Tuesday, November 2, 2010

offshore waterfowl and waterbird surveys done by aircraft in Lake Michigan

I and three colleagues (Noel Cutright, Joelle Gehring of Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and Nancy Seefelt of Central Michigan University) wrote a grant proposal last winter to survey offshore waters of the western part of Lake Michigan for waterfowl, loons, etc. Our proposal was funded, and we started surveys a few weeks ago. Today, in a survey block offshore from Sturgeon Bay and just southeast of there, we had over 60,000 birds - mostly Red-breasted Mergansers.

These surveys are being done to learn about offshore concentrations of waterfowl and waterbirds to prepare for eventual offshore wind development in the Lake.

Kevin Kenow of USGS was also funded for a similar set of surveys, in the more northerly areas of the Lake, including on the Michigan side. Kevin's work started out some years ago with a focus on loons, which have experienced excessive mortality from avian botulism. Kevin has found birds as far as 18 or more miles offshore, in areas of the lake that we did not previously expect to have concentrations of birds. He has also found large numbers of mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks in very deep water, far offshore.

We are looking for numbers/concentrations of birds, and the geographic areas where they are found. Today's numbers indicate that our guess was correct - there are large numbers well offshore.

More news to come in the forthcoming months of the study.

Bill Mueller
Conservation Chair - Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

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