Fire and Ice

Migration pushes on.  Each year a little different.  Today’s longshore flight produced a respectable 8,356 birds.  For the season we have now logged 165,000+ birds.  But how does it compare with past years?  At this point last year we had just passed the 300,000 mark and in 2012, we were sitting just shy of 200,000 birds.  So, birds are clearly behind and big wow days haven’t been as frequent.  The biggest underachiever of the season…. American Robins!  We have yet to have a 2,000+ robin morning this year.  Last year we had 6 of them by this date, and 9 of them in 2012.  More on robin theories for another post though.

Today’s count had high hopes, light south winds and warm temperatures.  Today’s count also had some fear.  The fear that did in fact materialize was that the light southerly winds would be overtaken by a lake breeze as the land warmed.  The lake breeze was present almost immediately after dawn and kept massive flights from moving.  Some birds did move, but no OMG day.  After scraping ice off cars this morning, the day warmed and and provided afternoon hawk watchers with a smoky backdrop for finding hawks.  That smoky backdrop would be a park prescribed fire in the Trail 9/10 area of the park.  The smoke really illustrated the air conditions going on.  At first the lake breeze would take the smoke inland, but higher, southerly transport winds would then push it back to the north.  See the image below to see what we’re talking about.  A Great Lakes hawkwatching phenomenon.

Prescribed fire today.  Look at the initial lake breeze, and then subsequent south winds pushing the smoke around.
Prescribed fire today. Look at the initial lake breeze, and then subsequent south winds pushing the smoke around.

Fighting the north wind today would be another Flicker push.  180 more just edged out yesterday’s flight.  New arrivals would include Brown Thrasher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a single Red-breasted Nuthatch.  A distant raft of Long-tailed Ducks pushed the day’s total to 104, and the season total to an astounding 1,373!

Helping the counter hit 62 species today was Brad Bumgardner, Kim Ehn, John DeVaney, John Kendall, and Ed Hopkins.  The weekend holds good promise for dune area birders looking for new birds, then Mother Nature will give us a slap back to reality come Monday (dare those weather jerks say the S word again!).

Today’s Highlights:

Green-winged Teal  23
Ring-necked Duck  5
Long-tailed Duck  104
Red-throated Loon  2
Common Loon  8
Bald Eagle  1
Sandhill Crane  186
Killdeer  1
American Woodcock  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  7
Northern Flicker  180
Pileated Woodpecker  4
Merlin  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  6
Brown Thrasher  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
Fox Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  7305

Belted Kingfisher over the tower today.  April 11, 2014.
Belted Kingfisher over the tower today. April 11, 2014.

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