-hand on 14 Oct 2022 in Neenah. Here it is captured nicely in flight. It was present from 11 Oct to Nov 2022 with limited visitation. Photo © Cynthia Bridge.

This Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, photographed on 2 Nov 2022 on the day of its discovery, lingered through 4 Nov in Wisconsin’s Manitowoc Co. Photo © Joel Trick.

Michigan birders discovered a White Ibis on 29 Aug 2022 at the Shiawassee NWR near Saginaw. It lingered through 4 Sep. Here photographed on 2 Sept. Photo © Mary Trombley.

Minnesota’s fourth Fork-tailed Flycatcher appeared for one day only at Stony Point just north and east of Duluth on 19 Sep 2022. This is the third occurrence of this species along Minnesota’s Lake Superior shoreline. Photo © Laura Erickson.

St. Ignace, Michigan hosted this Brambling from 8–15 Oct 2022. This photograph was taken on the day of its discovery. Photo © Brendan Klick.

This Tricolored Heron was photographed on 10 Aug 2022, the last of its two-day stay in Minnesota in Blue Earth Co. The last one recorded in the state was 2017. Photo © Brandon Lentz.

The Western Great Lakes region’s three states all have a handful each of Glaucous-winged Gull records. This one provided Wisconsin with its seventh on 25 Sep 2022 at Wisconsin Point in Superior. Photo © Sarah Sabatke.

One of two Black Vultures to occur in Wisconsin, only a handful of observers were able to document this accidental species on 18 Sep 2022 in Lincoln Co. Photo © Chucky Wensel.

Wisconsin’s second Black Vulture proved to be just as furtive as the first, only being observed for one day by a limited number of individuals. Here it is on 26 Nov 2022 at Wind Point along the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Milwaukee. Photo © Wendy Frasheski.

This Western Sandpiper was discovered at the same time and place as Wisconsin’s Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. It was first documented on 2 Nov 2022 in Manitowoc Co, photographed here on the 4th, and was last seen on the 5th. Photo © Chucky Wensel.