High Migration

May is a great time to be in the dunes.  Spring ephemerals are in full bloom.  The leafing trees are lush and vibrant.  Tree frogs trill over the songs of migrating birds.  It’s a great time to enjoy the parks.  In a few weeks the cold Lake Michigan water will warm enough for beach goers.  Until then, the visitors here share a like mind in an appreciation for the natural resources here.

Interpretive Naturalists, the park staff at the Nature Center, give many of the park’s educational programming, special events, and unique activities.  We unfortunately must escape the park for a week each year to re-energize, learn new things, and train our new seasonal staff.  It’s been quiet this week on the blog, but it’s not been for the lack of birds.  We’re back to share the rest of the migration and summarize the recent few days!

Eastern Kingbird.  Over 500 were seen this week in the Dunes State Park.
Eastern Kingbird. Over 500 were seen this week in the Dunes State Park.

By mid-May, warbler migration is in high gear.  Vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes are also peaking.  Shorebirds appear on the beach in the morning hours, and the full list of birds available really begins to flesh itself out.  A south wind morning can be simply incredible in total diversity.  This past week there were two good flights; Tuesday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 15.  Common, unfortunately, this time of year is early warm ups that lead to north wind lake breezes that can shut down migration.  It occurred both days this past week.  Before the lake breeze came, 5,179 birds flew past on Tuesday, and 6,074 birds went over on Wednesday.  Let’s get to the highlights.

Tuesday was a great warbler day.  Over 550 warblers flew past the tower site.  Yellow-rumps still dominated the morning, meaning there is much more to go.  A season high 93 Indigo Buntings went over, providing specks of blue high overhead.  119 orioles went by.  Both species of expected tanager rounded out the highlights.

Northern Parula in the Dunes.
Northern Parula in the Dunes.

Wednesday introduced the last of the major invasion that comes by late May.  Cedar Waxwings migrate late, usually after the main Blue Jay flocks have gone by.  1,838 waxwings went by.  More unexpected however was the major invasion of 1,612 Pine Siskins!  This is the second highest count of siskins ever, and the highest spring count in the state.  It’s so impressive, it is 15x the accumulated total of all siskins seen during this 10 day period in May.

Lastly, our counters returned for an evening count both on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Common Nighthawks are now making their spring return.  They learn quickly that south winds push hatching insects towards the lake.  A combined 124 nighthawks were counted over the park this week.  100+ is great in the fall.  It’s marvelous in the spring!

We’re now at 194 species and 392,000+ birds.  200 species is well within sight before the spring migration ends.

Saturday, May 18 is our annual Birdathon.  We’ll be starting at 2am, in search of any and all birds in the dunes area!  Wish us luck as we scour the dunes and swale in this great annual fundraiser.

Highlights from both days follow:

Tuesday, May 14
Red-breasted Merganser  1
Common Loon  1
Bald Eagle  2
Willet  1
Common Nighthawk  58     
Chimney Swift  569
Merlin  1
Eastern Kingbird  119
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  3
American Pipit  38
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Tennessee Warbler  2
American Redstart  1
Cape May Warbler  4
Northern Parula  1
Magnolia Warbler  3
Bay-breasted Warbler  3
Yellow Warbler  4
Palm Warbler  139
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  389
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Grasshopper Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  1
Scarlet Tanager  2
Indigo Bunting  93
Bobolink  22
Baltimore Oriole  119
Pine Siskin  863  
American Goldfinch  1266

Wednesday, May 15
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Osprey  3
Lesser Black-backed Gull  1     1st year
Black Tern  1
Common Nighthawk  66
Chimney Swift  509
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Merlin  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Eastern Kingbird  387     All moving West
Red-breasted Nuthatch  3
Cedar Waxwing  1838
Blue-winged Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  1
Cape May Warbler  2
Bay-breasted Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  7
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Henslow’s Sparrow  1
Scarlet Tanager  7
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  7
Indigo Bunting  72
Baltimore Oriole  131
Pine Siskin  1612     
American Goldfinch  684

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