Final Tally: 285,383 birds

As of today, May 31, our first official longshore flight bird survey has come to completion.  We had held out hope that the weather the last few days would bring some final south winds, but alas they have not.  Today is cloudy, drizzling, and 52 degrees on the lakefront.  A few Canada Warblers continue to sing and the last migrating waxwings and flycatchers are departing.

The sun sets on our inaugural longshore flight counting season at Indiana Dunes State Park.

It’s been a long three months of counting in a variety of weather.  Several surprises came by, which we were expecting.  Maybe not the exact species, but we knew on any given day something cool could go by.  We found no new state records.  A hopeful dream perhaps, but broke a few state record counts along the way.  As we end this season and look forward to next year, a substantial birding tower is under construction right now.  If all goes well we’ll be birding from atop this new structure next spring and use it to compare our counts.  In the end, weather will likely play out as the largest variable and uncontrollable factor in how many of what we have recorded.  We hope though, that a few years of counts can allow patterns to visualize themselves.

If not already, the full count data will be shared in the 2012 results link.  This includes all 213 species seen from the tower site in 2012.  We hope this shared data gives insight into the nature of the morning flight that occurs here in the spring.  Patterns clearly exist for migration windows of certain species.  Maybe a particular species moved through in big numbers that you didn’t know about.  Come by next year to watch them fly!

Some quick tallies here.  How about the top 10 list of most abundant birds seen in this year’s flight:

Red-winged Blackbird 74024
Common Grackle 43136
American Robin 37010
Sandhill Crane 25092
Ring-billed Gull 22910
Cedar Waxwing 19135
American Goldfinch 10643
Blue Jay 9592
European Starling 5221
Tree Swallow 4875

Other notable counts included:

Red-breasted Merganser 2831
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2241
Northern Flicker 1569
Eastern Bluebird 1086
Baltimore Oriole 966
Indigo Bunting 628
Eastern Kingbird 593
Red-throated Loon 212
YB Sapsucker 123
Osprey 51
Merlin 43

Maybe the rarest birds seen:

Long-tailed Duck
Northern Goshawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
White-winged Dove
Long-eared Owl
Red Crossbill

And finally, species not seen this year that were unofficially seen by birders at this site last year!

Redhead
Golden Eagle
Black-bellied Plover
Sanderling
White-rumped Sandpiper
Wilson’s Snipe
Franklin’s Gull
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-th. Blue Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Snow Bunting
Blue Grosbeak
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Finally, we thank the DNR Lake Michigan Coastal Program for providing funding to this year’s project.  Also the DNR Indiana Dunes State Park staff for providing the opportunity.  The Northwest Indiana Migratory Bird Association deserves credit for helping to initiate the project.   Other Audubon groups get credit for the new bird tower being built.  We thank Ken Brock for providing his valuable dataset and hawk watching skills during this year’s count.  And lastly we thank our counter, Brendan Grube, for his eagle eyes, enthusiasm, interest in teaching others that came up, and flat out magnificent job counting not just songbirds, but each type that flew by every day.

Until next spring.  Mark your calendars for March 3, 2013!

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#212 and #213

Friday, May 25 brought cool weather to the dunes.  A northwest wind cooled the land before the big heat wave that will settle in for the holiday weekend.  In fact with gusting winds, temperatures actually dropped throughout today’s count.  Despite this, 1,610 birds migrated past the site today.

Birds number 212 and 213 went past the counting dune today.  Those being, Canada Warbler and a singing Mourning Warbler.  Other highlights included a Northern Harrier over the beach, 1,111 Cedar Waxwings, and the 6th Lark Sparrow of the season.

The weekend’s weather may bring the last final push of spring migrants.  Things should start to peter out after that.  The full list from today’s 64 species is copied below.

Double-crested Cormorant 15
Great Blue Heron 2
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 1
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 1
Caspian Tern 2
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 13
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 4
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s) 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 34
American Crow 1
Purple Martin 4
Tree Swallow 1
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 1
Cedar Waxwing 1111
Mourning Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 2
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 1
Prairie Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Lark Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Scarlet Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 5
Dickcissel 1
Red-winged Blackbird 38
Common Grackle 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 4
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 13
House Sparrow 1

Signs of Winding Down?

Today, Wednesday May 23 brought another push of south winds into the dunes area.  This current stream of weather holds promise of a return to unseasonable 90 degree warmth by the weekend.  The birds don’t seem to mind it much in flight, as they continue overhead.

While numbers don’t seem incredibly high, especially from totals we were getting earlier in the season, they hold good variety that we would have been quite pleased with 4 weeks earlier.

New birds have been added to the season totals.  Today, a visiting Semipalmated Plover and Olive-sided Flycatcher were new for the year.  Additionally, a Northern Parula on an un-reported light day a few days ago have also been added, bringing the season total to 210 species.

Achieving 210 species while standing still is quite an achievement.  When the counter predicts that he’ll get another Western Kingbird.… well that’s another achievement, as a flyby Western Kingbird was logged early (6am) this morning heading west.  This makes two for the season from the old Green Tower.

Though in the end, with the first good push of south winds in 2-3 days, a meager 891 birds were logged.  Signs point that the spring migration is winding down.  We’ll still log birds and push our way to 300,000 season birds and already begin making plans to do it all over again next year.  This time 20 feet higher, atop the new Green Tower platform.

Today’s full list follows:
Canada Goose 13
Mallard 2
Double-crested Cormorant 29
Great Blue Heron 3
Green Heron 5
Turkey Vulture 19
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Semipalmated Plover 1
Killdeer 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 2
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 1
Caspian Tern 13
Common Tern 4
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 25
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 4
Least Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
WESTERN KINGBIRD 1
Eastern Kingbird 18
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Blue Jay 191
American Crow 1
Horned Lark 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 4
Tree Swallow 2
Bank Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 13
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Eastern Bluebird 5
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 1
Cedar Waxwing 310
American Redstart 2
Yellow Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 1
Prairie Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Summer Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 13
Bobolink 2
Red-winged Blackbird 89
Eastern Meadowlark 2
Common Grackle 54
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 6
House Finch 1
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch 4
House Sparrow 1

Do Waxwings Melt?

Saturday, May 19 brought another hot and sultry day to the dunes.  Strong south winds allowed for more Blue Jay and Waxwings to stream over the high dunes.  Large flights would occur, while early season beach goers (and a metal detecting event) would flood to the beach, unbeknownst to the ornithological event occurring just above them.

Minesweeping the Dunes Beach, 5/19/12
A strong south wind quickly brought temperatures into the 80s for the  count period.  4,572 birds, comprising 86 species would be logged.  Though diverse, 4 out of 5 birds that passed by would be a Cedar Waxwings.  Waxwings were so numerous, they would take the 4th highest state count, with 3,739 birds.  All the highest counts have occurred here in the dunes.

Bird number 207 for the season would appear today, as a Black-billed Cuckoo was found near the Green Tower site.  Also notable were 2 Common Loons, 1 Merlin, 76 Eastern Kingbirds, 178 Blue Jays, 55 Indigo Buntings, 26 Baltimore Orioles, and a lone Pine Siskin.

The Dunes area Friends of Indiana Dunes birdathon also took place on Saturday.   $1,795.40 was raised for the new bird tower project, going on now.  The team found 142 species of birds on a very warbler-less day.  A highlight was stopping by the green tower in time to watch the day’s only Merlin go by.  A good bird for a birdathon any year.

 

Summer Time?

Panoramic shot from today’s birding crew. 5/18/12

Friday, May 18 brought the first taste of south winds since late last week.  Though southeast, with more southerly winds tomorrow, there was a noticeable increase in migrating birds.  The south winds also brought warmer temperatures, with morning lows now longer in the 40s, but mid 50s today.  The dune top would warm to 80+ degrees before the day would finish.  The warmth was enough to bring early beach goers to the shore.  Some partaking in typical beach games, other setting up the blanket for an afternoon of sunbathing.

The season’s 206th species was logged mid-morning when Jeff “Magic Eyes” McCoy located a single Ruddy Turnstone coming in off of the lake.  It would be joined by a second bird in alternate plumage and feed for an hour or so in front of the high dune counters.

Cedar Waxwings also made a significant flight, with 1,287 birds seen; the highest single day total of the season.

Rounding out the highlights were 1 Common Loon, 1 Osprey, 50 Eastern Kingbirds, 1 “Trail’s” Flycatcher, 161 Blue Jays, 5 Summer Tanagers (a rare high for the lakefront), 41 Baltimore Orioles, and 9 Pine Siskin.

Finally, work has begun on the new bird observation deck from the old Green Tower site.  The steel support structure is first, and from the picture below you can see all of our donations hard at work to make this dream become a reality.

Bird Observation Deck Construction work, 5/18/12.

Catching Up

It’s been a whirlwind week for writing blogs.  It’s been a good thing that north winds have been set in place for most of the week, as many birds would have been back logged from being reported here.

The annual Indiana Audubon Society Big May Day Count resulted in many birders scouring the county, but our official counter took a usual southern county assignment.  The resulting miss did not create any large data holes on Saturday, May 12, as some pinch hitters recorded very few migrants ahead of a cold front that moved through later that morning.

Under north winds, a small count was conducted on Monday, May 14.  Highlights included: 3 White-winged Scoters, 3 Red-throated Loons, 1 Thayer’s Gull (new season bird), and a Wilson’s Warbler.

With the first peak of south winds, the Thursday, May 17 count logged a few more birds.  1,039 to be exact.  No new birds were logged, but an eclectic list of early season birds and late season arrivals rounded out the morning.  Highlights included: 1 Dunlin, 1 Common Tern, 43 Eastern Kingbirds, a late season surge of 20 Eastern Bluebirds, 295 Cedar Waxwings, a Summer Tanager, and a whooping 21 late Pine Siskins.

South winds look to set up for several days now.  We hope to get some good birds for the last few weeks as spring migration comes to a close.  As we end our first season in official counting, construction officially begins on the new Green Tower bird platform.  We hope to count from atop next spring.  Our DNR Birdathon team also goes out this upcoming Saturday, in search of 150 species to raise money for the final completion, landscaping, and interpretive signage of the new tower.  It’s not too late to make a pledge to support this amazing Hoosier birding location.

Full list from today:

Canada Goose 9
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 1
Double-crested Cormorant 16
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 22
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Sandhill Crane 1
Killdeer 1
Dunlin 1
Ring-billed Gull 30
Herring Gull 2
Caspian Tern 11
Common Tern 1
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 75
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Red-headed Woodpecker 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 4
Least Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 43
Blue Jay 168
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 2
Bank Swallow 21
Barn Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 18
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Eastern Bluebird 20
American Robin 7
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 1
Cedar Waxwing 295
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 3
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Summer Tanager 1
Scarlet Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 14
Bobolink 6
Red-winged Blackbird 126
Common Grackle 39
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 11
House Finch 1
Pine Siskin 21
American Goldfinch 29
House Sparrow 1

 

Waiting

Desperately waiting for a north wind, Green Tower Site, May 10, 2012.

Thursday, May 10 was an absolutely fabulous day to be out and about.  Despite an early chill, the day warmed up nicely, and bird activity in the park continued into the afternoon hours.

Starting calm, winds quickly turned southwest (though very light) for an hour, before the lake breeze and continued northwest winds took over for the rest of the day.  It was an overall slow morning flight with only 912 individual birds logged.  No new birds for the season were counted today.

One particular oddity seen today was a nearly all white Blue Jay.   This leucistic bird, similar to the one pictured here, was migrating with a larger group of jays, all heading west today.  A first for the counters present.

Other highlights of the morning were 1 Merlin, 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, a high spring tally of 6 Orange-crowned Warblers (warblers haven’t peaked yet!), a super late Dark-eyed Junco, and 7 Pine Siskin.

The distinctive Zonotrichia sparrows are peaking now through the dunes.  Those in this area being the White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows.  A few more were logged migrating today, and this chap, below, was seen further in the park.  Many may exit out tonight as the winds finally shift to the south after midnight.  Tomorrow should be a busier day from the old Green Tower site.

White-crowned Sparrow in Indiana Dunes State Park, 5/10/12.