Western Great Lakes: Spring 2017

1 Mar—31 May

Adam M. Byrne

Recommended Citation: Byrne, A. M. 2020. Spring 2017: Western Great Lakes. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9gi> North American Birds.

Across the region, spring commenced with fairly normal temperatures, and March precipitation totals were above-average in Wisconsin, Michigan, and eastern Minnesota. April was slightly warmer than normal (resulting in many record early migrants), and very wet in both Wisconsin and Michigan. Average temperatures were slightly lower than normal in May and it was relatively dry throughout the region.

The dead Northern Fulmar found on a Minnesota beach was a regional first. Other exceptional finds included Tricolored Heron and Lewis’s Woodpecker in Minnesota; Lewis’s Woodpecker and Prairie Falcon in Wisconsin; and Garganey, Ivory Gull, Crested Caracara, and Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Michigan.

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface):

Dan Abel, Brad Abendroth (BA), Brian Allen (BAl), Jennifer Ambrose, Ruth Amundson (RA), Keith Anderson, Mike Anderson, Scott Andrews (SA), Rick Applegate (RAp), Linda Ar, Sandy Aubol (SAu), Nancy Auer, Brian Baker, Michael Balfanz (MBa), Karl J. Bardon, Cory Bartels, Dave A. Bartkey (DAB), Tom F. Boevers, Dan & Sheila Bossmann (DSB), Mike Boston (MB), Rick Brigham, William E. Brooks, Paul E. Budde, Adam M. Byrne, Andy Cassini (AC)

Allen T. Chartier (ATC), Mary Child, Richard Clearman, Susan Clegg, Tom Dahlen (TD), Amy Simso Dean (ASD), Toni Dewitz (TDe), Jessica Dexter, Herb H. Dingmann, Bob Domagalski (BoD), Louie Dombroski, Ben Douglas (BD), Kim R. Eckert, Ben Eckhoff, Joanna Eckles, Cyndi Elias, Rebecca Engdahl (RE), Ronald A. Erpelding, Deborah Fellows, Susan Freemire, John C. Frentz, Elissa Gallien, Thomas Gass (TG), Shawn Goodchild (ShG), Sunil Gopalan (SG), Frank Gosiak, Andrea & Terry Grabill (ATG), Skye Haas (SH), Liz Harper (LH), Don Havel (DH), Bonnie Heinecke, Chad Heins, Don & Robyn Henise (DRH), Leann Hess (LHe), Scott Hickman (SHi), Justin Hill (JH), John W. Hockema (JWH), Pete Hoeger, Gerald Hoekstra, Eric Howe, Heidi Hughes (HH), Heather Hundt (HHu), Matt Hysell, Jon Isacoff, Margaret Jewett (MJe), Deb Johnson (DJ), Doug P. Johnson (DPJ), Mark Junghans (MJ), Nolan Keyes, Doug W. Kieser, Jim Kolbe (JK), Steve Kolbe, Arlene Koziol, Jan & Larry Kraemer (JLK), Melissa Kruse, Joseph Kurtz (JKu), Randy Kursinsky, Lauren LaFave (LLF), Tim C. Lamey (TCL), Tony Lau (TL), Joseph Lautenbach (JL), Rich Libbey, Elena Licau, James W. Lind, Allen Loken (ALo), Ann Luloff (AL), Kathleen MacAulay (KMA), William C. Marengo (WCM), Moira Maus (MMa), Brian McGee (BMG), Kelly J. McKay (KJM), Mike Mencotti (MM), Nolan Meyer, Scott B. Meyer, Ken Milender (KM), William Mueller (WM), Aaron Munson, Charlene Nelson (ChN), Elliot Nelson, John Nelson, Chris Neri, Philip Odum, Tim Oksiuta, Alec Olivier, Dan Orr, Gary Otnes, Edgar Otto, Karl Overman, John Parker (JPa), David Parsons (DP), Wayne Perala, David Peters (DPe), Jim Peterson (JP), Aaron Pietsch, Mary Pratt, Jack Reinoehl (JR), John P. Richardson (JPR), Robert P. Russell, Sarah Sabatke, Paul Schilke (PS), Robert Schneider (RS), Chace Scholten (CS), Roger J. Schroeder (RJS), Wayne Seeger, Alan Selin (ASe), Andrew Simon (AS), Adam Sinkula (AdS), Linda Slagter, Charlotte Smith (CSm), Tanya & Thomas Smythe (TTS), Joe Soehnel, Donald Stone, Andrew Sturgess (AnS), Aaron Stutz (ASt), Paul Suchanek (PSu), Alex Sundvall (ASu), Peder H. Svingen (PHS), Michelle Terrell (MT), Scott Terry (ST), Steve Thiessen (STh), Molly Thompson (MTh), Lynette Thonne, Rick Todd, Howard C. Towle, Tom A. Tustison, Butch Ukura, Tom Uttecht, Laurie Wachholz, Glenn Vande Water (GVW), John VanOrman (JVO), Will Walgren, Alexander R. Watson, Justin Watts, Garrett Wee, Kristin Wegner, Erik Weyhrauch, Mike Wilken, Bob Williams, Steve G. Wilson, Thomas Wood, Tracy & Jim Zervos (TJZ), Roy Zimmerman


Western geese were remarkably widespread in Michigan. Ross’s Geese were present in good numbers, with a peak of 28 in Marquette 7 Mar (AO). Greater White-fronted Geese peaked at 44 in Monroe 11 Mar (AS, MM), and the last report was at Whitefish Point, Chippewa 31 May (LD). The only Brant was in Columbia, WI 29 Mar—16 Apr (AK). Minnesota had Cinnamon Teal in Washington 14—19 Apr (JE, RZ, MT) and Scott 23 Apr (BH, BA), while Wisconsin reported one in Jefferson 28 Apr (ASt). Drake Eurasian Wigeons were found in all three states: Wisconsin had one in Outagamie (DA) 11—14 Apr (DA, TO); Minnesota had one in Aitkin 16—23 Apr (BU, EG, CE); and Michigan had one from Winter—5 Mar in Monroe, as well as at least one in Bay 18—21 May (PO, m.ob.). Michigan birders were graced by a couple of unique Eurasian ducks. First, the state’s third “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal was found at Erie Marsh Preserve, Monroe 3 May (KO). Second, while studying the Upper Peninsula’s first Neotropic Cormorant, some birders lucked into a drake Garganey, a second state record, associating with a pair of Blue-winged Teals! The Garganey lingered at the Tahquamenon River mouth, Chippewa 5—7 May (CS, AMB, CN, m.ob.).

Minnesota’s overwintering Harlequin Ducks lingered to 12 Mar in Lake (JWL) and 2 Apr in Cook (DWK, HCT, SBM), while Michigan had singles in Mason 7 Mar (PW) and Allegan 9 Apr (RB). Minnesota had only one Black Scoter in Dakota/Hennepin 7 Mar—25 Apr (HHD, BD, JW), while Long-tailed Ducks were more widespread than usual, with reports from 8 counties. The only Barrow’s Goldeneye was in Price, WI 5 Apr (KM). An impressive tally of 4600 Horned Grebes came from St. Louis, MN 4 May (KJB). Minnesota hosted the only Clark’s Grebe in Douglas 26 Apr (JLK).

Eurasian Collared-Doves remain scarce in Michigan, with the only reports coming from Three Oaks, Berrien. All 3 states recorded White-winged Dove, singles in Le Sueur from 16 Apr for about a week (DH); Blue Earth, MN 12 May (RA); Racine, WI 17 May (KW); and Chippewa, MI 30—31 May (NK, m.ob.). A high count of 350 Common Nighthawks in Aitkin, MN (27 May (ASu, LH) was an encouraging total for this declining species. A Chuck-will’s-widow returned to Jackson, MI 15 May+ (DP, m.ob.) for the 7th consecutive year. A very early Ruby-throated Hummingbird was in Oakland, MI 10 Apr (EW). A Yellow Rail in Kewaunee, WI 14 May (AdS) was away from the expected observations in Crex Meadows, Burnett, and noteworthy. Wisconsin birders also found King Rails in St. Croix 5 May (SA), Dodge 21 May+ (PS, AC), and Grant 25 May (KJM), while Michigan had a King Rail in Macomb 3—12 May (BMG, m.ob.). Minnesota had an early Virginia Rail in Rice 4 Apr (GH) and Common Gallinules in Houston 27—28 May (KRE, m.ob.) and Todd 29 May (LH).


Good numbers of Black-necked Stilts were found in both Minnesota and Michigan. Minnesota had 3 reported in Blue Earth, all on 9 May: one near Maple River W.M.A. (JN), and 2 north of Minnesota Lake (JCF, TD). Minnesota also had 2 in Grant 12—13 May (AL, m.ob.) and one in Lyon/Yellow Medicine 25 Apr—2 May (GW, HCT, RJS). Michigan had a single Black-necked Stilt in Bay 12—16 Apr (SC, m.ob.), 2 in Monroe 3 May (ST), 2 in Hillsdale 15 May (DJ), and one in Saginaw 28 May (LA). An “Eurasian” Whimbrel in Monroe, MI 27—31 May (AnS, m.ob.) was the second in as many years in Michigan. The warm spring precipitated several early shorebird records in Minnesota: an American Avocet in Yellow Medicine 9 Apr (GW), and, all from Grant, 3 Hudsonian Godwits on 13 Apr (ChN), a Sanderling on 11 Apr (WP), and a Greater Yellowlegs on 22 Mar (WP). Minnesota also had 2 Red Knots in St. Louis 23—26 May (JP, m.ob.) and one in Crow Wing 26 May (RPR, EG).

Considering Michigan has had only 11 Ruff in the past 10 years, a total of 6 different birds this spring is quite remarkable: Pointe Mouillee S.G.A., Monroe hosted 3 different males on 1 Apr (JPa), 9—12 Apr (JPa), and 15—19 Apr (PO, JPa); a male was in Muskegon 3—17 Apr (ATG); a male was in Saginaw 19 Apr (DPe); and a female was in Gratiot (MP). Wisconsin had a Ruff in Manitowoc 24 Apr (BoD). Western Sandpipers, rare in spring, were in Muskegon, MI 2—3 May (TG) and Murray, MN 14 May (GW). Michigan experienced a major influx of Long-billed Dowitchers, with records from 16 different counties and a peak of 26 in Muskegon 3 May (TTS). A flock of 225 Red-necked Phalaropes in Polk 29 May (SAu) was a record tally for Minnesota. Another great spring find was a Red Phalarope in Fond du Lac 2 May (WM).

An adult Parasitic Jaeger was in St. Louis, MN 26 May (JK, Jf), while birders at Whitefish Point reported an adult on 9 May and 2 on 26 May (LD, SH). Michigan’s second Ivory Gull was found in downtown Flint, Genesee 9 Mar and wowed many birders until it was found dead on 13 Mar (LLF, m.ob.). Minnesota and Wisconsin each had single Little Gulls in St. Louis 22—23 May (SK, m.o.b) and Door 29 Apr (EH), respectively, while Michigan had singles in Berrien 3—24 Mar (MH, m.ob.) and Iosco 29 Apr and 28 May. Laughing Gulls in Michigan were found in Muskegon 5 May (JVO), Bay 18—20 May (m.ob.), and Berrien 19 May (MH). Lesser Black-backed Gull was more widespread than ever before in Minnesota, with 8 individuals from 8 counties. A Slaty-backed Gull frequented Muskegon, MI 19—22 Apr (MB, m.ob.). Notably early migrants for Minnesota were Caspian Terns in Anoka 13 Apr (ASe), Lincoln 15 Apr (GW), and Cass 18 Apr (HHD, RAE, MJ).


Pacific Loons were in Chippewa, MI 16 Apr (SH, m.o.b.) and 8 May (LD), and in St. Louis, MN 19 May (JLK, ALo). A Northern Fulmar was found dead along a Park Point beach, St. Louis, MN 27 Apr (JPR, JD). This specimen represents the first tubenose record for Minnesota and the first fulmar record for the region.

A Neotropic Cormorant flew past Whitefish Point 22 Apr (SK, LD) and was later relocated at the Tahquamenon River mouth, Chippewa, MI 5—12 May (JKu, m.ob.). An impressive 4000 American White Pelicans were in Swift, MN 5 May (JH, GW). Michigan reported Snowy Egrets from 2 counties, while Minnesota had a surprising 17 individuals from mid-Apr through May. The only Little Blue Heron report was 3 in La Crosse, WI 29 Apr—1 May (BB). A Tricolored Heron in Murray 22—23 Apr (KA) was the first Minnesota record since 2012; Michigan had one Tricolored Heron return to Monroe 12 Apr+ (AMB, m.ob.). Michigan and Minnesota reported an above-average number of Cattle Egrets, while Wisconsin had just one, in Milwaukee 28 Mar (EL). The only Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were singles in Goodhue 30 Apr (CSm) and Faribault 23 May (MK), both MN. White-faced Ibis were found in 11 Minnesota counties, with a peak of 9 in Lyon 11—14 Apr (GW, m.ob.); Michigan had only one, in Saginaw 23—27 May (JS, m.ob.). A Glossy Ibis was in Dodge, WI 6—30 May (RT). Minnesota had Northern Hawk Owls in St. Louis to 11 Mar and Marshall 5 Apr (CB, HH), and May sightings of Great Gray Owls in 6 counties. The only Boreal Owls detected were 3 banded at Whitefish Point. Lewis’s Woodpeckers were in Bayfield, WI 14—24 May (LHe, MC) and St. Louis, MN 17—24 May (SGW). Minnesota birders reported 3-4 American Three-toed Woodpeckers in Koochiching and one in St. Louis. The Crested Caracara from winter lingered to 25 Mar in Delta, MI. The only Gyrfalcon was in Chippewa, MI 27 Mar—5 Apr (JL, m.ob.), and a Prairie Falcon was in Kenosha, WI 27 Mar (JA).


Early flycatchers in Michigan included a Least Flycatcher in Calhoun 20 Apr (JR), a Great Crested Flycatcher in Washtenaw 22 Apr (MJe), and an Eastern Kingbird in Calhoun 1 Apr (SF). Minnesota had Say’s Phoebes in Becker 5 May (HHu, ShG) and Clay 12 May (TCL), and high counts of 16 Great Crested Flycatchers in Anoka 29 May (RC) and 51 Eastern Kingbirds in Murray 22 May (KMA). Michigan had a Western Kingbird in Allegan 16 May (WW, m.ob.) and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Iosco 17—18 May (m.ob.). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was in Dodge, WI 16 May (RAp). Loggerhead Shrike is still rare in Michigan, so 3 different records was noteworthy: one in Iosco 29 Apr (PO), one in Manistee 4—9 May (BAl, m.ob.), and one in Isabella 20 May+ (RK, m.ob.) that was joined by another on 28 May and eventually nested. Loggerhead Shrikes are unusual in northern Minnesota; records came from Hubbard 12 Apr (RAE, HHD, RE) and Lake 23 May (JWL). Also noteworthy in Minnesota were White-eyed Vireos in Fillmore 27 Apr (HHD, RAE) and Steele 19—22 May (PSu) and Bell’s Vireo reports from a record-high 10 southern counties. Fish Crows were again reported in Berrien, MI. Early Sedge Wrens were found in Lincoln, MN 14 Apr (GW) and Jackson, MI 23 Apr (DRH), and a record early Marsh Wren for northern Minnesota was in Otter Tail 17 Apr (GO).

Townsend’s Solitaires were present in above-average numbers: Minnesota had 11, about double the expected number, including first county records in Cottonwood 5 Mar (DWK) and Wilkin 20 Apr (DF); Michigan birders reported 4 from 3 counties. Early for Michigan were a Veery in Wayne 23 Apr (MA) and Wood Thrush in Macomb 18 Apr (ATC), while Minnesota had an early Wood Thrush in Otter Tail 23 Apr (PH). Bardon tallied large numbers of thrushes in Cook, MN on 28 Apr, with 361 Hermit Thrushes and 1800 American Robins. Overwintering Varied Thrushes lingered to 17 Mar in Itasca, MN (RL) and 25 Mar in Alcona, MI (MMa, PO), while an additional individual was found in St. Louis, MN 18—22 Mar (AM, PHS).

Eurasian Tree Sparrows continued their spring invasion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; this year there was one 19 Apr—3 May and 4 on 30 May+ at Whitefish Point (CN, m.ob.), and 2 in Delta 20—21 May (GVW). Minnesota’s overwintering Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Lake was seen sporadically 2 Apr—5 May (JWL, m.ob.). Finches were generally scarce—and mostly restricted to the northern portions of the region. Minnesota reported 4 Hoary Redpolls in Mar, while Michigan had reports from 2 counties, with the last on 8 Apr at Whitefish Point, Chippewa. A Chestnut-collared Longspur was in Clay, MN 29 May (LH). Minnesota hosted 38 Smith’s Longspurs, including a first record for Beltrami 13 Apr (DPJ). Wisconsin had 5 Smith’s Longspurs in Dane 26 Apr—1 May (STh).

Early warbler migrants in Minnesota were an Ovenbird in St. Louis 24 Apr (JLK), a Northern Waterthrush in Morrison 25 Apr (FG), a Tennessee Warbler in Morrison 24 Apr (FG), Orange-crowned Warblers in Clay (LS) and Douglas (BE) on 15 Apr, and a Hooded Warbler in Rice 25 Apr (TFB). Record-early in Wisconsin were a Cape May Warbler in Ozaukee 10 Apr (TU), a Bay-breasted Warbler in Shawano 13 Apr (MW), and a Yellow Warbler in Buffalo 15 Apr (RS). In Michigan, a Palm Warbler in Washtenaw 27 Mar (EO) was exceptionally early. Worm-eating Warblers are casual in Minnesota, so records in Steele 16 May (PSu), Le Sueur 22 May (BW), and Renville 31 May (GW) were noteworthy. Minnesota also had returning Yellow-throated Warblers in Hennepin 22-25 Apr (ASD, TAT) and Winona 15—26 May (KMA, LH, JWH), as well as a northern Prairie Warbler record in Beltrami 26 May (WEB). Michigan had notable Upper Peninsula records of Kentucky Warbler in Alger 25 May (SHi) and Hooded Warbler in Delta 29 May (AO, TJZ).

A Spotted Towhee was in Lyon, MN 30 Apr—2 May (NM, CE, TL, GW). A remarkable 47 Lark Sparrows were in Yellow Medicine, MN 25 May (GW). Michigan reported Lark Sparrows from 5 counties. A Lark Bunting was in Bayfield, WI 22 May (WS). A singing Nelson’s Sparrow was recorded in Chippewa, MI 27 May (EN). More than doubling the previous state high count was an amazing 653 Fox Sparrows in Cook, MN 28 Apr (KJB). Michigan had Golden-crowned Sparrows in Keweenaw 29 Apr—2 May (NA) and Chippewa 2—9 May (JKu, m.ob.), while Minnesota had one in Hennepin 17 Apr (LW, DWK, BA, m.ob.).

A conservative estimate of 18 Summer Tanagers were present in Michigan, far exceeding average numbers, while Minnesota had Summer Tanagers in 8 counties, including a first for Benton 28 May (DO). Minnesota had Western Tanagers in 6 counties. Wisconsin had Western Tanagers in Eau Claire 28 Apr (TDe), Marathon 13 May (SS), and Iowa 24 May (MBa), while Michigan had one in Menominee 31 May (LT). All 3 states reported Blue Grosbeaks: Minnesota had singles in Brown 27 May (WCM) and Renville 31 May (CH); Michigan had a male in Oakland 31 May (MM, m.ob.); and Wisconsin had birds in Milwaukee 2 May (TW) and Dane 18 May (DS). Painted Buntings were found in Rice, MN 8—10 May (DSB, DAB, GH); Iosco, MI 18—21 May (m.ob.); and Delta, MI 29 May (AO, m.ob.). Great-tailed Grackles were found in 6 Minnesota counties–more than ever before—all west of Jackson and south of Yellow Medicine.

Report Processed by Alison Világ, 13 Nov 2020