From the first week it became clear that this warm spring we’ve been experiencing could lead to an amazing spring migration count in the dunes. Just when you think you can’t beat the day before, another dawn comes and out paces the previous day! Remember that scene from The Big Year, where the birders were greeted to the scene of thousands of birds coming in after a long night on the wing? The scene was no question created with computers, but had they been to the dunes this morning they would have seen the closest thing to it!
Another weekend day meant more visitors to help count and gawk in the pure magnitude of flight that was occurring. For first timers to the Green Tower, the pure magnitude of bird migration turns even experienced birders into pure spectators, taking it all in. At dawn, literally thousands of blackbirds, grackles, starlings, robins, and more begun taking wing and were again heading west over the the tower dune. Several new birds made their first appearance today, including Eastern Phoebes, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Cedar Waxwings, and Pine Siskins.
Over the water, gulls were a fraction of the numbers that we had the last few days, but 161 Red-breasted Mergansers fed off shore with a dozen Red-throated Loons. Both White-winged and Surf Scoters were also seen today. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull helped add to the species tally also.
After such an amazing count yesterday, it was more astonishing today to see MORE Sandhill Cranes migrating by! Today’s flight was more slow and drawn out. The birds took time to kettle on rising thermals. Like yesterday, hawks would slip into the flocks, riding the same thermals, often with disturbing calls from the nearby cranes. 61 birds of prey would be logged today.
Finally, there’s been a small upsurge in winter finches. Another 9 Common Redpolls went by, but several Pine Siskin were also heard migrating by. Where’s the crossbills next?
In total, 30,848 birds were seen and identified today. This includes a new Dunes Area robin record. Bluebirds weren’t that shabby either. The season total is now at 65,442 birds. Below are some selected highlights and another quick clip showing some of the early morning flight that happens just after dawn.
Red-throated Loon- 12
Sandhill Crane= 5901
Lesser Black-backed Gull- 1
Eastern Phoebe- 8
Tree Swallow- 5
Eastern Bluebird- 194
American Robin- 7342
Lapland Longspur- 108
Red-winged Blackbird- 7860
Common Grackle- 7344
Common Redpoll- 9
Pine Siskin- 5