Long-tailed Madness

It’s hard to believe the longshore flight took 5 day break this week.  Winds have not been conducive, or rain was in the area.  Either way, it’s good to back counting.  Having waited this long, it made sense that a handful of annuals would grace the Bird Observation Platform this morning.  As well as a few birders itching for some spring birds.  In fact, it was the best species morning of the year for total diversity.  Over 80 species would be counted today.

A beautiful morning at the Bird Platform, April 6, 2014.
A beautiful morning at the Bird Platform.  Check out the magnet QR codes that link to this blog, provided free by John Lindsey.  April 6, 2014.

The day began sunny with a gentle south breeze.  A good blackbird and robin flight was underway immediately after the sun rose.  A small sampling of waterfowl streamed past to keep the observers watching in all directions.  The first of the season birds to pass by this morning included: Great Egret, Osprey, N Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

First Great Egret of the season.  April 6, 2014.
First Great Egret of the season. April 6, 2014.

By late morning, and with the main passerine flight waning, a late morning offshore surge began to bring waterfowl into view.  A coincidental lake breeze set up to cool the dune at the same time.  This waterfowl surge was different however.  Loons began to appear on the lake.  Conditions provided for decent viewing of both Common and Red-throated Loons.  Though neither in notably high numbers.  More impressive was the Long-tailed Duck tally.  Throughout the viewable area from the Indiana Dunes State Park, Oldsquaw rafts could be seen at every distance.  Adding the early birds, and a sweeping view of the lake, a grand total of 428 Long-tailed Ducks would be recorded today.  Today’s count would place 8th in total single day counts in the state, and the new highest in nearly 60 years.  There’s no doubt that the Great Lakes ice cover is forcing these birds into the lower Great Lakes.  The closest watch up there to compare with ours is the Whitefish Point owl/waterfowl/hawk blogs.  Their most recent post doesn’t even make mention of waterfowl (and few hawks at that either).  Things are clearly snowy and locked in still up there.

Hiding in the "Flicker Tree."  April 6, 2014.
Hiding in the “Flicker Tree.” April 6, 2014.

Other birds that deserve some mention were 17 White-winged Scoters, the season’s third highest count, 2 Red-necked Grebes, which included one that flew near the shoreline, providing excellent views.  1,254 cranes were a surprise, considering we thought that most of the major flight was done.  Even more surprising since no real hawk flight materialized.  The mid-April Northern Flicker flight is about to begin.  74 today was the first hint of more to come.  Finally, a single Purple Finch came by.  All winter finches have been rare this flight season.

Assisting the counter today was John DeVaney, Brad Bumgardner, Kim Ehn, Matthew Beatty, Madison Gallegos, Lee Sterrenburg, Jeff McCoy and John Kendall.  Total highlights, from 82 species, and nearly 10,000 birds today:

White-winged Scoter 17
Long-tailed Duck 428
Red-throated Loon 31
Common Loon 16
Red-necked Grebe 2
Great Egret 7
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Sandhill Crane 1254
American Woodcock 1
Great Black-backed Gull 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Northern Flicker 74
Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 102
Barn Swallow 5
American Robin 523
Lapland Longspur 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Fox Sparrow 7
Red-winged Blackbird 3173
Rusty Blackbird 37
Common Grackle 2553
Purple Finch 1

Lastly, congratulations today to Ken Brock for being awarded the ABA Ludlow Griscom Award in regional ornithology.  The Nature Center at the state park was packed with over 100 people.

Piper helping to watch for hawks.  She isn't very good at it yet.  April 6, 2014.
Piper helping to watch for hawks. She isn’t very good at it yet. April 6, 2014.





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