Michigan Birding 101 Session 4 - Magnificent Migration

March 14, 2021

Welcome to our Michigan Birding 101 series.

This is Session 4 of a four-part series provided by Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension featuring tips and tricks and lots of great information from Extension educator Elliot Nelson. In this video, we'll learn about the many species who make their way to and through Michigan during migration.

We hope you’ll enjoy all four of the sessions and be inspired to head outside to do some birding!

Session 1 video – Basic Birding Skills: https://youtu.be/brQj2YNQj_w

Session 2 video – Backyard Birds: https://youtu.be/0-9a-5Pt258

Session 3 video – Winter Birding: https://youtu.be/3J6DKgz5NGM

Session 4 video – Magnificent Migration: https://youtu.be/Pfhgeqa0PhU

A special thanks to Darrell Lawson for sharing his Birding 101 tips as well as Skye Hass (https://borealisbirding.net/), Duane Utech and John Diephouse for use of their photos.

Video Transcript

Series of introductory slides, no audio

- Hello, hello, hello, hello.

Welcome again, everyone.

It's so good to have you back

for another edition of
Michigan Birding 101.

We are super excited
to share with you today

our last in our series of four classes.

And today we are talking about
spring, spring migration.

Thank goodness, winter
is coming to an end.

It has been a long winter for me.

I don't know about you,

but I am super excited to start hearing

songbirds again calling and
to start seeing the snow melt.

And that's what we're diving into today.

So if this is your first
time joining us before,

this program is brought to
you by Michigan Sea Grant

program of MSU extension.

we are federally funded through NIFA.

And we are committed to
diversity and civil rights.

And we also have a land
acknowledgement to recognize

that we are on tribal lands
and that we seek to promote

and work with our tribal
partners across the state.

If this is your first time again

or if you just need a reminder,

we have a chat box at the
bottom of your screen.

So if you scroll down to the bottom

you'll see a little chat box

and I've already seen some
cool comments coming in.

Some people sharing some great resources

and that's what that's for.

Get chatty on there.

Share cool stuff that's going on.

You can talk to each other.

I might ask you questions.

You can put them in the chat there.

But we also will have a Q and
A tonight with not just me

but also a special guests who will come in

on later in a little bit.

And you can put questions for us

for the end in the Q and A box.

Make sure they go in there
or we might miss them.

Another reminder as well that
tonight is being recorded

as our other three classes were.

And we do have plans to
get those closed captioned

and they actually should be up

on our Michigan Sea Grant YouTube

hopefully within the next few weeks.

All right, so let's dive into today.

I've got another poll for you.

If you're around last week,

I had to learn a little bit about these.

But I wanted to know just as a quick poll

and this is launching now
in front of your screens,

and you can just click yes or no.

Have you ever been to a birding festival

or on a guided birding trip?

And part of why I asked that
is because it's spring time

and that's normally when a
lot of these are offered.

Now, of course this year,

there's not nearly as many
in-person offerings as normal.

But in a normal year, as we
move forward, fingers crossed

there will be a lot of
opportunities to get out

and go birding with other people.

And I'm seeing that the lot
of people about 75% or so

as the answers are coming
in here, have not done this.

And I would encourage you
once it's safe to do so

to definitely get out and
bird with other people.

We covered in our first
two weeks a lot about

how to be a birder, how
to use your binoculars,

how to use a field guide

and how to kind of identify
what's in your own backyard.

But I will say the best way to learn

is really to get out there.

Whether you use a paid
guide or a paid festival,

or find some free walks
in your own neighborhoods,

go out with other birders

'cause that is one of
the best ways to learn.

And so I'm going to end the poll now

but really thank you for answering.

That's really enlightening.

It's about a quarter of
you have been birding

with other folks before on
a guide or on a festival.

And about three quarters have not.

So lots of opportunity out there.

I also have another question for you.

I'm really excited to hear this.

What is a species that
you would like to see

in Michigan that you have not seen before?

What is one bird species
you'd love to see?

Can you put that in the chat for me,

that would just make my
day, because I love hearing

about the different birds
that people are excited to see

because it gets me excited
to see those birds again,

even if I've seen them
hundreds of times before.

So snowy owl,

Ooh, time's running out
for that one for this year.

Although there are still some around.

Spruce grouse, that's a tough one,

but that is an awesome bird.

Indigo buntings just beautiful birds.

Kirtland's warbler, a Michigan specialty.

So, wow, lots of birds coming in.

And I'm noticing that a lot of these birds

you're going to start having
an opportunity to see them

in the next coming months
because spring migration is here

and a lot of birds are
going to start showing up.

So you can keep telling
me in the chat there

what kind of birds you're excited to see

and maybe you'll get to
see at least some pictures

of some of those as we
dive into spring migration.

All right.

Oh, and by the way, if
you didn't know what bird

this is on the picture here,
here's a little quiz for you.

And that may be, you might be
able to figure out what it is.

If you looked at that bird,
it did have a black head

and white wing bars,
which helps get you down

to just a few birds here, the
Baltimore and orchard oriole,

which are two that we have in Michigan.

But as you saw in that other picture

it's that bright orange.

So just again, a quick recap
of how do we do our ID skills

looking at that bill like that.

This is actually an
oriole, Baltimore oriole

and they're actually related

in the same family with blackbirds.

Alrighty, so I still see some stuff

coming through in the chat.

Glad to have you keep sharing.

And let's dive into our
spring migration now.

So today's goals, number one, have fun.

Get your questions answered.

See cool bird pictures.

That's our ultimate goal each week here

with the Michigan Birding 101 class.

But we also have two other goals,

two, learn how when and why birds migrate.

Bird migration is a fascinating subject.

And we're going to dive into how,

when and why birds migrate.

And then third, I really hope

that you can leave at the end here

with some ways to plan your
next spring birding trip.

And I really should add
to this as a fourth one,

is also, how can we
protect the spring migrants

that are coming through?

So we'll share a few resources

on how you can plan out your
own spring birding trip.

So how, when and why do birds migrate?

And these are three different species

of tree swallows that migrate up

pretty early in the spring time.

And so the first question
is why do they migrate?

Why go through the trouble
of soaring all across?

And you can see this a migration map

of Wilson's warbler on the right here.

And one of the big resource,

the main reason they
migrate is for resources.

And one of the major
resources is a driving factor

for why birds move and the most part,

and that is food, food.

Oh, that looks good, I
haven't had dinner yet.

So the Wilson's warbler
is one of the species

that migrates for food

and they head up North to go breed

in the far North regions of North America.

But as you notice, they're passing through

a bunch of other areas.

And part of that passing
through is actually

in some cases to get food
resources along the way.

So this is what they like to eat.

Little insects, flying insects primarily.

And one of those in
particular is the midge.

Now I can't pause this animation

but when you see the more these colors

represent the density of
Wilson's warbler sightings.

So basically it's a map of where they are,

and you can see the months ticking by

and weeks down there on the bottom.

So that tells you the
different time of year.

And you can see in the spring

they soar through all of
North America, rather fast

for a little tiny bird that
weighs less than an ounce.

But when they pass
through the Great Lakes,

they time this migration

so that they can access food
resources while they go.

So when they get to their breeding grounds

they're healthy and ready
to start making young.

And so when they get to the Great Lakes

one of the most things
that boggles my mind

there's tons of warbler
species that pass through

the Great Lakes in the
month of May mostly.

And when they're passing
through in that month of May

it just happens to be the
exact same time of year

Where a tiny little aquatic
insect called a midge

hatches out of the water and
lands on the closest surface

it can see it.

So it lands right on the trees and shrubs,

right on the shoreline.

And wouldn't you know it

that these warblers are
flying over the Great Lakes.

They actually soar over big
chunks of the Great Lakes.

And when they get across the
Great Lake, that's a big flight

and they're tired, and
they land on the shoreline

and right there on the edge of the shore,

when they land is a bounty
of feast of these midges.

If you've ever walked on a Rocky shoreline

on the Great Lakes in
May you will hit a tree

and all of a sudden, a
cloud of midge will land up.

Well, this is basically like
an all you can eat buffet

just waiting there for these warblers

that time their migration,
just in sync with these hatches

this phonology is just
absolutely incredible.

And that is why a lot of birds migrate

to get to different food resources.

And some of those
timings are just amazing.

Another reason birds migrate
is to get to nesting habitats

and to have space to stretch
out, to either avoid predators

or to have the proper nesting structures.

So this is barn swallows,
actually a global species

but this is the South American,
North American map here.

And it you're seeing that
the barn swallows spread out

all across a huge chunk of North America,

and their main nesting
structure is actually

a lot of barns, believe it or not.

Or other human built structures,

cliffs will work for them sometimes.

But what they really like to
do is create a mud structure

where they actually use their own saliva.

And they migrate North
where they have a plethora

of this space to spread out

so they're not too dense
and crowding each other out.

So nesting habitat is another
reason that birds migrate,

and to avoid predators
that may, for example,

if you are a ground nester,
you may go up to the Tundra

where there's very few predators

other than maybe just a few Arctic foxes

and you don't have to
deal with all the weasels

and all the squirrels that
may be eating your eggs

if you're a ground nester farther South.

So those are some of the
reasons that birds migrate.

It's really all connected to getting

to the resources that
they need to make young

and to further their population.

Now, how do they do it?

How do they know where to migrate?

You saw that the Wilson's
warbler was pretty far North

but some species have
very specific locations

they have to go to.

Tiny little islands way out in the ocean

where maybe some seabird
colonies might nest

or cliff sides

way up in Greenland where
maybe a gyrfalcon might nest.

And these are really specific places.

How the heck do they find
it when they start out

maybe all the way down in
South America and Brazil,

spending the winters in
the nice balmy rainforest,

the Amazon rainforest,

how do they get all the way up

and exactly to where they need to go?

Well, there are three
primary thoughts on this,

but really it's a mystery.

There's a lot of unknowns with migrations,

especially when it comes to the mechanisms

that trigger this for birds.

But ornithologists have
figured out quite a few things

and they're really mindblowing.

First off, visually.

So these birds are born, for example,

like a Connecticut warbler is
born up to the boreal forest,

and that tiny baby bird will grow

to an adult in a matter of a month.

Sometimes even less than
a month, three weeks.

And those birds it's
thought can actually imprint

onto the stars and actually memorize stars

as navigational maps.

They may also use the sun
and where it actually sets.

They may also use the landscapes.

Things like rivers or ridges
are known to be places

where birds often are concentrated

and flowing through in
migration, in high numbers.

And so visually a lot of
birds can use these features

like star, sun, and landscape
to help them navigate.

But what's even more
interesting is magnetically,

they can actually sense magnetic,

the electrical magnetic
wavelengths of the earth

and detect basically like a
compass using their inner ear.

Their inner ear has amounts
of iron in it, some species

and they are actually able
to detect the magnetic field

of the earth to navigate
just like a compass does.

And then finally, there's some research

and that may not necessarily
be for Kirtland's warbler

and all these aren't for
these three specific species.

I just wanted to put up some cool species.

These are for all birds in general,

some have a variety of these things,

but anyway, there's some studies that show

that some birds even
have a map of the world

through their nose.

And so they actually memorize the smells

of particular places.

Homing pigeons are one
example that's been studied

to show that they actually
smell their way home,

which is just truly incredible.

So the senses of birds
are just something that

are way beyond what we have in some ways.

And that is a bit about how they know

how to get to where they're going.

Now how far do they go?

Well, that really depends on the species

but here's just some cool examples.

This is the Arctic tern.

You may have heard of this example

but it still just blows my mind.

70,000 kilometers per year
is how far they migrate.

This was some backpack studies

where they put little geo
locators on these birds

just like they did with the snowy owls,

and they measured some
anywhere from 50 to 70

even somewheres up to almost

a hundred thousand kilometers in one year.

So 70,000 kilometers or 43,000 miles

is a really long way to go.

And they basically go from the Antarctic

all the way to the North
pole in a single year.

And this bird weighs like a
quarter of a pound, right?

That's like a banana or
like a banana and a half.

And that tiny little banana weight bird

can fly from the Antarctic
to the North pole.

That is just insane.

I can't even get to the North pole

if I tried with all of the
modern technology that I have.

And so it's just absolutely amazing

that just on their wings these birds fly

all that distance and
they do it every year.

For some of these birds

they can live up to 25, actually 35 years

is the oldest Arctic tern.

And by the time that they get to that age

they've basically flown to the moon

and starting to head back

that's how far they've
gone in their lives.

Just truly incredible.

And what they're doing as they keep flying

is basically just finding
those food resources.

They like little minnows, little fish,

and they're just stopping everywhere

there's a little bait pile,

and they've got it time perfectly

to sync with that phonology.

So just really, truly incredible.

But not all birds migrate far.

And in fact not even all
birds migrate North and South.

Some birds like the red crossbill

are really irregular movers.

And these movers, as you can see here

don't necessarily go really far North

but some years they'll go North
some years they'll go South

but I want to pause it right there.

And if you look in the
middle between the Eastern

and the Western population,

there's actually a bit
of orange in the middle.

And that's because in some years

these birds actually move East and West.

All the red crossbills do,

they're basically the
nomads of the bird world.

They just go fly around until
they find a bunch of cones

that they can get the
seeds out of the cone crop.

And in fact, these birds pair
up and they mate for life

and they will go around until
they find a big cone crop

and nest wherever they
find a big cone crop

regardless of the time of year.

So these birds can nest
in the dead of winter.

They can nest in August.

They just basically fly around

until they find enough food to say, okay

time to make babies.

And then they have their nest.

So just really a different
end of the spectrum

not really a true migrant

but these birds do move
to find the resources.

So that is a little bit
about how, when and why,

or how, where and why birds migrate.

And now let's hone in a little bit

on Michigan spring in particular.

So it's said that we're currently

in our second or third phase of spring.

I think this may be fool spring

or the spring of deception,

if you've seen that little infographic

that shows the 12 seasons of Michigan.

We definitely have
several phases of spring.

But for most birds, March
is the start of spring

and when many of them start moving around.

So before we get into that,

I want to do a little bit of review

from our earlier classes

and let you hear some
of the sounds of spring

that are coming our way.

And we're going to do a
little bird quiz right now

and I'm going to pop up a poll question,

and I'm going to play a
bird call for you and see

if you can guess which bird
species is making that call.

And again, a lot of these birds calls

and I'm going to play are
some of the first migrants

that you might actually be hearing now

in the month of March.

So let's launch this first poll here.

So this poll is asking,

which bird species is this call here?

(bird squeaking)

Thank you, Cindy.

Don't answer in the chat.

Just answer in the poll.

(bird squeaking)

okay, you hear that long trill.

It's either A, Red-winged blackbird

B, a blue jay, C, Rose breasted grosbeak

or D dark-eyed junco.

All right, last chance to get
your answers in, last call.

Last bird call.

And a lot of you got that right.

It is the Red-winged blackbird, A.

That wonderful sound is the
male Red-winged blackbird

who was one of the first spring passerine

or songbird migrants
to head back this way.

And they are starting to
show up across Michigan

even all the way up here in the UP,

I saw some reports of one
over on actually in Canada

on St. Joseph Islands today.

And so they are certainly common.

The males come first
to stake out territory,

and get ready for the females to come,

saying, look, I got a nice house for you

and this is where we're
going to have our family.

All right, let's go on to poll number two.

And this is going to be our
second bird quilt call quiz.

So let's give it a little listen.

(bird whistling)

Now, this is call You
start to hear around March.

And you'll hear it all through the summer.

And you may even have heard
it occasionally in the winter,

'cause this bird actually,
isn't a very long rage migrant

although they do have small,
shorter migration patterns.

But this bird makes a different call

that you're probably very familiar with,

but this call

(bird whistling)

is a little different.

(bird whistling)

This is (bird whistling)

the black cap chickadee.

So the Black cap chickadee
actually has a call

that it makes more as a territorial

or a mating attracting call

as opposed to the chickadee call

which we are more used to hearing.

So yeah, black cap chickadee.

Alright, good job, everyone.

Lots of good results there.

So, and if you do not get
it right, don't worry.

We're just here to learn.

This is our third quiz.

So I got to key up the
music here, here we go.

(bird squeaking)

All right, so I see lots
of results coming in

for this one that are very accurate.

And again, this is another
early spring migrant.

They are coming in in flocks now

starting to show up across
most of the lower peninsula

and will continue to increase number

over the next few weeks.

And that bird is the Sandhill crane.

That wonderful majestic
call of one of the largest

and most impressive and
beautiful birds we have,

in my opinion in Michigan.

All right, last quiz here for everyone.

This one is either a

bald eagle, a Canada goose

or a crane or a blue jay.

(bird squeaking)

I'll play it one more time for you.

(bird squeaking)

it's kind of a trick one.

(bird squeaking)

All right, I see more
answers coming in now.

All right, get your last answers in,

I'm going to end the
poll in three, two, one.

Okay, so a lot of people did get it right?

That is the sound of a bald eagle.

And you may be like, what?

I thought it'd be bald eagle
makes a different sound

like that loud screeching sound.

And that is because most
TV shows play this call,

(bird squeaking)

when they show you an eagle.

And that is not an eagle call.

That's a red tailed Hawk call.

An eagle makes a silly giggle
sound that a lot of people

just can't believe is our national symbol.

But yeah, that's what the eagle makes.

So we're going to skip
past this last one here

'cause I want to make sure we
get to our fun interview here

in just a minute, but
that was a little taste

for some of the March birds
that you might start to hear

over the next few days and weeks

as we get into fool's spring here, March.

You'll also notice that
at this time of year

we have our winter birds head off.

So right now the snowy owls
are congregating in the UP.

A friend of mine saw 13 snowy owls

in six miles of driving yesterday.

And that's because they're headed North

and they're starting to kind of move up

in small kind of loosely
associated groups.

R finches are heading North.

But in come some of our
new or early winter raptors

or early spring raptors rather,

rough legged hawks and American
kestrels are starting show up

in places in the North.

Kestrels may have been
down South all winter

for some of you lower peninsula folks,

but for us in the UP we don't
have them in the winter.

And they're starting to show back up.

Bald eagles and golden eagles
are also migrating now.

Those that spent the winter farther South

and are heading North.

We also have a lot of waterfowl.

So if you're driving around ag fields

in the lower peninsula right now

you may come across massive
flocks of Tundra swans

in the Saginaw Bay region or
another agricultural regions.

Canada geese, and maybe if you're lucky,

a snowy goose or even a Ross's
goose might be in there.

And big flocks of
dabblers start to show up

as the ice melts.

Some of these are around in the winter

especially in the lower peninsula,

but we don't have a lot of these waterfowl

in particularly in the
UP since it ices up.

And so these things are
starting to head North

and those that were
farther South are heading,

so the numbers really increase.

Of course also the Sandhill cranes

and the blackbirds are coming in.

Again, I'm just going to go
through this really fast.

I guess give you a bit of
flavor of spring migration

but I'll share some resources

to where you can really
dive deep into each species

looking at the bar charts, using eBird.

So don't worry about memorizing
this, it's just for fun.

All right, so April or pre
May as I like to call it

is when you start to get a slow trickle

of the early songbirds
that you'll actually

have quite a few more of in May.

But the swallows, like tree swallows,

rough winged swallows
barn, swallows come in.

Meadowlarks are beautiful
and very loud bird

is out and about this time of year.

Hermit thrushes are early thrush

that start to come in mid April or so.

And Ruby crowned kinglets

are one of my favorite
early spring songbirds.

And of course too, the sparrows
come in this time of year.

The Fox Sparrow is a big
chunky Sparrow, our largest

one of our largest
North American sparrows.

They are just a treat and
you can only really get them

in early April, mid April.

By May, they're kind of moving through.

So sparrows are another
really good species group

to focus in on in the month of April.

We also get the first to
arrive of some Tern species

as well as large flocks
of Bonaparte's gulls.

I've seen one of my favorite experiences

birding in Kent County
outside of Grand Rapids

was a flock of about 500
Bonaparte's gulls in a grassy field

just as the snow was
melting in early April,

they're a really cool sight.

And Gull species we
only have in migration.

They tend to move on farther
North for the summer.

All right, and then at
the very end of April

and this is really actually
not April more into May

we start to get the floodgates open.

One species group that people love,

and sometimes some people are just

they don't care about any other bird.

They just care about the hummingbirds.

And there's a place for you if that's you

or if you just want to learn
more about hummingbirds

Hummingbird Central tracks,

the migration of hummingbirds.

This is the current map right now.

They're down in the South.

But they're starting
to creep forward North

a little bit in the Eastern North America.

So expect to see them at
the last week of April

or first week of May starting to come in.

All right, then it's May.

So we get this trickle of, we get raptors

and we get waterfowl in
March in good numbers.

We get this trickle of
songbirds starting to come in

in April, along with more
raptors and more waterfowl.

And then we have may where
you still have raptors

coming through like massive
kettles of broad-winged hawks.

There's actually a count that takes place

in the Detroit river where upwards

of a hundred thousand Broad-winged hawks

have encountered in a single day.

It's amazing how fast

and fierce these Broad-winged
hawks move through

and sometimes in massive numbers.

And then you of course get
these backyard visitors

that are super colorful,
starting to show up like

Baltimore orioles, Rose-breasted grosbeak,

Scarlet tanagers and Indigo buntings,

but that's just the tip
of the iceberg, folks.

May is insanity for warblers.

We have 36 species of these
tiny little color bombs

that come up from central
America and South America.

Things like the morning warbler

and the Kirtland's warbler
and the Chestnutsided warbler.

These are all pictures
from my friend, Skye Haas.

just amazing how many species

of these tiny little half ounce birds

that are flying up from
super far away, just amazing.

And some of them just keep
going even farther North

and some will breed in the
Northern parts of Michigan

or the Southern parts,
spend the summer here

but a lot keep heading North.

And it's not done with that, people.

There's vireos, there's half
a dozen species of vireos.

There's flycatchers, like
the olive-sided fly catcher.

One of my favorite birds

and another half dozen
species of fly catchers.

You got your wrens coming
in, like the winter wren.

You got the thrush,

you got gray-cheeked thrush
and Swainson's thrush.

You got shorebirds.

Over 20 different species of shorebirds

starting to come through.

And more waterfowl, and more raptors.

May is a month of insanity.

It is the best time to be birding.

It might be a little overwhelming sounding

but I guarantee you,
it is just so much fun.

So definitely go bird in March,

definitely go bird in April

but definitely get out and bird.

If you're in the lower peninsula,

the first two weeks of May.

If you're in the upper peninsula,
the last two weeks of May.

Those are just the highlight times

where you have the most species,

the most diversity,
the most of everything.

All right, so hopefully that
got you a little bit excited

for spring migration, which
is just now kicking off.

But I want to switch gears a little bit

and talk about how do we know this stuff.

You saw those amazing maps of migration.

And if you check out eBird

there's also a really cool bar charts.

But that baseline data
about how do we know

that birds migrate?

Well, the big part of that

is because we have migration counters

like our guests today, Skye Haas.

So Skye feel free to turn on your camera.

That's it, I was trying
to multitask there.

And I'm going to introduce Skye,

and then we'll go through
a little bit of questions.

So Skye is an avid birder
tour guide and biologists

living in Marquette in the
upper peninsula of Michigan.

Skye grew up as a nature,
loving birder kid, me too.

The lure of the wild
was too great to ignore.

And he moved to the North
woods of the UP, the UP

to work at legendary Whitefish
Point Bird Observatory

one of the best migrations,
spring migration places

in all the country, maybe all the world.

And later attended Northern
Michigan University,

receiving a BS in conservation biology

with an emphasis on evolution and ecology.

As a field researcher,
Skye specialized foremost

as a migration counter
conducting raptor, songbird

and particular waterbird counts.

His most recent field
biology work has been on NOAA

doing seabird surveys and
mammal surveys off shore

with a focus on True's beaked whales.

He's got the Cape May
observatory record of 1,026,000

migrating waterbirds
counted in the season,

that one of his seasons counting there.

In addition to his years
as a field (indistinct)

Skye has ran his own guiding
business Borealis Birding

which we've showed the link to there,

where he's a personal guide

for folks who are looking for birds.

And he also works with
Eagle-Eye Tours, Wildside Tours

Nature Trek biggest week and
wings tours doing bird guides.

Skye's passionate enthusiasm for being

on a grand birding
adventure is infectious.

And in addition to helping
to connect people and nature

and getting opportunities to observe birds

and other wildlife, he
truly enjoys the ability

to help educate to our
participants on species,

ecology and evolutionary history.

Thank you for joining us today, Skye.

And I'm super excited to
be able to chat with you.

Skye is a person I
absolutely love birding with.

He is a wealth of knowledge,

so good to have you here at Skye.

- Hello everybody.

Thanks for having me, Elliot.

- Yeah, we're excited to have you here.

And I do want to remind you
if you have questions for Skye

as we talk, feel free to
put them in the Q and A

he's going to stick around for the Q and A

at the end of our session.

But I'm going to ask him
a few questions first.

So Skye, you said that migration counting

is sort of your specialty.

Can explain the job of
a migration counter?

And what are some of the highs and lows

of that type of position?

- Sure, well,

a migration counter is,

one way to describe it is

you're running an
endurance test of yourself.

Basically what we're
doing is we're out there

collecting data for migrating birds.

It's usually a season's worth,

anywhere from a month to
three months of monitoring.

We usually do it from just one location.

We have a set spot for waterbirds.

We try to put a count sticking out

on a little point of land into
the ocean or a Great Lake.

A Ridge top for a watching hawks.

You're definitely trying to use geography

to create the best sort
of a sampling method

for observing the passage of migration.

So typically the...

so for waterbirds, what time you start

what time of year you're running,

it depends on the protocol.

But typically for like at
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory

the hawk count starts in early March

and then the waterbird count
starts about a month later

and runs through to the end of May.

And for waterbirds, they
move early in the morning.

So we're out there at first light.

We count depending on the
count for either at the morning

or sometimes for an entire day.

And then hawks, they tend to
migrate later in the morning.

They want to have the warm air thermals

to pick up and migrate on.

I liked counting hawks,

you don't have to be up
at the crack of dawn.

so, but yeah, so you were just

collecting data for,

to try to see what's going on.

The weather is always a
challenge, 'cause it's

you can't just pack up and
leave if it's a nasty day,

because as they say,
negative data is data still.

So we want to know what
day birds are flying

and what conditions they don't like flying

which often involves a
poor migration counter

being all bundled up and just sort of

questioning one's life
decisions for a few hours

before you can escape
the wind in the cold.

But the good parts are amazing too.

just getting to witness the
spectacle that is migration.

I don't know, it's something that's always

been very exciting for me.

And it came easy to me

to just hone in on waterbird migration

and it's just is thrilling to be able to

participate in this scientific method

of collecting data of these birds

and what is just such a interesting

facet of their biology.

I mean, everybody knows bird sing.

Everybody knows that birds raise
young out of eggs and nest,

but what we, 'cause we can
see this, we can see a robin

doing that in our backyard,

but what a lot of people don't
see is the massive passages

that these birds are making
in their life cycles.

And the migration counts kind of

shine a little bit of light on that.

- It's really, truly impressive

the work that you migration counters do.

I just wanted to share really quick.

This is the waterbird
shack at Whitefish Point.

And so you can see it's a pretty,

that's where Skye, you've
done quite a few counts.

And like you were saying,
you have to stand out there

all morning long up til...

How long are you guys out there till?

You started Dawn?

- Yeah, it's an eight hour
shift at Whitefish Point

and that's the short one,

out at Cape May or Point Pinos,
we're doing Dawn to dusk.

- And you can see that

that's pretty far away from the water.

So Skye, is I think under
emphasizing how skilled

they have to be these migration counters.

Cause they're identifying flocks of ducks,

sometimes miles away
using spotting scopes.

And it's really a highly
technical skillset

that you migration
counters have to be able

to do that kind of
identification on the fly,

really impressive.

Skye, can you share, what are some of the

some of your favorite
Whitefish Point memories?

I just shared that and I
know that's where you've done

a lot of your migration counts.

What is your fondest
memories of Whitefish Point?

- Yeah, Well, I mean
Whitefish Point is certainly

it's my favorite place.

I first I grew up in Metro, Detroit

so I've always been a Michigander.

And my parents first took me up there

when I was a little kid

and I was already just enamored

with the wildness of the area.

And so I first started
working for Whitefish Point,

gosh, 20 years ago now.

I was a pretty green birdwatcher

I feel in those days still
and... (screen freezes)

their information and knowledge.

And that really allowed me
to just get to immerse myself

and learn so much.

And so just, the paradigm
shift that happened

in my first season of
counting at Whitefish Point

was certainly a life-changing
one for me and it,

I like to say it's the
moment I went from being

a bird watcher to a birdER

There's ... which favorite memory?

I mean, every spring, every fall there

it's always a special season there.

I think one of my most favorite
Whitefish Point memories

actually, it's just
from a couple years ago

we had just, it was a
cold start to the season.

And it was it just went on and on and on,

just weeks and weeks
of snow and North winds

and nothing was migrating.

And it was really kind
of got old after a while.

But you just like you get patient,

like I said, it's an endurance contest

because we knew when it all

when that weather would finally
break and...(screen freeze)

three weeks of virtually
no migration we just had,

Oh, I think it was like
18,000 Sandhill cranes.

And in just a couple of
days, we had an afternoon

with over a hundred kestrels
and harriers going by.

I mean, just like everywhere you looked

there were birds for
like four days straight.

It was a month's worth of migration

in just a couple of days.

And that's still, I think
is my favorite moment there

was just, it was better than Christmas.

- Yeah, that analogy of
opening the flood gates.

Open the flood gates, they
really do, they get bottled up

And then all of a sudden the migration

is just unworldly there.

And some amazing rarities
that Whitefish Point too.

I know I've seen some really cool stuff,

but if you they're like a shiny cowbird,

that central American or
South American cowbird species

that showed up just in the UP

- Right, now Whitefish Point
is absolutely legendary.

It's these points sticking out
into large bodies of water,

they concentrate birds.

And in particular I think
the upper peninsula,

Michigan is just, it's
kind of really getting

a name for itself on the national scale

for being just such an
interesting vagrant trap.

So you have birds that are migrating and

we know they're species
species have a pretty set range

that they tend to use and travel through

but birds also have wings.

So they end up in some weird places.

And we tend to call those vagrants

and Whitefish Point excels at
both with just huge volumes

of migrating birds that
are supposed to be there

as well as just it's a notable spot

for all these rarities, these vagrants

that have been traveling
in the wrong direction.

And because we're the upper peninsula

is just such a coast,
heavy geological feature

that a lot of birds there,
they just end up traveling

the entire length of the UP

till they end up at Whitefish Point

which is in so many
ways, the end of the road

for land.

Although I sometimes

who knows what happens
to these birds, but yeah

we're in a lot of great things there.

- Yeah, that's really cool. So you

mentioned these kind of
migration concentration points.

So the idea that raptors

they don't really like to cross water,

and so they'll kind of get
funneled to these points and then

where they can finally
get up the nerve to cross

over the water and then the
waterfowl follow the shorelines

the songbirds follow the shoreline,

and they get concentrated.

Can you tell us about some
of your other favorite

kind of migration hotspots
across Michigan, specifically.

Maybe some of the lower peninsula

and upper peninsula ones

that are similar to Whitefish
Point that you like?

- Sure, well my I often say like,

Waterbirds are my day job

but what I love to do
is just wander around

in the bushes and have
warblers in my face.

I mean, I love what you
said earlier, color bombs.

I'm stealing that.

My favorite way to do spring migration

is definitely to a
wander some little patch

of habitat along the coast,
looking for songbirds.

One spot in particular I love

is Peninsula Point near Escanaba.

It's like this little
miniature version of Point Pele

which I'm sure a lot of
people have heard before.

It just fills up with scarlet tanagers

and warblers and vireos.

A lot of those photos
you were showing earlier,

the warblers, a good majority of them

were taken at Peninsula Point,

but we're lucky here in Michigan

where we're full of places
like Peninsula Point.

So I grew up in Metro Detroit

and my grandmother was a board
member for Detroit Audubon.

So I went on a lot of the spring campouts

with Detroit Audubon growing up.

And they would often go
up to the Camp Mengatasi,

which is just near Tawas Point.

And Tawas is the place

Tawas is it's great

cause it's close to
Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit.

So the vast majority of
citizens in Michigan,

they can just get out to a Tawas Point

for a day or a weekend.

And the amount of birds that use that area

is definitely worth the trip.

Point Mouillee down in Metro,
Detroit is another spot

that I used to go to a lot growing up.

And it's great 'cause it
has another suite of birds

that we have not talked about so much

and those are the shorebirds.

The sandpipers, the plovers,

these really awesome wild
looking birds called whimbrels,

they are a type of curlew.

These are all found in a
Point Mouillee in the spring.

And sometimes just
hundreds if not thousands

of them will be present
down there, Mouillee.

And then I guess the another place

I have to mention is Brockway
mountain up in Copper Harbor

at the very Northern end of Michigan

is a fantastic spot to watch hawks.

there's several hawk watching locations

and throughout Michigan, the
Detroit River, Whitefish Point.

But at Brockway up there
in a Copper Harbor,

you just you get some
great, great looks at hawks.

The ridge is so high up that
often we're looking down

at golden eagles as they're passing by.

Oh, I'm seeing a question here.

Someone wants to know
about Western Michigan.

For Western Michigan
people, Berrien County.

Berrien County, like the Warren Dunes area

the Sarett Nature Center and
the score near waterfront park.

These are all places that
if I was going to go bird

in spring migration, I
would be going there.

- Yeah, I normally like
to do an annual pilgrimage

to Berrien County the first week of May

to get these kind of Southern warblers

that we don't get up here in the UP.

Like hooded warbler and the
yellow-throated warbler.

And Michigan's really cool

because we do have such
an extent of habitat.

The Southern part, you
get these special warblers

and then up here in the Northern part

we get things like Canada warbler.

And if you're lucky, Connecticut warbler

and some of these others.

So we really do have a lot of
amazing places to go birding.

So thanks for sharing some of those.

So I know that you've
also done migration counts

at a lot of other places.

Can you just in like a minute
and a half or something

give us a couple of highlights

of just like a few like another place

and like a cool thing you
saw there or a cool event.

- Well, I've counted.

So I've counted the North
coast here in Lake Superior.

I've counted the East coast at Avalon

which was an amazing amount of birds.

We had my very first season there,

we had over a million
waterbirds migrate by

which was pretty amazing.

I tend to use a call to Whitefish Point

was where I did my undergrad work.

Cape May was where I
got my master's degree.

And then my final waterbird
count project I did

which I just called
getting my doctorate was

the Point Pinos waterbird count project

out in Monterey, California.

And that was an incredible

that was the best, coolest
job I've ever been on.

And it gets all summed up like this.

there's the hundreds of thousands
of shearwaters and loons

and phaleropes that are migrating by

but in my first three hours on the job

I saw a pair of blue whales go by.

So that just everything else was gravy.

- Yeah, really incredible.

So could you maybe
summarize what you think is,

why is it important for
migrations counts to take place?

And and what can we learn from them?

Or what have we learned from them?

- Okay, great question.

It's a lot of reasons, a lot of reasons.

Migration counts they give
us this bottleneck location

that we can observe a
lot of birds moving by,

and a good example of why we
just want to stay at one spot

and count these birds is

it's an effective way to monitor
populations in some cases.

That Monterey job I
was just talking about,

in a six week period, I ended up counting,

I was like 29% of the
world's Pacific loons.

It is in that six week period.

And so like if one was going to be trying

to survey Pacific loons

I mean, they nest all
across the Arctic Tundra.

So that'd be a really
hard way to survey them.

And then they're just also overwintering

out on the open ocean,
pretty much impossible

to survey a population.

But because like I said almost
30% of the world's population

migrate past Monterey, California.

It's an effective way
to be able to keep tabs

on a species overall population numbers

and look for trend lines is 'cause like

just because you might
have like a poor season

that it's not necessarily says,
oh we don't want to say, oh,

this bird is in trouble now,
it's getting threatened.

But in a long-term over you
look at a 20 year data set,

and like Whitefish Point we have seen,

we've been collecting
data at Whitefish Point

for 40 years now.

And we continually see common
loon numbers are going down.

Some species are going up,

but like common loon is definitely a bird

that is not so common anymore.

And another really valuable
lesson ah not lesson, reason

for counting doing these
migration counts is

it's to see changes in their
status and distribution

in their occurrence levels.

And also it becomes a good
monitor for climate change.

There is already several studies

from using long-term
migration kind of data

that is showing that for spring birds

that their return date is happening

on average earlier and earlier now,

especially in the last 10 years.

And within fall migration,

birds are definitely
showing up much, much later.

For example, like Cape
May, the waterbird count.

There has been running for 30 years

and they used to have
a peak of their scoters

which is one of the main
birds that pass there,

kind of our bread and butter bird there.

They used to peak around Halloween.

Now they're peaking almost about

getting close to Thanksgiving.

So that's almost three weeks a month

of a population shifting the
majority of its migration.

So without these migration counts

we would not have that yardstick
to measure these things by.

- Okay, thank you so much for sharing.

It was really cool to hear
about your different experiences

and really interesting to
hear about the importance

of monitoring bird populations,
so that we can have a pulse

on the health of our
ecosystems and climate.

So we're going to come back
to you in just a minute

but I'm going to share
a couple of resources

and then we'll get into our Q and A.

So if you want to plan your spring trips

the nice thing about Michigan
is you don't have to go far.

So birding trails are a great resource

we have across Michigan.

And these have highlights

of where you can see
birds in these locations.

And you can go to the
Michigan Audubon website

and check out birding trails.

And that can be a great way
to help plan your trips.

Oops, one more, I forgot about that one.

There's also a lot of festivals.

I'm not going to spend
too much time with this

'cause most of these
are canceled this year.

But basically April, May and
the first weekend of June

there are festivals across the state

where you can go on guided
trips at a pretty low rate.

And they are a lot of fun

and a great way to improve your skills

and get out there and
see some amazing things.

And even Whitefish Point
has a spring fling,

the last weekend in April.

So put that on your calendar for 2022.

And then another great resource is eBird.

They actually have a tool called BirdCast

that monitors live migrations for you.

So if you want to know if
today is going to be a good

birding day this tool does that for you.

And it uses both habitat and Doppler radar

because there's so many birds
migrating in the spring.

They actually show up at
night on Doppler radar.

And we can look at that radar
overnight to know how dense

that migration was.

Last but not least is eBird
which has a ton of resources

for planning trips
including just the simple,

look at your local hotspots.

So this is Bay City here
in these pins are hotspots

and you can click on them and
see what people are reporting.

They also have bar charts for,

you can put in all of Michigan or a County

and these are months each column
here where these bars are.

And it shows you that, for
example, the Bufflehead

peaks in April and May, early May.

And then, or March and April rather,

and then tails off in May.

So you can kind of target species

by the time of the year using these.

Of course, you can also
report your birds to eBird,

which helps citizen science efforts

fuel real science research on
bird, health and distribution.

You can be a part of that
migration count yourself

by reporting birds to eBird.

And last but not least,

we all have a role in helping these birds.

Literally billions of birds
are flying over our head

every single spring.

Many of us don't know it, but
those birds are in jeopardy.

Lights from humans can really throw off

their navigational abilities.

So if you have lights on at
night, turn them off if you can.

Keep your cats indoors

we've already talked about
how outdoor cats kill billions

of birds every year in North America.

Invest in windows strike deterrence.

So using these simple methods

you can stop birds from
smacking into your windows.

And then upload your sightings to eBird.

And then finally try native landscaping

and don't use pesticides.

These are things we
covered in our last classes

but I wanted to put them as a reminder

that they're especially important

in the spring migration months

when we have these rivers
of birds flying overhead.

With that, we have now about 10 minutes

for our Q and A time,

And Skye, if you can come back on here.

And Cindy's going to tell us
some questions that we got.

So hopefully you enjoyed that and

and let's see what
questions are out there.

- [Cindy] Well, thanks so much Skye.

I know I've been out to Whitefish Point

and I'm just amazed at watching
the counters out there.

And one of our questions that came in is

how do you count those large?

I mean, like you're talking
when the thousands are going by

how do you figure that out?

You're not counting each
one, I know that, so.

- Yeah, it's we're using a mix of methods.

Often birds aren't, even on
the really, really big days,

there's still a pacing

to the rate of which they're flying by.

So sometimes it is literally
just counting by ones

but you definitely,
the longer you're at it

the better you kind of
get at estimating numbers.

So when I'm like out at
one of the ocean counts

you can get really big
numbers of birds going

so I'll often be using a
tally clicker in my hands.

And sometimes I'll even have to switch

where I'm like clicking by
ones to clicking by tens

to clicking by fifties even.

And when they're really rockin'

and sometimes you just
got to be like, well,

that's about what 500 scoters looks like

and you have to move on to the next flock.

And when a time allows
for a little more nuance

I try to count one by one.

But a lot of it is just
scanning and clicking birds in

with tally counters.

I often have, my telescope
is hanging with several

like anywhere from like
five to 20 tally clickers.

And it's like becomes like muscle memory

where I'm just staring through the scope

clicking as these birds are flying by.

And it's a challenge, it's fun, I like it.

- [Cindy] It does sound like a challenge.

Now we've talked about
birds migrating at night.

Are there birds that migrate
during the day then, Elliot,

and how do you know or or Skye,

and which different birds do which?

- You want to answer Skye?

- Yeah, sure.

Definitely, there are,

a lot of birds do sort out to like,

are they diurnal migrants?

Are they nocturnal migrants?

By and large, larger

that they to tends to be
larger birds are day migrants.

One of the big reasons why they think

nocturnal migration happens
is that it's safer for birds

because they're not as
exposed to predators

in like a Peregrine falcon
can pick off a duck migrating.

But with these sharp-shinned hawks

that are trying to like get warblers

the warblers just feel like, okay,

the safest thing we can
do is migrate at night.

Hawks tend to be day migrants.

And then waterbirds are goofy.

They will fly both at
night and during the day.

So it there's a mix of of methods

that birds will even use within species.

Like I was saying warblers

are mostly a night terrain migrant.

But here along the shores
of the Great Lakes,

we do get this interesting
phenomenon called morning flight

where songbirds find themselves

a few miles off shore over the lakes.

And they don't want to be
there during the daytime.

So they make a beeline for
the closest point of land.

And then from there they
will often have to do

some sort of reorientation
flight to get to where

they want to be for the rest of the day.

And that'll sometimes
happen for a couple hours

and into the morning.

- [Cindy] Thanks.

So we talked about how they
kind of navigate sometime,

but somebody who was wondering

how to bird see compared to human eyes?

And how do they not run
into trees in the forest?

- Well, birds are really
amazing and you know,

their ways that their eyes work

and their brains processes
probably hard for us to perceive.

They see light in higher
and in a wider range.

They can see ultraviolet lights.

And that actually makes some birds

look different colors to other birds.

And so, yeah, they have a different range

on the electromagnetic range
where their eyes can see.

So that's kind of neat.

How they avoid trees or
each other, for example

in a murmuration I'm not
sure of the answer to that.

I think it's just ingrained
into their biology,

these quick muscle memory responses

that they have and the ability.

And you do have to remember
too, they're are a lot smaller.

So a gap that we see
in a tree that's like,

Oh I'm going to have to be
squeezed in through there,

that's actually a pretty
sizable gap for most birds

since they're a lot smaller than us.

But Skye, do you have any
other insight on that?

- No, just I agree with you,

Physiologically speaking,
birds are amazing.

They definitely, we got the
brains, but they got the skills.

- That's a great summary right there.


- [Cindy] Switching over
to one of my favorite birds

somebody is asking a question
about migrating hummingbirds.

Do they return to a
specific spot, for example

this person's backyard or
my backyard, the same bird?

Is that coming back to the same spot?

- - I'm not totally sure
on what it's called,

I think is it called
site fidelity of species

to particular nesting locations?

So there's a wide range
across bird species.

Some don't return to the same area

and some return very specifically.

I was talking about those gyrfalcon that

there's 2000 years of gyrfalcon

going under this exact
same spot on a cliff side.

So they're returning to the same spot.

Hummingbirds, I would assume

probably don't have a ton of site fidelity

since they're kind of small,

but I don't know if you have
any other insight on that Skye.

- I don't know about
hummingbirds in particular,

but it does seem that
a good chunk of birds

do have a site fidelity to their
favorite breeding location.

I know that the loon
researcher, Joe Kaplan

who works at Seney
National Wildlife Refuge,

he really sort of determined there's like

the loons had a really high site fidelity

to their breeding ponds.

And that this actually,

the concept of like birds mating for life

is not actually the best
way to thinking about it.

That it's like these birds have chosen

this nesting spot for life.

And so then you have the male-female pair

that like were beholderen to this spot.

So we keep coming back to this spot.

But then the moment that one of those,

one of that male-female
pair doesn't show back up,

the other bird that is on
that side, it's like, okay

well, your loss.

I'll go find someone new
because it's about the spot.

Not necessarily, it's partner.

- That's interesting.

we certainly saw that
play out in the eagle nest

where the male that I watch on the webcams

and the male didn't come back one year,

and the female eventually raised the young

and then moved on to another
mate in the same nest.

Somebody did ask, do eagles return

to the same nest year after year.

And my understanding is that's true.

- Yeah.
- Yep, definitely.

There's a nice big one here in Pickford.

And I did do a little search

and I found at least one source that

seemed it had an actual paper cited that

hummingbirds do have
pretty high site fidelity

so they do return.

But they do die.

So if you have had one for 20 years

it's probably not the
same one for 20 years

their lifespans aren't super long

although they can hang around for awhile.

Get lucky or something.

- It's an interesting question here.

Do you think that the
pandemic has affected birds?

- The pandemic has affected
nearly every aspect

of human life.

And because we are one of
the most dramatic impacts

on local ecosystems, the
answer probably is yes

to some degree.

And one of the larger impacts

has been the reduction in travel,

which I know has kind of
lessened air pollution

in certain places.

Because there's less people
out and about traveling,

probably not enough to slow
climate change or anything, but

it probably does replicate
what we need to do

which is really cut back
on our carbon emissions.

So there's some of that.

There are of course negative impacts too.

Like the pandemic has sort
of seen a huge research

in disposable plastics
and disposable masks

and things like that.

And that ends up as microplastics

which are really becoming an
increasingly large problem,

especially for seabirds
and other aquatic animals

that are consuming
these pieces of plastic.

So yes, it's probably had some impacts

but it's hard certainly to know

at this point what those might be.

It was also had a big impact
on birders and birding.

There's anecdotal stuff
coming out right now

that's saying that birding
has really increased

as people look for ways to
maintain their mental health

and still find a way to get
out and enjoy nature safely

and engage with that.

And that may have a big lasting impact.

Because generally birders
learned about birds

and loving birds.

And then they learn the reality of

that many birds are in a lot of trouble

and we're to blame for that.

And so hopefully it will
create more conservationists

and people taking action to
help protect those birds.

- And that my friend is an excellent segue

into thanking everybody for being part

of our birding 101 class

because that's exactly what we sure hope

you will go forth and bird

all this year and beyond.

And it's 8:01, so I want to make sure

to be real conscious of people's time

and say thank you to Skye and
to Elliot and to everybody

who has attended over these times.

Elliot, are you planning
on sticking around

to do a couple of questions?

- Yeah, I can stick for
a few more questions...

- [Cindy] We do want to let people know

that if they need to
go, we'd understand it.

We won't stay on too long though, Elliot.

We're not going to stay on too long.

- I don't know if Skye and I get chatting.

- [Cindy] We do have a question that said,

did you see in the news
that a couple in Illinois

saw a yellow Cardinal?

You've seen that?

- Yeah, yeah.

So yellow Cardinal made a
big splash a few years ago

and these color variants recently,

half male plumage to half female plumage,

cardinal also made the news.

And these are really cool.

Plumage variations are caused

by a number of different
genetic abnormalities

that cause either albinism or melanism

or the extra pigment.

- [Cindy] Hey Skye, we're
getting a little bit of feedback

on your computer on that.

Sorry, sorry.

- Yeah, but it is just
that, it's an anomaly.

And it's pretty cool to see.

- [Cindy] I saw an Albino robin at MSU

in the horticulture gardens.

That was pretty exciting to see.

Is a midge what fisher
persons call fish flies?

- No, there are actually a ton
of different aquatic insects.

In fact, most of our insects that we have

a lot of them spend a huge
portion of their life,

maybe years in the water,

and then eventually come out and hatch.

The Great Lakes are a massive bowl

of basically insect breeding.

And fish flies, I think
are maybe stoneflies or...

The problem with that is
there's a lot of common names

that get thrown around for these things,

but there are other hatches beside midges.

We have the mayflies, you have
stoneflies that hatch out.

And they happen throughout
different times of the year

on summer, primarily.

And those again are taken
advantage of by different birds

like a variety of different
colonial bird nesters

may take advantage of the mayfly hatch.

And these provide really
protein rich sources

for a lot of our birds

that are dependent on the Great Lakes.

- [Cindy] Here's an
interesting question too.

Why does some birds migrate so far North

instead of just flying
to the forested areas

in the Northern US or Southern Canada?

Why do they keep going?

- You want to answer that one, Skye?

- Yeah, it's all about food resources.

I'm sure you've heard
stories about just how

miserable the Arctic is

in regards to its mosquito situation.

But that's a lot of food for a baby birds.

There's a lot of studies
have shown for example

that warblers actually
that they in the tropics.

And that they began to
go farther and farther

to search for food resources.

And that ultimately becomes a trade off of

the dangers of migration,
of traveling so far

to the boom that is a summer feeding

for raising up a nest full of babies.

So it's, there's a lot of
insects in the far North,

and that's why they're going that far up.

And because there's also so many,

so in the tropics there
are already a ton of birds

that are year round residents.

So that's,

there's only so many resources.

So they're, they're trying to
exploit these boom resources

in the far North.

- [Cindy] I see Amber
still on and she asked,

she's going to visit
in Gaylord in mid May.

So what about the good
birding spots there?

- That is not a place that
I have birded in mid May.

But it is a spot where very close

to where Kirtland's warblers come.

So there are guided
Kirtland's warblers tours

if you've never seen one in Gaylord

where people come from around
the country to see these birds

because this is the
only place in the world

that this bird nests.

They have a very small population, in fact

it was almost under a 200
singing males at one point.

They were nearly extinct.

They were brought back from
the verge of extinction,

but there's still a very small population

just a few thousand of these birds.

And so that's what most people go

to the Gaylord/Grayling area for.

And the forest service in partnership

with the local Audubon
does some guided tours

to take people to where they are.

So that's probably what
most people go for.

But just find a local pond
or river, follow the rivers

and walk along the river areas

that can be really good during migration.

Wastewater treatment plants

are actually exceptionally
great places to bird watch.

If you have one that you're able to access

or see the ponds from,

they can attract waterfowls
and along the edges

there'll be lots of midges
hatching out of them.

So good places for migrants too.

- [Cindy] Do just have
someone asking, Skye,

do you teach any classes on
bird or wildlife photography?

- Not currently.

And I've done some outreach stuff

with my Borealis Birding Company, but I am

I have some plans to do some
birding teaching classes

next year, but nothing currently.

- [Cindy] Great.

One other question on there is

are there opportunities
for the general public

to be involved in or
observed the migration counts

at Whitefish Point or Brockway Mountain?

- Yeah, yeah.

Visitors are all welcomed.

The counters there, they are hired

by the organizations that
are running these sites.

So there's not really any
volunteer type opportunities

but honestly, one of the
ways that I became a birder

was just by going up to Whitefish Point,

sitting there on the Hawk deck,

sitting there by the water
bird shack and just listening.

Listening to what the
other birders had to say

or how they did it.

And you just eventually
you start soaking it up.

I think one of the best ways that

a birdwatcher can contribute to a science

is as Elliot had brought
up earlier to use eBird.

eBird is a fantastic method
to get people engaged

and take their sightings and
turn it into meaningful data.

And even if one's still just starting out

as a beginning birder,

there are people who vet this data,

crazy stuff gets caught.

And the important thing is just like,

the individual data points,
the more the merrier.

So like definitely eBird

is a fantastic resource to contribute.

- [Cindy] Yeah, and Wanda
also mentioned in our chat

that they are looking for volunteers

to help count Kirtland warblers.

And someone else just posted
citizen science projects

through Cornell Lab Of Ornithology too.

- So actually...

- [Cindy] Any time we
get volunteers there.

- Cornell is is who runs eBird.

So that's probably most
of their science projects

run through eBird now, but yeah,

they do have a few other offshoots.

- [Cindy] So one quick question,

what effect do you think the wind farms

are having on migration of songbirds?

- Yeah, so, you know,

it's kind of a double-edged
sword with wind farms.

Climate change is one
of the biggest threats

to bird species in the world right now.

It affects on nearly every
bird species across the world.

And there's definitely more
that are going to be harmed

by it than they're going
to be helped by it.

And so wind farms are a
potential energy source

to really help offset that.

But unfortunately right
now there hasn't been

a ton of consideration
on wind farm management

to help reduce bird kills.

Birds do run into the turbines.

And there's studies going on now

to try to exactly evaluate that impact.

That doesn't mean that
wind farms can't happen

in a way that is safe for birds.

There are methods of marking the blades

in a way such that they are less likely

to be hit by a bird, to be more visible.

There is also a lot of
consideration that has to take place

on where the wind farms go,

because migration although
it is pretty massive

and across the whole country
does have migration hotspots

and funnels like we talked about.

So placing a wind farm where
those migration funnels are

could potentially have a
really negative impact,

or as opposed to placing
them where migration

is much dispersed might
have a much lower impact.

So it is an issue that
needs to be considered

with wind farms.

I don't know if you have anything
else to add to that, Skye.

- Yeah, just real quick.

Yeah, its location is a big part of it.

I think style of wind
farm goes a long way too.

I personally would like
to see us move away

as a society from the big huge wind farms

to a more dispersed level of
wind mills being just installed

throughout communities on
a tiered to help sort of

keep the effects of a massive farm down.

But like the location is a big one.

Like we definitely here
in the Great Lakes,

it's the fish and wildlife
currently recommends

that they don't put towers

within 10 miles of the lake shore.

Currently, there is no actual regulation

that forces the wind companies do it.

So we do have companies
that are putting wind towers

right up on the lake shore,

because you got to get good gusts of wind.

They are definitely
favorable locations for wind.

But the very famous birder
and author, Ken Kaufman,

who I'm sure at least some of you

have probably heard before.

he had a great statement about wind farms

being on coastlines of
why that you wouldn't,

that you have all these
birds pouring off the water

during migration, and it's
done, they're coming in.

They're tired.

They've been migrating
for hundreds of miles,

and they're basically

they're making a landing on the shore.

So as Ken Kaufman says,
you wouldn't put a turbine

at the end of an airplane runway.

So why would we do it at the
end of runway for migration?

I liked that, I liked that.

So it's about siting,
siting is a big part.

- [Cindy] Interesting.

Yeah, this is a great, so I'm going to,

I'm going to let this one be the last one.

'Cause it's getting about that
time that we got to wrap up.

There's some that we
haven't been able to get to

and I apologize for that

but there are just so
many great questions here.

But I love this one because
it's a very much a bird activity

that we will all see as beginning birders

and experienced birders.

I often see a very large bird

with a tiny bird flying close by.

What's up with that?

So I'm assuming to me,

that's a Raptor getting
chased by a smaller bird.

or it's always, for me it's always

the birds ganging up on the bigger bird.

And so it's always
surprising when you see,

and it's all subjective as to which is

you don't know if it's a, it
could be an eagle with crows.

It could be a Hawk with jays chasing it.

It's always fun to see that, I think.

And it's always amazing that

the bigger bird doesn't just turn around

and take a swipe at him.

- Yeah, that mobbing behavior

is really interesting and unique.

You may have even experienced it

if you walk too close to your
Red-winged Blackbird nest

they may start dive bombing you.

And there'll be actually mixed species

flocks of birds that will gang up.

I've seen here on campus, a long-eared owl

at Lake Superior State University

that I heard this crazy sounding squirrel.

And I looked up and there
were like a squirrel

and a chipmunk and a chickadee

and a crow and a blue jay.

And they were all just
ticked off like none other.

And that was because
there was a long-eared owl

snuggled up against that tree there.

Not for much longer, he kind
of got pushed out by them.

But yeah, so those birds
do have that instinct to

get those predators out of there,

even if that means working
with a different species

to get it done.

- [Cindy] So I just want
to say, thanks again

to everybody for tuning in.

And I hope that you will go forward

and find some really fun bird activity,

watch their behaviors,
learn those backyard birds.

And a lot of folks are putting in the,

we hope you're going to do another one.

We hope we're going to do another one too

but we're not sure yet
what it's going to be.

There's been some great suggestions

about like doing the Raptor class

or doing a warbler class
and we get so excited.

We'd be happy to do them all

but we do have to do other
things in our jobs too.

So thanks everybody.

Skye, thanks so much, Elliot.

Awesome as always.

- Bye everyone, thank you.

- [Cindy] Bye bye.

Michigan Sea Grant Mission Statement

You Might Also Be Interested In