Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Research & Monitoring

Waterbird Watch Spring 2020

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For the last 5 ½ years, six hours a day, starting at dawn, for six days of the week, for three months each spring and fall, Waterbird Watch technician Calvin Brennan has scanned the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan at Harrington Beach State Park in Ozaukee County. In May, 2020, Calvin finished his 11th season doing the watch for the Observatory. In that time, he has seen phenomenal numbers of birds and has recorded new and rare species for the count, the county and the state, contributing to our knowledge of how migratory birds use the western shore of Lake Michigan, and when, and in what numbers.In spring of 2020, he tallied an incredible 204,663 migrants; that’s up sharply from spring 2019, when 175,954 birds were recorded. Last fall his tour of duty wrapped up on Dec. 3 with a tally of 158,066 migrants.Reluctantly, the Observatory has decided to pause the Waterbird Watch, given the difficulties Covid-19 has caused for non-profits like ours, and Calvin’s interest in pursuing a new position at another site. “We plan to analyze the data we have and to look for patterns in how birds along Lake Michigan are being affected by weather and potentially, by climate change,” explained the Observatory Science Director, Dr. Jennifer Phillips-Vanderberg. “In the future, these data may serve as a baseline for other studies to gain more insights that will become possible only after more time has passed.” 
 
Thank you, Calvin, for your dedication, through foul weather and fair!

Here are the Top 11 species for Spring 2020
Red-breasted Merganser – 58,767
Bonaparte's Gull – 27,264
Double-crested Cormorant – 21,389
Ring-billed Gull – 15,276
Lesser Scaup – 10,555
Herring Gull – 10,364
Common Tern – 8,496
Greater Scaup – 8,290
Caspian Tern – 4,922
Canada Goose – 4,736
Mallard – 4,418
    
 Of note, the tally of Long-tailed Ducks fell from 5,765 in spring 2019 to 481 in spring of 2020

Here are the Top 10 species from Spring 2019:
Bonaparte's Gull - 42,962
Red-breasted Merganser – 28,735
Herring Gull - 14,020
Common Tern - 11, 592 
Greater Scaup – 10,657
Ring-billed Gull - 10,337
Double-crested Cormorant - 9,748
Long-tailed Duck – 5,765
Lesser Scaup - 5,526
Mallard - 5,085

Here are the Top 10 species for fall 2019:
Red-breasted Merganser - 87,659 
Ring-billed Gull - 19,639 
Canada Goose - 15,846 
Double-crested Cormorant - 11,210 
Herring Gull - 3,634 
Mallard - 2,680 
Greater Scaup - 2,217 
Common Loon - 1,308 
Lesser Scaup - 1,254 
Bonaparte's Gull - 1,046