As projected yesterday, this morning’s longshore flight (March 22, 2012) hit a milestone in migrating Red-winged Blackbirds. Today’s 1,770 birds surpassed the 50,000 mark for the season. While on milestones, Red-breasted Mergansers surpassed 1,500 for the season with 111 added today, and Killdeer exceeded 500 today by adding 3 birds.
The day was overall slow, with a pale 4,267 birds recorded flying over. Today marked the second slowest day of the season. Having said that, conditions were near perfect, with a very light wind and glass like conditions on the lake. The quiet chip notes of Purple Finches could be heard among the usual blackbird and robins sounds. The slower day allowed for careful counts of migrating flocks, without having to quickly switch to the next incoming flock. Counting flocks can be a lesson in how bad we are at counting bird groups. Three people can count the same flock and get completely different numbers. We tend to underestimate flocks of smaller sized birds, but at the same time want to be conservative in the number, rather than risk over-estimating the flock sizes. Ebird had a good post here regarding counting flocks. You can even practice at home with the Irania Bird Counting Game.
Our counter was joined again by Bernie Konrady, who has become the “Flicker Clicker,” catching every bird heading west, both in front and behind the staircase. 287 Flickers were counted today, on top of the 229 yesterday, and 295 seen on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, March 19, just as the day’s count was finishing, seven white birds with black wingtips were picked up south of the count site heading in a southeasterly direction. Quickly getting the birds into the scope, it became apparent that these birds were not pelicans, but Snow or Ross’ Geese. Though both are extremely rare on the lakefront, logic dictated that they would have been Snow Geese, and the birds were logged as such.
Fast forward two days to March 21, local birder Penny Starin finds seven Ross’ Geese at Hitchcock Pond in Michigan City. The pond is west and south of the state park. Could these have been the same seven geese logged from the old green tower two days earlier? Not long after this morning started, an amazing seven white geese were again located flying by the tower. This time the birds were near the shore and heading out in a northwest direction. Again, with a quick scope swing, it became obvious that these white geese all had tiny bills and lacked the grin patch present on Snow Geese. They were Ross’ Geese! Did we blow the call on March 19!? Given the likelihood now that the March 19 birds were Ross’ Geese, they will still be recorded as a Snow/Ross’ type Goose without specific designation. The Ross’ Geese seen today are a new Green Tower site record.