The summer is certainly in full swing and the migration is in the rear view mirror. We thought that is might be interesting to benchmark a window of breeding birds each year going forward. The Birdtrax widget on our home page documents all sightings on the Trail in the past two weeks. For the period June 21st through July 4th, there were 138 species. For that same period last year, there were 117 which is certainly a reflection of the increased ebirding activity. We are all collectively painting a much more accurate picture for science.
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a paved route that provides new access to important habitat in Leelanau County. The bike trail extends from the Dune Climb in Empire to Glen Arbor. The portion from the Dune Climb to Glen Haven passes through wetland, spruce forest, and dune scrub and the section from Glen Haven to Glen Arbor traverses a mix of beech maple forest and runs the length of a huge ridge at the base of Alligator Hill. A portion just east of the DH Day campground is home to a significant amount of breeding Blackburnian Warblers, a spectacular warbler that is the only warbler with a bright orange breast. They don’t hold still for very long, but they are spectacular to see and they represent yet another benefit of the new access to a previously inaccessible area. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail currently spans 4.2 miles and will ultimately cover 27 miles of diverse habitat. This paved trail is a unique opportunity to bird by bike in the National Park and cover a significant amount of habitat in a critical and very diverse area of the Park.
The eBird stats are in and we have surpassed all expectations for the year so far through May. Checklist count increased 85% over the same period last year with three out of four counties posting 100% increases! 250 birds have been seen or heard on the Trail so far in 2013, an increase of 13 total birds compared to 2012. That is just due to more eyes and ears in the field. For the same reason, Michigan Endangered, Threatened and species of Special Concern have all shown appreciable increases compared to last year. See subsequent blog posting for key stats.
As you know, one of the primary goals of the Trail is promote the widespread adoption of eBird in order to provide scientists and our local birding community with a more accurate and representative snapshot of avian patterns and distribution. We have a ways to go to achieve that goal but huge steps have been taken thus far in 2013.
Stay tuned to our Blog at https://sleepingbearbirdingtrail.org/category/news for maps depicting where we actually bird and where we need to concentrate more effort. The Tip of our peninsula is relatively remote and as such it does not get the coverage it deserves. In 2013/14, the Tip is going to get a lot of attention and we plan to focus our efforts on Leelanau State Park, Lighthouse West Natural Area, Kehl Lake Natural Area, and the N. Howell Rd. fields – all official eBird hotspots. Many of us have seen the Tip in all its glory in the spring, we all need to document that spectacular migration and provide the birding world with one more piece of the puzzle.
With peak numbers starting to wane, it appears that the Birdtrax total for the two week period ending May 27th is our peak at 210 individual species. For the four county area with less than a day remaining in May, total eBird checklists submitted has increased 84% compared to year to date May, 2012! That is a substantial increase in coverage for a very large and diverse area. That is double the rate of increase for the entire state of Michigan. Thank you to those who have converted. Stay tuned for some very real examples of the power of eBird and what additional insights this year’s recorded sightings have contributed to science and the knowledge of our area………after migration is complete…………..
One early example…..in Leelanau county, there were 198 species recorded in the month of May, there were only 156 recorded same date last year. That is purely due to more eyes and ears in the field! Checklists in the month of May were up almost 200%. This incremental coverage is only beginning to piece together the mysteries and the patterns for a very unique and critical migration corridor.
Observers at Whitefish Point noted in their blog that 5/21 and 5/22 were exceptional days for warbler fallout. Just two days earlier, Sleeping Bear Point, 125 miles to the south of Whitefish Point, also had two exceptional fallout days – coincidentally the same number of warblers, and the same birds seen in great abundance. Prior to eBird, observers at these two observation points would have marveled at their good fortune, documented their sightings on paper checklists, and no one would have benefitted from their knowledge or experiences. Today, we can “see” what other people are seeing. With shared recorded data and history, we can at least begin to connect some of the dots that represent the avian mysteries and the spectacle of annual migration. We’d like to think that this Canada Warbler made its way from Sleeping Bear Point to Whitefish Point……let’s just pretend……
The recent cold snap and north winds have certainly slowed things a bit. We should see a strong push towards the end of this week. The Birdtrax widget on our home page has 190 species in the past two weeks, down slightly from 192 a couple of days ago. Highlights include a Short-billed Dowitcher, several Mockingbird sightings which are infrequent this far north and a Willet at Lake Bluff Audubon identified by Linda Scribner. Most importantly, eBird checklists submitted in the SBBT area have increased 82% compared to the same April YTD period from a year ago. Congratulations eBirders for sustaining the momentum!
A couple of people have inquired about the red-necked grebes and they did not disappoint today. About fifteen of them were swimming amongst the pilings in the rain in Glen Haven this morning and another 30 were a bit further out. The gulls seemed to view them as competition but the lone Bonaparte Gull in this photo seems unaffected. This April 30th sighting is the latest sighting in the past five years. Hopefully they will stay a few more days in May.
The migration is really heating up with 162 species identified in the past two weeks. eBirders have contributed 444 checklists! Please remember to visit this site and our Birdtrax widget which is our barometer for the Trail. This White-throated Sparrow was part of quite a scene at Tucker Lake this week as the recent snow melt created a temporary backwater bog. Two Sandhill Cranes spent the day wading through the new shallows. This Blue-winged Teal enjoyed the temporary wetland as well.
One of the primary goals of the SBBT is to embody everything eBird. We owe it to ourselves and to the birds to document everything we are seeing and hearing in the interest of furthering the science and our understanding of patterns and distribution. One of eBird’s recent objectives is to streamline and standardize what birders consider eBird Hotspots. There are naming conventions and other suggested tips that need to be considered to optimize the data and make it most useful for study. With that goal in mind, the SBBT is going to add the official eBird Hotspots to its individual birding site descriptions. There may be several Hotspots for a single SBBT site. We are currently working with eBird to finalize these Hotspots and we will follow up with a post when these are complete and listed. Thank you in advance for your compliance.