Western Great Lakes: Summer 2023

Summer 2023: 1 Jun–31 Jul

William Marengo

Recommended citation:
Marengo, W. 2024. Summer 2023: Western Great Lakes <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-h1U> North American Birds.

In a repeat from the previous year dry conditions, heat and drought prevailed throughout the season. 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

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.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.A. (Waterfowl Production Area), W.T.P. (Wastewater Treatment Plant).

Waterfowl through Partridge

Three individual Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks appeared in Wisconsin as follows: in Walworth Co 19 Jun, in Madison, Dane Co 26 Jun (m.ob.) and at the Erstad Prairie, Columbia Co 1 Jul (Kevin Mckown). Individual Greater White-fronted Geese lingered into July in both WI and MN while Snow Geese lingered into July in MN. One to two Harlequin Ducks were present at WI’s Sheboygan lakefront in Sheboygan Co in June. This is the third consecutive year this species has been present at this location during the summer season. Also unusual in summer, a Surf Scoter was present in MI at Au Train, Alger Co 2–6 Jun (Raylene Wall).

Spruce Grouse were reported in five counties from their usual range in northeast and north-central MN. WI provided only one report from Vilas Co while MI had reports from four UP counties while none were reported from the LP where they had been reported the previous five years. Sharp-tailed Grouse reports from MN were typical coming from eight counties across the northern tier plus one west-central county. None were reported from WI. In MI there were reports from three counties in its typical eastern UP range. Greater Prairie-Chickens were found in their normal haunts from five northwestern MN counties and in WI at the Buena Vista Grassland area in Portage Co. MN had the region’s only Gray Partridge observations which were widely scattered from three north and 10 south counties.

Hummingbirds through Gulls

Rufous Hummingbirds made two brief appearances at WI residential feeders: in Clark Co 19–21 Jul (m.ob.) and in Dane Co 25 Jul (Kathy Luick). King Rails went unreported for the season. Yellow Rail reports, perhaps due to the hot and dry conditions, were low, coming only from traditional areas in MN at the McGregor Marsh, Aitkin Co and the Tamarac NWR, Becker Co. WI’s only report came from Crex Meadows SWA, Burnett Co. None were reported from MI.

Limpkins continued their push into the region as follows: MN’s third and fourth records came from Madelia, Watonwan Co 31 May–18 Jun (Rachel Hillesheim, m.ob.) and Osceola Landing on the St. Croix River, Chisago Co 18 Jun (Matt Berg, m.ob.); WI’s came from the Horicon NWR in both Dodge and Fon du Lac Cos 14 Jun–27 Jul (m.ob.) and at Case Eagle Park, Racine Co 19–24 Jul (Jon Becker, m.ob.); MI’s records came from Clawson, Oakland Co 26 Jun (Nicole Renee) and what may be the same individual, at White Lake, Oakland Co 3–8 Jul. Sandhill Cranes were abundant and widespread throughout the region.

Black-necked Stilts were recorded from WI at the Horicon NWR, in the Green Bay area and at the George W. Meade Wildlife Area in Portage Co; in MN they were recorded from eight counties with a nesting attempt in Blue Earth while in MI there were records from three counties. In a sign of progress the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released captive-raised Piping Plovers outside of Michigan for the first time at Green Bay’s Cat Islands in July. 80 unique pairs across the Great Lakes region were documented in 2023, the most since the species was listed on the Endangered Species Act in 1984. From MI Piping Plover reports came from 13 counties, a typical number, being concentrated in Benzie and Leelanau counties. MN only generated two reports. Upland Sandpipers were in normal numbers and distribution with MI reporting from 34 counties, mostly in the northern LP; WI reports were scattered across the state and reports from MN were typical from the western tier of counties. The region’s lone Western Sandpiper consisted of two individuals in MI at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 29–31 Jul (Robert Irwin, m.ob.).

MN provided an unusual Black-legged Kittiwake record, only the second summer record for the state. It was first discovered at Lake Winnibigoshish, Cass Co 14 Jun (Alex Burchard). Presumably the same individual was relocated at the Big Bog SRA, Beltrami Co 21 Jun (Brad Abendroth, m.ob.). Little Gulls turned up in WI at Wisconsin Pt., Douglas Co 4–5 Jun (Lynn Barber, Laura Erickson) and at the Manitowoc Lakefront, Manitowoc Co 20 Jun (Charles Sontag). In MI one was recorded at Celeron Island, Wayne Co (Robert Irwin, m.ob.). An exceptional find was a Ross’s Gull at Wisconsin Pt, Douglas Co 31 May–6 Jun (Peder Svingen, m.ob.) that was also documented in MN waters. Laughing Gulls turned up in WI in Sheboygan, Sheboygan Co 1 Jun (Annette and William McClellan) and in MI at the Holland SP, Ottawa Co 2–6 Jun (Matt Benink, m.ob.). An out-of-range Franklin’s Gull turned up unexpectedly in MI at Whitefish Point, Chippewa Co 17 Jul (Collin Mahaffy). The region’s only California Gull appeared in MN at the Paynesville Sewage Lagoon, Stearns Co 17–19 Jun (Phil Chu, m.ob.).

Terns through Spoonbills

Providing MI with its first state record and third record for the region, a White-winged Tern was discovered at Pte. Mouillee SGA, Monroe Co 30 Jun–13 Jul (Adam M. Byrne, Scott Terry, m.ob.). Presumably late migrant Pacific Loons turned up in MN in Duluth, St. Louis Co 4 Jun and another at Lake Nokomis, Hennepin Co continued from the spring and was last reported 6 Jun. Unusual was a summering Pacific Loon, only the fifth July occurrence for MN, on Lake Ida, Douglas Co 6–24 Jul (Jessa Beckers, m.ob.). The region’s only Neotropic Cormorant reports came from MI as follows: with the state’s first successfully fledged nesting (the state’s first nesting attempt in 2022 was destroyed prior to fledging) was at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co (m.ob.) and at Celeron Island, Wayne Co 30 Jul (Robert Irwin).

Snowy Egrets were in typical low numbers. WI had one report from Manitowoc Co, MI reports were from Bay and Monroe Cos and in MN from five scattered south counties. WI had the only Little Blue Heron reports from Burlington and Racine Cos. A spring holdover was MI’s Tricolored Heron at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb Co last seen 2 Jun (m.ob.). In WI up to 15 Western Cattle Egrets near Lake Winnebago, Fon du Lac Co 24 Jul (Annie Mueller) provided the region’s high count. Elsewhere MI had one report in Bay Co and MN had two reports in the southern half of the state. Black-crowned Night Heron reports were typical. WI had numerous reports from the eastern half of the state; MI had reports from 22 counties being concentrated around the Saginaw Bay area and metro Detroit, with scattered reports on the west side and eastern UP while MN, where the species has shown significant declines, had scattered reports from individuals in 13 counties. Single Yellow-crowned Night Herons turned up WI in Racine and Ozaukee Cos and in MN in Hennepin Co.

WI generated one report of a White-faced Ibis from Horicon NWR, Dodge Co; MN had just two reports from the extreme west-central part of the state while MI only had one report of a Plegadis ibis from Pte. Mouillee, Monroe Co (Adam M. Byrne, Scott Terry). These were typical summer numbers as this species mainly puts in appearances in the spring then nests elsewhere. Two Roseate Spoonbills graced the region. The first from MI at R.A. Greene Park, Jackson Co 21–22 Jul (Kelly and Jim Foote, m.ob.) and the second from WI that traded time between the Cat Island Causeway and the Ken Euers Wetland Preserve, Green Bay, Brown Co 26 Jul and into August (Logan Lasee, m.ob). Both were second state records.

Vultures through Woodpeckers

In MN a Black Vulture spent most of its two-day stay perched on the roof of a local restaurant in the town of Aitkin, Aitkin Co 18–19 Jun (Tom Jones, m.ob.). While in MI there were four reports of Black Vultures from both peninsulas. In WI a White-tailed Kite graciously lingered into the fall season in areas south of Sturgeon Bay and at the Potawatomi SP, Door Co 26 Jun into fall (m.ob.). Continuing the trend of long lingering raptors, Swallow-tailed Kites spent a long summer in WI in Columbia Co 7 Jul into fall (Mark Martin, m.ob.) and in MI near Jonesville, Hillsdale Co 31 Jul into fall (Allen Chartier, George Sobell). A “celebrity” Ferruginous Hawk was rescued in Ontario on 3 May and was subsequently rehabilitated and released 20 May. It travelled into MI where keen birders were able to find it following its published movements via a GPS tracking unit. It was observed in Newaygo and Kent Cos on June 5 (m.ob.). The hawk eventually travelled into Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Further information on this story can be found at www.birdscanada.org/fho23.

Great Gray Owls went unreported from MN for the first time in over 10 years. Only one Long-eared Owl report for the region came from MN with an active nest in Dakota Co. Short-eared Owl reports were typically low. WI had one report from the Buena Vista Grasslands, Portage Co and one from Polk Co in MN. Northern Hawk and Boreal owls went unreported. The only American Three-toed Woodpecker reports came from MN in St. Louis and Koochiching Cos. Black-backed Woodpeckers were well documented in MI with reports from eight counties including one documented in Charlevoix Co in the LP. The previous sightings from the LP were in 2007 and 1984. In MN they were reported in their typical range from eight northern tier counties.

Falcons through Passerines

MN recorded its second Crested Caracara from Castle Danger, Lake Co 9 Jun (Maria Bauman). Prairie Falcons were unreported for the season. MI provided the region’s only Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Harrisville Harbor, Alcona Co 17 Jul (Christine Brackett, m.ob.). The region’s only Say’s Phoebe was reported from a continuing MN location Odessa, Big Stone Co. Loggerhead Shrike reports were average in MN coming from four north and eight south counties while MI provided two reports the first coming from the surprising location of Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Co 11–12 Jun (Nancy Leonard) and the other from Ludington SP, Mason Co 29 Jun (Levi Wilson). Unusual in that it was roughly 125 miles north of its normal MI range, a Fish Crow appeared near Ludington, Mason Co 5 Jun (Mark Wloch).

Boreal Chickadees were in their typical northern range in MN being reported from six counties; WI generated one report from Forest Co along the border of the UP and MI reports were from their normal areas in Chippewa and Marquette Cos. Eurasian Tree Sparrows were present in sparse numbers. MI had three reports including the first documented “pure” breeding record from Keweenaw Co (prior breeding attempts from 2005–2007 were with a House Sparrow), two from WI and one from MN. Evening Grosbeak numbers continued to be low. MI reports came from 11 counties being concentrated around the Grayling area and scattered UP reports; WI had a cluster of reports from Florence and Forest Cos near the UP border and one report from Taylor Co while MN reported them from four northeast and north-central counties. Red Crossbills sightings were numerous. They were reported from 23 MI counties, throughout WI and 30 counties from MN, triple the 10-year average. White-winged Crossbills were not nearly as numerous. MI reported them mainly from the northern half of the UP, WI along the northern tier of counties and in MN from five counties mainly in the northeast.

A rare summer record in MI a Lapland Longspur was located at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, Leelanau Co 8 Jun (Nolan Kerr). In MI Lark Sparrows were present in Lenawee and Kalamazoo Cos continuing a recent trend. Perhaps reflecting the challenging weather conditions, LeConte’s Sparrow numbers were down this year in MI where they were reported only from Chippewa Co. WI had only a handful of reports from the extreme northwestern part of the state and in MN they were reported from a below average 16 north and three south counties. Nelson’s Sparrows were in typical numbers from four northern MN counties. Kirtland’s Warbler numbers in MI were respectable from 17 counties in their typical areas of the northern LP and UP. In MN Yellow-throated Warbler continues its progression toward regular status with two reports from Olmstead and Ramsey Cos. Lastly, in MN, a Painted Bunting was banded at Sugarloaf Pt SNA, Cook Co 22 Jun (Margie Menzes, Pam Allen).

Photos–Western Great Lakes: Summer 2023

A regional first, this White-winged Tern was discovered in Michigan on 30 Jun 2023 at Pte. Mouillee SGA in Monroe Co. It continued through 13 July and is photographed here on 9 Jul. Photo © Warren Whaley.

Michigan provided the first of two Roseate Spoonbills for the region and was the state’s second record. This one appeared at the R.A. Greene Park in Jackson Co on 21 Jul 2023 and was last seen on the 22nd. It is photographed here on the 21st. Photo © Isaac Polanski.

The second Roseate Spoonbill for the region provided Wisconsin with its second state record. It was discovered on Green Bay’s Cat Island Causeway on 26 Jul 2023 and spent much time at the Ken Euers Wetland Preserve in Brown Co. It lingered into the fall season. This image was taken 30 Jul. Photo © Jon Bartell.

Minnesota’s second Crested Caracara was spotted by a family driving near Castle Danger in Lake Co on 9 Jun 2023. They happened to have a camera handy to take this photograph. Photo © Maria Bauman.

This Ferruginous Hawk, rescued in Ontario on 3 May 2023, was subsequently rehabilitated then released 20 May. It was relocated in Michigan’s Newaygo and Kent Cos on 5 Jun courtesy of a cellular-GPS tracking device. Photo © Isaac Polanski.

This Ross’s Gull was discovered at Wisconsin Point in Douglas Co on 31 May 2023, lingered through 6 Jun and wandered into Minnesota waters as well. It is photographed here on 4 Jun. Photo © Iris Kilpatrick.

One of five Limpkins for the region, this one appeared in Minnesota’s Watonwan Co on 31 May 2023 when this photo was taken. This was Minnesota’s third record. It lingered through 18 Jun. Photo © Chad Hillesheim.

Wisconsin provided this White-tailed Kite near Sturgeon Bay in Door Co. It was discovered on 26 Jun 2023, photographed here on 28 Jun and was last observed 31 Jul. Photo © Joseph Phipps.

Only the second summer record for Minnesota, this adult Black-legged Kittiwake was discovered 14 Jun 2023 on Lake Winnibigoshish when this photo was taken. Presumably the same bird was relocated on 21 Jun roughly 50 miles away on Upper Red Lake. Photo © Alex Burchard.