Current Activity

May Passerines

While the daytime winds have been northerly, the nocturnal southerly winds have brought spring migration to the Keweenaw with new passerines present every morning (since the 13th that is, before that it was extremely slow and cold).

Notables include 15 species of warbler, Cliff Swallow, Loggerhead Shrike (5/16-17, eating a snake in the photos below! First local record since 2016), Northern Mockingbird (5/13), 65 Chipping Sparrows (5/13), Clay-colored Sparrows, Lark Sparrow (5/15), Le Conte’s Sparrows, Harris’s Sparrow, Smith’s Longspur (5/15, flyover), Rusty Blackbird, and Western Meadowlark. Additionally Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and Bohemian Waxwings continue to be present locally along with many Pine Siskins and Purple Finches.

End of April

Since the last post the weather has taken a turn for the worse with seemingly endless days of non-south winds coupled with rain and snow resulting in few raptors moving along the Brockway ridge. Only one day in this period broke the hundred bird mark with the 238 on the 18th, carried by 91 Red-tailed Hawks. Despite the weather April ended a thousand birds higher than last year, even though hours counted was over forty less. More birds in less time is something every counter can appreciate!

Off the mountain; The Iceland Gull lingered in town through the 23rd, while the Euro Tree Sparrows were present through the 18th. Bohemian Waxwings, Evening Grosbeaks, and Redpolls were present intermittently through the end of the month.

A House Sparrow (only the second one here, photo below) was present on the 18th along with a Eastern Towhee (my first in town) and the first Vesper and Chipping Sparrow of the spring.  A Field Sparrow was present on the 29th (only the second I’ve seen here, photo below). Warbler numbers and diversity continue to be low with only Yellow-rumped Warbler present in any sort of numbers.

Ice & Snow

The weather lately has consisted of rain, fog, and snow resulting in a lack of raptor migration.

But other birds have been migrating as spring slowly returns to the Keweenaw. Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers arrived in the last week along with American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, YB Sapsucker, Rusty Blackbird, and Western and Eastern Meadowlarks. Spring migration!

Cherri Allen found a Eurasian Tree Sparrow at her feeders on the 6th, which was joined by a second on the 10th. These represent record early arrival dates for this species, with nearly all the previous records occurring in May.

Winter hasn’t quite left the Keweenaw, with lingering flocks of Common Redpolls (with a Hoary or two mixed in), and Bohemian Waxwings still common in the area.

As the title suggest the highlights of the month so far have been ice & snow. Specifically a first spring Iceland Gull (third county record? Definitely in the running for bird of the spring!) that has been loafing about town for nearly a week now. And a Snowy Owl that spent a foggy, raining midweek day getting mobbed by crows as it moved around town trying to find some peace and quiet, and apparently breakfast, lunch and dinner! It started the day sitting on the dock by Jamsens Bakery (which is closed til mid-May), then flew over the Mariner (closed midweek in April) and landed on the roof of The Pines (also closed midweek in April), at some point in the day it was also seen at the Harbor Haus (also currently closed). It apparently didn’t know The Genny was open or it could have picked up some groceries or a snack!

Two Big Days

While the April weather thus far hasn’t been great for raptor migration, April 5 and 9 were outstanding and definite highlights of the spring.

Highlights of the 5th included 7 Red-shouldered Hawks, 6 Northern Goshawks, 2 Golden Eagles, 96 Red-tailed Hawks, and 84 Rough-legged Hawks (only three shy of a new day high for the hawk count and 22 higher than the entire spring total for last year!)

After the 84 RLHA on the 5th I wasn’t expecting another day like that for the rest of the spring.

But then came the 9th.

The morning started hot with 22 Roughies in the first hour and 44 in the third! In the early afternoon precipitation had moved in to the south slowing the flight. But the Roughies kept coming and by the time the count ended for the day 120 Rough-legged Hawks had migrated east along the ridge in one of the best days in the history of hawkwatching on Brockway Mountain (note the all time highcount is 226 on April 17, 1976) .

Also notable on the 9th include 1 Osprey, 39 Bald Eagle, 23 Northern Harrier, 53 Sharp-shinned, 2 Northern Goshawk, 64 Red-tailed Hawk (two dark morph!), and 3 Golden Eagles.

Below are an assortment of photos from both of those days (its RLHA heavy).



While March has only just ended, the weather thus far has felt far more like mid April. With temps in the thirty’s and 40’s and very little snow on the mountain. Despite the generally warm temps winds have been less than optimal for migration, but the 196 raptors for March is the highest March total of my five seasons here. Fingers crossed that’s a sign for how the rest of the spring will go!

The flight thus far has been decidedly March. With Bald Eagles making up the bulk of the numbers thus far, with a few Golden Eagles mixed in to keep things interesting and the Ravens on guard. Buteo numbers have been low, with just a handful of Red-tailed, Red-shouldered (picture below), and Rough-legged Hawks(pictured below). The first Turkey Vulture of the spring arrived on March 30.

Locally Copper Harbor has been awash in winter finches. A few Pine Grosbeaks have been passing though, along with flocks of Evening Grosbeaks and excellent numbers Common and a few Hoary Redpolls. Of note both subspecies of Common and Hoary Redpolls have been present, a first for me in here.

End of April

April felt slow. Typically the last half of the month gets some south winds which brings in the Broad-winged’s, this year that didn’t happen.

I didn’t fully realize how slow this April was until I looked at the data…and that about sums April up.

On the couple days that had south winds raptors were moving!

A few photos from those days are below.

The migration outside of raptors has also been slow. An Eastern Meadowlark spent a couple days near the shack bringing a welcome splash of color to the mountain. Few things show how April felt better than the Eastern Phoebe below, which was my first of the spring and arrived during a two day snowstorm.

Deer have more prevalent than I remember from past years. Several have walked up to the shack, clearly unprepared for hunting season.

Fingers crossed May brings south winds, if not…well, the road up the mountain will be open so there is that.


Mid April

April has consisted of north winds and snow, with fresh four foot drifts covering the road up the mountain. On the couple days that have had south winds there were birds moving, with today having the biggest flight of the season (123 raptors and 1,200 Canada Geese!). A few of the recent raptors can be seen in the video below.

Also count data is up over on Trektellen, and at some point live data entry will be happening on there as well!

The Start of the Season

The 2020 count has started! I’m back for my fourth spring on the mountain, the weather is on a warming trend, Turkey Vultures have arrived, and the snow on Brockway is slowly melting!

While the Northern Goshawk that circled the shack on the 27th (picture up top) was exciting, the greatest excitement of the season thus far happened today. A day that will go down in history (if you’re a Common Raven), a day that will be re-told for generations to come (if you’re a Common Raven). If you have spent anytime around the Ravens on Brockway you know they hate Golden Eagles. And by hate I mean they will spot them a mile out and chase and attack (I’m talking pulling feathers off the Golden’s back attack) them until they change directions. The Ravens ignore Bald’s, but if a Golden so much as cracks the horizon the Ravens are on it. The inexperienced immature Golden’s typically suffer the wrath of the Raven’s to a far greater extent than the adults, but usually other than a few feathers lost and the embarrassment of having to retreat, the Golden’s have control of the encounter (despite what the Raven’s will tell you).

Then today happened. An unlucky adult Golden Eagle had the unfortunate experience of meeting the Brockway Common Ravens at their nest site. The result was drama that hadn’t been witnessed on Brockway in several years (if not ever). The Ravens drove the Golden down in to the valley trees, eventually forcing it to forgo all dignity and land on the ground were it had to hop/walk through the undergrowth until it could find a gap in the trees big enough for it to take flight, the whole time screaming at the Ravens. The Ravens never gave it a moment of peace, attacking and harassing it nonstop. After 15-20 minutes on the ground the Golden made a break for it, got it out of the trees and through the Ravens, and (with the Ravens in hot pursuit) reached the safety of the next ridge.

The Ravens spent the rest of the count much more vocal than normal, and with good reason. How many other Ravens in the Midwest have taken down a Golden Eagle?

Aquila grounded
Escaping without its dignity
The true ruler of Brockway
A more regal Golden from last week

Other birds of note locally include a Black-backed Woodpecker that made a brief appearance during the count on the 1st, a calling Northern Saw-whet Owl on the 31st, Northern Shrike on the 2nd (below), Western Meadowlark in town on the 31st, and Bohemian and Ceder Waxwings in town on the 1st.