Thunder Storm Warning!

With the warmer weather upon us, if you’re like me, you’ve got the window opened or perhaps cracked slightly.  The moist breeze can filter in and some of the early spring songs can be heard.  Outside my place a robin was beginning it’s song quite early today; even before 5am had arrived.  I leaned over to the nightstand, checked the iPad weather app and was pleasantly surprised to see the rain had lifted north and much of the nearby cells were moving north and away from the dunes.  Perhaps a few birds did indeed take off through the night’s rain and found themselves in the dunes.  If not, the warm air and water would help stimulate plant growth, then subsequent insect growth, and of course provide food for the arriving birds.

As seen on the radar above, the rain was to our west, but would only stay that way for just a few hours.  By 9am, the line had drifted east in a thunder storm warning, with strong winds, lightning, and heavy downpours.  Our already swelled up creeks and swamps are overflowing with 3.5 inches of rain in the last 36 hours.

This morning's early radar returns, showing intense storms just west of the Indiana Dunes.  4/18/13
This morning’s early radar returns, showing intense storms just west of the Indiana Dunes. 4/18/13

After a sluggish start the first 30 minutes, the birds became quite active.  Nearly 5,000 birds were logged this morning before the storm came.  The impressive sight this morning was the swallow flight and early hawk flight.  Nearly 1,000 Tree Swallows would be logged going overhead, to the south, and in large groups over the lake.  Among them were hundreds of Barn and Rough-winged Swallows.  All the other expected swallows, martins, and swifts would be logged today too.  Today’s swallow numbers are no doubt an underestimate   It’s hard to strictly count them when warblers, sparrows, and other migrants are also passing by.

Hawks began strong this morning  as well.  It’s disappointing that the rain arrived when it did.  While buteos were not posting any big numbers, it looked to be a good falcon day.  In just a couple hours 32 kestrels and a season high 10 Merlins were counted.  If you remember last year’s impressive 40 Merlins logged during the season, today’s season total of 30 birds is quickly surpassing last year’s impressive movement.

The day also brought a couple new birds.  New for the season were: Pied-billed Grebe, Sora, Solitary Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Bank Swallow, and a very early Eastern Kingbird.  

Another Short-eared Owl was seen today in the dune swales to the south.  This bird flushed up and actually perched in the nearby cottonwoods for nearly 30 minutes before eventually taking off and flying east, out of sight.

We’re now at 327,013 birds, comprised from 144 species thus far.    The major highlights from today are again below.  Tomorrow will be interesting, as a WSW wind will blow cooler air into the area.  It may not be the most ideal, but with two days of south wind, it may reveal some neotropical migrants that we’ve been short of.  Saturday looks to be cold and without a flight.  Sunday and Monday looks to be good again.  Sunday’s southeast winds may produce another hawk flight  and Monday will come at the heels of a good overnight period for more annuals to arrive.

Longshore Flight Highlights, 4/18/13

Northern Shoveler 43
White-winged Scoter 2
Red-throated Loon 46
Great Egret 20
Osprey 17
Bald Eagle 1
Sora 1
American Golden-Plover 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Short-eared Owl 1
Chimney Swift 104
Northern Flicker 19
American Kestrel 32
Merlin 10
Eastern Kingbird 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 245
Purple Martin 22
Tree Swallow 938
Bank Swallow 7
Barn Swallow 360
Cliff Swallow 57
Hermit Thrush 3
American Robin 140
Palm Warbler 2
Pine Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 279
American Tree Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 14
Red-winged Blackbird 1501
Rusty Blackbird 3
Purple Finch 1

Field Sparrow, one of many sparrows enjoying the seed piles just down the drive from the tower site.  4/18/13.
Field Sparrow, one of many sparrows enjoying the seed piles just down the drive from the tower site. 4/18/13.
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