Day two (March 7, 2012) of the 2012 Dunes State Park Green Tower Migration Count picked up much like yesterday ended… strong, wild wind! From the bedroom early this morning you could hear the wind howling. It wasn’t even dawn and the wind gusts were already topping 30mph. By 8am, we were getting 40mph gusts that were whipping across the Dunes Prairie Nature Preserve. So once again, birding was forced down to the next landing below our main birding spot. From here, about seven feet lower than normal, one can bird without the main gusts. However, after a little time there, you begin to accumulate some sand that softly falls upon you, covering cameras, scopes, and Frappuccinos!
At arrival to the old Green Tower site this morning, the sky was a constant stream of various early migrating birds. Last night’s strong south winds had apparently brought new arrivals northward. One would think that 40 mph winds would hamper flight and it would be best to rest somewhere calm. Doing the opposite of popular opinion, birds apparently use the Jim Irsay playbook.
In flocks of 30-50, various bands of Red-winged Blackbirds would flash by going east to west over the dunes. Occasional grackles could be found within the groups. Usually seperate, robins started moving this morning, also together in loose flocks . Starlings put up good numbers this morning, with nearly a thousand going by. Lapland Longspurs made a strong appearance, with 135 individual birds going by, a Dunes Area top 10 count. Also posting nice numbers were Killdeer. Loose bands of 4-6 could be found every few minutes moving right off of the water line. 162 Killdeer would be counted before the morning was over.
Other unusual highlights this morning included 4 White-winged Scoters flying just off shore. Their white wing markings reflected the early morning sunshine. A few other ducks would go by this morning too. Later, some “pishing” convinced a lone Common Redpoll to turn around and landed in a small oak next to the staircase this morning. It took off seconds later giving it’s mechanical “chet chet chet” call, leaving one to wonder why they didn’t take a photo!
Finally, the record breaker this morning was a singleton Pine Warbler seen briefly before departing the nearby Jack Pines. This morning’s bird likely represents the earliest spring migrant for the northwestern Indiana area (if not all of northern Indiana), beating the previous spring record, a feeder bird on March 12, 2008, again here at Indiana Dunes State Park.
In two March days, the old Green Tower site at IDSP has produced 12,192 identified birds. Add a few more for the un-identified birds that have gone by. The real movement hasn’t even started yet! Here’s some other random numbers from today.
Ring-billed Gulls: 2,070
Eastern Bluebirds: 14 flew past today
American Robin: 538 individually logged
European Starling: 936 tailless birds seen
Red-winged Blackbirds: 3,460 birds. High counts later will top 10,000 in a few hours of counting
Common Grackles: 270 seen. Again, a fraction of what is to come.
As we look ahead and study the forecasts, cold weather and north winds look to greet us for a couple days. We’ll likely pick up again with below freezing temperatures on Saturday morning.