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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