Just Another Record Blue Jay Count

From parkas to sun burns.  It’s been an interesting two months  atop the Longshore Flight Dune at Indiana Dunes State Park.  We tested an informal survey in 2010, did our first official survey last year, and with over 360,000 birds this year, we’ve logged nearly a million birds in three years from atop the dune.  Of course, casual birding has occurred from atop this spot for years that for the most part wasn’t cataloged like today’s flights are.

Today, May 1, was the third straight morning of strong south winds.  We enjoyed many such streaks last year, but this year we have had more flip flopping between one day warm ups and throwbacks to winter weather.  In the past, if a species hits a record count, we usually don’t see a repeat.  However, the counts from them can still be strong.  Such was the case today with two strong, but not record breaking, flights from both Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Large numbers passed by, but to.  day were joined by even more warbler species, including the season’s first Prairie Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and 2 Blackburnian Warblers.  Farther in the park, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and American Redstarts made their first appearance.

Any more birds and the clicker would have ran out of numbers!
Any more birds and the clicker would have ran out of numbers!

One bird building in numbers the last few days without breaking any records have been the Blue Jays. Today pushed them over the edge.  By dawn, flocks of 50 or more were cruising over the dunes.  For certain species moving in large numbers we use clickers  to save from constantly looking down to the checklist to record each flock.  Using several can lessen the counting mayhem and provide more accurate counts.  By the end of the day today, thumbs were sore from what turned out to be a new state record single party count of Blue Jays in Indiana.  During some large flocks, I swore I saw smoke rolling out of the clicker!  Today’s 7,264 Blue Jays shattered the previous 6,230 set on May 10, 2011 at this same spot.

One of over 7,000 record breaking Blue Jays today.  5/1/13/
One of over 7,000 record breaking Blue Jays today. 5/1/13

When not counting Blue Jays, many other birds were zipping about.  As mentioned previously, warblers were again moving.  Orioles staged a decent movement in singles and pairs all morning.  Seeing 65 Baltimore Orioles in one day is impressive.  Pine Siskins also continued their late winter finch flight, with 20 being seen today.  New for the season were: Yellow-throated Vireo, and the dune’s second ever Whooping Crane!  It was found flying over with some Sandhill Cranes.  A single Lincoln’s Sparrow rounded out the other new arrivals over the dune top.

Pine Siskin stopping by the longshore count dune thistle feeder.  5/1/13
Pine Siskin stopping by the longshore count dune thistle feeder. 5/1/13

Other rarities rounding out today’s 10,269 birds found today include: more migrating Red-bellied Woodpeckers (33), Smith’s Longspurs (3), a single Lark Sparrow, and a lingering Dark-eyed Junco.  Not too shabby for a single dune spot!

Last night, ABC 57 featured our longshore flight count in their 11pm news.  While, they didn’t get into specifics on why were counting, it was great to see the news coverage.  If you missed it, here it is at this link.

Tomorrow looks the last south winds of the week.  The winds will shift east, then north by midday tomorrow, essentially shutting down the longshore flight likely through the weekend.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t birds to be found.  These will be great, cooler days to bird the back dunes for all the recent arrivals from today and tomorrow.  Today’s highlights follow:

Red-breasted Merganser 16
Turkey Vulture 41
Red-tailed Hawk 11
Sandhill Crane 10
Whooping Crane 1 
Forster’s Tern 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 11
Red-bellied Woodpecker 33
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 2
Blue Jay 7264 (new state record count)
Red-breasted Nuthatch 12
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 60 
Lapland Longspur 31
Smith’s Longspur 3 
Nashville Warbler 5
Blackburnian Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 5
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 108 
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 618 
Prairie Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 4
Lark Sparrow 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Scarlet Tanager 3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 9
Indigo Bunting 16
Bobolink 7
Orchard Oriole 4
Baltimore Oriole 65
Purple Finch 2
Pine Siskin 20


4 thoughts on “Just Another Record Blue Jay Count”

  1. We have many many nuthatches, white and red bellied, all the time but the other day we spotted a BROWN HEADED nuthatch. Way out of its range ! But it was only about 2 feet away so we are certain

    1. Judith,
      We would be most interested in hearing more about this report. Particularly, where you saw it and whether you’re still seeing it. If you see it again, we’d love to see any photos you might be able to take! It would indeed be well out of it’s range.

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