3 Seasons of Counting

Waterfowl watching the first week of the longshore flight in 2014.
Waterfowl watching the first week of the longshore flight in 2014.

It’s hard to believe three short months ago we were standing atop an near arctic shoreline shivering as we waited for ice to break up and Snowy Owls to drift past the lake.  The past three years have seen average springs, warm springs, and now cold springs.  In just three years, it’s clear that the average spring is better for counting migrating birds.  Now, in no way can we take into account irruptions of certain species, seasonal movements that vary each year.  All these can affect individual species counts, but as a whole, the extreme cold and hot weather patterns couldn’t beat the average high for bird flights.

The last official count of the season took place yesterday, June 1.  A few late migrants will trickle through the first days of June, but by June 5 most are done migrating, breeding is in high gear, and the first hints of fall migration are only a few weeks ago.  Proof that the migration has come to and end, Sunday’s count was a measly 125 birds.  It was the lowest longshore count of the season.  The second lowest…. the first day of our season, March 9. So how did the year’s compare:

2012: 285,383 birds
2013: 428,374 birds
2014: 260,884 birds

American Robins migrating against the wind.
American Robins migrating against the wind.

It will take some time to analyze all the data.  But one species still stands out.  American Robins, one of the most abundant migrants over the dunes, especially mid-March through mid-April, posted dismal totals this year.  Compare this year’s 8,152, with last year’s 35,000 and the 37,000 seen in 2012.  Where were all the robins.  Strangely, you’d expect the colder and snowier winter to drive more robins south, which would mean that more robins would have streamed north.  One theory was has it that the productive summer resulted in a good winter crop of berries throughout the northern US.  Just as no winter finches irrupted this winter, few robins did either.  Thus, you might consider robins an  irruptive species.

The last migrants seen on June 1 consisted of typical late migrants.  Brendan logged both Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Purple Martin, Cedar Waxwings, Wilson’s and Canada Warblers, and a late and odd Lark Sparrow still visiting the site.

Expect us to better compare the last three years and give some insight into the migration over the dunes in the coming weeks.  We’ll also continue to give birders a peak into the breeding season birds in the coming months and send you to the great dune sites to see them.  Until then, we’ll leave you with one final video of some of the late and amazing birds seen in the dunes (and general NW Indiana area) this past week.

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3 thoughts on “3 Seasons of Counting”

  1. Many thanks to all the bird counters! I follow your posts every day when migrating begins so I have a clue which bird to look for. My favorite birds are birds of prey. I take pictures of them and study them and I still cant really tell yet what they are. How you can tell from their shape and markings is just amazing to me. This is my first year birding so I have lots to learn.

  2. Thank you all for your hard work and keeping us informed of all the migrating birds and trends through the season. It has been much appreciated.

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