Butterbutts Blowing in the Breeze!

As predicted last night, strong south winds fed a stream of birds into the dunes overnight.  By dawn, the winds were stiff and strong, feeling far stronger than the 10-20mph that was predicted for today.  We almost felt concerned for our Longshore Platform construction workers who are laying the outer ring of the platform decking in the strong wind.

One of many Bluejays to cruise past the dunes today.  4/30/13.
One of many Bluejays to cruise past the dunes today. 4/30/13.

The day started early with the usual first dawn blackbird movement.  Within an hour after sunrise, the Blue Jay flight had begun, even stronger than yesterday.  Even our labor staff working on the platform were in awe of the giant flocks of jays going by, right over their heads.  1,660 jays were recorded today.  Even though impressive, it wasn’t the Blue Jays that dropped jaws today.

Jay flock moving overhead.  4/30/13.
Jay flock moving overhead. 4/30/13.

Unexpected in such breezy conditions, hoards of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, and tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatchers fought the wind as they crested each dune top in their way.  During certain gusts, gnatcatchers seemed motionless in the air, available to grab right out of the sky.  Two years ago in similar winds, Yellow-rumps staged their largest flight in the state when 2,823 birds were counted from this same location.  We nearly matched it again today when 1,967 butterbutts were today.  This is the state’s third highest count of Yellow-rumped Warblers and has come close nowhere else in the state.  If the butterbutts were impressive, check out our Palm Warbler count… 449!  This is a new state high count and smashes the previous 301 out of the water.  A record that has held for nearly a decade.  You can guess where the previous record was broken at!  Folks on local listserves today are posting that they saw a Palm or Yellow-rumped while birding.  Yeah, we saw one too!

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fighting the wind today.  4/30/13.
A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher fighting the wind today. 4/30/13.

Normally the above highlights would make for a good day of birding the Indiana Dunes.  In fact, it was enough to draw interest from the local ABC 57.  They reportedly will be running a story on the massive Blue Jay flight on their local news.    But, hold on!  Add these specialties to today’s full list: 2 Red-throated Loons, 2 Merlins, 445 Chimney Swifts (spring top 10 count!), 2 Smith’s Longspurs seen at short range, 5 Nashville Warblers, a Scarlet Tanager, 3 singing Henslow’s Sparrows, a Blue Grosbeak, an impressive 24 Baltimore Orioles. and a very large late count of 121 Pine Siskins!

Migrating Baltimore Oriole. 4/30/13
Migrating Baltimore Oriole. 4/30/13

The day ended warm and windy.  8,931 birds in the bag, 360,000+ for March and April.  May 1 begins a new season and more birds.  We’ve already logged 167 species this year.  Another ideal south wind blows overnight.  Tomorrow should be another outstanding day.  Will it rival today?  We’ll find out soon enough!

Once again, the major highlights from today follow:

Wild Turkey 1
Red-throated Loon 2
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 21
Osprey 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 6
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Solitary Sandpiper 12
American Woodcock 4
Forster’s Tern 2
Chimney Swift 445
Merlin 2
Peregrine Falcon 2
Eastern Kingbird 55
Blue Jay 1660 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 85 
Eastern Bluebird 25
American Pipit 53
Lapland Longspur 16
Smith’s Longspur 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 2
Nashville Warbler 5
Cape May Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Palm Warbler 449 
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1967
Black-throated Green Warbler 3
Henslow’s Sparrow 3 
White-throated Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2 (Nature Center invaded with them too today!)
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Scarlet Tanager 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Blue Grosbeak 1
Orchard Oriole 2
Baltimore Oriole 24
Purple Finch 28
Pine Siskin 121 

The mid-morning birding spread.  Scope, binoculars, caffeine, banana, checklist and clickers, and a video camera to catch that rare bird!
The mid-morning birding spread. Scope, binoculars, caffeine, banana, checklist and clickers, and a video camera to catch that rare bird!

A Longshore Flight Addendum:
In the time since we published today’s longshore flight update some great info has come in. Last year we introduced the Grube Magnitude Index.    It basically creates a value for each bird seen that is a usual migrant.  The more we see, the higher the value.  The index total gives a sense of the total longshore flight by species diversity and abundance.  To stop one species dominating a count, each species is limited to a index value of 10.  Generally, the higher magnitude index means more birds and more species, which also translates to a more enjoyable birding experience.  The index was developed by Ken Brock and has seen several changes.  We’ve been notified that today’s count index had a Grube Magnitude of 80.25, with 41 standard species recorded. It is the second best flight ever, by a minuscule margin.  Great news and a reflection of the great day we had.  If Blue Jays had really taken off…

Finally, here’s a little gallery of great photos shared to us by our great local photographer Pete Grube.

Yellow-rumped Warbler seen today.  4/30/13.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Yellow-rumped Warbler seen today. 4/30/13. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Orange-crowned Warbler seen today.  4/30/13.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Orange-crowned Warbler seen today. 4/30/13. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Palm Warbler seen today.  4/30/13.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Palm Warbler seen today. 4/30/13. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s