Mild climatic conditions prevailed in the SBA throughout the winter of 2015- 2016. As illustrated in the graphs at the end of this report, daily temperatures were above average for most of December. As a result, the majority of waters remained unfrozen into January. Temperatures in the middle month were a little closer to average, but in neither of the first two months did any significant snow events occur in the southern SBA. Temperatures returned to above average in February. The only two major storms of the winter were in this final month of the season. They occurred just a week apart, but due to some unseasonably high daytime temperatures in between, the snow accumulation from the first storm had to varying extents melted by the second storm event.
There is little doubt that the mild climate contributed to a record number of species being tallied during the season, with a total of 128 species from the Michigan Bird List reported. This report lists all of the species reported, along with the highest reported individual count for each, and a list of the SBA counties in which each was noted. Per the state compiler’s request, all Trumpeter Swan records are listed.
Mild weather in the first and last month of the season lead to a good number of birds lingering late and arriving early. The mild climate and relative abundance of birds to be encountered likely contributed to the thorough observer coverage that prevailed, and an impressively lengthy list of observers. Speaking of observers, the number of active birders, and the ability nowadays for them to report sightings on readily accessible databases (SBB.org, eBird), must also be considered, alongside the effects of a changing climate, as contributing to the fact that the total species recorded this season was also the thirteenth consecutive winter of an above average total.
This winter’s record total was not only the result of lingering birds, but a fair amount of winter visitors were present as well, in decent numbers and quite widespread in distribution. Two new SBA peak counts were established, as well as three new fall late dates, and one existing fall late date was tied.
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