Miserable yet Memorable

After a day off, the 21st longshore flight count of the season was attempted today, April 10, 2013.  Conditions called for early east winds shifting to the south after dawn.  With recent south winds to our south, we were hopeful that a few new birds would filter through and a moderate longshore flight would develop late.  After a brief wait for early rain to clear, the morning remained calm as east winds continued to push in.

East winds, in reality, are the second least favorable wind for a longshore flight.  South and west winds can see significant movement.  East winds, counter to what you’d think, given our position just past the southern tip of the lake, tend to not produce large bird flights.  East winds, however, can be good for hawk flights further north in Michigan.  By the end of the day, winds were still blowing from the east.  The longshore flight was a dud.

Dud or not, today’s flight produced 1,253 birds.  Just enough to push the season total to 300,115!  We’ve surpassed 300k!  If anyone knows of similar longshore flight counts to compare with, we’d love to see it.

Merlin this morning in the West Lot.  Taken through an iPhone and Zeiss spotting scope.  4/10/13.
Merlin this morning in the West Lot. Taken through an iPhone and Zeiss spotting scope. 4/10/13.

Even though the flight wasn’t impressive, a few birds were notable today.  We continue to get White-winged Scoters.  Today’s single bird continues that record going.   Once again, Wild Turkeys streaked their way through the West Lot.  It’s still an odd site to see so close to the lake.   9 Northern Harriers under dreary conditions seemed unexpected.  Many of them were males.  A couple Merlins hunted the dunes, with one perching just long enough in the West Lot.  The above picture was digiscoped with an iPhone this morning.  Lastly, a late morning Brewer’s Blackbird would provide the day’s only new season bird.

Caspian Tern over Lake Michigan from 2012.
Caspian Tern over Lake Michigan from 2012.

The largest highlight of the morning was the season’s best Caspian Tern movement.  All birds were actively hunting and moving eastward.  Single birds and loose flocks of 7 or 8 would stream by all morning, culminating in 236 birds.  The count is impressive, but doesn’t even crack the top 10 counts for the lakeshore.

After 300,000 birds, the season has proven memorable thus far.  As mid April enters, we’re excited that many of the best birds of the season are still to come.    On top of the season totals, here are some individual species totals we have accumulated thus far:

Season Total Highlights:
White-winged Scoters- 357
Red-throated Loon- 377
Bald Eagle- 12
Merlin- 11 (only 4 at this point last year)
Sandhill Crane- 10,197
Tree Swallow- 1,010
YB Sapsucker- 392
N Flicker- 828
American Crow- 648
E Phoebe- 140
Eastern Bluebird- 422
Am Robin- 34,317
Dark-eyed Junco- 399
Red-winged Blackbird- 164,863
Eastern Meadowlark- 284
Common Grackle- 48,495
Common Redpoll- 155



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