Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory

Headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Waterbird Watch


by William P. Mueller

Calvin Brennan has finished his Fall 2017 season as Waterbird Watch technician.

Here are the top ten species tallied at the Waterbird Watch. The season period ran from September 1 to December 5. We stayed at the Watch site longer this fall, due to the reasons mentioned below.

Top Ten Species:

  • Red-breasted Merganser – 157,711
  • Ring-billed Gull – 17,541
  • Double-crested Cormorant – 7,788
  • Herring Gull – 7,007
  • Mallard – 2,303
  • Long-tailed Duck – 1,882
  • Greater Scaup – 2,258
  • Lesser Scaup – 1,179
  • Common Loon – 977

Total of all individuals of all species: 219,747

Total species: 172. This number includes some rare species.  Especially noteworthy species were Harlequin Duck, Neotropic Cormorant, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Arctic Tern.

The total is the highest out of the past 7 seasons.

Calvin return to start the Spring season on March 1.

Please visit Calvin at the WGLBBO blind just south of the rocky point on the shoreline (south of the main beach). He will be there in spring for six hours per day, Monday through Saturday, starting at dawn.


Changing Migration Timing for Diving Waterfowl

Diving ducks are migrating later, reflecting frequently-delayed freeze-up in areas to the north of us here in Southeast Wisconsin.

Temperatures are staying relatively mild well into late November, with the result that species such as Greater Scaup do not appear in large numbers until December, weeks later than formerly. 

More reading on this topic:




The Waterbird Watch got started with a bang the first week of September with sightings of both a Parasitic Jaeger and a Neotropic Cormorant. Neotropic Cormorants are seldom seen beyond their northernmost range of Texas and, occasionally, the Great Plains. More recently, WGLBBO technician Calvin Brennan spotted an Arctic Tern, another bird seldom seen in this area.

A cool fact: "In Mexico, Neotropic Cormorants reportedly often fish cooperatively, forming a line across swift-flowing streams and striking the surface with their wings, causing fish to flee, whereupon the cormorants dive and pursue them." www.allaboutbirds.org

Calvin will continue conducting daily counts at the watch site at Harrington Beach State Park through December 5. A wonderful new development for this fall was the construction of a permanent blind for the Watch, which was installed by the Harrington Beach State Park staff. This brings our operation to yet another milestone.

Please visit Calvin at the WGLBBO blind just south of the rocky point on the shoreline (south of the main beach). He will be there this fall for six hours per day, Monday through Saturday, starting at dawn.

Final results of the 2017 fall Waterbird Watch will be shared in our January/February newsletter, as well as why unusual migrants are putting in a more frequent appearance in our area.

Spring 2017 Waterbird Watch Report

At the conclusion of the spring Waterbird Watch in May, the tally stands at 175 total species, 71 waterbird species

The overall number is similar to last year, but the breakdown was different. Most divers, except Red-breasted Merganser, were less numerous. The Double-crested Cormorant total is only about half of last year's. Bonaparte's Gull and Common Tern numbers are a bit higher.

Overall highlights include Harlequin Ducks, one - possibly two - Neotropic Cormorants, a Virginia Rail that flew in off the lake, Whimbrels, Marbled Godwit, Franklin's Gull and California Gull. The California Gull is extremely rare, and this one may have been the second observation ever in Ozaukee County.


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