The first week of May and her wild swings of weather fits seems to be settling down a bit and may actually reward us for all we’ve waited for this past two months. If the forecast is right, some warm southerly winds may envelope us for an extended period, beginning as early as Wednesday. South winds between May 5-10 can mean 1 million birds/hour entering the dunes area on a good migration night. It can mean the difference between a quiet drive down your neighborhood at dawn and a full chorus of unknown song types the next morning. With new arrivals entering daily, any such morning right now is worth getting out to explore your favorite birding patch.
Our spring blog is dedicated to the longshore bird flight that is most impressive when it comes to species diversity and magnitude. Most birders wanting to visit the dunes will find the interior birding trails, boardwalks, and service roads just as spectacular. It may be less emphasized, but our many birders that help log hours in at the platform are spending later hours checking the back dunes for other new arrivals that have gone unseen from the high dunes. We’ll try to emphasize these areas more this month.
The last few days have been a struggle, knowing millions of birds are staging to our south. Winds have not been ideal. Today was northeast. The winds have their bite as it continues to keep the dunes area in a blanket of cooler air. For birders right now, this also means that bird activity is extended into the afternoon. You can sleep in and still bird! Longshore flights were recorded on Saturday, May 3 and today, May 5. The two days combined gave less than 2,000 birds recorded. However, we were greeted with several new arrivals, including Least Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Blue-headed Vireo. Long-tailed Ducks continue to be found daily. One more was seen today.
At the seed pile, Clay-colored Sparrows continue to impress. Joining the first bird was a second bird this weekend. A third bird came to join the first two today. How many can we get? The lakefront high count is only six birds. We’re half way there!
Our counter, Brendan Grube, has weathered some difficult elements this spring. Snow and ice continued late. Sunny, cool, windswept days brought sun burns. The next day would see soupy fog. The counter’s life is not a relaxed view of Lake Michigan every day, running down before noon to dip your toes in the water. This position also has it’s importance in detecting the magnitude of bird life that migrates over the park. This data has research value as well as birding tourism value. There are no park positions like this at any other state park in Indiana. We depend on grants and donations to make this count, this blog, and all of our other birding initiatives come to fruition each year. A team from NIMBA is set out to count all the birds it can find in a single day, by scouring the dunes, swamps, prairies, and lakefront sites throughout NW Indiana. Funding helps bird related projects and the Dunes State Park is eligible to apply for these funds.
How can you help!? The team desperately needs your pledge to help raise funds for birding efforts done in the dunes. NIMBA has pledged it’s entire fundraising this year to bird activities in the Indiana Dunes. The birdathon is being conducted on Saturday, May 17. Please consider pledging today (while it’s on your mind!) to help keep this count, our blog, and more birding efforts going on! You can pledge online here! You can also print the pdf form Dunes Birdathon 2014.