Little Bits of Blue

With lingering fog burning off and high humidity, today looked to be a much different weather day in the dunes.  Highs hit 70 degrees and a light southerly breeze made it actually feel hot by mid day.  It was hot enough that among first season birds, the beach filled with the first bikinis and sunbathers.  Swimming in the lake was another story (water is 39 degrees currently!).

Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring.  They are becoming more common in the area.
Northern Mockingbird at Longshore Platform this spring. They are becoming more common in the area.

A good mix, including 76 species, traversed the high dunes today for counters.  Total count consisted of 3,288 individual birds (season total now over 350,000 birds!).  Even while the count was going on, other birders were making their way along the park’s trails, boardwalks, and at the Nature Center.  We talked to a couple birders from out of state, looking to scratch their birding itch while traveling cross country.  Many yellow-rumps are still dominating the area.  The longshore dune only received a couple new species.  With the current wing map, conditions look prime for the best neotropic invasion of the season so far on Tuesday and likely Wednesday.

Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013.  Image from http://hint.fm/wind/
Wind map from Monday evening, April 29,2013. Image from http://hint.fm/wind/

Today began the first significant flight of Blue Jays.  Most folks don’t think of Blue Jays as migratory birds, but massive flocks move over the dunes typically around May 1 and lasts two weeks.  Peak flights will measure 3,000-5,000 birds.  Today, 902 Blue Jays flew over. It was also a big movement of tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  39 gnatcatchers migrated past today, accounting for a new spot on the dunes area top 10 count for gnatcatchers.  Rounding out the blue colored birds, 3 Great-blue Herons, 1 Indigo Bunting, and 4 Eastern Bluebirds went past.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today.  4/29/13
Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) at the Dunes State Park feeders today. 4/29/13

An interesting movement occurred today with Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  Usually, the red-bellied woodpecker is not considered a migratory bird. Due of the recent expansion of their breeding range, many Red-bellied are showing more migratory behavior during the coldest months of the year, moving south to the milder locations within their breeding territory over the winter.  Researchers speculate this behavior is linked to climate change and the abundance of food available from bird feeders.  Today, 16 went by, nearly doubling the season’s total.

Today’s other highlights are below.  Don’t forget to visit the birding dune or Nature Center for your free Brock’s Birds of Indiana Dunes book.

Blue-winged Teal 4
Red-breasted Merganser 97
Red-throated Loon 12 (still migrating!)
Common Loon 4
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3
Broad-winged Hawk 5
Wilson’s Snipe 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 16
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 1
Blue Jay 902
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 39
Brown Thrasher 5 (one loud migratory group)
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11
Lark Sparrow 1 (season’s fifth bird!)
White-throated Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 9
Pine Siskin 2

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