Western Great Lakes: Summer 2021

Summer 2021: 1 Jun–31 Jul

William Marengo

Recommended citation:

Marengo, W. 2021. Summer 2021: Western Great Lakes. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-c5E> North American Birds.

As with much of the country, the region experienced exceptionally hot and dry conditions. Species impacted by these conditions as well as from the previous harsh winter in the southern U.S. led to low numbers throughout the region. Particularly noticeable were the lack of Hermit Thrush, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebes, and Sedge Wrens. Noteworthy highlights began with Michigan’s first Roseate Spoonbill, multiple Wood Stork reports, Magnificent Frigatebird, Townsend’s Warbler, and continuing region firsts: Limpkin and Arctic Loon.

Sub-regional Compilers

Andrew Simon (Michigan), Dar Tiede (Wisconsin), Ethan Urban (Michigan) 

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.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), U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI), W.P.A. (Waterfowl Production Area), W.T.P. (Wastewater Treatment Plant).

Waterfowl through Grouse 

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks graced all three states starting in WI with three to four birds found in Trempealeau Co 1 Jun (Tom Fiebelkorn, Gwyneth Calvetti). MI had three reports beginning with a one day appearance of five individuals from Carleton, Monroe Co 6 Jun (Alex Dornburg), a single individual at the Quanicassee Wildlife Area, Bay Co 13–30 Jun (Louie Dombroski, m. ob.) and four individuals at Window on the Waterfront Park, Ottawa Co 10–16 Jul (m. ob.). MN had one report of five individuals for a single day adjacent to the Sherburne NWR, Sherburne Co 3–Jul (Herb Dingmann, m.obs.). A Snow Goose spent the entire summer season at Loring Park, Minneapolis, Hennepin Co (m. ob.). A single Ross’s Goose provided the first summer record for WI at Fish Lake Wildlife Area, Burnett Co 13 Jun. Otherwise, Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese were last reported in MN on 2 Jun and 7 Jun, respectively. In MN, Mute Swan remains barely regular with a small number of reports every year, but determining their provenance is problematic. One Mute Swan spent the entire summer at the Minnesota Valley NWR, Hennepin Co. From their reintroduction program in the 1990s, Trumpeter Swans are now firmly established throughout MN and are regularly reported from all regions. New breeding records were added from four counties this season. A single Cinnamon Teal provided WI with its third summer record from Horicon NWR, Dodge Co 18 Jun (Jack Coulter, Linda Vaughn, Cheryl Groom). A male Harlequin Duck continued from the winter and spent the entire summer at the lakefront in the city and county of Sheboygan, WI. The only previous WI summer record occurred from this same location. 

Spruce Grouse were reported from three counties in its typical range in north-central MN as well as two reports from its toehold in northeastern WI where an adult female with one young was reported 12 Jul (Kay Kavanagh). In MI, they were reported from their normal range in five UP counties. Sharp-tailed Grouse were reported from their usual range in northwest MN and in St. Louis Co. In WI there were only scattered reports of single birds in Burnett Co and from MI in their usual areas of Schoolcraft and Chippewa counties in the UP. Greater Prairie-Chickens were found in the usual areas of northwest and west-central MN. Encouraging reports in WI came from the Leola Grassland Wildlife Area, Adams Co 10 Jun (Scott Swengel), 15 birds at the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co 5 Jun and 11 birds at the Paul Olson SWA, Portage Co 5 Jul (both by Rob Pendergast). Gray Partridges were reported from the northwest, southwest, and southeast areas of MN.

Grebes through Loons

The only Clark’s Grebe report, where this species is barely regular, was from MN at Lake Osakis, Douglas Co 7 Jul and 26 Jul (Ezra and Isaac Hosch, Becca Engdahl, Rob Freeman). Two White-winged Doves appeared in Michigan in Kalamazoo Co, 5–8 Jul (Anne Pancella, m. ob.) and at Clark’s Marsh, Iosco Co 16–20 Jul (Phil Odum). Two Rufous Hummingbirds were reported, both from residential feeders, the first in WI in Buffalo Co, 19–20 Jul (Sandy Brantner) and in MN in Wabasha Co 27–28 Jul (Debra Rupp). Two King Rails appeared with the first in MI at the Erie Marsh Preserve, Monroe Co 26–May 4 Jun (Bruce Arnold) and in WI Dane Co 4–8 Jun (Aaron Holschbach, Kathy Kershaw). In MN the total counties where Soras were reported was below the 10 year average most likely due to the drought. WI set a set high record count of 32 Common Gallinules at Rush Lake, Winnebago Co 15 Jun (Tom Ziebell). Yellow Rails were also affected by the drought, as there was only one early Jun report from MI’s UP where the species historically nests. There were no reports from WI and MN reported them from only three locations in the extreme northwestern part of the state near the Canadian border.

Joining a recent trend of vagrancy in the U.S., the region’s first Limpkin, discovered on May 30 (Ezra and Isaac Hosch), continued throughout the summer in Minnesota at the Paul Hugo WMA, Washington Co. It was last reported 19 Jul. Black-necked Stilts in MI were seen in the southeast in Monroe and Saginaw Cos. Still casual in MN but approaching regular status they were documented in the west in Big Stone and Grant Cos. Avocets were recorded from 12 counties in MN with an unsuccessful nesting attempt at the Artichoke WPA, Big Stone Co (Douglas Pierzina) and attempted nesting at Elbow Lake, Grant Co (m.ob). A Snowy Plover, the sixth for WI and first since 2008, was found at the South Metro Pier, Milwaukee Co 22–23 Jul (Jessica Hilt, m.ob). Piping Plovers successfully fledged three chicks in MN at the Pine and Curry Island SNA, Lake of the Woods Co. For WI in addition to solo birds in Manitowoc Co 11–17 Jun (Charles Sontag, m. ob.) and in Milwaukee Co, 12 Jul (Mike Wagner) nesting success continued at the Cat Island restoration site, Brown Co with six adults and 11 young recorded 27 Jun (Tom Prestby). In MI they were recorded in the UP in Grand Marais, Alger Co, from Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co and along the length of the Lake Michigan shore. Nesting success was recorded at Wilderness SP, Emmet Co and Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Leelanau Co. Upland Sandpipers were reported from 14 counties in Wisconsin which is in line with historical average and from 35 counties in Minnesota well above the ten-year average of 28 counties. A new summer high count of 88 Marbled Godwits was recorded from the Greenbush WTP, Roseau Co 18 Jun (Anthony Hertzel). Buff-breasted Sandpipers arrived in the region on schedule in late Jul, but unusual were four late spring migrants reported from different locations in west-central MN Jun 4–12.

The only Little Gull reports were of single individuals in Wisconsin along the Lake Michigan shoreline: Algoma Harbor, Kewaunee Co 1–10 Jun (Christin Grasch, m. ob.), Kewaunee Harbor, Kewaunee Co 1–4 Jun (m. ob.), Manitowoc Lakefront, Manitowoc Co 3–4 Jun (Charles Sontag) and two birds at the Peshtigo Harbor SWA, Marinette Co 6–13 Jul (Kurt Miller m. ob.). Both an adult and first summer Laughing Gull were reported, respectively, from MI at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 27 Jun (Adam Byrne) and 2–5 Jul (Adam Byrne, m. ob.) plus a third report from Grand Haven SP, Ottawa Co 7 Jul (Steve Minard, James Fyfe). MN added Laughing Gulls at Detroit Lake, Becker Co 20–24 Jun (Nancy Henke, m. ob.) and at Upper Sakatah Lake, LeSueur Co 25 Jun (Cindy and Vern Krienke, Dave Bartkey, Bob Williams). WI had reports of a Laughing Gull in Manitowoc, Manitowoc Co 9 Jun and 22 Jun (Charles Sontag). Ring-billed Gulls recorded a record high count of 30,000 at a nesting colony on Interstate Island which straddles the MN and WI border. This count has steadily increased from 11,000 back in 2010. The season’s only California Gull was found in MN at Lake of the Woods, 24 Jun (Peder Svingen). A very late Glaucous Gull lingered in Munising, Alger Co 5 Jun (Scott Hickman) providing the fifth Jun record for the Wolverine state. Also lingering late in WI a third-cycle bird appeared in Door Co (Mark Korducki) and a first-cycle bird in Manitowoc Co (Charles Sontag, Ruth Smith) both on Jun 18.

Red-throated Loons put in late migration appearances in MI at Whitefish Point, Chippewa 12 Jun, in WI where six individuals were seen on the Lake Superior lakefront, Herbster, Bayfield Co 5 Jun (Dan Belter, Ken Milender) and 17 individuals in MN at Stoney Point, St. Louis Co 3 Jun (Ian Davies). The region’s first documented Arctic Loon continued on the Lake Superior lakefront in Herbster, Bayfield Co 31 May – 3 Jun (Betsy Bartelt, Ryan Brady, Tim Oksiuta, m. ob.).

Storks through Falcons 

Wood Storks found their way into the region as part of their spread into the Midwest and Northeast. WI had its first summer season record in Conrath, Rusk Co 7 Jul (Jim Mikunda). The last record of this species in WI was 1981. MI produced three Wood Stork records with the first from Silver Lake SP, Oceana Co 23 Jul (Melissa Starking) followed by one at a private residence in Lenawee Co 24 Jul and lastly in Mason Co 31 Jul (Brian Allen, m. ob.) that continued into Aug. In MN extremely fortunate observers with a ready camera happened upon a Magnificent Frigatebird along the shore of Lake Mille Lacs, Mille Lacs Co 8 Jun (Tom Jones, Grant Warner). A single Neotropic Cormorant spent the entire summer season in MN at Richfield Lake, Hennepin Co. This is the third consecutive summer for, what is presumably, the same individual. In MI, at the Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co, the state’s first nesting record of Neotropic Cormorant failed when the nest was destroyed by a storm the night of 30 Jun.

In WI Least Bitterns provided a record high count of 32 at Rush Lake, Winnebago Co 15 Jun (Tom Ziebell). Single Little Blue Herons appeared in all three states: one in WI from Polk Co 1 Jun (Rachel Justice), one in MN near Madelia, Watonwan Co 6–8 Jun (Kimberly Emerson, m. ob.) and in MI from Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 20–21 Jun (Robert Irwin, Nathan and Stella Tea). Yellow-crowned Night Herons made appearances in all three states starting with a MI individual in Washtenaw Co 31 May–8 Jul (m. ob.) that presumably was the same individual from the previous year followed by one at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 10–23 Jul (Adam Byrne); in MN Freeborn Co 1 Jun and 26 Jun (Al Batt, Tony Hertzel); and a juvenile in WI Dane Co 19–22 Jul (Patrick Gray, m. ob.). The region’s only Glossy Ibis report carried over from spring at Quanicassee SWA, Tuscola Co 22 May–8 Jun (m. ob.) where a state record high count of 12 Glossies occurred. A White-faced Ibis appeared here during the same time frame. White-faced Ibis also turned up in WI at the Horicon NWR, Dodge Co 1 Jun–10 Jul (m. ob.) and in MN three reports from the west-central region, one from the south-central plus two other reports of Plegadis Ibis. A long anticipated Roseate Spoonbill at Saline, Washtenaw Co 16–26 Jul (Jessica Butler, m. ob.) provided MI with its first state record.

A Black Vulture continued in MI from the spring at the Detroit Zoo, Oakland Co 7 May–17 Jul (m. ob.) and fortunate birders were able chase the 10th state record for MN at Waite Park, Stearns Co 6 Jun (Jason Osowski, m. ob.). A sixth state record White-tailed Kite was found at the Crex Meadows SWA, Burnett Co 15 Jun–22 Jul (Linda Schwegman, m.ob). The only Mississippi Kite report came from MI at the Cherry Hill Nature Preserve, Washtenaw Co 16 Jun–4 Jul (Bill Nolting, m. ob.). Unusual for summer in both states, Swainson’s Hawk appeared in MI at Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co 2 Jun (Alec Oliver) and three times in WI from Crex Meadows SWA, Burnett Co 2-6 Jun (m. ob.), in Sauk Co 6 Jun (Aaron Holschbach) and at the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co 30 Jun–1 Jul (Rob Pendergast). A Snowy Owl, obviously rare in the summer, spent nearly three weeks around a MI construction site in Midland Co 1–20 Jun (m. ob.). Uncommon in the summer for WI, a Great Gray Owl was found in Bayfield Co 6 Jul (Anna Merritt). Long-eared Owls were found nesting in spring MN at the Richard T. Anderson Park, Hennepin Co and were seen by dozens of observers through 3 Jun. Also in WI they were found nesting in Grant Co 5 Jun. Black-backed Woodpeckers were reported in eight north MN counties, one WI and five counties from MI’s UP. American Three-toed Woodpeckers were reported in Koochiching Co 2 Jun (Alex Sundvall) and St. Louis Co 7 Jun (Alan and Karen Orr, Julian Grann).

Flycatchers through Pipits 

Unusual for the season in WI a Western Kingbird appeared on Washington Island, Door Co 2 Jun (Kristy Larson). Scissor-tailed Flycatchers made appearances as follows: in WI at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Ozaukee Co 12 Jun (Will Sebern) and in MN in Rock Co 27 Jun (Samuel Jolly). No fewer than 46 Acadian Flycatchers set a MI impressive season high count from the Waterloo Recreation Area, Jackson Co 4 Jul (Linda Ar). Also, 30 individual Willow Flycatchers set a MI season high count at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 11 Jun (Linda Ar). In MN Say’s Phoebe appeared at the Felton Prairie complex, Clay Co 21 Jun (Luke Hollander), successfully nested in Odessa, Big Stone Co 25 Jun–31 Jul and appeared in Stevens Co 6 Jul (John Hockema, Kimberly Emerson). Two reports of Loggerhead Shrikes came from WI where they are rare-regular: Burnett Co 2 Jun (Jim and Susan Hengeveld, Phil Kelly) and Grant Co 17–23 Jun (Ryan Schmitz). Also noteworthy were the following MI Loggerhead Shrike reports: Leelanau Co 4 Jun (Leonard Graf, Kathy Kaczynski, Kirk Waterstripe), Cheyboygan Co 6 Jun (Michael Turisk), at the Detroit Metro Airport, Wayne Co 12 Jun (Selena Creed) and at the Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Benzie Co 28 Jun (Craig Campeau). Casual in MI, a Bell’s Vireo continued from spring in Benton Harbor, Berrien Co throughout the season. This is presumably the same individual that has returned to the same location since 2019. In MN a Bell’s Vireo appeared in Swede’s Forest Township, Redwood Co 29 Jun–7 Jul (Deb Fellows, m. ob.) well west of its usual range.

Fish Crows were present in limited numbers in MI’s Berrien Co where they first appeared in 2009. Reflecting the decline in population from the harsh weather in its winter range, Eastern Bluebirds were reported in 10% fewer counties in MN than the past 10 year average. A very late migrant Gray-cheeked Thrush was reported via a night flight call monitoring station from WI in Milwaukee Co, 2–3 Jun (Sam Corbo). Also in MN, a late Townsend’s Solitaire appeared at Oxbow Park, Olmsted Co 1 Jun (Jim Hughes, Tom Nelson). WI had its first summer record of Eurasian Tree Sparrow Door Co 13 Jun (Dona Benson, Melody Walsh). The MI Eurasian Tree Sparrow may have been the same individual that spent the spring at Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co this time from 15 Jun–2 Jul (Alec Oliver). Unusual in Jul was a MI record of American Pipit at the Sleeping Bear Dunes NL, Leelanau Co 6–12 Jul (Logan Clark).

Finches through Dickcissel

Evening Grosbeaks were reported in all three states in average numbers. Red Crossbills were observed throughout the region with the heaviest concentration of reports coming from MI’s UP while White-winged Crossbills were also observed in all three states although with less than half the reports of its red cousin. In MI the Lark Sparrow is a rare-regular summer visitor. This season produced reports from four counties including one from the UP Baraga Co 1 Jun (Edward Hicks). An unusual summer record of American Tree Sparrow came from MI’s Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co 19 Jun. WI recorded an amazing high count of 39 Henslow’s Sparrows from the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co 28 Jun (Scott Swengel). Yellow-breasted Chat is barely regular in MN where three reports occurred: Todd Co 23 Jun (Becca Engdahl, Rob Freeman), Minneopa SP, Blue Earth Co 26–30 Jun (Trey Weaver, m. ob.) and at Cedar Rock SNA, Redwood Co 5–24 Jul (Brad Abendroth, m. ob.) where this species has occurred for three straight summers. Uncommon in MI’s UP, a Yellow-breasted Chat was reported in Delta Co 6–18 Jun (m. ob.). Nesting Great-tailed Grackles first appeared in southwest MN in 1998. They were observed in and around the Sangl WMA, Jackson Co 1 Jun–25 Jul (m. ob.) where they successfully fledged young.

A single Worm-eating Warbler was sighted in WI at the Pine Hollow SNA, Sauk Co 9 Jun (Aaron Holschbach) and 19 Jun (Cicero Stewart). WI documented breeding of Louisiana Waterthrush in Adams Co 2 Jun (Michael Herriot). Prothonotary Warbler was found along the western reaches Minnesota River, where they infrequently occur, in the Big Stone NWR, Lac Qui Parle Co 5 Jul (Garrett Wee). Connecticut Warblers have experienced a sharp decline in WI as they were only documented by the WI BBA this year in one core area straddling both Douglas and Bayfield Cos. Compare this to three decades ago when the Atlas efforts documented the species across most of the northern third of the state. MI’s situation is similar. The second MI BBA noted a significant decline in breeding sites for this species and, to the editor’s knowledge, there were no recorded observations of breeding activity during this summer. Although there is no formal BBA in MN at this time, they were documented in seven counties which is the lowest in over 10 years. Kirtland’s Warblers were reported from 13 counties in their normal breeding area in MI’s LP and were also documented in three counties in the UP as well as four counties in WI. MI had a record high count of 86 individuals from Iosco Co. Yellow-throated Warblers are nearing regular status in MN with presumably the same individual returning to the same area as it was found the previous year near Reno, Houston Co 21 Jun–5 Jul (m. ob.). In WI they were found in five counties with first county records coming from Green Co 20 Jul (Steve Thiessen) and first breeding documented in Jefferson Co 22 Jun (Jim Hully). Rare in WI a Prairie Warbler was found in Door Co 30 May–5 Jun (Deb Ford). WI’s eighth Townsend’s Warbler appeared at a backyard water feature in Dane Co 7 Jun (Heather Kauffman).

Rare-regular in MN Summer Tanagers appeared at Fig Lake, Becker Co 8 Jun (Heather Hundt) and at the Kiwanis Recreation Area, Mankato, Nicollet Co 24 Jun (Andrew Westberg). Still casual in MI but heading towards regular status, Blue Grosbeaks were documented in six southern counties in the LP throughout the season. In WI, where Blue Grosbeaks are designated rare status, they were documented breeding in Dane Co 25–31 Jul (m. ob.) and were observed in Ozaukee Co and Sauk Co throughout the season (m. ob.). In MN Blue Grosbeaks increased their presence in the state beginning roughly in 2006 by expanding north and east especially along the MN River Valley. Nesting this season was confirmed in Hennepin Co for the fifth summer in a row at Flying Cloud Airport, Eden Prairie, Hennepin Co (m. ob.). Finally, Dickcissels staged a significant irruption in the region due to the extreme weather conditions elsewhere in the country. They were found for the first time in all 87 counties in MN, in 71 of 72 counties in WI and in 63 counties in MI. A WI state record high count of 131 individuals in the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co (Scott Stengel) was documented on Jun 28.

Report processed by José Ramírez-Garofalo, 1 Dec 2021.

Photos–Western Great Lakes: Summer 2021

The Western Great Lakes region first, this Limpkin appeared May 30 and was last reported from Minnesota’s Paul Hugo Farms WMA on Jul 19 here photographed on 19 Jun 2021. Photo © Sherry McCartney

Michigan’s first Roseate Spoonbill appeared in Washtenaw Co 16–26 Jul 2021 here photographed on 16 Jul. Photo © Brendan Klick

Wisconsin’s sixth state record White-tailed Kite spent most of the summer season at Crex Meadows SWA from 15 Jun–22 Jul 2021 here photographed on the first day of its stay. Photo © Michael Schwegman

Fortunate observers with a ready camera happened upon Minnesota’s third identifiable Magnificent Frigatebird along the shore of Lake Mille Lacs on 8 Jun 2021. It was never relocated. Photo © Grant Warner

This Black Vulture appeared for one day on 6 Jun 2021 in Minnesota’s Waite Park, Stearns Co and stayed around just long enough for it to be viewed by a handful of local birders. Photo © Jason Osowski

Michigan participated in this summer’s Wood Stork movements with reports of two birds. This one appeared on 31 Jul 2021 photographed here on the same day, and lingered into August. Photo © Lyle Hamilton

Wisconsin’s eighth Townsend’s Warbler appeared in a residential backyard for only one day, 7 Jun 2021. Photo © Caitlyn Schuchhardt.

One of two White-winged Doves in Michigan this summer this individual, photographed on 6 Jul, followed the usual tendency for these birds to show up at residential feeders for its stay from 5–8 Jul 2021. Photo © Brendan Klick

Unusual was this Harlequin Duck that spent the entire 2021 summer season in Wisconsin on the Lake Michigan lakefront in Sheboygan Co photographed here on 8 Jun. Photo © Steven Thompson

This Minnesota Laughing Gull was viewed by many during its stay from 20–24 Jun at Detroit Lake, Becker Co. 22 Jun 2021. Photo © Peder Svingen

This Mississippi Kite was nicely photographed on 16 Jun in Michigan at the Cherry Hill Nature Preserve, Washtenaw Co where it appeared from 16 Jun–4 Jul 2021. Photo © Jeffrey Stacey

One of two for the Western Great Lakes region this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher appeared only on 27 Jun 2021 in Minnesota’s Rock Co. Photo © Samuel Jolly

In Wisconsin’s Buena Vista Grasslands area this Swainson’s Hawk appeared 30 Jun–1 Jul 2021 when this photograph was taken on its last day. Photo © Rob Pendergast

Seen here on the first of its two day stay, this Snowy Plover was found at the South Metro Pier, Milwaukee Co 22–23 Jul 2021. Photo © Jack Coulter

This Wood Stork, one of several for the Midwest and Northeast this summer, appeared for only one day in Rusk CO, Wisconsin on 7 Jul 2021. Photo © Jim Mikunda