An Icy 300 To Start

The third season of the Indiana Dunes Longshore Flight Count commenced today.  This new season takes place an additional 20 feet in elevation, from atop the new Bird Observation Platform.  This new season started with one defining word…. COLD!  This morning’s count started at a bone chilling 19 degrees, despite the south winds blowing across the frosty tower surface.  The tower temperature would go down as the second coldest in the three years of official longshore counts.  Ice still filled Lake Michigan and the new south winds began to slowly open up a little sliver of open water for the first waterfowl to come back.  The park staff was nice enough to plow the snow up to the tower site for us this morning.

Panaramic opening morning from the Bird Observation Platform.  March 9, 2014.
Panaramic opening morning from the Bird Observation Platform. March 9, 2014.

So, how did the first morning compare with last year’s first day (which was March 8, by the way)?  It’s clear migration is a day late up here along the lakeshore.  This morning’s 312 birds was a far cry from last year’s 1,852 individuals seen.  It’s common to not see the passerine movement going yet, but the thick ice also limited the waterfowl flight.  Very little was moving on the lake.  Gull numbers were dismal, but should build in the next day or so.  Chicago birders reported an influx of Ring-billed Gulls arriving today.  This wave should ripple this way by tomorrow.  Our opening day highlights were 4 White-winged Scoters, 6 Red-throated Loons, 1 Merlin, and 67 migrating Horned Larks.

Today’s full count:

Canada Goose 68
Greater Scaup 5
White-winged Scoter 4
Common Merganser 14
Red-breasted Merganser 27
Red-throated Loon 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Sandhill Crane 15
Ring-billed Gull 17
Herring Gull 9
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Merlin 1
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 18
Horned Lark 67
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 4
European Starling 8
Cedar Waxwing 12
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 23
House Finch 12
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

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