The Lion’s Lamb!

Today, March 30, 2014 was the day we were waiting all month for!  Ken Brock, in his IN-Bird list-serv post said it best, “It was the kind of day one would like to bottle up and uncork next winter when the weather is dark and dismal.”  The day would end with the single best count of the season thus far.

The morning started like so many this season.  Cold.  Frost laid heavy and white upon the tower decking this morning.  But the wind was nearly absent.  It could be a morning to sleep in, as the forecast was for winds out of the north at 2mph until late morning.  One thing we’ve learned is that north winds, when in the 0-3mph range can be almost as good as a south wind, as long as a lake breeze doesn’t overtake the warming land and flood cool air from the lake.  Birds will indeed migrate with little wind to impede their progress.  The dawn flight proved this, as blackbirds moved in good numbers immediately at dawn.  Winds slowly built from the south at 5mph by mid-day.  It was sunny, warm, and very spring-like!

Blackbirds stream over the tower counter.  March 29, 2014.
Blackbirds stream over the tower counter. March 29, 2014.

The day ended with 17,670 individual birds, comprising 57 species.  Sandhill Cranes were the talk of the town today.  All over the park, hikers, beach gawkers, pet strollers, and more were looking up into the sun to watch the massive wave after wave of cranes cruising over the park.  They started before 10am and continued through most of the afternoon.  When through, 5,625 cranes passed over the state park today.  This total surpasses any single day total last year and ranks among the top three counts in the dunes.
Other birds posting count numbers today included 937 Canada Geese, 62 Long-tailed Ducks, 37 Turkey Vultures, 4 Bald Eagles, 96 migrating American Crows, and 7,764 Red-winged Blackbirds in the dawn flight.  Robins remain behind for the year.  Where are they?  Not a high count, but the one that got away with just a quick glimpse in the pine stand near the tower today… Long-eared Owl.  Surely more will come though!

The total highlights are below.  A nice crowd made their way to the tower top. Thanks to Ken Brock, John Cassady, Brad Bumgardner, Lee Sterrenburg, Kathy McClain, Ben Mitchell, Rafi Wilkinson, Beth Rutherford, Katie Mcgowan, Casey Zillman, Jeanette Girton, and Ethan Girton for helping with today’s count.

Greater White-fronted Goose  20
Canada Goose  937
Tundra Swan  32
White-winged Scoter 19
Long-tailed Duck  62
Red-throated Loon  4
Common Loon  3
Horned Grebe  4
Turkey Vulture  37
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  4
Sandhill Crane  5625
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Long-eared Owl  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1     FOY
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Merlin  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  8
American Crow  96     Big flock to the south.
Red-winged Blackbird  7764
Common Grackle  2438

As we begin the work week, we look to have two more very good days for counting on Monday and Tuesday before the next cold front drops down the shoreline of the lake.  If you had a day to call in sick, do it early this week!



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