With migration waning, typical late migration species are being seen in the state park. Fortunately, the recent cold snap is keeping many of these birds trapped. It’s allowing many mid-migration birds to be found, such as Nashville Warblers and Swainson’s Thrushes. At the same time, now it prime time for late specialty warblers such as Mourning, Canada, and Connecticut Warblers.
The weekend will be a good hurrah for the spring migration. Typical Memorial Day birding in the dunes involves dodging the growing beach crowds. Parking spaces become premium and quiet roadsides and trails become over run with weekend outings and picnic baskets. Great for tourism, excellent for revenue, but a signal to birders that migration is near finish. The colder weather should keep the beach traffics at bay for one more weekend and birders get one last weekend to rule the dunes. So, here’s where to go…
Join the state park naturalists Saturday morning for a visit to the hawk’s nest! The hike begins at 10am from the Nature Center and will seek out the new babies in town. The park’s Red-shouldered Hawks are back in the same nest for the third year in a row and have white fluff ball babies now large enough to be seen from the ground. Bring binoculars or borrow a pair, courtesy the Friends of Indiana Dunes.
Trails 2 and 10 in the state park always produce good variety. Once migration begins waning, territorial, breeding birds are set up. The first stretch of Trail 2 is often called “Cerulean Alley,” and for good reason. In the first 1/2 mile, hearing 8 or more Cerulean Warblers in this stretch is not unheard of. While you’re at it, visit the Wilson boardwalk where the local Prothonotary Warblers are done setting up their nest and egg laying likely is happening now.
For those seeking out the rarer and harder to find birds, seek out the old roadbed of South State Park Road. This remnant residential area along the park’s southern boundary is a secret spot for local birders. Here, towering back dune maples surround abandoned homestead sites. These homestead sites offer overgrown early successional micro-habitats rich in under-story growth and towering pine and spruce stands. This is a great place to find breeding specialties like Hooded Warbler. Even more unique are Blackburnian Warblers, who’s fire throats can be found in the old pine stands. Duing migration this may be the best place to find Canada and Mourning Warblers. With similar behaviors and habitat needs, expect Connecticut to be found here too.
With cooler temperatures and an already late migration, expect some fine birds this Memorial Day weekend. Finding 20 or more warblers this weekend in the state park seems achievable.