Down to 14

As fast as spring migration enters, it quietly fades away.  Without hurrah, the spring sounds exit, with the summer breeders still going strong as June comes around.  It was just last week that we had peak counts of 30+ warblers and a multitude of species arriving daily.  Now, much of that has passed.  There are indeed still lots of birds around, and the last wave is coming through.  Late warblers, such as Mourning, Wilson’s, and Connecticut are sneaking in the underbrush, while late Flycatchers, like Olive-sided and Alder are calling in the early morning swamps.

Red-winged Blackbirds… once streaming by the thousands, are now a couple dozen.  Almost an anomaly to still see them. Why are they so late?  What held them back down south?  We peaked with 19,000 blackbirds on March 24.  Today, just 14.

Today’s full count:
Canada Goose 48
Mallard 3
Wild Turkey 1
Double-crested Cormorant 31
Great Blue Heron 5
Green Heron 11
Ring-billed Gull 32
Caspian Tern 1
Mourning Dove 4
Chimney Swift 29
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 1
American Kestrel 1
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 36
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 80
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Purple Martin 3
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 11
American Robin 1
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 1160
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 1
Yellow Warbler 2
Pine Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 2
Wilson’s Warbler 6
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 10
Dickcissel 2
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 14
Common Grackle 15
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1


250,000 birds! … but not done yet.

The longshore flight continues.  Despite the warming weather, leafing trees, and all the signs of Memorial Day and the start of the summer season, there are still thousands of birds that will be logged from the platform before we call spring migration finished.  Today’s count of 2,295 birds helped push the season count to 250,000 birds.  A far cry from last year’s 428,000 birds.

Today’s 62 species and yesterday’s 87 only brought in two new species for the year.  Those being Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Mourning Warbler.  Add these two species and we’ve now logged 221 species from the site this year.

Cedar Waxwings enjoy a lakeside view during their late migration.  May 30, 2013.
Cedar Waxwings enjoy a lakeside view during their late migration in May.

The highlights from the past two days are below.

Common Loon 1
Osprey 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 2
Dunlin 1
Caspian Tern 3
Forster’s Tern 6
Chimney Swift 174
Common Nighthawk 12
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 62 (162 on 5/20)
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Cedar Waxwing 404
Tennessee Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 1
Magnolia Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 4
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Lark Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Scarlet Tanager 6
Indigo Bunting 18
Dickcissel 1
Bobolink 8
Orchard Oriole 2
Baltimore Oriole 24
American Goldfinch 103

Warbler Mania

The Indiana Dunes warbler peak can be manic, yet subtle.  An explosion of sounds and active motion in the bush and overhead.  You look to your right and left, but see no others.  You’re left with fish tales to tell of warblers dripping from the trees.  No elbow to elbow crowds, like seen in other state birding sites.  We won’t deny the appeal of the birder networking and many eyes or shared bird sightings going on at the more known birding sites, like NW Ohio.   Yet here, one can sit in silence, enthralled by the new songs coming from each tree, all performing their songs for you!  Now, crap… can you remember which warbler makes that sound!?

This past weekend, May 17/18 brought the true peak for warblers this season.  Ken Brock writes,

Perhaps no group of birds generates more excitement among birders than the wood warblers…   Accordingly, for many birders the warbler migration constitutes the very quintessence of birding.”

It was indeed written Saturday that the tall trees were dripping with warblers.  No reason to stay at the longshore tower to watch for migrating birds.  One could set up anywhere in the park and watch a parade of feeding warblers zip, jump, dive, and chase after emerging insects.  The temperatures were perfect for active feeding throughout the day.  Winds were light, but felt good in the sun.  The following chart shows all of the warblers that were reported by various birders, eBird reports, the longshore tower, or from the Dunes Birdathon team this weekend.

warbler seenAs mentioned above, it was also the Dunes Birdathon.  It’s NIMBA’s attempt to log as many bird species in the NW Indiana area in 24 hours.  The funds raised help out with various bird related activities in the dunes, such as the owl banding program at the state park.  This year’s team began at 2:30am.  American Woodcock was the first bird heard calling deep in Cowle’s Bog.  The day was joyous.  We quickly hit the dripping warbler wave when we first entered Beverly Shores, just after sunrise.  Tennessee Warblers chipping everywhere.  Redstarts in every understory tree.  Rare for the lakefront, one of the first warblers seen was a Yellow-breasted Chat on Beverly Shores’ far east side near Mt Baldy.  Thrushes would also be common, with both Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked nearly tying each other in numbers this day.

The 2014 Dunes Birdathon Team, weary yet awake at hour 13.   5 more hours to go!

The 2014 Dunes Birdathon Team, weary yet awake at hour 13. 5 more hours to go!

The team birded the state park by 9am and continued racking up good birds.  The park’s Cerulean and Pine Warblers were calling right where they had been.  A quick peak of the park’s nesting Red-shouldered Hawks found mom sitting on the nest.  The Wilson Shelter boardwalk Prothonotary Warbler show was still on.  Here, visitors have been treated to one of the biggest show off warblers.  Mom and Dad Prothonotary continue to gather nest material and build their box full of grass and moss right in front of everyone with no regard for distance.  Today, they would be busy on the ground searching for last minute nesting material.  We savored the sight for a moment, then moved on for more birds.

Prothonotary Warbler hanging out at Wilson Boardwalk this week.  Photo courtesy Pete Grube.
Prothonotary Warbler hanging out at Wilson Boardwalk this week. Photo courtesy Pete Grube.

The late afternoon meant new birds and new habitats.  Kankakee Sands provided many fillers, including the needed grassland sparrows, Bobolinks, Dickcissels, and meadowlarks.  A surprise Osprey in a small fishing pond helped with numbers.  Finally, Willow Slough would give us the bird of the day… an adult female Red-necked Phalarope in full breeding plumage.  A rarity anywhere in Indiana in the spring!

With light fading, our team raced back north to the Grant Street Wetlands.  Yellow-headed Blackbirds still proclaimed their territories, while nighthawks and a single Black-crowned Night-Heron flew by.  Wanting just one more bird, the team drove the growing darkness and had just enough light to see the local Bald Eagles sitting on their nest along the Little Calumet River.  Finally dark, the day was bright!  165 species were seen.  A new record for our little team.

Thanks to all that pledged.  Final numbers and pledges are still being added, but we look to have raised over $1,500.00 yesterday for bird conservation in the dunes!

Not to be outdone.  The bird tower also logged some good birds for those that visited.  Over the past two days, a couple new season birds were seen.  Sedge Wren and Ruddy Turnstone are both good site records.  Also worth noting this weekend were a single Merlin, a couple American White Pelicans, Common Loon, Great Black-backed Gull, 295 Chimney Swifts (Sunday),  and a well seen Lark Sparrow.

Lark Sparrow at the Bird Observation Tower on May 17.  Photo by Alex Forsythe.
Lark Sparrow at the Bird Observation Tower on May 17. Photo by Alex Forsythe.

Warbler High Gear

It’s been a few days since any update, but weather has been up and down lately.  Sometime this week we passed the statistical peak for warbler migration in the dunes.  The cooler weather and rain showers have no doubt delayed it to the point where the peak may occur this upcoming weekend.  Perfect timing for those wanting to get one great weekend of birding in before the Memorial Day weekend brings it’s traditional swarms of beach goers, trail stompers, and general loud picnicking.

There were a few good counts done early in the week and we continue to have new arrivals filtering in.  Among those new arrivals this week were: Great-horned Owl (first tower bird of year), Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Eastern Wood-Pewee.  Also new in the dunes area were reports of Wilson’s, Canada, and Connecticut Warbler in addition to the season’s first Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Balance this with still double digit counts of Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, and it’s a good sign that the peak is going on now and high species counts are possible.  From the tower site, we’re only 4,000 or so birds away from hitting 250,000 birds for the season!

Let’s hope high species counts are possible!  The Dunes Birdathon is this weekend and NIMBA is pushing to raise more than $10 for every species of bird found in NW Indiana tomorrow!  The group will start at 2:30am and won’t stop until the sun sets on Saturday.  There is still time to pledge here.  Consider making a tax-deductible donation for bird activities and research in the dunes!

If you’ve missed some birds lately, here’s two new videos of some of the birds we’ve been seeing the last few days in the dunes.


Today was an important day.  It’s the day before the Indiana Audubon Big May Day count.  It’s also the day before International Migratory Bird Day.  The weather patterns now may dictate the birds we can log tomorrow.  After being nearly a week behind schedule, some amazing winds have brought 4 excellent migration nights and each morning has shown promise of more and more birds.  the tower site is not only producing, but so are nearly every inland area of the dunes.  A great example of migration catching up was the 22 Common Nighthawks observed today feeding over the back dunes (see the video below!).  Most dunes area birders won’t see their first nighthawk for another week or so.

To celebrate International Migratory Bird Day, birders will be out scouring the wetlands, high dunes, lakes, prairies, forests, and more.  The state park has several birding options for anyone looking to enjoy the great peak of migration and hopefully some nice weather.  A warbler bird walk will be offered at 9:30am, at the state park nature center.  From 1:30pm-4pm, it will be an afternoon for the birds.  There will be live bird banding, bird crafts, activities, and even some bird prizes for the young birders.  Visit the nature center for part or all of the time.

To allow for adequate rest, today’s highlights will be truncated.  But, with the morning downpours, shorebirds took advantage to move along the beach.  There were a few notable annuals that arrived today, but the rain brought no significant longshore flight.  New birds today included Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling Baird’s Sandpiper, Dunlin, Dowitcher spp, Common Nighthawk, Willow Flycatcher, and Franklin’s Gull.  The morning ended short with 1,304 birds, making up 69 species.

Kentucky Warbler on Trail 2.  5/9/14.
Kentucky Warbler on Trail 2. 5/9/14.

Inland, warblers were everywhere after the rain falls.  Landon Neumann was kind enough to report a Kentucky Warbler on Trail 2 this morning.  Several other birders were able to see or hear it.  Kentucky Warblers, while more common down south, are much rarer in the dunes.

Will we see you tomorrow?


Lake Michigan Neotropical Madness!

May 8 was the little longshore flight that could.  Under steamy conditions and a strong south gale, passerines streamed out of areas to our south in search of bug infested zones to raise their young.  May 8 was also the longshore flight that just came short of some record breaking counts.  To come second or fourth place is still impressive.  It also becomes a nice contrast.  Today was not too different than yesterday, but the birds were again diverse and different.

Steamy counters, May 8, 2014.

By dawn, it became obvious that a massive Blue Jay movement of near count was underway.  blue Jays would cloud the sky, going west to east.  Unlike yesterday, warblers were only an occasional chip note overhead.  In place of warblers were buzzy zip notes of Indigo Buntings.  Orioles gave full song as they flew past an occasionally land on a nearby cottonwood tree.  Again and again, orioles would fly by to the thought, “oh, just another oriole…”

First of the season birds included Golden-winged Warbler (first at the site in many years), American Redstart, Yellow-throated Warbler (first in many years, a rare tower bird), Blue Grosbeak, and a great record of Red Crossbill.

But, back to the high counts.  Today’s 7,058 jays makes a new second state record for highest single party count.  Last year, the record was broken with 7,264 on May 1.  So close!  Orioles came in at 243.  The record for the tower is 464, so today’s count, while impressive sits in the top 5 high counts.  Today’s Indigo Bunting count likely also will score in the top 10 when all is analyzed.

Updated Record Results from Ken Brock:
Blue Jay 7058 Indiana’s 2nd largest daily count
Baltimore Oriole 243 Indiana’s 6th largest count
American Goldfinch 960 Indiana’s 20th largest count
Eastern Kingbird 158  Indiana’s 9th largest count

Baltimore Oriole stopping for a brief second for a few songs before migrating past.
Baltimore Oriole stopping for a brief second for a few songs before migrating past.

Appreciable numbers of bird counters in the early hours helped with the morning flurry of longshore migrants. Randy Pals counted Blue Jays, while John Cassady twitched for goodies. Brad Bumgardner, Ken Brock, John Kendall and Lynea Hinchman all did a stint atop the platform. And Hal Cohen, the San Diego county Swainson’s Hawk counter, came out from Chicago.  The day ended with 82 species, making up nearly 10,000 birds (9,328).  This is the highest count since mid-April!

White-winged Scoter  1    
Common Loon  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Bald Eagle  1
Lesser Yellowlegs  3
Least Sandpiper  13
Forster’s Tern  13
Chimney Swift  165
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  5
Red-headed Woodpecker  11
Eastern Kingbird  158  
Blue Jay  7058
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  18
Cedar Waxwing  87
Golden-winged Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  18
Yellow-rumped Warbler  19
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Lark Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  3
Scarlet Tanager  14
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  19
Blue Grosbeak  1
Indigo Bunting  69  
Dickcissel  1
Bobolink  15
Orchard Oriole  12
Baltimore Oriole  243
Red Crossbill  1
American Goldfinch  960


Gotta Love Those Flyways!

Last night, as predicted, a large movement of neo-tropical birds moved through Indiana, and brought the most diverse longshore flight of the season.  It was also the first day this season to surpass 100 species in one morning.  Today’s flight brought 2,743 birds of 102 species.

Radar showing bird migration last night, May 6, 2014- May 7, 2014..  Approximate time about midnight.
Radar showing bird migration last night, May 6, 2014- May 7, 2014.. Approximate time about midnight.

When large flights are predicted, you can also predict large congregations of birders.  As such, there were many eyes out today assisting the counter push past 100 species.  New counter birds for this season were Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Ovenbird, Prairie Warbler, and Least Sandpiper.  By noon, the warm are was almost sweltering.  The stiff wind prevented any of the colder off-shore water from cooling the dunes.  The forecast overnight is for the dying winds to allow the warm air draw the cooler lake air into the area, but south winds throughout the state will flood the area with more birds tonight.  Tomorrow should be another great flight.  Bring your oriole eyes with you!

Assisting Brendan today was Ed Hopkins, Jeff “Magic Eyes” McCoy, Pete and Nila Grube, and John Kendall.  Don’t forget we’re desperate to keep counting birds. Brendan has really forgotten how to do anything else.  Consider pledging to our Birdathon on May 17 to help fund bird related events and programs at the Indiana Dunes State Park!

Today’s complete 102 species list!
Canada Goose 2
Lesser Scaup 3 Landed close to shore.
Red-breasted Merganser 15
Double-crested Cormorant 11
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Green Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 16
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 5
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Bald Eagle 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 4
Broad-winged Hawk 9
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Sandhill Crane 11 Two flocks migrating.
Killdeer 4
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Solitary Sandpiper 7
Lesser Yellowlegs 10
Least Sandpiper 1 FOY.
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 1
Caspian Tern 1
Forster’s Tern 3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
Mourning Dove 10
Chimney Swift 29
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 12
Red-headed Woodpecker 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 17
Peregrine Falcon 2
Eastern Phoebe 1 Migrant.
Eastern Kingbird 80
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 4
Blue Jay 494
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Purple Martin 3
Tree Swallow 8
Bank Swallow 17
Barn Swallow 7
Cliff Swallow 26
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 30
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Eastern Bluebird 64 Migrant flocks.
Veery 2 FOY.
American Robin 9
Gray Catbird 11
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 8
American Pipit 75 A flock of 12.
Cedar Waxwing 43
Lapland Longspur 2 Rattle call, and seen.
Ovenbird 1 FOY.
Black-and-white Warbler 3
Nashville Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 1
Cape May Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 3
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 6
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2 FOY.
Blackpoll Warbler 1 FOY.
Palm Warbler 58
Pine Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 34
Prairie Warbler 1 FOY.
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 5
Clay-colored Sparrow 2
Field Sparrow 1
Lark Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 8
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Summer Tanager 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2
Indigo Bunting 9
Bobolink 18
Red-winged Blackbird 678
Common Grackle 19
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 98
House Finch 1
Purple Finch 1
American Goldfinch 663
House Sparrow 1