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Christmas hen depend highlighted by enormous ‘raft’ of geese in Straits of Mackinac


Redhead geese arrived in file numbers to the Straits of Mackinac. The Straits Space Audubon Society estimates 25,000 geese shaped rafts within the space inflicting some motorists to mistake the geese for oil spills. The redheads migrate by way of this space yearly and are at all times a welcome sight. (Photograph courtesy of Steve Baker)

Simply because the official native Audubon annual Christmas Chook Depend (CBC) was being carried out, in mid-December, one thing extraordinary occurred. The red-headed geese arrived in file numbers to the Straits of Mackinac.

By December 21, an estimated 7,000 red-headed geese had been forming massive floating teams, or rafts, inflicting some passing motorists on the Mackinac Bridge to report what they thought had been oil slicks on the water. And by December 29, the numbers exceeded previous data with an estimated 25,000 birds afloat within the Straits. In line with Steve Baker, a Straits Space Audubon Society member, this yr’s gathering was the very best quantity ever throughout the Straits’ annual Christmas Chook Depend census.

The redheads are a species of diving duck. And, as they make their approach to their extra southern coastal habitat for the winter, it’s not unusual for them emigrate in massive flocks.

“The Redheads use the Straits as a stop-over space,” Ed Pike of the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, mentioned. “They start arriving in late October and keep till the Straits start icing up. The scale of the flock(s) varies yr to yr, with estimates from 5,000 to 10,000 most years. This yr, with the Straits not icing up, they’re staying longer and it seems extra are arriving from different areas to the north. In early November there have been observations of 4,000-5,000 most days with a couple of days the place 8,000-10,000 had been noticed. It was only recently that extra arrived, growing the numbers to an estimated 25,000.”

The redhead duck is a medium-size diving duck.  They are migratory and travel in large flocks.  They come through the Straits area each year.  However, this year, they arrived in record numbers.  (Photo courtesy of Steve Baker)

The redhead duck is a medium-size diving duck. They’re migratory and journey in massive flocks. They arrive by way of the Straits space annually. Nevertheless, this yr, they arrived in file numbers. (Photograph courtesy of Steve Baker)

In line with Pike, when the Straits start icing over they transfer additional south.

“It’s unknown precisely the place these birds will transfer to,” Pike mentioned. “There are Redheads that winter within the southern Nice Lakes, some most likely transfer additional south.”

Nevertheless, with their numbers exceeding something beforehand seen in our space, it was a tremendous sight. In line with Baker, who has been observing the annual migration for about 4 a long time, they appear to want the waters alongside the northeast aspect of the Mackinac Bridge.

And whereas they prompted fairly a stir, the bulk appeared to have already moved on by the point the ball dropped on New Yr’s Eve.

The Petoskey CBC additionally passed off throughout this time-frame. On December 14, from 8 am till 5 pm This depend has been carried out most years since 1967 sponsored by the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society.

The realm of ​​the depend is a circle 15 miles in diameter with the middle level on the junction of M-31 and M-119. They reported that the climate was good with temperatures beginning at 26 f. rising to 34 f. by mid-afternoon. It was cloudy with reasonable to sturdy winds from the east. And a few half an inch of snow on the bottom.

Twenty-three individuals helped with counting birds; 19 discipline counters in 5 teams and 4 counting at their feeders. Contributors included Joey Arbaugh, Rick Baetsen, Steve Baker, John and Joanne Biddick, Nancy Demeuse, Cynthia Donahey, Tony Dunaske, Clint and Audrey Etienne, Laurie Ford, Lynn Fraze, Kathy Germain, Erika Gazarato, Mark Tougher, Bonnie Heuvelhorst, Sue Kurtz , Kathy Lawson, Peri McGuinness, Ed Pike, Artwork Schoolmaster, Jake Snyder, and Dick Taylor.

The depend resulted in 3,784 birds of 49 species counted (under the common of 4,166 birds of 52 species over the past 10 years). One counter spent a while earlier than daylight listening for Owls nonetheless none had been heard. Uncommon birds counted included one Ring-necked Duck, one Turkey Vulture, one American Coot and one Wilson Snipe, these species normally head south earlier than winter begins. Winter finches had been few with solely Pine Grosbeak. Eight species of Raptors had been discovered, most likely as a result of lack of snow on the bottom permitting simpler attempting to find meals.

Many individuals commented in regards to the lack of birds round feeders, most likely as a result of lack of snow permitting the birds to unfold out fairly than focus round feeders.

The Canada Goose got here in with the very best numbers, 1315. And Starlings, Mallards, and American Crows had been additionally a few of the most counted inside that time-frame.

Many due to Ed Pike, depend compiler, and all of the volunteers who participated.

It’s instructional and interesting to check numbers of species and birds that migrate by way of our space annually.

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