Breaking (Bad) Ice

Hints of spring continue to do battle with winter’s foot hold.  Spring rains melt and break up months old ice, and the ever present theme of change continues to amaze and astound this writer.  As goes the quote, changes in nature, change your nature.   So the seasons roll.

Waves pound and batter the melting shelf ice, March 28, 2014.
Waves pound and batter the melting shelf ice, March 28, 2014.  Click image for larger view.

A brief longshore flight did occur today.  A change in winds occurred later than predicted and early south winds shifted to the northwest mid-morning when the front dragged over the southern shore of Lake Michigan around the 8am hour.  Rain before and after made passerine birding difficult, but  with birds filtering in, they are around to find if you look hard enough.  Temperatures started in the mid-40s, but dropped to the mid-30s before noon came.

Today’s super highlights included a diverse group of 19 species of waterfowl.  The cork is being released on the recent pack ice.  The waves can now reach the shelf ice and the wind shift today battered and pounded the locked in ice.  Loud roars could be heard today as rolling waves echoed inside ice caverns and tossed icebergs around like rag dolls.  Long-tailed Ducks made memory today, as 189 “oldsqauws” posted the single highest single party count for Indiana since Jim Landing counted (200) at Michigan City Harbor on 14 December 1958*.  A 50+ year record.   Blue-winged Teal were first of season birds along the lakeshore as well.

goldeneye1
A Common Goldeneye comes in for a landing in the safety of the shelf ice harbor as pounding waves batter the shelf ice behind. March 28, 2014.  Click images for better view.
goldeneye2
Common Goldeneye hiding in the shelf ice harbor. March 28, 2014.

Other great birds included the season’s first Caspian Tern.  It’s amazing how stealthy they arrive in Indiana each year.  The first reports each year come from Lake Michigan, somehow eluding hundreds of other birders statewide as they bee line for their favorite lake.  The best diurnal raptor of the day was a cooperative Merlin seen in the rain.  The best nocturnal raptor was the wolf in sheep’s clothing, aka. the Snowy Owl that flew past the shore with the the other gulls going by.  It was seen long enough to capture some incredible video, seen below (with some Merlin footage too!).  See how long it takes you to realize that it is indeed not a gull but a Snowy!?

The rest of the day’s highlights:

Gadwall 28
Blue-winged Teal 3 FOY
Northern Pintail 6
Canvasback 5
Redhead 42
White-winged Scoter 7
Long-tailed Duck 189
Red-breasted Merganser 15
Ruddy Duck 2
Red-throated Loon 1
Common Loon 3
Caspian Tern 1
Snowy Owl 1 A migrant gliding and soaring to the west, just cresting the dune tops. Essentially, the bird was caught in the passage of gulls at 100-200 ft up.
Merlin 2
Fox Sparrow 1

*Thanks to Ken Brock for the Long-tailed Duck record dates.

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