[Ontbirds] Red-necked Grebes at Hillman Marsh

Rod Steinacher rstein at amtelecom.net
Sat Mar 8 15:07:24 EST 2014


Gentlemen;

It looks like the RNGRs are starting to come north.  It will just be a matter of consistently open water in Dyers Bay to get them to you.  A giant lead (5 km x 50 km has opened up just off Cape Hurd, but it is much too far away to see if any waterfowl are using it.

Keep your eyes peeled,

Rod

Bill, I know you are away right now.




On Mar 7, 2014, at 4:48 PM, Alan Wormington <wormington at juno.com> wrote:

> This afternoon, along with Marianne Reid, Rosemary Reid and Rick Mayos, I counted a total of **36** Red-necked Grebes on Lake Erie off NE Hillman Marsh.  Here there are a few leads in the otherwise frozen lake, and it is also the location where 2 Red-necked Grebes were seen on March 5 (Jeremy Hatt, Jeremy Bensette) and 6 on March 6 (Jeremy Hatt, Kory Renaud).
> 
> There has been considerable debate lately as to if all these widespread Red-necked Grebe sightings pertain to spring migrants, or wintering birds that have been frozen out of the Great Lakes.  Even before this week's observations at Hillman Marsh, I concluded that these birds are wintering birds that have been frozen out of their normal wintering areas elsewhere on the Great Lakes.  The reasons are many:
> 
> 1--Red-necked Grebe is very rare at Point Pelee, and the previous 19 spring records span the period of March 22 to May 18 inclusive; thus the current birds are outside of this date range.
> 
> 2--Previous record-high count for Point Pelee was of only 3 birds (1 date in spring / 2 dates in fall).
> 
> 3--Red-necked Grebes, along with other rare species such as Long-tailed Duck and White-winged Scoter, have been showing up lately at southerly locations such as Kentucky, where Red-necked Grebe is a real rarity.  If the grebes were truly spring migrants, there is no rationale as to why they would be currently appearing at these southern locations.
> 
> 4--If the Red-necked Grebes off Hillman Marsh were truly spring migrants, then I would expect to also see some Horned Grebes and Pied-billed Grebes --- but there are none.
> 
> 5--In regard to early Horned Grebes, some time ago I thoroughly researched all record-early arrivals for Point Pelee (February 9, 10, 15, 26) and without exception they ALL correlated to surges of warm air at the time, up to the +10 C. temperature range (based on Windsor Historical Weather Data); in other words, there has never been an early arrival of Horned Grebe at Point Pelee that was associated with COLD conditions.
> 
> 6--When I formerly lived in Hamilton, I do recall some late February arrivals of Red-necked Grebes, but they arrived during WARM spells and at least some of the birds were in summer plumage; ALL of today's birds were 100% winter plumage.  The pattern of spring occurrences are well-described in Bob Curry's "Birds of Hamilton" (2006); he likewise states that spring arrivals are associated with arriving warm weather.
> 
> 7--The source of these birds has been debated, and some have mentioned that Red-necked Grebes do not winter on Lake Superior.  That is true, but there are certainly other sources for these birds most notably Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  Another source is likely Lake Michigan --- especially considering that the species is essentially a NW/SE migrant through the overall Great Lakes system.  All of these water bodies are currently more-or-less frozen solid.
> 
> Also at the Hillman location there was a tremendous collection of various ducks, including the following:
> 
> Common Goldeneye --- 3000
> Redhead --- 1400
> Canvasback --- 80
> Long-tailed Duck --- 45
> White-winged Scoter --- 8
> 
> Hillman Marsh is north of Point Pelee, and south of Wheatley.
> 
> Alan Wormington,
> Leamington
> 
> 
> 
> 
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