Western Great Lakes: Summer 2017 

1 Jun–31 Jul

Peder H. Svingen

Recommended citation:

Svingen, P. H. 2020. Summer 2017: Western Great Lakes. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9wI> North American Birds.

Temperatures were slightly warmer than normal and precipitation was above average in June for most of the region. Highlights included Buff-bellied Hummingbird and 2 Arctic Terns in Wisconsin, Wood Stork and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Michigan, and an amazing parade of rare waterbirds at the North Ottawa Impoundment in western Minnesota. North Ottawa was created as part of a flood diversion project for the Red River and has benefitted migrant shorebirds as well as breeding birds.

Abbreviations: Horicon (Horicon NWR and Horicon Marsh SWA, Dodge/Fond du Lac Cos., WI); North Ottawa (North Ottawa Impoundment, Grant Co., MN); Pointe Mouillee (Pointe Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co., MI); Whitefish Point (Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Chippewa Co., MI).

Contributing observers (subregional editors in boldface): David Adair (DAd), Bradley Anderson, Rick Anderson, Nick Anich (eBird Wisconsin), Sandy Aubol (SAu), Amar Ayyash, Ben Baldwin (BBa), Dedrick Benz (DBz), Milt J. Blomberg (MJB), Karen Brown, Alex Browne (AxB), James Buckingham (JBu), Bill Buckingham (BBu), Paul E. Budde (Minnesota), Alex Burchard (AxB), Adam M. Byrne (eBird Michigan), Daryl Christensen, Philip C. Chu (PCC), Brian Collins, Tim Cornish, Jim Dawes, Herb H. Dingmann (HHD), Robert Domagalski, Louie J. Dombroski (Michigan), Robert M. Dunlap (RMD), Kim R. Eckert (KRE), Jeff Eddy (JEd), Rebecca Engdahl (REn)

Contributing observers (cont.)

Todd Eggenberger (TEg), Ron A. Erpelding (RAE), Bruce A. Fall (eBird Minnesota), Susan H. Fall (SHF), Stephen Fettig, Jason Frank, Drew Goldberg, Frank Gosiak (FGo), Ethan Gyllenhaal, Skye Haas, Liz Harper (LiH), Don Henise, Anthony X. Hertzel (AXH), Terry Hodapp, Gerald Hoeksta (GHo), Randy Hoffman, Heidi Hughes (HHu), Scott Jennex, Paul L. Johnson (PLJ), Kay Kavanagh, Jan & Larry Kraemer (JLK), Stan Lilley, Joe Lindell (JLi), Andrew B. Longtin (ABL), Heather Mahan, Stuart Malcolm (StM), Kevin Manley (KvM), William C. Marengo (WCM), Bruce Matasick, Sumner Matteson (SuM, Raymie Miller, John Mills, David F. Neitzel (DFN), Elliot Nelson, Peter Nichols (PNi), Frank J. Nicoletti (FJN), Phil Odum, Alec Olivier, Bridget Olsen, Mark Otnes, Andy Paulios (eBird Wisconsin), Wayne Perala (WPl), Doug L. Pierzina (DLP), David Powell, Tom Prestby (eBird Wisconsin), Tom Reed, Paul Regnier, Jeff Rusinow, Tom Schaefer, Mary Schumann (MSc), Gloria Shiraef, Adam Sinkula (ASi), Mark Snable (MSn), Linda Sparling, Doug Stratton, Alex Sundvall (ASu), Peder H. Svingen (PHS), Andrea Szymczak (ASz), Scott Terry, Daryl D. Tessen (DDT), John Thoemke (JTh), Dar Tiede (Wisconsin), Dale Trexel (DTr), Tom A. Tustison (TAT), Chris Vogel, Todd Ward, Justin Watts (JWa), Jennifer Wenzel (JWe), and Robert B. Williams (RBW). We extend our sincere thanks to the hundreds of other contributors who could not be acknowledged individually.


A Greater White-fronted Goose in Hennepin Co. 8 Jun (ABL) and one in Lac qui Parle Co. 8–23 Jul (DLP, PLJ) were unseasonable for Minnesota, though the latter’s presence was explained by its injured wing. Unusual for Wisconsin were nesting Common Goldeneye in Sawyer Co 5 Jun (TS, ASz) and Red-breasted Merganser in Door Co 25 Jun (PR). A female Hooded Merganser was seen towing 4 Bufflehead ducklings plus one of her own in St. Louis Co., MN 28 Jun (AXH); presumably, this was the result of egg dumping. Spruce Grouse were found in 3 northern Wisconsin counties, including an adult with 5 chicks in Oneida Co. 3 Jul (BC). Unusual for Wisconsin regardless of season was an Eared Grebe in Polk Co. 2 Jun (BO). For the 4th consecutive summer, Clark’s Grebe was not found in Minnesota.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, still relatively scarce in Michigan, persisted in Berrien Co. and was also recorded in St. Joseph Co. (TC). Wisconsin had single White-winged Doves in La Crosse Co. 1 Jun (ph. DS), Winnebago Co. 7 Jun (ph. MSc), and Burnett Co. 8 Jul (TR). Michigan also recorded a White-winged at Rudyard, Chippewa Co., 2–17 Jul (JM, EN). Wisconsin’s Chuck-will’s-widow straddled the Jefferson/Walworth Co. line for the 6th consecutive summer; another in Michigan was at Sharonville SGA, Jackson Co. (m.ob.). A male Rufous Hummingbird visited a feeder in Hennepin Co., MN 24–26 Jul (HM, ph. LiH). While Michigan and Wisconsin both have a penchant for vagrant hummers, no one anticipated the Buff-bellied Hummingbird at a private residence in Ozaukee Co., WI 17 Jun (ph. JR)! Yellow Rails were apparently scarce again this summer. Wisconsin’s only report was of one in Oconto Co. 17 Jun (JBu, BBu), while Minnesotans ticked them in Aitkin Co. but nowhere else–possibly because observers preferentially went to North Ottawa?


Though North Ottawa lacks a picnic table, a King Rail 15 Jun (WPl, †PCC, ph. WCM, ph. REn) had that effect as observers found a 2nd adult there 19 Jun (†LS) and a juvenile in Aug (†KRE, m.ob.). Rare shorebirds at North Ottawa included 2 Black-necked Stilts 16 Jun+ (WPl, †PCC, †KRE) and Snowy Plover 8 Jun (†GHo, ph. †SAu, ph. †REn, †RAE). Least Bitterns, Snowy Egret 1–10 Jun (MJB, FGo), Little Blue Heron 7–10 Jun (ph. LiH, KRE), Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibis 5–19 Jun (ph. †REn, ph. AxB, m.ob.), and 2 White-faced Ibis 16–20 Jun (RAE) completed the procession.

END S.A.    

King Rails also bred at Horicon, with up to 5 chicks seen in early Jul (DC, m.ob.). Common Gallinules in Minnesota were the most widespread they’ve been since summer 2006, and were recorded in 8 different counties. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership estimated 85 cranes in Wisconsin this season, comparable to the last 3 years. One from this experimental flock has spent the last 2 summers in Lenawee Co., Michigan.


Black-necked Stilt numbers at Horicon peaked at 30+ on 27 Jul (DDT). Also in Wisconsin, 3 pairs of Piping Plovers produced 9 young at Long Island, Ashland Co., 5 Jul (SuM); one was in Manitowoc Co. 20–21 Jun and 2 visited Racine Co. 30 Jul (DG, JWe). Southbound Hudsonian Godwits in 3 Wisconsin counties included a max of 5 in Fond du Lac Co. 26 Jul (StM, TW). The region’s only Red Knot was an alternate-plumaged adult in Brown Co., WI 27 Jul (TP). Michigan’s 2nd Sharp-tailed Sandpiper visited Pointe Mouillee 23 Jun (AMB, DP, ST). A Red-necked Phalarope in Marshall Co., MN 11 Jul (HHu) was exceptionally early for a fall migrant.

Wisconsin hosted up to 4 Little Gulls in Manitowoc Co. during Jun (m.ob.), as well as one in Kewaunee Co. 21 Jun (ASi). Laughing Gulls visited 3 Wisconsin counties bordering Lake Michigan. Wisconsin’s 2nd summer record of California Gull came from Sheboygan Co. 14 Jul (AA, ph. EG); these observers also documented a record high count of 69 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 unseasonable Glaucous Gulls. Single Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Clay Co. 5–12 Jun (ph. †REn, m.ob.) and Mille Lacs Co. 23 Jun (HHD) established the 4th and 5th summer records for Minnesota. The count of 2,576 Caspian Terns at Gravel Island, Door Co., 1 Jun (SuM) was record high for Wisconsin. Wisconsin welcomed single Arctic Terns in Manitowoc Co. 2 Jun (ph. †GS) and Brown Co. 9 & 11 Jun (†TP).

Northbound Red-throated Loons are normally seen well into Jun on Lake Superior, but none were located in Minnesota waters for the first summer since 2006. However, one was just across the state line in Douglas Co., WI 6 Jun (JLK) and 2 were there 10 Jun (TR). Especially rare for Michigan in summer was the Pacific Loon at Littlefield Lake, Isabella Co. 6–8 Jun (SL, m.ob.). The Wood Stork that visited Washtenaw Co (5 Jul), Jackson Co (14–15 Jul), and Eaton Co (also 15 Jul) was Michigan’s 3rd, and the first in the state since 1975. In Wisconsin, single Snowy Egrets graced Manitowoc Co. 5 Jun (RD) and Brown Co. 9 Jun (RM). Daily counts of 5–7 Snowy Egrets were routine at Pointe Mouillee, but one in Bay Co. 5 Jun (PO) was unexpected. Also at Pointe Mouillee were an immature Little Blue Heron 20 Jul+ (AMB, DP, ST, m.ob.) and a Tricolored Heron from spring that continued through the period.

A Snowy Owl in Outagamie Co. 29 Jun (ph. AO) was unseasonable for Wisconsin. 2 adult Northern Hawk Owls (one of them singing) accompanied an immature in Koochiching Co., MN 24 Jun (AXH). Black-backed Woodpeckers, becoming harder to find in Wisconsin, were in Douglas Co. 9 Jun (RH), Vilas Co. 15 Jun (BM), and Forest Co. 15 Jul (DG).


A Western Wood-Pewee at Buffalo River SP, Clay CO., MN 3 Jun+ (MO, ph. †AXH, v.t. †RMD, †TAT, †PCC, a.t. †JWa, m.ob.) was not without controversy; attempts to net the bird for confirmation were unsuccessful. At Maplewood SP in west-central Minnesota, a territorial Acadian Flycatcher was found for the 6th consecutive year in Otter Tail Co. 6 Jun+ (MO, m.ob.). Recently annual but still rare in Minnesota, a Say’s Phoebe pair found at Felton Prairie 24 Jun (TEg, KvM) successfully nested (RBW). In Michigan, a Western Kingbird caught bugs at Mackinaw Wastewater Treatment Plant, Emmet Co, 4–5 Jun (SJ, m.ob.). Wisconsin had Western Kingbirds in Douglas Co. 1 Jun (FJN) and Bayfield Co. 14 Jun (BBa). A Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird in Bayfield Co., WI 14 Jun was photographed with a Western and Eastern in the same frame (BBa); the Badger State’s first Tropical Kingbird showed up in this same county in May 2016. A total of 4 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers graced Minnesota grasslands: in Yellow Medicine Co. 5 Jun (ph. †JF), Nicollet Co. 9 Jun (ph. JTh), Mower Co. 25 Jun–15 Jul (ph. LiH, ph. ASu, †PCC, ph. †REn), and Rice Co. 1 Jul (†DFN). Michigan birders reported a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Alger Co. 6 Jun (MSn, m.ob.), and the state’s 5th record of Fork-tailed Flycatcher was at Stonington Peninsula, Delta Co., 4 Jul (CV, SH, LJD). Michigan’s nesting pair of Loggerhead Shrikes fledged 2 young in Isabella Co. 10 Jul (m.ob.).

A Black-billed Magpie was photographed at a feeder in Door, WI 11 Jun (fide Charlotte Lukes). In southeast Michigan, Fish Crows continued to be reported in Berrien Co. (m.ob.). Single Carolina Wrens in Dodge Co. 9 Jun (DBz), Wabusha Co. 9 Jun–14 Jul (BAF, SHF), and Anoka Co. 30 Jul (ph. AxB) were within this species’ normal Minnesota range. The 3 Eurasian Tree Sparrows from spring were last seen 2 Jul at Whitefish Point. Just 2 Chestnut-collared Longspurs were found at Felton Prairie this summer; this species is at high risk of extirpation in Minnesota. An apparent Spotted Towhee × Eastern Towhee was documented in Clay Co., MN 4–30 Jun (RAE, †PCC, ph. KRE). Wisconsin’s only reported Nelson’s Sparrow vocalized at Crex Meadows, Burnett Co. 25–26 Jun (TH, SF), Henslow’s Sparrow seemed to contract, slightly, its Minnesota range, but was still found in 17 counties as far north as Traverse Co. In southeast Minnesota, unpaired Yellow-breasted Chats showed up in Dakota Co. 2–14 Jun (PNi, DAd) and continued from spring in Washington Co. through 12 Jul (m.ob.). The region’s first Shiny Cowbird graced Whitefish Point’s feeders in Chippewa Co., MI 3–4 Jun (†AMB, †PCC, m.ob.).

Worm-eating Warbler was found at traditional locations in Sauk Co., WI 11 Jun (RA), and in Allegan and Berrien Cos., MI. Connecticut Warbler found suitable habitat in central Wisconsin, where nesting was confirmed in Jackson Co. 22 Jun (RH). The region’s only Kentucky Warbler was in Oscoda Co., MI 2 Jun (JD). About 30 singing male Kirtland’s Warblers were found during the 10th year of monitoring in Wisconsin with 30-40 young fledged in Adams Co.; Michigan no longer conducts a formal census. In southeastern Minnesota, single Yellow-throated Warblers continued from spring in Winona Co. through 24 Jun (FGo) and at Gold Medal Park, Hennepin Co. through 6 Jul (TAT); a pair nested at the latter location last year.

Minnesota reported single Summer Tanagers in Washington Co. 4–14 Jun (DTr, JEd) and Carver Co. 17 Jun–24 Jul (JLi). Michigan’s pair in Berrien Co. (BA) was once again the only report for the Wolverine State. Also in Michigan, a male Blue Grosbeak persisted most of the summer in Oakland Co. and a pair was found in St. Joseph Co. 30 Jul+ (KB). One Blue Grosbeak was found in Wisconsin at Spring Green Preserve, Sauk Co., 2 Jun+ (KK) where nesting was confirmed last year. Minnesota had its most-ever Blue Grosbeaks, with reports coming from 15 counties. First records were had in Anoka, Hennepin, and Washington Cos. Dickcissels swarmed 71 of Michigan’s 83 counties and 80 of Minnesota’s 87. In Wisconsin, a record high count of 129 Dickcissels was made at Leola Marsh, Adams Co., 16 Jun (TR).

Report processed by Alison Világ, 30 Dec 2020.

Photos–Western Great Lakes: Summer 2017 
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.