Dodging Rain Drops

Early morning calm between the rain storms.  April 12, 2015.

Early morning calm between the rain storms. April 12, 2015.

A warm and humid Monday greeted the dunes today, April 12.  The radar overnight indicated some major bird movement, but when rain enters the radar, it’s always difficult to gauge how many of the birds will actually reach the lakeshore for the morning flight.  Equally as difficult can be deciding when to roll out of bed to catch the morning flight when you hear thunder and lightning outside your bedroom.  Arriving at the longshore tower at the start of a rain storm leads to waterlogged counters, wet data sheets, and disgruntled spirits.  Waves came though this morning and both the counter and the blog writer got a little wet trying to time the arrival between these waves.  But, soon enough, the biggest wave passed and what remained of the morning flight took off and the morning’s count wasn’t too bad.

Poor photo of two Vesper Sparrows.  Taken through iPhone at 100 yards away.  4/12/15.

Poor shot of two Vesper Sparrows taken through iPhone at 100 yards away. 4/12/15.

For Monday, April 12, 3,892 birds, comprising 73 species flew past the tower.  Little bits of everything expected by this date could describe it best.  A handful of ducks made it past in the off lighting.  A handful of non-thermal kettling hawks went by.  Mixed passerines came by in small groups.  Perhaps most interestingly was a a flock of 4 Vesper Sparrows that came down the beach and landed in a small cottonwood together for an extended period.

Swooping Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from the big cottonwood by the tower.  4/12/15.

Swooping Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from the big cottonwood by the tower. 4/12/15.

Flickers and sapsuckers continued their undulating march northward.  With 60 flickers and 20 sapsuckers, they are close to approaching 1,000 and 100 for the season respectively.  Watching sapsuckers go by every few minutes, with their white stripes on their wings is always a neat seasonal occurrence, if not for just a week or two on the tower.

Annuals for the morning would include a flyby Greater Yellowlegs, a singing House Wren, and two White-throated Sparrows at the tower feeders.  The feeders have now hosted 9 sparrow feeders thus far this season, not including House Sparrows (weaver finches).

 

By afternoon the north winds had set in, so it looks like a break until Thursday.  Today’s full list follows.  Don’t forget that any blog photo can be clicked on for a larger version.

Canada Goose 17
Wood Duck 6
Mallard 2
Blue-winged Teal 7
Northern Shoveler 1
Red-breasted Merganser 33
Common Loon 4
Horned Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 45
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Northern Harrier 3
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 1
Killdeer 2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 95
Herring Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 8 5 imm. and 3 adults.
Caspian Tern 14
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 2
Mourning Dove 64
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 20
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 60
American Kestrel 2
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 53
Barn Swallow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6
Eastern Bluebird 4
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 47
Brown Thrasher 5
European Starling 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler 20
Eastern Towhee 3
American Tree Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 4
Field Sparrow 4
Vesper Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 8
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 1266
Eastern Meadowlark 6
Rusty Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 1935
Brown-headed Cowbird 21
House Finch 4
Purple Finch 59
Pine Siskin 5
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 1

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First Major Hawkflight for 2015!

Sunday, April 12 was a pretty great day at the longshore tower.  The night’s chilly low 40s warmed quickly at dawn and the growing south winds brought 70s for the first time of the flight count this year.  There was a good mix of passerines as well as the first major hawk flight of the season.

Several participants assisted the counter in logging 18,406 birds, comprising 67 species.  After today’s new arrivals, 120 species have now been logged this year.  The new season total is 171,000 birds.  Adding to the new species this morning were Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Palm Warbler.

Golden Eagle over the hawkwatch today.  Photo courtesy John Kendall.

Golden Eagle over the hawkwatch today. Photo courtesy John Kendall.

For the first major hawk flight of the year, 122 raptors went past the tower site.  The diversity was good, despite not including a single Broad-winged Hawk.  Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed Hawks made up the majority, but the surprise bird was a Golden Eagle, captured on camera flying over the park.  This is the second Golden Eagle recorded this season from the longshore flight zone.

Other highlights included a late push of 291 Sandhill Cranes, 2 Eurasian-collared Doves, 236 Northern Flickers (a season high count),  American White Pelican (see below), and an astounding 1,822 Rusty Blackbirds.

American White Pelican over the longshore tower today.  Photo courtesy John Kendall.

American White Pelican over the longshore tower today. Photo courtesy John Kendall.

Today’s full list follows.  Conditions should provide another flight Monday before winds shift for Tuesday.

Canada Goose 4
Mallard 2
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Common Loon 7
Horned Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 31
American White Pelican 1
Great Blue Heron 6
Great Egret 2
Turkey Vulture 17
Osprey 3
Golden Eagle 1 Juvenile.
Northern Harrier 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk 49
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 33
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 291
Killdeer 4
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 40
Herring Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Caspian Tern 2
Rock Pigeon  12
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 56
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Northern Flicker 236
Pileated Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 8
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Horned Lark 3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 6
Tree Swallow 82
Barn Swallow 7
Tufted Titmouse 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 6
Eastern Bluebird 11
American Robin 269
European Starling 7
Lapland Longspur 25
Palm Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 40
Eastern Towhee 2
American Tree Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 9
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 7
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6464
Eastern Meadowlark 5
Rusty Blackbird 1822
Common Grackle 8390
Brown-headed Cowbird 369
House Finch 1
Purple Finch 16
Pine Siskin 18
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 1

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Aerial Flyers Only!

After a turbulent night, the longshore flight for Friday, April 10 was restricted to a select few.  Despite hoping for a more fruitful flight, this morning was greeted to strong, gusting west winds.  The skies were clouded and it looked almost gloomy.  The overnight brought howling winds, damaging storms, and even tornadoes to the west of the park in Illinois.  The early morning gloom  however would fade away to beautiful sunshine, despite the breezy conditions.

As alluded to above, there was hope for a good flight, but only 862 birds could be mustered.  Waterfowl made another little push over the lake, and some of the more aerial raptors took wing.  Most notable was an excellent push of Merlins.  Today’s 10 birds ties the state’s second highest count.  The previous 10 count and current state record single day count of 13 also belong to the longshore tower site.

Also expected, swallows put on a good movement today too.  Two new first of the year birds were logged. The first being a late and outgoing Thayer’s Gull, and the second was the season’s first Broad-winged Hawk.

Many park visitors are also getting treated to other animals besides birds.  The resident fox now makes near daily trips past the tower and is being seen more and more by park visitors, now that spring is bringing more people out.  The photo below was just taken yesterday in the campgrounds!

Red Fox at the campground entrance.  April 9, 2015.

Red Fox at the campground entrance. April 9, 2015.

The full list follows:

Canada Goose 1
Wood Duck 4
Gadwall 11
Mallard 6
Blue-winged Teal 7
Northern Shoveler 7
Green-winged Teal 4
Redhead 20
Lesser Scaup 27
White-winged Scoter 1
Bufflehead 12
Hooded Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 27
Red-throated Loon 7
Common Loon 7
Horned Grebe 7
Double-crested Cormorant 20
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 10
Osprey 3
Northern Harrier 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 5
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 14
Sandhill Crane 2
Ring-billed Gull 335
Herring Gull 116
Thayer’s Gull 1 imm.
Glaucous Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Caspian Tern 9
Mourning Dove 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 11
Merlin 10 All birds flying west.
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 4
Tree Swallow 89
Barn Swallow 17
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 8
Eastern Towhee 1
American Tree Sparrow 2
Field Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 6
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Pine Siskin 7
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

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Moist Advection!

Thursday, April 9 brought a brief return to longshore counting in the dunes.  The previous couple of days have been a mix bag of rain, north winds, and generally poor migration conditions.  Even today was in the air, as east winds were predicted to dominate the area.  However, dawn found the dunes smack dab in the middle of two storm fronts moving through the lower Great Lakes.  Conditions were warm, moist, and full of birds migrating between the storms.  The southerly winds were bringing warm and wet air from the Gulf, but also birds that have been staging in southern Indiana and points south.

By noon, storms rolled in and shut down migration, but not before 10,000+ birds were logged, comprising 70 species.  New birds for the year included Pied-billed Grebe, Wilson’s Snipe (in the prairie), Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Hermit Thursh, Savannah Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow.  Clearly new birds were riding the moist advection overnight.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at bird tower site.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at bird tower site.

Blackbirds and grackles put on a good early morning movement. Particularly grackles.  5,000+ grackles, doubled the number of red-wings moving through.  Also notable in numbers were 21 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.  Not record count, but still pretty good.

Without the sunshine, the raptors didn’t put on a very big flight, but the fast flying raptors took advantage of the south winds.  4 Merlins doubled the season total thus far.  Kestrels, Peregrine Falcon, and Sharp-shinned Hawks rounded out the majority of raptors today.

Exciting news to share is the first Osprey on the Dunes State Park Osprey tower.  If you remember, the towers were put up last year and reported in our blog in 2014.  Well now, a year later, Becky Muraro was able to capture the following photo from atop the Kemil Rd tower. It hasn’t been seen since, but it’s obvious that the first Osprey has already taken notice to the beautiful nesting site!  If you build it….

Osprey on Kemil rd tower, April 2.   Photo by Becky Muraro.

Osprey on Kemil rd tower, April 2. Photo by Becky Muraro.

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Today’s full list follows:
Canada Goose 12
Wood Duck 4
American Wigeon 1
Mallard 3
Blue-winged Teal 8
Green-winged Teal 36
White-winged Scoter 3
Bufflehead 5
Red-breasted Merganser 8
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Horned Grebe 4
Double-crested Cormorant 64
Great Blue Heron 6
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 13
Northern Harrier 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Killdeer 10
Wilson’s Snipe 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
Herring Gull 40
Great Black-backed Gull 2 Adults.
Caspian Tern 26
Mourning Dove 56
Belted Kingfisher 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 21
Northern Flicker 79
American Kestrel 10
Merlin 4
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 4
Horned Lark 6
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 3
Tree Swallow 110
Barn Swallow 10
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 13
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 696
European Starling 86
Lapland Longspur 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Eastern Towhee 1
American Tree Sparrow 4
Chipping Sparrow 3
Field Sparrow 8
Vesper Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 4
Swamp Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 34
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 2892
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Rusty Blackbird 254
Common Grackle 5250
Brown-headed Cowbird 377
House Finch 1
Purple Finch 3
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 1

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Easter Birds and Counting Primer

The longshore flight for the last two days continued with the light south winds present.  However, the flight has not been what one would expect this time of year.  The birds have been much more similar in numbers to the cold 2014 season count.  Longshore flight counts occurred on both Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5 (Easter), however only a combined 4,000 birds were added to the season total, now approaching 150,000 birds.  Saturday began with south winds, but had been north through much of the night, therefore no major nocturnal movement had occurred.  Sunday was warmer, but with gusty 20-25 mph winds.  Few birds were braving the stiff winds to migrate.  On a side note, Sunday was the first morning without shelf ice.  She’s officially gone!

Birders counting on a crisp Saturday morning, April 4, 2015.

Birders counting on a crisp Saturday morning, April 4, 2015.

Despite the lower totals, a number of first of the year birds flew past this weekend.  April is a month of daily arrivals.  So it makes sense that even in the slower days, a new bird or two can be expected.  New for the weekend were arriving Osprey, Brown Thrasher, and a few Vesper Sparrows.  With a little luck, one of these Osprey will find the nesting platforms that were installed last year.

hawkflightIn regards to hawks, it has seemed like a pretty slow year for hawks thus far.  There have been no major hawk flight days with over 100 birds.  Though the peak is still to come, it was pointed out that the few handful we’ve had each day is slowly adding up.  You can see the season totals so far below.  This right on par with last year’s count, and is a good clip ahead of 2013, when we only had 301 birds of prey logged by this point.

This year we have jumped right into the birds, with little introduction on how we count the birds, why we count, and the species diversity.  With our fourth year now going, it seems helpful to refer back to past posts that help explain our process and why we do it.  So today, I’ll direct you to Peterson’s Birding Basics- A green tower prerequisite.  It’s a good intro to counting the most numerous birds being seen right now.

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Lastly, we received word yesterday the inaugural Indiana Dunes Birding Festival was set to receive it’s 200th registration sometime today.  Quite an accomplishment for it’s first year.  If you haven’t registered yet, and hope to, you’ll certainly not being getting the early worm.  Field trips are said to be full, and many of the programs will be tough getting into.  Better register today than risk not getting to go!

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Get Along Grackles

Thursday, April 2 brought the warmest dawn start for the longshore count this season.  The air was full of smell, as the warm and moist breeze blanketed the dunes with humidity and newly arrived birds.  Strong thunderstorms arrived around 4am, and passed through with enough time for a dawn flight before the next round would arrive later in the morning.

Dark storm clouds roll over Lake Michigan this morning.  4/2/15

Dark storm clouds roll over Lake Michigan this morning. 4/2/15

This morning, a good contingent of spring song could be heard.  Towhees, phoebes, kinglets, sapsuckers, and flickers could all be heard making noise.  But it was the grackles that stole the show.  By 9am the duneland area had been emptied of every single grackle to find.  These lanky blackbirds, with their larger tails and longer bodies streamed over the beach and foredunes heading west.  Before it was done, 19,300 grackles flew past, more than any other bird today.  Red-winged Blackbirds were not far behind with 10, 731, and Rusty Blackbirds brought 826 to accompany them.

As mentioned earlier, the warm air brought many new arrivals.  First of the year birds included, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Chipping Sparrow, and Vesper Sparrow.  At the nature center, a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a new annual bird.

Other goodies included Long-tailed Duck (3), Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (27), a good 215 count of Northern Flickers, 159 Tree Swallows, and a single Purple Finch.

North winds look to enter the area for the next day or so.  Perhaps some flight will occur by Saturday.  Today’s full list below.

Wood Duck 2
Mallard 6
Green-winged Teal 4
White-winged Scoter 3
Long-tailed Duck 3 
Bufflehead 1
Common Merganser 3
Red-breasted Merganser 41
Common Loon 5
Double-crested Cormorant 15
Great Blue Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Northern Harrier 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Sandhill Crane 2
Killdeer 9
Ring-billed Gull 104
Herring Gull 3
Caspian Tern 2
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove 11
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 27
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 215
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 2
Eastern Phoebe 4
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 7
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 159
Barn Swallow 1 
Cliff Swallow 1 
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 7
American Robin 1143
European Starling 20
Cedar Waxwing 14
Lapland Longspur 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Eastern Towhee 4
American Tree Sparrow 5
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 4
Vesper Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 23
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 10731
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Rusty Blackbird 826
Common Grackle 19388 finish.
Brown-headed Cowbird 420
House Finch 17
Purple Finch 1
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 44

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Season’s 100,000th bird (and 100th species)!

Early birds logging the birds from atop the tower on April 1, 2015.

Early birds logging the birds from atop the tower on April 1, 2015.

Wednesday, April 1 was a great day for a longshore flight.  After off and on cold spells, it was no joking matter that the counters were ready for some good counting.  By dawn, some decent blackbird and robin flocks started to make an appearance.  It would soon be clear that new arrivals would be flooding in as well.   The sun was bright, winds were light, and viewing conditions were excellent today.

We broke the 3,000 bird slump today with a nice tally of 13,660 birds.  It also helped the count total reach 100,000 birds.  The first time to break 100,000 in the season the last four years are below.  Remember, 2012 was the hot year, 2013 was the average year (Temperatures), and 2014 was the cold year.  It also provided for the 100th bird of the season.  Those being… #98 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker , #99 Eurasian Collared-Dove, and #100 Eastern Towhee.  #101 was not far behind with a pair of American White-Pelicans.

100,000 birds date by season
2012- March 14
2013- March 28
2014- March 31

By mid-morning the cranes starting to migrate.  Despite the first flocks moving weeks ago, there were still plenty bottled up.  An excellent, and season high count of 4,765 cranes migrated over the duneland area.  It was also the best raptor flight of the year.  However, the caveat being that we have not had much of a hawk flight yet.  Some 84 birds of prey would fly over, with Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawks dominating.

Duck diversity was down slightly, but 19 Common Loons were the best of the season thus far.  24 juncos may not seem high, but the singing near the tower all day gave hint to a staging occurring now.  They should start to filter out soon.  Another season high was totaled with Pine Siskin.  48 were zipping past, far earlier than they usually peak at.  What will the next month bring!?

We start April with 104,715 birds, comprising 102 species.  Tomorrow we dodge rain drops, but if the timing is right, it could be another good day.  Time will tell.

 

 

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