Burning off the Fog

The weather lately has been difficult to predict big flights.  Many small longshore counts have been conducted the last few days, but we haven’t posted any full lists.  In fact, we haven’t had a real good 5,000+ bird day since April 20.  Yet, here we are staring May 1 in it’s face.  May won’t bring in record blackbird, grackle, or robin flocks, but will shower us with waves of Blue Jay and Cedar Waxwing numbers to help boost the total birds seen over the high dunes this spring.

Beach Pavilion in early morning fog, April 29, 2014.
Beach Pavilion in early morning fog, April 29, 2014.

Today, like yesterday, and again tomorrow was a game of rain dodging.  Winds, which had been predicted to be more easterly last weekend, were a more ideal southerly this morning.  There was no rain on the radar this morning, but one step outside revealed that the winds had died, creating a dense fog bank that blanketed both the land and water.  You might as well been flying blind if you attempted to migrate today.  Things started quiet, but feeder birds found their seed, and waterbirds found their water.  From the mist, the season’s first Willets could be seen on the beach.  They stayed close, and traveled only when forced to this morning, while Spotted Sandpipers braved the fog a little more and attempted small flights along the beach.

10 Willets hunker down and await the fog burn off before continuing migration.  April 20, 2014.
10 Willets hunker down and await the fog burn off before continuing migration. April 20, 2014.

By 9am, the winds gradually picked up and you could see the fog lift off and be carried off in the wind.  Suddenly, the cork was released and birds began a late longshore flight.  A quick 1,000 blackbirds would stream by, swallows by the  hundreds began feeding, and single chip notes of warblers, sparrows, and finches could be heard.

Waiting for the fog to lift.  April 29, 2014.

Waiting for the fog to lift. April 29, 2014.

During the late morning push, some 88 species of birds would be logged from the tower site this morning.  2,675 individuals would be counted.  First of the season birds were plentiful and included, the above mentioned Willets, Great-crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Clay-colored Sparrow (see photo below), Indigo Bunting, and both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles (Baltimore’s exploded on the scene with 15 flying by).

There were additional highlights too.  The season’s second Upland Sandpiper flew over the tower around 8:30am.  The first precursor to the upcoming Blue Jay flight brought over 160 jays past the site.  With perfect winds and a thick but fluffy cloud deck, hawks began a short and impressive flight.  Unfortunately, growing storm cells shut down the movement just as the first 100 birds had passed.  But early indications showed that it would have been a most impressive flight for both Sharp-shinned Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks. Kestrels could have also been a season high if it weren’t for the storms.

As we round out April, we have now logged 216,000 birds this year.  By this time in 2012, we were at 234,000 and an even higher 360,000 last year.  Numbers haven’t hit any mind blowing days quite yet.  Though not likely, it is still within reach that our three year total could surpass 1 million counted birds!  Species wise, were at 162 species for the year.  So many more species still to go.

Here are some select fog highlights:

Red-throated Loon 2
Common Loon 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 34
Bald Eagle 6
Broad-winged Hawk 31
Killdeer 1
Spotted Sandpiper 5
Solitary Sandpiper 7
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet 10
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Upland Sandpiper 1 
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Merlin 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 23
Warbling Vireo 1 
Blue Jay 161
Red-breasted Nuthatch 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 27
Lapland Longspur 4
Yellow Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 8
Pine Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 57
Clay-colored Sparrow 1 
White-throated Sparrow 4
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 4
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1676
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 15

Distant seed pile photo showing Clay-colored Sparrow with Chipping Sparrow.
Distant seed pile photo showing Clay-colored Sparrow with Chipping Sparrow.
One of three Lark Sparrows seen yesterday.  None were present today.
One of three Lark Sparrows seen yesterday. None were present today.

Finally, we offered up a Sibley Birding Basic’s guide to those that could ID the warblers from last week, as well as the two raptors observed on Thursday.  The warblers were indeed an Orange-crowned, Pine, and Worm-eating.  The hawks were Broad-winged and Osprey.  Instead of picking, we’ll award both Laura Hess and Matthew Beatty a free copy.  Thanks folks!

 

Advertisements

One thought on “Burning off the Fog”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s