Great Day to Be a Birder!

The longshore flight at Indiana Dunes State Park on May 2, 2012 will be remembered as one of the best flights witnessed by both number of species seen and incredible high counts.  Long before dawn, signs that today would be a good day were already being seen.  The forecast was for stronger south winds in the 10-20mph range, less rain than the last two days, and a predawn radar image that made Chicago look like the eye of a hurricane;  a hurricane of birds winging it northward.  Not only were the birds good, but the list of birders present was also impressive.  So impressive, that their presence on a weekday can only mean sick days were being used or bosses were in the dark.  Thus, today’s list of counters will for the most part remain anonymous.

The local Prairie Warbler was performing again today with beautiful Lake Michigan in the background, 5/2/12.

It’s hard to decide where to begin.  Let’s start by noting that 101 species were seen from the site today.  This included 7,328 individuals (2,517 yesterday).  Monday and Tuesday were great count days, but seemed to have been leading up to today.  The previous best Grube Magnitude Index from the Green Tower site was 67.85.  Today, it was blown away with a very impressive 79.04 per Ken Brock.  This quantification calculates today’s count as the best ever observed!

At dawn the stream had started and the variety and strength of the morning flight would continue for many hours.  By 11am, hawkwatching was distracting, as gnatcatchers, swallows, and orioles still continued to migrate past the old tower site.

Cape May Warbler adding to the day’s diversity, 5/2/12.

Let’s tick off two sets of highlights.  First the rarities, then the high counts.  Major rarity highlights for today included, a single Black-crowned Night-Heron landing in the nearby pines, 2 Bald Eagle, 4 Merlin, 67 American Golden Plovers, 1 American Woodcock, 1 SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, 1 Tennessee Warlber, 1 Magnolia Warbler, 1 good looking Prairie Warbler, 1 early Summer Tanager, 3 Lark Sparrows, 1 singing! Clay-colored Sparrow, and 8 Pine Siskin.

High counts included, 11 Osprey, 73 Sharp-shined Hawks, 100 Broad-winged Hawks (state’s second highest for the month of May) , 364 Chimney Swifts (state’s 7th highest count), 2,121 Blue Jays (state’s 10th largest count), 19 Cliff Swallows, 124 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (new state record!), 535 Yellow-rumped Warblers state’s 9th largest count),  109 Palm Warblers, 268 Baltimore Orioles (state’s second highest count) , 139 Indigo Buntings, and 1,579 American Goldfinch.

Flyover Osprey, one of 11 for the day, 5/2/12.
Flyover American Kestrel, one of 15 today, 5/2/12.

Inland, away from the Green Tower, and not on the official list, other warblers were noted, giving a dunes area total of at least 17 warbler species, including the well known Prothonotary Warbler that is back on the Wilson Shelter Boardwalk.  A Golden-winged Warbler was also found today in the nearby IN Dunes NL Heron Rookery unit.

Winds will continue southerly overnight, thus our counters will head to bed early, sore and sunburn, with dreams of what may appear tomorrow morning.

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