Wrapping up April

April 30 continued the third straight day of warm, moist air blowing in.  Birds have been forced to dodge rain storms, but a stalled out front has allowed for continuing migration, while overnight radar to our west show a shutdown system.  The last few days have been a nice save to another cold month.  While still behind, birds are arriving as they should, with a few arriving right on schedule, with others still about a week behind.

Early morning view of Lake Michigan.  Note the fishing boat that stirred up a few waterbirds on the lake.  April 30, 2014.
Early morning view of Lake Michigan. Note the fishing boat that stirred up a few waterbirds on the lake. April 30, 2014.

April wrapped itself up nicely  and put a bow on it as well today.  Some nice birds made their way through the dunes.  The rain held off again until the afternoon, but compared to previous days, sunshine was a harder commodity to score.  Thicker cloud banks would make birds up high hard to identify.  After three days of south winds, some expected late April songbirds made their appearance today.  It was a good day for orioles, early warblers, swallows, and sparrows.

An early boat stirred up some late waterfowl activity.  Often, a passerby boat can kick up loons and ducks sitting far on the water that may not be visible.  Today’s boat kicked up both species of loon, Red-breasted Mergansers, and another late flock of 14 Long-tailed Ducks, pushing the season total on Long-tailed Ducks to 1,700 birds.

In gentle winds, blackbirds came by in decent late April numbers.  Goldfinches joined warblers zipping by.  Blue Jays, after teasing the counters with 161 birds, made their first major flight, and right on time.  2,197 jays streamed past on their way up to Toronto.  Even Red-headed Woodpeckers got in on the migration.  8 individual birds were logged going over today.  Orioles continued their good start yesterday.  10 more today gives the tower site 25 orioles in two days.  Certainly more to come.

Migrating Blue Jays take a break for seed at the Bird Observation Platform.  April 30, 2014.  Photo courtesy John Kendall.
Migrating Blue Jays take a break for seed at the Bird Observation Platform. April 30, 2014. Photo courtesy John Kendall.

The bird of the day would almost be missed as counters watched a stream of Blue Jays.  Just before 9am, some dispersing Blue Jays scattered near the bird seed pile.  At the same time, a pigeon sized gray bird with larger white wing patches was seen flying west through the prairie with two much grayer birds in company.  At first fast, their flight slowed as they passed the state park property boundary, and began climbing elevation and moving left and right around the higher elevation Porter Beach homes.  The three birds disappeared behind the dunes, but not before all four at the tower site got a decent glimpse at a striking WHITE-WINGED DOVE sporting it’s racing stripes.  White-winged Doves are only recent to Indiana’s avifauna history.  Today, about 15 confirmed records exist for the state.  There is no dependable location to find this southwestern dove in the state, except with seven of the sightings occurring at Indiana Dunes State Park, a pattern is clearly emerging.

Rounding out the day’s other highlights included 2 Little Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night-heron, Merlin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, 72 Yellow-rumped Warblers, the continuing Clay-colored Sparrow at the seed pile, LeConte’s Sparrow in the prairie grass,  continuing juncos, and a Summer Tanager.  Today’s count included 82 species, and 6,424 individual birds.  Brendan was joined by John Kendall, Brad Bumgardner, Kim Ehn, and John DeVaney to assist in counting.

Total day highlights and their numbers:
Long-tailed Duck 14
Little Blue Heron 2 
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 
Osprey 1
White-winged Dove 1 
Mourning Dove 76
Red-headed Woodpecker 9
American Kestrel 1
Merlin 1
Blue Jay 2197 
Cliff Swallow 26
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Pipit 4
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 6
Pine Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 72
Clay-colored Sparrow 1 
Le Conte’s Sparrow 1 
White-throated Sparrow 4
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Summer Tanager 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2784
Rusty Blackbird 27
Baltimore Oriole 10
American Goldfinch 329

Farther in the park, bird song can be heard.  A drive down the entrance road is often a good cue to what arrived overnight.  A drive this morning offered the songs of Black-and-white Warblers, catbirds, Common Yellowthroats, and Northern Waterthrushes.  For 5 years, a Yellow-throated Vireo with a very strange call has been on territory near the Nature Center.  His weird titmouse like call was heard today.  He’s back!   One bird not heard yet, thankfully, is the Trail 8 (Wilson) boardwalk.  Check it out as they will likely arrive the next couple days.  Thanks to park volunteer Penny Starin for making the dreaded wade out there to reset it.

Penny Starin sets the new Prothonotary Warbler box, April 30, 2014.
Penny Starin sets the new Prothonotary Warbler box, April 30, 2014.

 

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