Wind Blown!

After two days of cold and snow, the Longshore Flight returned today (March 14, 2014).  Being Pi Day, we made every attempt to use the three significant Pi numbers of 3, 1, and 4 used whenever possible in our counts today.  The day was warm, but blusterry.  Strong south winds entered the scene last night.  Temperatures slowly rose overnight and were already a balmy 41 degrees at 7am.  The count’s high of 52 degrees would have felt warm had it not been for the blasting 30mph wind gusts.  It was the first morning of the season not done from atop the observation platform.  The howling wind made it difficult to even stand from up there.

Panoramic view from atop the Platform this afternoon.  Click the image to see it larger.
Panoramic view from atop the Platform this afternoon. Click the image to see it larger.

With only a week into the season, we’re observing that you can’t really compare one from another.  Everyday continues to be different.  We’ve now surpassed our first 10,000 birds of the season (11,311 to be exact).  This is nearly a 1/3 of where we were after the first four counts last year.  Many species we thought we would log by week’s end have not showed up.  We thought for sure the first Phoebe, Tree Swallow, and Lapland Longspur would have been seen already.  On the flip side, this early season has been interesting for its large goose flight.  Geese don’t typically stage huge flights over the larger Lake Michigan.  Yet, this week we’ve logged 3,500 Canada Geese, a Snow Goose, and over 800 Greater White-fronted Geese.  For Canada Geese, this surpasses the combined season totals from the last two years.  For the speckle bellies, the 800 seen is twice that from the last two years combined.  Are we catching a very early migrant that we normally miss?

2014 Longshore Flight Counter Brendan Grube.
2014 Longshore Flight Counter Brendan Grube.

This year’s count is being done by seasoned longshore count veteran Brendan Grube. For Brendan, birding is the family blood.  No other family is so represented with birding kin on the lakefront than the Grubes.  Brendan’s special skill allows for so many birds to go identified, often with just a split second glimpse in bad lighting, or only a single chip note overhead.  Few birders have the patience for the sedentary style of birding.  But the wait is worth it, as evidenced by the massive flight counts that occur here, as well as the growing list of volunteers and observers that visit each day.  Visit Brendan, help count a few birds, and perhaps learn something new!  When you’re done, swing by the Nature Center and pick up a free copy of the Birds of Indiana Dunes by Ken Brock.

Today’s count logged failed to produce the big blackbird movement, nor any significant cranes, but the geese and gulls continued for another day resulting in 3,696 birds of 47 species.  Our four day species total is now 68 species.  Brendan’s volunteer counters, assistants, and observers included J.P. “Bird Eater” Anderson, Mrs. Anderson, Cindy Downs, John Kendall, and Brad Bumgardner.

March 14, 2014:

Greater White-fronted Goose  121
Wood Duck  6
Northern Pintail  12
Green-winged Teal  3
White-winged Scoter  2
Long-tailed Duck  4
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Northern Harrier  1
Cooper’s Hawk  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  3
Red-tailed Hawk  8
Sandhill Crane  3
Killdeer  27
Ring-billed Gull  2348
Glaucous Gull  1    Adult
Great Black-backed Gull  3
American Kestrel  3
Peregrine Falcon  1
American Robin  248
Snow Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  43
Eastern Meadowlark  2

Finally, our recent eagles, as well as the seasonal increase in eagle sightings in the northern part of the state were featured in a nice gallery of birds on the South Bend Tribune outdoors section.  Check them out here!

Since it’s Pi day, we’ll end this post with a pie!



4 thoughts on “Wind Blown!”

  1. I am just eating this blog up. Especially that pie! I tell as many people about the blog as I can. I’m sure you are creating new birders with it; lighting sparks left and right. From the southern half of the state,Amy Kearns

    Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2014 01:39:27 +0000 To:

  2. Thanks Amy. It’s fun for us, and with our new Birding the Dunes workshop series, it’s definitely sparking some birding interest in new folks. Our comments don’t always reflect the audience, but our hits (over 100 hits a day) show that there are lots of stalkers out there reading this.

  3. We made our attempt on Sunday morning. We probably have a little to learn with watching wind direction and speed before we go out. It was 19 degrees F with howling winds out of the north. Those birds, wiser than we, were probably all hunkered down waiting for better conditions. We only saw a few Canada geese moving north in the few minutes we were out.

    Keep up the great site! We love it.
    Beth and Rafi

  4. Sorry Beth. Counts require a southerly wind to bring a good bird flight. Otherwise, there is little movement. Tuesday and Wednesday both look like good days to be up there early. You can get more info on our About and Longshore Platform pages

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