Monday, March 16, 2009

In the north country

A couple of days ago I arrived in northern Michigan, where I will be counting migrating raptors at Whitefish Point. This is the name of a small peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior, which still has a lot of ice floating around. Barely visible in the background of this picture is Canada, about 17 miles away.

The raptor season here runs from March 15 until May 31. Most of Michigan is now snow free, but here on the Upper Peninsula, things are still quite wintry. Locals tell me that the weather we’re having is exceptionally balmy for this time of year, but for this counter, who spends his winters in the tropics, it sure feels cold. But it’s a beautiful spot.

Of course there’s interesting northern birds around here, such as Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, Snow Buntings, and White-winged Crossbills.

Also here in good numbers are Pine Siskins.

The raptor flight this early in the season is dominated by adult Bald Eagles. Today I counted nine migrating balds, including one juvenile and a so-called ‘sub-adult III’ type of bird, or near-adult; the rest were adults. For residents we have at least one adult and one distinctly marked juvenile around the Point – I see them all the time.

This adult female Northern Goshawk, seen this morning and here photographed flying away, appeared to be outfitted with a radio transmitter. It would be interesting to find out whose bird this is, where it came from, and where it is headed.

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