The summer season has slowly begun to take hold. Temperatures, like this spring, remain on the colder side. The state park trails and recreation areas have now filled in with visitors from all over the world (48 states and 29 countries registered in 2012). Many are taking reprieve in the more pleasant weather. The trails are seeing high use, while the beach remains quiet still (beach water at 51 degrees still). Things will change, but for now, the breeding season birding weather is perfect!
With breeding season here, a vast array of specialty birds can be found for the visiting birder. As has been stated before, a remarkable park feature is the fact that many southern birds (e.g. White-eyed Vireo, Cerulean Warbler, and Summer Tanager) nest here along with typical northern species (e.g. Veery, Blackburnian Warbler, and Canada Warbler). We’ll highlight some of these unique species during the course of the summer. We’re also logging many birds in the park as part of the Indiana Audubon’s Summer Bird Count. The first of several counts was done done by park staff and volunteers just yesterday. Portions of Trails 2, 10, and more developed areas of the park were surveyed for all the birds present. We’re happy to report some great numbers thus far, including: 14 Eastern Wood-Pewees, a late singing Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 26 Acadian Flycatchers (possible second highest dunes area daily count), 25 Red-eyed Vireos, 31 American Redstarts, and finally an impressive 10 Cerulean Warblers.
The above mentioned Cerulean Warblers are forest canopy insectivores not easily seen. Recognizing their buzzy call can help you zero in on one. Their fondness for large forest tracts makes them particularly sensitive to forest loss and degradation. For Indiana, Cerulean’s are state endangered and have had petitions sent in for federal protection. Traditionally, the first sections of Trail 2, east of the Wilson Shelter have harbored a “Cerulean Alley” of sorts. A trek down 2 should allow the careful ear a chance to hear them singing.
Finally, we mentioned we’d share more comparison of this spring’s longshore bird survey, compared to last year. With 428,000 birds compared to 285,000 birds in 2012, there are certainly some noticeable increases. But, the decreases in numbers are equally interesting. While presented here as raw data, we won’t offer complete conclusions yet. Some will be due to weather during appropriate migration periods, others may represent an actual increase or decrease in population. More years of data will help us draw the most complete and accurate conclusions. Saying that, here’s some neat data. The first show the ten species with an increase. As expected, winter finches staged a larger spring flight, compared to last year. The White-winged Scoters aren’t surprising either. For the decreased species, how much did weather play a role in the final count?
If you look at other notable decreases after this top ten you’ll find Red-eyed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and Gray Catbird. The cold spring and late arrival into the count likely is the explanation for this entire group of May migrants being down from last year’s count.
Lastly of interest are the birds that had numbers nearly identical (or within 10%) of last year’s count. Here’s a few of those: