Sunday, March 9th, marked the official start of the 2015 Indiana Dunes Longshore Flight. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t as warm and sunny as yesterday’s sneak peak at the spring weather to come. Despite this a colorful sunrise greeted the chilly morning. Yesterday’s amazing warm up left signs all around. Snow packs were smaller, bare sand could be seen, and large chunks of shelf ice (bergy bits and growlers) were now drifting out from the shore. An abundance of open water is now available for waterfowl, although the closest ice pack is still solid, preventing ducks from accessing the shallow, near shore.
With thicker overcast, we are still a day or so away from the first real large scale passerine flights. Horned Larks were doing their early season movement, being the most notable small bird. In fact, today’s 103 Horned Larks represents an Indiana lakefront top ten count. Rounding out the notable passerines were 3 Pine Siskins.
Many Red-breasted Mergansers and White-winged Scoters were also moving back and forth over the water. Always a rarity, a few Long-tailed Ducks were also seen. Hopefully as a sign of things to come, the very first Red-winged Blackbird alighted over the bird tower. A single chip was all that was given. By this time next week, ten thousand chips and “conk-la-rees” will be filling the dunes sky.
The day ended with 1,269 birds. Still a long ways from 1 million, but the cork will be unplugged any of these days this week and usher in the spring migration of the dunes.
On a side birding note, the lakeshore’s closest Bald Eagles have set up shop again in Gary. The nest is along the Little Calumet River and is visible from the bridge at Clark St. One of the parents were confirmed to be sitting on the nest today.
Warm air will continue to spill in this work week and the counts should continue to grow!