Longshore Flight March 26 (and oil spill update)

Though bone cold, this morning’s longshore flight was a good sign of what is to come.  Temperatures warmed by late in the afternoon and the winds were clearly from the south.  Hopefully now that a little warmer air is in place for overnight, the next morning’s flight will produce some real numbers.  The only kink in the plan is expected rain tomorrow.  The hourly forecasts show the main part of the rain arriving around 10am.  This would still allow a decent flight to occur.

Southerly winds pouring north from Texas, March 26, 2014.
Southerly winds pouring north from Texas, March 26, 2014.

Today’s longshore flight (March 26) brought another 10,000+ bird day, in large part due to an early blackbird and grackle movement.  Other songbirds were still low in numbers.  On the lake, waterfowl were in low numbers as well with one exception.  Long-tailed Ducks continue to make a fifty year record occurrence in the state.   48 Long-tailed were seen this morning.  With total Great Lakes ice coverage at 72 percent still, there is still lots of ice to our north and no doubt many ducks, geese, and loons waiting to enter the area.

Brendan was joined today by Robert Guth.  Highlights from the count today:

Northern Pintail 2
White-winged Scoter 8
Long-tailed Duck 48 
Common Merganser 7
Red-breasted Merganser 38
Common Loon 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 5
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 46
Glaucous Gull 1
Horned Lark 4
American Robin 4
Red-winged Blackbird 11990
Common Grackle 3954

Many folks have been asking about the recent oil spill at Whiting Park.  Information about the specifics can be found here, here, and also here.  As regrettable and unfortunate the event was, it appears that Lake Michigan, and the residents who love it, dodged a good bullet here.  Winds during the last few days have been out of the north.  The orientation and location of the specific beach, in between the BP Refinery and the Arcelor-Mittal East Chicago Steel Mill has long north south borders that would push any oil into the bay and not let it escape into the lake.  The very cold waters of the lake also should help the oil from dissolving into the water or from clinging to any surfaces.  Lastly, the opening of the lake is allowing many of the waterfowl to feed away from the shoreline, and away from this winter harbor.  The effects on waterfowl and gulls should be minimal due to late winter timing.   The oil spill is a tragedy, but from a birding standpoint, we’ll continue to cross our fingers that we avoided an accident of the nature seen at other locations nationwide the last few years.

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