|Will Weber, Allen Chartier, April Campbell, Spence Vanderhoof at Erie Marsh. Image courtesy of Guadalupe Cummins|
Sunday, December 18, 2022 marked the 53rd Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count. The count coincided with the 123rd National Audubon Society CBC. This year's count took place under cloudy skies, light snow and cold winds blowing from the WSW at 5 - 15 mph. Inland waters were mostly frozen while moving waters (Lake Erie, canals and rivers) were mostly open. Twenty-seven hardy souls braved the dark skies, snow and wind to tally 33,508 birds of 78 species.
My day started at 6:30 am when Pat Rydzewski and Tom Mulcrone arrived at the house for a day that would cover Area 4 of the count circle and the Monroe Power Plant. For the first time in forever we'd start the power plant survey at 10 am instead of noon. And, since Area 2 participants (Allen Chartier and company) would be starting their count at Erie Marsh, I offered to survey Lake Erie from the location of the (former) JR Whiting Power Plant first thing in the morning. So, Pat, Tom and I picked up a quick breakfast at McDonalds and headed to the foot of Erie Rd. in southern Monroe at 7:30 am.
Despite spotting scopes the skies were too dark to differentiate most of the ducks covering the waters of Lake Erie. Most were Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Common Mergansers but all we could do was count the many rafts of "ducks" that numbered 7000+. Several Bald Eagles were the first identifiable birds of the day while hundreds of mostly Ring-billed Gulls swirled overhead. We were able to identify one Great Black-backed Gull on the water.
We then headed to Luna Pier where thousands more ducks awaited us on Lake Erie. Luckily, they were much closer and more readily identifiable: Lesser Scaup (4700), Common Goldeneye (1500+), Bufflehead (250+), Mallard (200+), Canada Geese (300+) and Common Mergansers (300+). Several Bald Eagles, a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls made the bitings winds worth braving.
With light snow falling we only had a short time before heading to the DTE Monroe Power Plant so we drove through the town of Luna Pier expecting to pick up hundreds of European Starlings and House Sparrows. We saw none. Surrounding fields were also conspicuously absent of passerines like cardinals, chickadees, and even mourning doves. Luckily, our luck would improve once we arrived at the power plant.