WSO Field Trip report – Lake Michigan Shoreline (Sat, Jan 7, 2012)
The mild weather conditions on Saturday, January 7th resulted in an excellent turnout at our meeting point at South Shore Yacht Club in Milwaukee at 8:00 AM — with about 80 birders arriving in high spirits. The temperature was a little above freezing, the winds were mild to moderate from the west, and although the skies were cloudy at times, the periods of sunshine felt great.
Providing a nice welcome to the group was a Snowy Owl that was perched on the rocky breakwater, and we also enjoyed the sighting of a black-headed Canada Goose that was lacking the typical white chinstrap (see photo at end of article). On the downside, the recent warm weather resulted in a lack of ice in the harbor, so we didn’t have any loafing gull flocks to check through.
We left the area about 8:30, heading north — initially to the McKinley Marina/Veterans Park where there still were good patches of ice and a few loafing gulls. Unfortunately no unusual gulls were spotted, but we did find a Cackling Goose, a Horned Grebe, a female Hooded Merganser, and a duck that was felt to be a Common Goldeneye/Hooded Merganser hybrid.
From there the group continued north to the North Point area to look for the previously reported Harlequin Duck, which was soon found. Although some searched for the Purple Sandpipers that had recently been present along this shoreline, they hadn’t been seen for about a week and we didn’t find any either. Other ducks of interest included Gadwalls and Buffleheads.
We headed north to the Port Washington harbor, and although the usual large Mallard flock and a few Ring-billed Gulls were present, the only other birds of interest were two pairs of Hooded Mergansers.
The north boundary of Harrington Beach State Park was our next destination, at the east end of County Hwy. D. We scoped the waters of Lake Michigan and soon spotted a Great Black-backed Gull swimming offshore. A large raft of Common Goldeneyes was present, and a larger flock of Greater Scaup, and periodically a few Long-tailed Ducks were seen flying by at the horizon. A small number were also observed swimming on the lake, and at one point a couple of White-winged Scoters were spotted flying in, and they soon landed, providing very distant views. Red-breasted and Common Mergansers were also sighted.
Our next stop was Sheboygan, where we initially drove to the parking area near the Blue Harbor Resort, which provided a view of the south side of the harbor. The hoped-for Barrow’s Goldeneye was not sighted, but a Snowy Owl was perched on the breakwater, and a Common Loon was observed swimming on the lake, just to the south. The group continued to the North Point area, and upon arrival had several Great Black-backed and three Glaucous Gulls among the gull flock that was perched on the rocks. Shortly after we started scoping the gulls, however, they all suddenly took flight and headed out over the lake. We soon spotted the reason for their untimely departure — an adult Bald Eagle that came flying in. Not much else was seen after this, and the field trip broke up around 1:00 PM.
Thanks to everyone who attended this outing, and to Jeff Baughman for co-leading.
WSO Field Trips co-chair
Green Lake, WI
Posted: January 8th, 2012