Duck Flight at the Quack of Dawn

Sunrise over the West Lot Pines, April 1, 2014
Sunrise over the West Lot Pines, April 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 1 began quite in contrast to yesterday’s flight count.  With strong and warm south winds overnight, you would have expected a similar flight of passerine species.  However, the winds began a shift just before dawn, pushing the south winds into a westerly wind.  Dawn wind speeds were holding at 15mph, with gusts to 30mph.  The day’s high occured as the sun rose over the pines and would drop each hour as cold air over the lake was allowed to sweep over the dunes.  By noon, the wind vector was creating white caps and rolling waves on the lake.  More reminiscent of a late fall lakewatch.

Like a fall lakewatch, waterfowl were the highlight of the day.  No real blackbird or robin flight took off, but things were not boring.  An impressive longshore duck flight streamed west.  Many duck flocks flew directly over the breaking shelf ice and provided stellar looks in the early morning glow.  Flocks had to be scrutinized as few contained single species, but mixed groups flying in tandem together.  24 species of waterfowl were identified from the high dune this morning (too windy for the tower top!).

Great Black-backed Gull going by the tower site, Apri l1, 2014.
Great Black-backed Gull going by the tower site, Apri l1, 2014.

Redhead ducks again staged a great spring flight today.  Today’s total of 929 is the new spring high count for the dunes.  It’s interesting to see a huge spring movement since we also recorded a massive fall movement.  A superb longshore flight of 1,615 were seen at  Miller Beach on 23 November, 2013.  Long-tailed Ducks continue their daily appearance.  Both loons were logged today.  Both Green-winged Teal and Gadwall posted 100+ counts today also.

In other birds, the winds stimulated a massive gull movement, with many riding the winds directly over the dunes.  Both Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls would go logged.  Sapsuckers showed an early movement, with 7 being seen.  Flickers… 6.  Won’t be long until their migration gets going.  Finally, 14 Fox Sparrows was proof of an overnight movement of these husky sparrows.

Fox Sparrow today.  April 1, 2014.
Fox Sparrow today. April 1, 2014.

Highlights below.  Add it all together and 6,749 birds were counted today, comprising 59 species.  Today’s helpers included Brad Bumgardner, Bernie Konrady, Matt Beatty, and Madison.  The current forecast does not look ideal for a good flight for the next few days.

Greater White-fronted Goose 5
Gadwall 114
American Wigeon 40
Northern Shoveler 92
Green-winged Teal 113
Canvasback 43
Redhead 929
White-winged Scoter 13
Long-tailed Duck 7
Wild Turkey 2
Red-throated Loon 3
Common Loon 4
Horned Grebe 9
Sandhill Crane 42
Ring-billed Gull 4135
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Caspian Tern 15
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 7
Tree Swallow 4
Brown Creeper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Lapland Longspur 1
Field Sparrow 2
Fox Sparrow 14
Dark-eyed Junco 30


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