Today (April 19th, 2013) the dunes were whip-lashed back to winter. Highs failed to reach 40 degrees and sporadic snow, or what the meteorologists were called graupel, was in the day off and on. The day was not ideal for a longshore flight, and as expected, none occurred. Tomorrow also looks poor, as winds shift even more northerly. By Sunday morning things should be moving again. Monday looks very good, and may bring in a good influx of new birds. Tuesday looks again to be ideal, with opportunities for birds to be grounded as more precipitation enters the area. So, we’ll use the next 24 hours to catch up on sleep and start the next week fresh. Join us.
Within the dunes area however, birds are present. I believe many of the migrants being seen south of us simply did not make it here during the last strong south push due to storms centered over the south shore of the lake. This RADAR composite shows the rain over us when most of the night’s migration occurred on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Hermit Thrushes and Yellow-rumped Warblers are currently dominating the wooded areas behind the high dunes. A Yellow Warbler was seen on the Wilson Boardwalk, and NIMBA volunteers cleaned up the Prothonotary Warbler boxes and cleared the views for hopefully another successful breeding season. Last year, birders could actually see her inside incubating from her entrance hole.
The best birds of the day were not neo-tropical migrants, but a taste of the fall finch invasion of last November. Our counter, Brendan, found 3 Evening Grosbeaks visiting a feeder in Beverly Shores. This feeder station, at the intersection of Idler and St. Clair also hosted Western Tanager a few years back. It’s a good luck station. Given the north winds tomorrow, they may stick for birders wanting to see them… again.
On Tuesday, April 23, a group of local birders will be meeting together with Indiana Dunes Tourism. The Porter County Tourism, or Indiana Dunes Tourism, is one of the most successful local, county tourisms in the state. Our tourism agency is recognizing the value of bird eco-tourism. They no doubt want a piece of that pie. It’s also good business for birders. Any birder familiar with the Patagonia Effect knows that having other good birders in the area only leads to more and more birds to be seen or chased.
What needs done to further promote the area for birding? Our longshore flight is re-enforcing what we already know; the Indiana dunes are the best birding site in Indiana and arguably among the top three birding sites in the Great Lakes. If you have ideas, let us know before Tuesday. We’ll share what others tell us at the upcoming meeting.
We already have several great resources. We have great birding locations, great birds to be seen in all the seasons, a growing enthusiasm for birding in the area, and an already healthy base of expert, local birders who live here. The most noted is Ken Brock, whose book and CD series is a standard for any dunes area birder’s bookshelf. In here, there is much more info than just ID of birds. Here, you can find out when and where to find birds in the Dunes. Check high counts, early arrival dates, it’s got a wealth of dunes birding info. Want to know when the orioles or hummingbirds come back… check the guide. Here, thousands of bird records are put through the statistical wringer and set out for us to enjoy.
Using Brock’s overall data, we know that spring warbler migration statistically peaks on May 13. While weather will change the actual date year to year, it’s a good gauge of overall migration. To help our county tourism kick off a greater promotion of dunes area birding, we’re offering a special deal. For every birder who visits the longshore tower during one of our counts or visits the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center, you can have your own free copy of Brock’s Birds of Indiana Dunes, second edition book! This deal has an expiration and it’s the date of our peak warbler migration. It expires May 13! Come birding at the tower and get a copy from Brendan or Brad or ask for a free copy at the Nature Center (better have your binoculars to prove you’re a birder!). Thanks to the Shirley Heinze Land Trust for providing the extra books.
We’ll see you birding the dunes this spring season!