100,000+ for 2014

View of the tower from the back dunes prairie on Trail 3.  March 31, 2014
View of the tower from the back dunes prairie on Trail 3. March 31, 2014

Monday, March 31 was a spectacular longshore flight day.  From dawn through mid afternoon the tower site was abuzz with bird migration.  It was also the warmest day of the season, and the first day this year to reach 60 degrees on the lakeshore.  South winds poured over the dunes throughout the night setting up for a warmer start than we’ve had previously.  By 8am, that same wind was already building to moderate gale strength and would try the diligence of any counter on top of the platform.  By lunch time, scopes, chairs, and hats were being knocked over on a regular basis.

Though it was feared that the wind would be too strong to keep many birds migrating, the urge to migrate overcame the winds and migrate they did!  The dawn blackbird and grackle flight was intense.  Over 100+ birds a minute were passing the tower for the first hour.  It was hard to pick out the other species while trying to get an accurate count of the clouds of black going overhead.  The blackbird and grackle count was no doubt under counted.  Miraculously, cowbirds, starlings, robins, and even 200+ Rusty Blackbirds were picked out among them too.  During mid-stream, Lapland Longspurs began their first push, as well as a few American Pipits and Horned Larks.  It was a real debacle trying to keep tally of it all.

One flock of Greater White-fronted Geese, honking their "huevos, huevos" for all to hear.  March 31, 2014
One flock of Greater White-fronted Geese, honking their “huevos, huevos” for all to hear. March 31, 2014

Waterfowl were steady, though clearly not the main highlight of the day.  Long-tailed Ducks continue to be seen daily, but another gigantic (for the lakeshore) wave of Greater White-fronted Geese came by.  Before this year, the daily record up here was 200 or so.  Today’s 641 was five shy of the new record set just three weeks ago.  354 Redheads may also be a new spring lakefront record.  Finally, 13 Common Loons were the first push of loons in the area this season.

1 of 13 Common Loons to head out over the big lake today, March 31, 2014
1 of 13 Common Loons to head out over the big lake today, March 31, 2014

It was clear that the south winds pushed things in, as more Caspian Terns went by, over 60 Tree Swallows filtered past.  Robins started their push, with a still less than organized stream of just under 1,000 birds.  By 10am, the raptor and crane show picked up.  After yesterday’s massive crane flight, today’s birds sought out to beat their predecessors.  Unfortunately for the counters, most turned away from the lake miles out and didn’t go directly overhead.  It made counting harder, but a careful eye found the second highest dunes area count ever, with 6,583.  Falling short of the record of 6,644 set in 2012.  Hawks posted their finest count of the season, with 116 birds going by.  Red-tailed and Turkey Vultures dominated.  A few dark-morphed Rough-legged Hawks were pretty sights, with one being nearly all black.

Short-eared Owl over the platform today.  March 31, 2014.
Short-eared Owl over the platform today. March 31, 2014.

After yesterday’s Long-eared Owl sighting, it was only fitting to have the season’s first Short-eared Owl sighting.  This bird was far more accommodating as it came in from the west and flew over the platform for everyone to see.  It later landed in the dunes prairie of Trail 3 and was seen by a couple folks later.

Today’s great count had many helpers.  Assisting Brendan today were: Brad Bumgardner, Ken Brock, John Kendall, Kim Ehn, Penny Starin, Bernie Konrady, and Rick and Pam Firks.  The day ended with an amazing 29,511 individually counted birds comprising 62 species! The best day yet, and pushing our season total now past 100,000+ birds.  Should we mention the 100+ House Sparrows seen today too?  Second year birds forging out to find their own home… or did McDonald’s open late today?

Today’s super highlights below, as well as some extra video footage and images.

Greater White-fronted Goose 641
Canada Goose 490
Tundra Swan 21
Wood Duck 22
Redhead 354
White-winged Scoter 1
Long-tailed Duck 10
Common Loon 13
Turkey Vulture 39
Sharp-shinned Hawk 17
Red-tailed Hawk 31
Rough-legged Hawk 3
Sandhill Crane 6583
American Woodcock 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 3
Caspian Tern 4
Mourning Dove 68
Short-eared Owl 1
Tree Swallow 61
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 932
American Pipit 5
Lapland Longspur 584
Red-winged Blackbird 11770
Rusty Blackbird 210
Common Grackle 5772
Purple Finch 11
House Sparrow 106

1 of 15 Great-blue Herons to go by this morning.  March 31, 2014.
1 of 15 Great-blue Herons to go by this morning. March 31, 2014.
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