Crane Calling!

Henry Van Dyke said, “The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.”  The counters today, upon stepping outside on this first full day of spring, and finding a new 1/2 inch of snow on the ground, weren’t so polite in the commentary. Indeed, at 31 degrees at dawn, it looked to be another cold winter day of shuffling feet below the scope, flattening down a slick icy perch as one scans back and forth from lake waterfowl to passerine above.  Despite the early, grim outlook, conditions did get better!  South winds and a warm sun bathed the dunes in a much awaited spring day, and the birds began to appear.

Several early season arrivals filtered in today; still over a week behind normal schedule.  Just after dawn, the first Tree Swallow of the season moved past the beach, and the first Eastern Phoebe also skirted the shelf ice shortly after.  Both arrived also on the same day last year (March 11).   A decent variety of waterfowl went past through the morning, with 12 species represented.

By 9:58am, the first Sandhill Crane passed over the park, spurring the best crane flight of the season, and well within the best five counts in the last few years.  Today’s crane flew directly to the lake, before turning west towards Chicago.  It peaked during the 11am hour, and slowed to a trickle after 12pm, with few seen by 1pm. Today was also the best hawk watch of the season.  103 birds of prey soared past in the same pathway that the cranes traveled.  Some raptor highlights included 2 Merlin, over 35 Red-tailed Hawks, and 5 Bald Eagles.  One of which can be seen in the video highlights above.

The morning’s refreshing count brought in 6,178 birds, comprising 58 species.  The new arrivals bumped up our current season total to 36,471 birds, comprising 83 species.  Assistants and observers today included John DeVaney and Brad Bumgardner.  Today’s highlights were:

Wood Duck 15
Northern Pintail 29
Lesser Scaup 129
Long-tailed Duck 1
Horned Grebe 20
Turkey Vulture 14
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 8
Cooper’s Hawk 13 .
Bald Eagle 5
Red-shouldered Hawk 14
Red-tailed Hawk 37 Dark Morph included
Rough-legged Hawk 3
Sandhill Crane 2793
Glaucous Gull 1 adult
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Belted Kingfisher 2
Merlin 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Tree Swallow 1
Eastern Bluebird 41
American Robin 1163
Rusty Blackbird 4
Purple Finch 3

Noticeably absent for the season’s best hawkwatch, was Indiana Bird Man himself.  Ken Brock was in the park today, but tied down assisting some Ball State Univ students working on a park project.  They used his expertise in the amazing bird life during a taped interview today.

brock interview

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