Western Great Lakes: Spring 2022

Spring 2022: 1 Mar–31 May

William Marengo

Recommended citation:

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

Numerous rarities were seen this spring, especially from Wisconsin. Highlights include Fulvous-whistling Duck, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Ash-throated Flycatcher. 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 committees review the records.

Sub-regional Compilers

Sunil Gopalan (Wisconsin), Andrew Simon (Michigan), Ethan Urban (Michigan)


LP (Lower Peninsula, MI), NWR (National Wildlife Refuge), SGA (State Game Area), SNA (Scientific/State Natural Area), SP (State Park), SWA (State Wildlife Area), UP (Upper Peninsula, MI), WPA (Waterfowl Production Area), WTP (Wastewater Treatment Plant).

Waterfowl through Grouse

Noteworthy were seven reports of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks documented in both WI (five) and MN (two) beginning on 12 Apr and ending 30 May with a high count of 25 in WI’s Dane Co 14 May (Brent Stang). WI went further, providing the region with one of the season’s best finds—a second state record Fulvous Whistling-Duck near Lake Waubesa, Dane Co 16 May (Marcus Brown, m. ob.). Geese arrived on schedule in the region with Ross’s and Greater White-fronted appearing on 28 Feb. Noteworthy was a MN record spring high count of 42,430 Greater White-fronted Geese from various locations in Jackson Co 16 Mar (Paul E. Jantscher, David F. Neitzel). Tundra Swans also appeared at normal times and areas. In MI during spring they gather in the thousands around “The Thumb” in the LP.

WI continued to provide waterfowl rarities with the second state record Garganey at the Zeloski Marsh, Lake Mills SWA, Jefferson Co 21–22 Apr (Vince Hotter, Brad Sillman, m. ob.). Casual in MI two Cinnamon Teal were reported from Tuscola Co 4 Apr (Dan Duso, Val Trabucchi) and from the Muskegon Wastewater System, Muskegon Co 8–26 Apr (Jeff Lucht, m. ob.). MN provided three Cinnamon Teal reports with the one from Nobles Co being unusual for its late date 27 May (Deb Fellows, m. ob.). Three Eurasian Wigeon reports came from MI beginning with St. Clair Co 17 Mar (Joanna Pease), at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 20–21 Mar (Justin Labadie, m. ob.) and at the Quanicassee SWA, Bay Co 28 Mar (Dan Duso). Very unusual for the region was a single Eurasian race of Green-winged Teal that lingered from the winter at Rugg Pond Natural Area, Kalkaska Co through 16 Mar (m. ob.). A single Tufted Duck provided MI its sixth record from St Clair Flats, St. Clair Co 5–10 Apr (Joanna Pease, m. ob.). A single King Eider was unexpected in spring at MI’s Ludington Harbor, Mason Co 20–23 Apr (Steven Minard, m. ob.). Harlequin Ducks were reported three times from MI and only twice from MN. Surf Scoters were scarce in MI with no reports from the Grand Traverse region where they are expected and very few reported from the UP. MN provided four reports of birds with two away from Lake Superior. White-winged Scoters were present in fewer numbers in MI (especially from Lake Michigan) while MN had numerous reports from late April to the end of season along Lake Superior. And Black Scoters were found mainly on the shores of Lake Michigan and only twice from MN along Lake Superior. Long-tailed Ducks were typically widespread along the Great Lakes with a few scattered inland reports. Wrapping up waterfowl, two Barrow’s Goldeneye, that overwintered in MI, lingered into spring in Manistee, Manistee Co 15 Mar and in Saugatuck, Allegan Co 3 Mar.

Spruce Grouse were reported from their usual counties along the Canadian border in MN, one single report from WI where this species has a tenuous hold and from five counties in MI’s UP. Sharp-tailed Grouse had scattered reports from MI’s central and eastern UP, none from WI and from their usual range in MN mainly in the northwest, some reports from the northeast and two encouraging reports from the southwest. Greater Prairie-Chickens were reported from WI in their stronghold of the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co and areas nearby in Adams Co. They held steady in northwest MN while Gray Partridge saw widespread, normal reports from MN’s northwest and south regions.

Grebes through Shorebirds

Casual in MI a single Western Grebe was found along Lake Superior at the Gitche Gumee Ecolodge, Ontonagon Co 1 May (Ryne Rutherford). Not too far away others were found in May along Wisconsin Point, Douglas Co and Park Point, St. Louis Co where they are rare at any time of year. Noteworthy in MI were four widely scattered reports of White-winged Doves while in MN, where this species is barely regular, one appeared in Duluth, St. Louis Co. Most of these dove reports came from feeders in residential areas. Rare anywhere in the region a single Chuck-will’s-widow was videotaped from WI in Dane Co 11 May (Mary Binkley). Yellow Rails were reported from all three states as follows: MI two counties in the LP, WI four counties and MN with the most reports in over 10 years from 10 counties. MI provided two King Rail reports coming from Nayanquing Point SWA, Bay Co 16–24 May (m. ob.) and Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 20 May into the summer (Chris Sayers, m. ob.). WI also provided one King Rail report from Uihlein WPA, Winnebago Co 14 May (Tom Ziebell). Sandhill Cranes were abundant and widespread throughout all three states with the exception of the southwest portion of MN.

Black-necked Stilts are now firmly established in the region for the spring season. Numerous records of this wader were reported from all three states. Piping Plovers arrived in MI 12 Apr and were observed in over 15 locations. In MN there were several sightings along Duluth’s Park Point, St. Louis Co from 24 Apr–20 May and one inland individual at the Sherman WPA, Lyon Co 8 May (Garrett Wee, m. ob.). Upland Sandpipers were common throughout the regions and are concentrated in MI’s northern LP and in the western third of MN. A Whimbrel appeared record early in MI at Tiscornia Park, Berrien Co 5 Apr (Matt Hysell) along with another early report in Calhoun Co 17–20 Apr (Amy Lyyski). The majority of Whimbrels in the region occur along the Great Lakes shoreline with a few scattered reports inland—this season was no exception. One of many shorebird rarities for this spring, a Long-billed Curlew, WI’s 11th state record, was recorded near Marengo, Ashland Co 25 Apr–2 May (Jena Lindquist, m. ob.). A dozen reports of Red Knot for the region were encouraging for this threatened species with a high count of 15 from Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 26 May (Colin Dobson).

Ruffs were reported from MI at Nayanquing Point SWA, Bay Co 28 Apr (Cindy and Tim Ward) and what may have been the same bird the next day at Shiawassee NWR, Saginaw Co 29 Apr (Ryan Dziedzic), in WI in Rusk Co 2 May (Patrick Papiernik) and in MN in Pine Co 2–3 May (Kris Moulton, m. ob.). WI provided another one if its many exceptional rarities this spring with a second state record Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Sauk Co 24–25 Apr (m. ob.). This appears to be the only spring record for the region. Casual in spring for MI, Baird’s Sandpipers were found twice at the Erie Marsh Preserve, Monroe Co 24 Apr (Joe Kwasniewski, m. ob.) and at Tiscornia Park, Berrien Co 8 May (Matt Hysell). In MI, Western Sandpiper is barely regular and becomes scarcer further west in the region. One was reported at the Plains Nature Trail, St. Clair, St. Clair Co 5 May (Vikki Jones, m. ob.). WI hosted another in Dane Co 4–6 May (Spike Millington, Nate Shipley, m. ob.) and in MN at the 180th Street Marsh, Dakota Co 27 Apr (Michele Frisch).

Jaegers through Hawks

The only Jaeger report was of a single individual Parasitic from Duluth MN’s Park Point, St. Louis Co 26 May (Mike Hendrickson). Two Black-legged Kittiwakes were reported. One from WI at North Beach, Racine Co at the unusually late date of 28 May (Paul Kinzer) and the other from MN at Duluth’s Canal Park, St. Louis Co 29–30 Mar (Alex Lewanski, Jim Manolis). Little Gulls were reported in average numbers with three reports each from MI and WI. Casual in WI, Laughing Gulls were recorded no less than 6 times along the Lake Michigan waterfront and all in the latter half of May—presumably some of which were the same birds? Only two California Gulls made appearances, both adults. The first from MI at the Riverview Boat Launch, Wayne Co 4 Apr (Robert Irwin) and the second from WI at Port Washington Harbor, Ozaukee Co 21 May (Jim Frank). Iceland Gulls were reported in above average numbers mainly from areas along the Great Lakes and inland near Madison, WI and the Twin Cities area, MN. Lesser Black-backed Gulls followed a similar distribution and overall were found in increasing numbers in all states. The season high count was 84 in MI at Riverview Boat Launch, Wayne Co 19 Apr (Robert Irwin). One Slaty-backed Gull appeared in MI at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 20 Mar (Robert Irwin, Justin Labadie). Glaucous Gulls were found throughout and had left the region by mid-May. Great Black-backed Gulls were numerous in MI along the shores of Lakes Huron, with only scattered reports from the UP, Superior, WI, and the Duluth, MN area.

Red-throated Loons stage and migrate throughout the spring with noteworthy observation areas in the UP of Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co and in MN at Park Point, Duluth, St. Louis Co. 215 were counted at Park Point on 5 May (Steve Kolbe). Pacific Loons were reported from four locations in the Superior, WI and Duluth, MN area from 8–23 May. MI logged two Neotropic Cormorant observations. The first was at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co 7 May (m. ob.) that continued into summer and the second at Erie Marsh Preserve, Monroe Co 23 Apr–16 May (Robert Irwin, m. ob.). MI experienced an average number of Snowy Egret observations with four; WI and MN experienced higher than average numbers with reports from six and 12 (double the 10 year average) counties respectively. Two Little Blue Herons appeared in MI. The first report came from Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 14–17 Apr (Ian Burgess, m. ob.). The second reported from Berrien Co 14 May (David Ferries, Matt Hysell, Rhoda Johnson). WI also logged two reports where the species is rare but regular. Cattle Egret reports were well above average for all three states. Black-crowned Night-Herons were reported in normal numbers in MI while in MN, where the species struggles, reports from 19 counties were below the 10 year average and were mostly of one or two individuals. Casual in MI a lone Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was found in Mason Co, 17–25 Apr (m. ob.) while WI and MN had reports from four and two counties respectively.

Glossy Ibis records were numerous in MI as follows: Muskegon SGA, Muskegon Co 28 Apr (John VanOrman, m. ob.), Manistee SGA, Manistee Co 28 Apr–3 May (Elena Warsen, m. ob.), Maple River SGA, Gratiot Co 3–4 May (Joe Lipar), Arcadia Marsh, Manistee Co 24 May (Brian Allen, Carl Freeman) and Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 25–31 May (Bruce Arnold, Arnold Buehler, m. ob.). MN recorded two: Ada WTP, Norman Co 28 Apr (m. ob.) and Geneva Lake, Freeborn Co 7 May (Paul E. Jantscher). White-faced Ibis were reported in above average numbers with reports from seven, nine and 32 counties for MI, WI and MN respectively. The latter is more than double the 10 year average. A review species in all three states, individual Mississippi Kites were found in Racine Co, WI 12 May (Otto Mayer), Muskegon Co, MI 13 May (Charles DeWitt), Delta Co, MI 24 May (Valerie Heemstra), and at MI’s Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co 31 May (Rich Couse, Alex Olivier). Swainson’s Hawk is a review species in WI where four were encountered in four counties while MI and MN reported them from four and 46 counties respectively. Of the region’s three hawk counting sites only MI’s Whitefish Point experienced average numbers including five Swainson’s Hawks. Both MI’s Mackinac Straits and MN’s West Skyline experienced below average totals.

Owls through Thrushes

The region’s lone Barn Owl report came from MN in Winona Co 6 May (fide Karla A. Bloem) that was photographed by a trail camera. Snowy Owls were present throughout the region and departed by mid-May. Northern Hawk Owls were only reported from two counties in northern MN. Great Gray Owl reports came from four MN counties along the Canadian border. Long-eared Owls were widespread across MI and MN with only two reports from WI. Faring better, Short-eared Owls were wide spread across all three states. Individual Boreal Owls were reported four times from northern MN in the months of March and April.

MI’s fourth recorded Lewis’s Woodpecker appeared in Fruitport Township, Muskegon Co 16–26 May (Ric Pedler, m. ob.) while in MN one was spotted on a power line by a birder driving in Dodge Co 4 May (Luke Hollander). American Three-toed Woodpeckers were reported in MN from Lake of the Woods and St. Louis Cos in March and May. Black-backed Woodpeckers were reported from their usual range in MI at the Peshekee Grade, Marquette Co and in MN from five counties along the Canadian border. Although Gyrfalcon is almost always documented in the spring from the UP, the region’s only report came from downtown Detroit, Wayne Co.

What is apparently the first ever spring record of Ash-throated Flycatcher for the region appeared in WI at the Windpoint Lighthouse, Racine Co 26–27 Apr (Sue Kulinski, Rita Flores Wiskowski, m. ob.). Scissor-tailed Flycatchers appeared at MI’s Grass Bay Preserve, Cheboygan Co 12 May (Steve Baker, Calvin Brennan) and those in WI looking for the Ash-throated found a Scissor-tailed at the same location 25 Apr–4 May (Drew Goldberg, m. ob.). Say’s Phoebe put in several appearances starting with MI in Benzie Co 2 Apr (Matt Wrinkler, m. ob.), Sarrett Nature Center, Berrien Co 16 Apr (Korine Blyveis) and up to two at Tawas Point SP, Iosco Co 13–29 Apr (Phil Odum, m. ob.); in WI from Oconto Co 14–17 Apr (Jack Swelstad), Dane Co 15–21 Apr (Cynthia Bridge, m. ob.) and Milwaukee Co 2–4 May (m. ob.). In MN, where the species is regular, they were reported from nine counties, the most ever for spring.

A species that struggles in the region, Loggerhead Shrike had only one report from MI in Ludington, Mason Co 12 May, zero reports from WI and 19 counties in MN which is above the 10 year average. Casual in MI, a Bell’s Vireo arrived in Benton Harbor, Berrien Co on 16 May where one has been consistently found since 2020. Anywhere outside of Berrien Co, MI Fish Crow is a review species. One seen at the Saugatuck Dunes SP, Allegan Co 21 Mar (Tomas Pedreros, Caleb Putnam) was unusual. Boreal Chickadees were found in their usual area of the Peshekee Grade, Marquette Co, only one report from WI in Forest Co and multiple reports from MN from three northeast counties along the Canadian border. The region’s lone Mountain Bluebird appeared for one day in MN’s Blue Earth Co 17 Apr (John Hockema, m. ob.). Townsend’s Solitaires were reported from two, three and 13 counties respectively for MI, WI and MN. The MN total is double the 10 year average for spring and is not surprising given the abundance from the previous winter. Varied Thrush were reported from three, one and two counties from MI, WI and MN respectively. One extremely late report came from MN’s Anoka Co, 3 May (Jill Peterson).

Old World Sparrows through Buntings

Eurasian Tree Sparrows presence in the region is concentrated in WI where this past spring saw reports from 10 counties. In MI they are annual at Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co but rare elsewhere. This spring they appeared in five other MI counties. There were reports from six MN counties in a state where their numbers are increasing. Evening Grosbeak reports and numbers were below normal averages while Pine Grosbeaks showed above average numbers throughout northern MI, WI and MN. Common Redpoll provided impressive numbers in all three states with a MN record spring high count of 1,000 at a residence in Duluth, St. Louis Co 14 Apr (Laura Erickson). Not surprisingly Hoary Redpolls provided similar abundance in all three states. Red Crossbills were reported in average abundance and numbers while White-winged Crossbills were abundant and widespread throughout the region.

Smith’s Longspurs were reported once from WI at the Evansville SWA, Rock Co (Kris Perlberg, Steve Thiessen, Quentin Yoerger) and from four southern counties in MN which is typical. WI provided three reports of Lark Bunting, a casual species, as follows: one near Ashland, Bayfield Co 16 May (Nick Anich, Ryan Brady), at the Holland Sand Prairie SNA, La Crosse Co 21 May (TJ Van) and at the Milwaukee Ferry Terminal, Milwaukee Co 23–24 May (Jym Mooney, m. ob.). LeConte’s Sparrows were reported from MI’s eastern UP, from five widespread counties in WI and from an average of 28 MN counties. Only one Nelson’s Sparrow was reported from WI while MN recorded them from 13 counties which is triple the 10 year average.

Accidental in all three states, Bullock’s Oriole appeared in WI in Bayfield Co 26–29 May (John Sopiwnik, m. ob.) and in MN at Waite Park, Stearns Co 9–10 May (Maria Bucher, m. ob.). Kirtland’s Warbler reports were stable from the usual areas in the northern LP, while they were not reported from the UP. Well established in MI and WI, Yellow-throated Warblers have been increasing in MN enough that they will likely go to regular status at the next species review.

They were reported from five counties for the season. MI’s second Townsend’s Warbler was found at Tawas Point SP, Iosco Co 23–24 May (Jason Bojczyk, m. ob.). Western Tanager is casual in MI which had  six reports. The species is rare but regular in WI and MN where there were six and eight reports respectively. A Black-headed Grosbeak appeared in Anoka Co, MN 9 May (Ronald L. Refsnider). A single Lazuli Bunting appeared in Grantsburg, Burnett Co, WI 26 May (Rick Pertile). Whereas several reports came from MN: residential Hennepin Co 9 May (Jack Demarais), Lyon Co 13 May (Mike Peppersack), Ottertail Co 14–15 May (Heidi A. Balgaard) and Hubbard Co 20–22 May (David Harrington). Lastly, Panted Buntings visited MI from Sawyer, Berrien Co 3 May, in Paynesville, Ontonagon Co 23 May (Elizabeth Peterson) and in MN at a residential feeder in St. Charles, Winona Co 24–25 Apr (Don Nelson, m. ob.).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 09 Nov 2022.

Photos–Western Great Lakes: Spring 2022

Wisconsin’s second state record Fulvous-whistling Duck showed up one day only, 16 May 2022, at the Capital Springs SRA and was seen by dozens. Photo © Martin Kaehrle.

Another in a remarkable run of rarities for the Badger State, this Garganey provided Wisconsin with its second state record photographed here on 22 April 2022 the last of its two day stay. Photo © Nancy Meske.

This Sharp-tailed Sandpiper broke tradition and is the first spring record for the Western Great Lakes region. This was seen in Sauk County here photographed on 24 April 2022 the first of its two day stay. This is the second Wisconsin record. Photo © Justin Streit.

When Ash-throated Flycatchers appear in the region usually any nearby lake is getting ready to freeze for the upcoming winter. However, this individual appeared shortly after ice-out and appears to be the first ever recorded in spring in the Western Great Lakes region. Here it is photographed on 27 April 2022 at Wind Point, Racine County, Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan on the last of its two day stay. Photo © Jacob Collison.

A second photo of Wisconsin’s Ash-throated Flycatcher showing underneath the lack of any strong contrast between the yellow wash and the dull grey breast as well as the yellow wash not extending as high. Both features help rule out the more expected Great Crested Flycatcher. Photographed on 27 April 2022. Photo © Jacob Collison.

Wisconsin’s 11th Long-billed Curlew was found on 25 April 2022 and last seen 2 May. It was photographed on the 28th on preferred habitat in Ashland County in the northwest part of the state. Photo © Dan Belter.

This Lewis’s Woodpecker, Michigan’s 4th, appeared in Fruitport Township, Muskegon Co from 16–25 May 2022 when this photo was taken on the 17th. Photo © Tori Martel.

Michigan’s 6th Tufted Duck, photographed here on April 5 2022, lingered until the 10th at the St. Clair Flats area. Photo © Matt Misewicz.

When a Ruff turns up in the region during spring they are usually females. This gorgeous male Ruff showed his plumage to admiring observers in Pine County, Minnesota from 2–3 May 2022 here photographed on the 2nd. Photo © Thomas Burns.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks appeared in all three Western Great Lakes region states this season. This group provided viewing opportunities for Minnesota birders only on 2 May 2022 at Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Hennepin Co. Photo © Catherine Jarocki.

A stunning Bullock’s Oriole, photographed here on the 10th, graced Waite Park in St. Cloud, Minnesota from 9–10 May 2022. Photo © Matthew Thompson.

Not surprisingly, Wisconsin also hosted Bullock’s Orioles. This is one of two for the state and it appeared just north of Washburn in Bayfield County from 26–29 May 2022. This photo taken on the 27th. Photo © Dan Belter.

Glossy Ibis has now appeared in Minnesota three consecutive years. This one was photographed on 7 May 2022 in Freeborn county, Minnesota. Photo © Paul Jantscher.

As is typical a residential feeder hosted this Lazuli Bunting from 20–22 May 2022 in Hubbard county, Minnesota. It was photographed on the last day of its stay. Photo © David Harrington.

One of two birds present this Say’s Phoebe, photographed on the 20th, graced Michigan’s Tawas Pt. State Park from 17–29 April 2022. Photo © Andrew Simon.

One of two Painted Buntings for the Western Great Lakes region, this one, photographed on 22 May 2022, turned up in St Charles, Minnesota on the 21st. Photo © Luke Hollander.

This Red Knot was observed in both Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota on 28 May 2022. Population declines have reduced this once numerous bird to barely regular in both states. Photo © Matthew Schaut.

The further west in the region the scarcer Western Sandpipers become. This one appeared on 4 May 2022 in Dane County, Wisconsin and remained until the 6th when this photograph was taken. Photo © Caitlyn Schuchhardt.

Casual in Michigan this Cinnamon Teal, photographed on the last day of its stay, was one of two for the state and was found at the Muskegon Wastewater System from 8–26 April 2022. Photo © Tori Martel.

This Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal hybrid was found on 8 May 2022 at the wastewater treatment ponds in Cottonwood, Minnesota. Photo © Kimberly Emerson.

Although not unusual in Minnesota, this Hooded Warbler was well out of range when it showed up on 30 May 2022 at Duluth’s Park Point Recreation Area. Photo © Lon Baumgardt.