Birding Blitz

The weekend brought steady south winds and steady migration through the dunes.  A colder season has now brought the main warbler migration to peak levels.  Combine this with excellent flycatcher, oriole, and other neotropical migrants, and birding the dunes is worth it’s reputation currently.

The weekend brought over 3,500 logged birds over the high dunes.  For the season, we’re just inches away from identifying 400,000 birds.  To make surveys like this possible, we also ran our annual birdathon fundraiser this weekend.  Conditions were much better than last year, where scorching heat and an early migration made birding difficult.  This year, conditions were great, sunny, and birds were singing.  The birdathon team found 157 species of birds on Saturday.  When all the pledges are in, over $2,800 will be raised for birding education and activities in the dunes.

One of eight American White Pelicans seen by the birdathon team.  In a unique twist, eight unknown pelican type birds were seen far away from the tower site shortly before the birdathon team found them on Wolf Lake.
One of eight American White Pelicans seen by the birdathon team. In a unique twist, eight unknown pelican type birds were seen far away from the tower site shortly before the birdathon team found them on Wolf Lake.

No birdathon can be done in the dunes without stopping by the longshore platform to pick up needed species that may be hard to get elsewhere.  It is a balance on how long to spend at the dunetop versus visiting other needed birding locations to maximize your bird list for the day.  The team devoted an entire 30 minutes to the dune on Saturday.  A large amount of time for birdathon standards where every minute counts.  The time would be well worth it on Saturday.    Within minutes of arrival many new birds were logged by the birdathon team.  A Caspian Tern went by, followed by a flock of cormorants.  Needed swallows, including Cliff and Bank went by, as well as a lone Purple Martin.  A Red-breasted Nuthatch could be heard feeding in the nearby Jack pines.  The best bird of the day may very well go down as the season’s best bird.  At 8:30am, a strange hawk is seen far west, over Porter Beach.  Within several seconds, it’s slender wings, forked tail, and bright white undersides is recognized as an incredible Swallow-tailed Kite!  After a few seconds of viewing, the bird disappeared and wasn’t seen again all weekend.  This will go down as a new site species and one of only around twenty or so ever seen in the state.

Altogether, many good birds were seen in the park this weekend.  Other highlights included a three loon trifecta (Red-throated, Pacific, and Common), Bald Eagle, Black-bellied Plover, both cuckoo species, Olive-sided Flycatcher, over 100 nighthawks, Henslow’s Sparrow, and a lone immature Red Crossbill.

Wow.  What a weekend!

p.s. Pacific Loon video coming later this week!

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